Touché Amoré reflect on a triumphant 15 years as a band
To be in a band for 15 years is a monumental feat in and of itself, but to come from humble punk roots and a DIY background, it’s almost an unspoken rule to never even fathom becoming a full-time and sustainable career band. However, Los Angeles-based post-hardcore quintet Touché Amoré did just that and are now in the midst of one of the most pivotal moments of their career. As road dogs for the better part of 15 years touring the world, they now have the unique opportunity to not only reflect on a prolific body of work, including five critically acclaimed albums, but also a wide-open future with still so much more possibility.
“We’ve always been lucky to put out records that seem to connect with people, and that continues to energize us to go further and further,” vocalist Jeremy Bolm says from his Los Angeles home. “We’ve also never been good at sitting on our hands, either, and I don’t know if we ever looked at anything having an endpoint, but I am shocked that we made it to 15 years — that’s an entire lifetime for a lot of different endeavors.” And make no mistake, Touché Amoré’s ascent to the upper echelon of modern hardcore wasn’t built without years of blood, sweat, and personal and financial sacrifices to pursue their collective dreams. Bolm remembers making “150 bucks a night” doing support tours for years, which is a far cry from today's compensation standards Regardless, it was all worth it. “As long as there was a tank of gas and if we sold a couple hundred bucks in T-shirts, we were just happy to be anywhere playing to anybody,” he says.
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Touché Amoré’s hunger to spread their music to anybody willing to listen certainly paid off. The band reached new heights by being unafraid to get creative and adapt on the fly to connect with new audiences. Whether it was booking shows on message boards and Myspace or taking bold risks with their art — going as far as to leak their 2010 breakout sophomore album Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me on purpose so people could be acquainted with their music on upcoming tours — Touché Amoré knew how to strike while the iron was hot.
Their foray into mainstream success came at a time in the early 2010s when a significant emo, hardcore, and screamo revival was beginning to blossom. This era saw the sounds of the underground captivating listeners across wide age ranges, thanks to a crop of exciting new acts spearheading the movement (Balance and Composure, La Dispute, Pianos Become The Teeth, and Tigers Jaw, to name a few). “It was such an organic thing to make friends with people around the country that all shared similar feelings, ideals, and influences,” Bolm reflects.
From there, “everything fell into place,” with the band scoring major recording deals with Deathwish Records, No Sleep Records and the legendary punk label Epitaph Records. After years of basement and house shows, the band graduated to headline world tours and supporting major acts, including AFI, Manchester Orchestra, and Rise Against — as well as performing at Coachella in 2015. And remarkably, ever since 2010, Touché Amoré have kept the same lineup, which consists of Bolm, guitarists Nick Steinhardt and Clayton Stevens, bassist Tyler Kirby and drummer Elliot Babbin, who have all managed to devote a significant part of their adulthood to the band. So, what is their secret to keeping this long-standing relationship intact while juggling life changes, long drives, tight spaces, and vastly different responsibilities? “It is very much like a marriage, but being in those close quarters [all the time] really teaches you a lot about yourself and also about human interaction in general,” Bolm admits. “We know each other's buttons and know when not to push them. Boredom can lead to picking petty fights.”
However, Bolm is proud to reveal that the band have never had a “big blowout” or “screaming match” once during their 15-year tenure. “We’re from the West Coast — we’re from the land of passive aggression,” Bolm says with a laugh. “If you’re on tour together for a long time, once you get to the venue, everyone should do their own thing. Find a hobby that you can experience on the road, whether that’s going to record stores, coffee shops, or going on a run. Whatever it is, give yourself space.”
Touché Amoré have won over audiences through high-intensity performances, inventive musicianship, and their strong melodic tendencies balanced with healthy aggression. It’s the band’s vulnerable lyrical matter, though, that has always been at the forefront of their mission. “It’s always been really important for me to be as candid as possible with whatever it is I’m thinking about the day that I’m writing,” Bolm says. Lyrically, he’s has always been a formidable storyteller: On the band’s 2013 album, Is Survived By, he reflected on his “landmark years,” including turning 30 and his experience with panic attacks and the legacy he wanted to leave behind; with the heartbreaking 2016 LP, Stage Four, Bolm documents the tragic loss of his mother after a battle with cancer in a commendable moment of bravery.
While Bolm admits that reflecting too much on past accomplishments can be a “slippery slope” as he gets older, he can’t deny that there have been some truly special moments that he has been able to experience through the power of music and traveling the world. From the band’s early days, Bolm looks back on the 2009 Sound And Fury Festival as a turning point when it felt like his hard work was beginning to finally pay off. But even more so, traveling as far as Japan, Korea, and Brazil to play shows was admittedly a dream come true. “I come from a family that never got to do vacations. I was raised by a single mom, and she worked late hours, so I was a latchkey kid and never thought I would [even] see New York, let alone have a fanbase there,” Bolm says with a smile. “Being in a punk band is the best travel hack you could ever have.”
This all leads to the present, as Alternative Press connects with Bolm when Touché Amoré are days away from a sold-out two-night residency at the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles. There, his band will perform four of their most beloved albums — Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, Is Survived By, Stage Four, and Lament — in their entirety and take a well-deserved victory lap. When asked what will be going on inside of his head the moment he steps onstage on the first night, Bolm jokes, “I’m just going to be hoping that I remember all of the lyrics.” In all honesty, though, he’s just excited to get to play deeper cuts that haven’t been played live in years, or even at all, while also giving some live attention to their latest record, Lament, which dropped in 2020 and resulted in them not getting to road test the new material as much as they would have liked. “I do think I am going to take in what these nights and these records represent and enjoy them in a way that we haven't in a long time. We’re also doing a lot more instrumentation, including Nick [Stenhardt] playing pedal steel on some songs and our friend Alex Estrada playing piano for some songs — it’s going to be a bigger performance than we’ve ever done before.”
Following the weekend’s celebrations, the band will indeed be closing one chapter but, at the same time, starting a new one, as they’re in the thick of preparing to write their sixth album. “Six is my favorite number, so I’m holding myself accountable to make a record worthy of that number,” Bolm says. “It’s good to set goals, but at this point, we’re just lucky to still be here and take things as they come and keep chipping away.” Whatever is next for Touché Amoré, one thing is certain: It will be done with passion and sincerity to the utmost degree. Here’s to another 15 years.