Let 2016 be known as the Year of the Reunion. Coming out of what had been thought to be permanent hiatus, genre-defining acts of our time have felt the pull of that had brought them together and answered to gravity. Like chemistry or a divine alchemy, the volatile particles of those bodies in orbit, magnets of the same polarity, recharged to irrevocable attraction. The people’s collective romance, a tragedy redeemed by the sequel. A new beginning after the ellipsis.
The appeal of the early-’00s post-hardcore band The Fall of Troy can be referred to an idea that the music sounded the way we felt. Teenagers themselves, Thomas Erak (guitars, vocals, keyboards), Andrew Forsman (drums, percussion) and Tim Ward (bass, vocals) created an anxious, exuberant brand that crammed a cacophony in every song, a mini machine sounding at once boundlessly directionless and evil-genius strategic. Modern Mozarts with the music written out in their heads.
For those that need a refresher, listen to “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.” (Doppelgänger, 2006); the reason it sounds familiar is because the song was licensed for the video games Saints Row (Xbox 360) and MLB 2K6 (Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PSP, Xbox 360) and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Math-y, proggy, and weird as hell at times, The Fall of Troy toured with the likes of Portugal. The Man and Coheed and Cambria and grounded themselves in a middle-ground underground of an up-and-coming music sharing renaissance. Scene.
And as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle, The Fall of Troy disbanded in 2010 (co-vocalist Tim Ward had left the band in 2007 and was replaced by Frank Ene) with no great fallout or explanation. Thomas Erak joined Chiodos, Andrew Forsman replacing Erak in yet another band, The Monday Mornings.
With OK, all three founding members self-released an album that, in addition to its (essentially free) pay-what-you-want download structure, is every bit for their fans as it is for themselves. A month after putting out OK (which came out less than a month after it was formally announced), they put out a raw production mix, which they dubbed OK#2, also released for free, as were OK#3.1 and OK#3.2.
“We have always loved the abstract interplay of 3 guys manipulating their instruments. With that in mind, you asked for it,” they say on their website. They’re right: we did.
The first leg of your international reunion tour in the United States has been well underway, with shows every night with a break only every few days. How are you feeling? What’s it like to tour together again?
It’s been great so far, it’s always nice to get back to playing for people. We fell into the touring routine really quickly, we all know the drill after so many years, so it only takes a day or two for us to be running smoothly. Getting goofy in the van and at gas stations, and hanging with the other bands comes really naturally at this point, even after a few years of not doing it. The crowds at the shows have been so supportive, and it’s always amazing to connect with people over music.
The energy is infectious whenever you are onstage, and it’s been about 13 years since y’all were 17 or so. Where does it come from?
We really enjoy letting it all hang out while performing. Bands like The Blood Brothers, Botch, At The Drive-In and other high energy live bands were huge for us when we first started, and so I think that style of performance was imprinted upon us at an impressionable age, and has just stuck.
You are currently unsigned. This tour brings on two label bands in support: ’68 and Illustrations of Good Fight Music and Head2Wall Records, respectively. How did you discover these talents? What about these outfits made you want to tour with them?
Thomas knew ’68 from a previous tour, and we all knew Illustrations from our last U.S. tour, when they opened for us in Texas. They are both bands with an intense live presence, which is always something we want for bands we are on tour with. They are also each different styles of music from us, but still seem to fit pretty well with our sound. We like listening and watching each of them every night, which is a blessing.
What do you think about the state of the record industry in terms of benefit in being signed vs. unsigned, for your “genre” in particular? How has it changed since you put out your debut?
I think it’s less of a genre question and more of an “established vs. unestablished” one. If you have had time with labels and have some sort of fanbase, I think it’s way more feasible to release stuff on your own. If you are in a band and still are trying to build a fanbase, a label can be an excellent way to help with that. It’s definitely not the only way to do it, but a lot of the avenues that labels have in place to expose fans to bands aren’t necessarily available to a band that is just starting out. Since we put out our debut, we’ve seen the availability of high quality studio recordings go through the roof. The technology is so good now that there is a much lower bar to good sounding recordings, and as a result the amount of releases that someone has to wade through is huge. This is one of the reasons a label can help; every band sounds good these days, so a label will help elevate you above that if people don’t know about you yet.
OK was released back in April with a “pay-want-you-want” policy. This is such a gift to fans, it being your first release in seven years and being essentially “free.” Has there been a return on this album from people actually buying it, as opposed to simply steaming it as a way of circumventing? Admittedly, the first songs of yours I ever heard were some shared MP3s back in 2005. Limewire, sometimes.
We never had a problem with people downloading our albums, so this was the next logical step. The album has made back what we spent on it and then some. The amount isn’t anything crazy, but it’s definitely enough to let us feel like we made the right move. Even if we would have lost money, I think we would have been happy with our decision. We are so grateful to have such a supportive group of people following our band.
What was the music scene like growing up in Mukiteo? What’d you guys listen to?
It was pretty small in the Mulkilteo/North of Seattle area, but definitely there and supportive of all kinds of different stuff. Most of the stuff we bonded over listening to was local to the Seattle area. Bands like The Blood Brothers, Botch, Pedro the Lion, Unwed Sailor, Raft of Dead Monkeys, Pretty Girls Make Graves, and Minus the Bear were all playing locally all the time, so we definitely were very into those guys, and then bands that came before them like Kill Sadie, or Sharks Keep Moving. Also, of course At the Drive-In.
The two East Coast dates on this tour take place at Union Transfer in Philly and Webster Hall in NYC. What have your experiences been like touring the East Coast? Favorite spots?
There are a few more East Coast shows, but those are definitely two of the big ones. We love the East Coast; anywhere on either coast is good, but the East Coast has so much history and the music community has a different feeling as a result. It feels a little bit more like taking part in a tradition than the West Coast. NYC, Philly and Boston are always excellent, but almost any show we have played on the East Coast has been fun. We used to play upstate New York pretty frequently due to our old label (Equal Vision) being located up there, and those were always fun shows. We love Maine as well, one of the most beautiful parts of the county.
Take us to 2015, leading up to deciding to write music together again and embark on a tour. How much of it was the request for a birthday party reunion, and how much of it was itching for a reason to get back together?
It was mostly the birthday party reunion up until the point of being onstage in front of people. After getting a taste of being a band again it was a unanimous feeling of wanting to do a little more. There is nothing else in our lives that gives the same feeling as being in a band you’ve been in for 14+ years.
The past couple years saw many 10- and 15-year anniversary tours for their landmark albums, including your own 10th anniversary U.S. tour of your second album, Doppelgänger. What do you think that says about this particular early-’00s scene in music history and what it means to people?
I think there is a lot of nostalgia for those years, obviously. That was the last gasp of the record industry being as profitable as it had been in the past, and it was also a time before widespread availability of live videos and pictures of bands you were into. I think as a result, there is a wistfulness that surrounds the shows and scenes of those years, and that is why we have seen a revisiting of the music that came out then. We can’t ever really go back to the joy of going to a show that wasn’t being filmed, and knowing it was a special, unique gift that only those who were there would receive. For better or worse, it’s a different world today, and I think we miss the old ways sometimes.
On July 14, you released the instrumentals for your new album OK (OK #3.1, OK #3.2) for free with a sweet note to your fans. Who wrote (scribbled) that?
I think I (Andrew) wrote it, with some editing from our manager. Or he may have written it and I edited. Either way, it absolutely reflects the way we feel.
The Fall of Troy performs tonight, Aug. 3, at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA, and Aug. 5 at Webster Hall in New York City, NY. For more information, go to thefalloftroy.com.