Nothing will ever compare to the death of a parent.
No one ever wants to write about grief, not in this way. This grounding catharsis will both exhaust and enlighten you, both trap you and free you, and it is one of the singular moments in your life that can either define you or break you. The unfathomable depth of a loss like this is sometimes described as coming in waves, a suggestion that it can be comparable to a song with it’s own rhythmic agenda. Death heightens our emotional ability to relate and intensify our relations with literature, sad films, and to a few selection of us, music.
“I haven’t gotten over it. I doubt I ever will.” States Touche Amore vocalist Jeremy Bolm. Stage Four, the fourth record by one of the most rawly emotional post hardcore bands of the last 10 years has been released. The painstakingly conscientious title, Stage Four, is not a trophy title for a band making it to their fourth record, but rather a bold statement, responding to the feelings of grief experienced by Bolm over the last two years. In the midst of the band’s greatest momentum in 2013, Jeremy received the news that his mother had been diagnosed with stage four cancer.
“I haven’t gotten over it. I doubt I ever will.”
But while he felt what any person would feel, the self conflict to continue the band or care for his mother was inspired by his mother’s bravery during her battle with the illness. Seeing his shows as a means of emotional escape for a few hours a night, and with his brother keeping him updated while on the road, sadly not long after Halloween in 2014, his mother’s health took a turn for the worst. Calmly leaving the stage the same night as his mother’s departure, Jeremy inspiringly kept his head above waters, sold some merchandise, talked to both friends and fans alike, then answered the call to his brother.
The instance of real life in comparison to a life grounded on the road would bring sheer heartbreak in the form of clearing out his mother’s house (of which Jeremy says ‘he wouldn’t wish upon his worst enemy’), the burial services, and eventually opening up about the devastating void that still haunts him. While lead singles from the record such as, Flowers & You, hold a very upbeat tempo, lyrically this record has shown just why Touche is one of the most influential bands in their genre. “I don’t think this record has been built for helping me to cope. It’s been a great outlet for getting things out into the ether but.. I haven’t gotten over it. Being creative with my best friends and as a way to deal with it has… if anything just helped me stay distracted. Now that we’re on tour the distraction is stronger.”
Music is often held in great regard for it’s tendency to be an outlet, and while Bolm is clear to point out that writing this record was a very complex task, of which he describes as, “It’s not so much hard as it is tiring. You dig and dig into yourself and often what you find often isn’t pretty or easy to look at,” Touche’s tendency to make the situations found within their music relatable is indeed a very strong connection point between their loyal fan base and the band, although still a very challenging one. “Talking to people every night that tell me about their losses hasn’t been easy.”Continues Bolm.
In a record full of emotional twists and turns, it is the sense of calm found within, Palm Dreams, of which even sights a more clean version of the band’s sound, that really stands out. While this track could have taken a totally different and more melodic route, one found in other leading single, Skyscraper, the fast paced drums, heart pounding rhythms and restlessness of the song is a fuzzy communication of the never ending questions that come with death. The song itself being built upon the narrative of Bolm’s mother moving to California in the 70s without the clarity as to why she made this choice. “Just one of the things I realized I didn’t know her whole story about that I’ll never get the answers to.” Thoughtfully remarks Jeremy. “I push people to ask the questions they want to know while they still can to the people they love.”
There will undoubtedly be a great difference and also a minor difference as to how both Touche fans and anyone will relate to Stage Four. Without knowing there are probably records that we have heard in passing, unaware of the lyrical subconscious and welded spine that lies beneath sing along choruses, complex notation, wielding guitar tones, and finger tapping drum beats. As a character Jeremy is rather introverted when off stage, approachable, but careful enough to step away from the spotlight and excess that comes with being a touring band, an excessive lifestyle that can become a coping mechanism during the darker episodes of a musician’s life. “I never had much interest in drinking or in drugs.” Reflects Jeremy. While musically you may be able to hear influences of other post hardcore bands within an ever echoing influence trail, there was one particular band that helped give the young teenage Bolm an identity. “Earth Crisis introduced me to Straight Edge as a young teenager. “It gave me an identity and sense of belonging at a time when you crave those things.”
That is what makes bands such as Touche Amore, and those who surround them, not only a strong unity of musicians, but has also created secure foundations of which have birthed an entire wave of raw, restless, and very real bands and records. From the recent Knuckle Du$t, through to now old tour friends such as the iconic Converge, there is a burning torch and instilled awareness of the importance of straying away from a world that at times has harsh realities blanketed by pop songs on the radio. “Being a band that’s rooted in the hardcore scene, we’ve had those values instilled in us. If it wasn’t for Converge , Bane, Thursday and what not, well we wouldn’t be where we are now. We’re forever indebted to them for being so good to us. The least we could do is continue that tradition.”
Stage Four is an incredibly heart and thought provoking, beautiful, and relentless record, much like it’s composers and curators. As Bolm continues to trail off a never ending list of new bands that are exciting him, the darker tensions of this interview begin to subside. Much like a band’s career, of which Touche have sprouted four incredible records, global tours, and a very sincere and resolute fan base, they’re very delicately relatable to the subject matter behind this record. What has happened will mean they will never return to what or who they were, but in the darkest moments of reality and what comes with it, they have become stronger. In one last moment of closure, and a reflection on not only his band’s career, but the unpredictable current of it, Jeremy finishes, “At the heart of it, I think it’s just being overall thankful and knowing that music is fleeting, and knowing those who listen can come as quickly as they’ll go. It’s about remembering to appreciate the people who support you.”
Stage Four is out now Via Epitaph Records. Touche Amore return to the UK next year.