Thirteen years on from their formation, Los Angeles’ Touché Amoré have released their fifth studio album Lament. A hopeful declaration of moving forward, we sat down with vocalist Jeremy Bolm to discuss the album.
Firstly, congratulations on the release of your album! It feels like your broadest album to date, I know you’ve spoken before about how collaborative this album was, but do you think that contributed to the wide scope of Lament?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s because we learned a lot leading up to doing Stage Four when it comes to going into the studio. For example we all collectively decided that we wouldn’t go into the studio to record a new album until all five of us absolutely loved every part of what we had written.
I don’t know if you play in a band or have friends that play in a band but to achieve that is very hard! Usually one or two people will compromise on a part or maybe there’s a part of a song that everybody feels different about, but with that in mind I think it speaks for itself that it takes a lot of work for everybody to be completely on board – so to get everybody completely on board requires everybody to really step up.
For lack of a better example, if somebody doesn’t really like a part that someone else is doing, you’re gonna speak on it but be prepared to also suggest something that would be better. You really have to come in prepared to go to work, but thankfully we’ve been a band together for so long now that we know how to communicate without rustling too many feathers. We have a good relationship where it might get a bit contentious here or there, but for the most part we’re all looking to achieve the same goal.
I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a band going into the studio and everyone was happy with everything.
Yeah it’s fucked. It’s fucking hard!
It was also the first time you recorded with Ross Robinson who was involved in a lot of records you hold personally significant. Was it intimidating to go into the studio with someone that you held in such high regard?
Oh definitely. We had met him in a really weird circumstance quite a few years ago and he just came off very eccentric and wild. So for him to have his reputation and for him to be such a figure in my life and then meeting him in a really weird circumstance where he was very high energy, I couldn’t have imagined doing a record with him. But then this all just fell into our laps and we knew that we’d be fools not to do it and to not just take a chance with it. I’m glad that we did, because I came to understand who he is as a producer and as a person and I wouldn’t have had it any other way – his energy is intoxicating.
You’ve mentioned the pressure you felt leading up to the album to write something as devastating and impactful as Stage Four. How did you get to a place where you could write Lament without that worry?
Honestly by just allowing myself to have patience, which is another thing that I struggle with, because I push myself to an ungodly limit sometimes to the detriment of my wellbeing. So it took me really having to learn patience and understand that things are going to come and eventually work out and I can’t just expect it all to get resolved in a week or two. I think allowing myself the ability to explore without having a fire under my ass was helpful, but then when l did have a fire under my ass and I had to get to work, I had thought so deeply into the subject matter that I was prepared to have that pressure – so it went from one extreme to the other.
Do you find in the same way that Stage Four was important for you in dealing with grief that Lament was just as important for you to move forward from that period of your life?
Definitely. The thing is, I’m never going to be past what I went through, but I think for the sake of performance and being in this band and touring, and just having a new chunk of songs that we’re all so proud of and excited for I am. We’ve got a bunch of new songs to focus our touring around and while we’ll still play a large amount of that record going forward, it’s nice to be excited about a new batch of songs that are more optimistic I suppose.
Something that stood out for me when I listened to Lament was the explicit political references on the album. I know they are very common within the songs of your other band, Hesitation Wounds, but how did it feel to incorporate certain heavy political themes in some of the songs?
I took a lot from my love for people like Bob Dylan and Conor Oberst who have an incredible ability to speak on several different things in one song; they can write a verse on politics and segue into a personal theme within a song. Politics at this point in all of our lives are pretty goddamn unavoidable, and with this record not needing to be about one specific thing, it felt like the right time to exercise my influence from those artists but also my own angry head for the way the fucking world is now. Also Hesitation Wounds doesn’t have anything in the works right now so this had to be my outlet.
Not that honesty is new to the way that you write, but Lament seems to showcase a different kind of honesty than I expect to see from Touché – especially in songs like “I’ll Be Your Host” and “A Forecast”. Did you find it difficult to write things that were very direct in the people who they were addressing?
In a way it’s easier. I enjoy writing with a little bit of obscurity and flowery language in an attempt to be clever or anything like that, but that’s the kind of writing I sink myself into from the influences I have. That said, writing very directly is more fulfilling and it leaves no room for second guessing and there’s a power to that, there’s a power that I am able to carry doing that, I’m taking something back for myself when I do that.
Lament is also a very grateful and hopeful album at times. Do you think your ability to write with a sense of positivity stems from your own personal growth?
Oh absolutely. It’s funny, even when I’m at my most seemingly positive, I still find a way to tear myself down, so really I’m only doing as good as it reads.
Another really cool thing about the record is your collaboration with your long time friend Andy Hull. How did it feel to have that come about?
Oh it was awesome! It’s funny we were just texting moments before we got on the phone and he was just reaching out to congratulate us for the record coming out. He’s much younger than me which is so weird for me to think about because we have such different careers, but I’ve been a fan of his since I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child. I played that record to death and I still have such a high regard for it.
I got to become such a good friend of his and we’ve had a good relationship all these years. Whenever they come to town, we’d hang out and we’d just be in each others’ lives. So when this opportunity arose, we had to jump at it. It was so fulfilling. I really think he took that song and made it what it was, made it what it is.
It’s an incredible feature! I’d never listened to Manchester Orchestra beforehand but it absolutely turned me onto the band really quickly.
Oh my god, yeah! It’s a weird and interesting feeling to hear one of my band’s songs, but when he comes in it feels like I’m listening to another band – and I’m a fan of it. That’s a really bizarre feeling! I know if this wasn’t my band and I just happened to hear this song and hear Andy’s part, it would be my favourite song, I know that sounds a little self-indulgent but it’s true.
You’re putting out your fifth album. I feel like you deserve to be a little self indulgent here or there.
Aww, I appreciate that.
You also collaborated with Julien Baker for a second time on “Reminders”. What brought you back to recording with her again?
Honestly it was circumstance and a need, and her just being a goddamn hero. Basically I had reached out to a couple other singers to do this part and due to one circumstance or another it wasn’t working out, whether it was because of COVID they couldn’t get to the studio or one thing or another it wasn’t working out. We were getting down to the wire and the record was already being mixed, and I originally didn’t want to go back to Julien because she did such a favour with “Skyscraper”, and I just felt bad because I didn’t want to feel like I was overstepping our friendship or taking advantage. I can convince myself of all these very negative things and forget about the fact she’s our friend.
But eventually I hit her up with my tail between my legs and asked if it was something she was interested in and apologised for asking. She just asked if I was out of my mind and then did it and sent it through the next day and she just crushed it, it was so cool. We owe a lot to Julien, she is a true hero and I’m proud to have the same initials as her.
2019 saw you celebrate 10 years of …To The Beat of a Dead Horse and you re-released it and toured in support of that. How did it feel to revisit that record in the midst of preparing for your next album?
It was easy. Honestly we went into that re-recording with the intention of recording pre-production demos for Lament, so we went in and genuinely knocked out Dead Horse in a day and a half – it was so quick. I sang all the songs in one afternoon. Everything was tracked so quickly, those songs except for maybe one or two are songs that we’ve been playing live for so many years, so it’s muscle memory. It was just exciting to do that and to hear the songs recorded louder and stronger and on better equipment, and I was able to fix some grammar and things like that. We went in more with the mindset of we had to do the demos so in that session we recorded demos for “Come Heroine”, “Reminders”, “Limelight” and one song we ended up throwing away.
Inadvertently and unintentionally, after Stage Four you became a spokesperson for dealing with grief especially amongst fans of your band. But if you had to have a takeaway from Lament, what would you want it to be?
A few things, but I think the overarching theme is that you can find positivity from suffering tragedy; when you take a bigger look outwards and see what’s around you, you can really grow from it. But also don’t feel like you have to heal by a certain time. Allow yourself time to deal with grief because it may never go away but don’t feel like it needs to go away. If you loved somebody and you suffered this loss that’s having a dramatic effect on you, there’s a reason for that and it’s because you cared, so why would you want to give that care up. So there’s that, but also the overarching idea that it’s okay to not be okay. Don’t let someone convince you that just because you’re down that you’re also in the wrong. You’re allowed to be down. I think those kinds of themes are universal with it.[Photo credit: George Clarke]