When Armor For Sleep reunited for the first time in 2012 for the Bamboozle Festival and a short string of shows, the band claimed it would be their farewell. Three years later, the New Jersey natives will return yet again, much to the excitement of their fans.
The band’s initial break occurred in 2009, shortly after the release of their major label debut, Smile For Them. However, it was their 2005 sophomore effort, What To Do When You Are Dead, that established Armor For Sleep as some of the most influential and important musicians in the mid-2000’s music scene. Following an unnamed narrator around after his death, the release’s complex metaphors and crushingly dark overtones build a concept album that’s difficult to compare.
Because of the incredible success What To Do When You Are Dead had, this second reunion will consist of a few weeks of touring in support of the album’s 10-year anniversary. The album launched Armor For Sleep into the midst of the TRL boom and proved without doubt that it’s not always necessary to be a gooey pop song to achieve mainstream success.
I was able to catch founder and vocalist Ben Jorgensen before the tour began to talk about the impending reunion and to reflect on the band’s history.
How did this “reunion” come together this time?
Well, What To Do When You Are Dead came out 10 years ago. There were some posts online about it and we just kept on being notified from people online saying on our Facebook pages, on Twitter, people really wanted [us] to do a tour or some shows, so we hit up our booking agent and asked if there would be an interest in promoters having us because obviously you can’t play shows without a promoter. So he came back to us and said a bunch were really excited to have us and that’s basically how it happened. It’s basically from the fans.
What was running through your mind when it finally came time to announce the tour?
Just excited. You know, everyone’s been doing different things with their lives but we thought it’d be cool to go back to that place for a little bit. I think we’re all really excited about it.
What’s the relationship like between the band members now?
It’s great. We’re all still friends and all that good stuff. We’re all doing different things with our lives, but when we come together and play it’s like we haven’t been apart at all. We’ve been through a lot together, spent many years on the road together so we have a connection that I don’t think we’re going to have with anyone else.
Last time you played shows you called it a farewell tour, is that what this is as well?
Well we thought it was going to be a farewell last time. Obviously I think we underestimated how much people are still interested to see us. So I just think this time we’re going to hold off on any kind of definitive statement because it kind of bit us in the ass last time.
10 years later, what does What To Do When You Are Dead mean to you now?
For me personally, it’s really cool because it’s like a diary entry. Without that, I think a lot of people when [their] lives go on they forget what they went through at a certain point in time so for me that’s the biggest markers for me to remember where I was at the point in my life. So that’s just on a personal level.
And it’s also special to me because it meant something to so many other people and it’s cool to know I was a part of something that has connected with a lot of people. Just a weird feeling I guess.
Did you ever think it’d have this type of longevity?
No, not really. I mean, you always hope that you’re making something really cool that’ll stand the test of time but I don’t think it’d ever be like this.
Do you feel like What To Do When You Are Dead was ahead of its time? In-depth concept albums seemed so rare at the time.
I don’t know, what influenced me was so many albums that came before that so I don’t know if I think it was ahead of its time. I just think it has its place. I don’t know how big it is in the place of other albums that were put up there, but it definitely has a little nook. And I’m just happy that I was a part of something that definitely has a little spot.
With the success it had, how do you think it affected the trajectory of your career?
Well it changed everything for us. We’d been a touring band before that and we’d had our fans, but putting this out definitely brought us to a new level. Our record label at the time, Equal Vision, were also getting us on MTV2 and Fuse so we had a whole new level of exposure that changed everything that happened after that. It changed all of our lives and everything we did after that was because the album was so well received. And I don’t think any of us would have the same lives without it, but that can be said about anything.
Originally you started the band as a solo project, are you happy you ended up bringing the other guys into the band?
Oh yeah, of course. So when I was doing it by myself, I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to be everything, I just didn’t really have any other friends that were really willing to do a band. So when I met the other guys that were actually excited about playing and eventually writing with them so I wasn’t in my own bubble. And those guys are so good at what they do that it just helps everything out.
With Smile For Them, did the shift to a major label affect how you went about making a record?
I don’t think it was the major label, I think it was the expectations. No one paid attention to us before When You Are Dead so everyone left us alone and after that album did really well, everybody wanted to make sure that we didn’t suck, ironically. So there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen and lot of people trying to chime in. And I think when that happens with anything, I think it just became grating to us and after some point and time that’s what happens with the major label. It’s more than just the evil of the major label. By the time you get to a major label, the expectations are so high that people just can’t stop meddling. So I think that happened a little bit.
You were a band for almost 10 years and have such a depth of talent with songwriting and yet there are only three albums, is there anything fans haven’t heard?
Yeah, definitely. There’s still songs that we didn’t put out that I think is some of our best songs. Maybe they’ll see the light of day some day, but I don’t know. Maybe some day.
Armor For Sleep will begin the What To Do When You Are Dead 10 Year Tour on Sept. 18 at Starland Ballroom. The band will also make an appearance at The Trocadero Theatre on Sept. 19. For more information, go to facebook.com/armorforsleep.