California post-hardcore outlet, Touché Amore, returns with Stage Four, the band’s first proper full-length since releasing the existentially driven, Is Survived By, back in 2013. Not only does the record’s title alone carry a lot of significance as their fourth studio album, but Stage Four is also a therapeutic effort that openly touches upon the loss and guilt that frontman Jeremy Bolm endures following the passing of his mother.
While death is a tragic and inevitable matter that we all must come to terms with in our lives one way or another, Touché Amore delivers a genuine arrangement, highlighting into perspective how short life could be, along with the importance of reaching out to your loved ones before it’s too late. Through haunting tracks like “Rapture,” “Palm Dreams” and “Skyscraper,” Stage Four is a sentimental beacon that further exemplifies Touché Amore’s progression as a band. Not only does Stage Four strike a personal chord with their audience with its heartfelt narrative, both critics and fans alike hail it as the group’s boldest studio effort to date.
Shortly aftear Touché Amore celebrated the album’s official release, I had the opportunity to speak with guitarist Clayton Stevens about the writing process of Stage Four, the band’s collaboration with singer-songwriter Julien Baker, and their fall tour with Tiny Moving Parts and Culture Abuse. Stevens also opens up about the band’s tight-knit relationship with one another, and how Stage Four serves as an honest and cathartic outlet that helped Bolm overcome the loss of his mother.
Your new record, Stage Four, has been out for a little bit. So far, how’s the reception been like?
So far, it’s been great, man. It seems like people are into it, but overall I am very happy with the results of what we came out with. It’s very exciting.
I know you’ve had the opportunity to share with your fans a good amount of new material recently at festivals like Wrecking Ball ATL and Riot Fest. What are you looking forward to the most about diving into these songs live on your upcoming tour with Culture Abuse and Tiny Moving Parts?
First and foremost, I am definitely looking forward to playing a lot of new material, and to go out and to play shows again. It’s what we kind of live for, so I am really excited about that. I am also really, really excited to spend some time with both of the bands—I think they’re really, really great. So yeah, we’re really, really excited to go out there and share what we’ve been working on for a very long time to people.
It’s noted that Stage Four heavily touches on the passing of Jeremy Bolm’s mother. How do you think creating this record helped him overcome such a huge loss?
I think it was a good experience for him and a good experience for all of us to come together. The band has been together for a long time now, and we kind of operate like a family. We share a lot of experiences together, and Jeremy’s mom was a really close figure in all of our lives. So, we wanted to be there however we could be there to help him with however way he wanted to grieve.
Going into the record, we assumed that it would be a part of it, but we didn’t know if it was going to be the whole thing or what. We just kind of went in open and talked a lot, and what came out, was what came out. We try to be honest with what we do, so I think in that way, it was cathartic because there was no pressure for him to do anything. We just allowed him to deal with it the way that he felt like he needed to. I think that’s how that came out in the songs.
Considering the personal themes that come into play with this record, do you feel like you’ve grown closer than ever throughout the writing process of Stage Four?
The band gets closer and closer as time goes on—we’ve grown up together, you know? When the band started, I was 19 years old, and now I am in my late-20s. They are my family, and the way that I’ve grown up, was with them.
I do think that we’ve all kind of grown as people, and the band has grown closer because of time. Time makes a lot of things happen, you know? Whether it was Jeremy’s mom passing, or other things happening in our lives…like, our guitar player, Nick Steinhardt, getting married this year. Life events just happened, and we’re still together. So, we’ve definitely grown together over the years.
Definitely! From a musical standpoint, how does this record reflect how far you’ve matured since releasing Is Survived By?
I do think we’ve matured is some way musically as a band. Everyone becomes more comfortable with what they do in the band, and I think with each record, we each want to desire to play our own role instead of pushing ourselves, in terms of the kind of players we are. Now, we’re just really interested in writing good songs, and playing the role of that fits the music the best.
In that way, we’ve matured a lot. Also, we have a lot of different influences as we get older, and those influences enter in very interesting ways that you don’t really expect. We don’t really go in with it and try to put a lot of expectations on ourselves. We just go in and whatever comes out, honestly, in the moment, is what we end up going with. So, yeah, I am definitely proud of the process of maturity that we’ve made through the years.
Very cool. You know, one quality that I’ve always admired the most about Touché Amore is how you each have many personal influences that go beyond the realm of hardcore, punk, screamo and post-hardcore. It’s really cool to see you incorporate these influences into your band, and also see it how it all comes together in full circle.
I appreciate that—it’s very true to our personality. We’re all different people with a lot of different influences, and we all kind of respect each other’s influences and respect everybody as a player. I think it entered in a pretty cool way.
Totally. One of my favorite tracks on this record is “Skyscraper,” which features a guest appearance from singer-songwriter, Julien Baker. How did this collaboration come about? As one of the final tracks of Stage Four, how do you think this collaboration complements the emotions conveyed on this track?
First of all, I’m a huge Julien Baker fan—the whole band really, we’re really big fans of her. I discovered her music quite some time ago, when she put it online. I didn’t know her, and I kind of cold-emailed her to tell her how much of a fan I was and we became friends just through that. I got the opportunity to see her and to hang out with her a few times.
Going into the record, it was just something that we had on our minds. Like, it would be really cool to have her fit in somewhere, but we didn’t want to force the issue by any means. We just kind of wrote songs that we wrote, and hope that something naturally come out, so that her voice would be cool on. That kind of happened with “Skyscraper.” Through the chorus that our bass player, Tyler Kirby, brought in, that was supposed to be fast, we slowed it down, and it sounded like a great place for her to do that.
Kind of thinking from the way Leonard Cohen will write a song where he has more of a baritone, almost monotone voice, and almost balances out with this beautiful voice over the top of it, and that’s what we pictured. We hit her up and she did it the next day, and had all of these awesome harmonies and ideas. It was really great. The collaboration came about just from being friends, and really wanting to find a place for her on the record. We’re very happy with it, and we’re very stoked that she wanted to collaborate with us.
If there is one message or theme that you would hope for your fans to gain from listening to a record like Stage Four, what would it be?
You know for us, we just kind of wrote something that was honest for us, so I don’t know if we try to expect what people will take from it. We just put out what we put out honestly, and I think people seemed to generally connect with that. The reason I connected with music is when someone talks honestly, and you can kind of relate it to yourself, even if it’s not related to your situation, it just strikes a chord with you.
I don’t know, it’s certainly a record about loss, the feelings that come with that and guilt, happiness and all of those different emotions that come from it. Whatever people get out of it is totally fine. It’s not something that we’re trying to put on anybody—it’s just something that we do, and hope that people can connect with it that.
For sure. When I listened to this record, I felt that you should never take family or friends for granted just because of how short life is. From the very beginning, did you anticipate for Stage Four to be extremely relatable, and possibly hit close to home for some of your fans?
Yeah, I mean, death is inevitable. So, it’s something that everyone has to deal with one way or another. It’s not always family—it’s friends too. We also had some close friends of us die in the last couple of years, so it’s just a theme in our lives, and I know it’s a theme in everybody’s lives as you get older. Inevitable, it feels that way. When I heard the lyrics, I connected to it. I don’t anticipate how other people feel, but it is an inevitable thing. So, I imagine for someone to go through that, it makes sense why it would connect. Even on the record, Jeremy mentions a couple of times him connecting to other songs that had to deal with death. You know, it’s like a vicious circle, and it’s a good way to express yourself.
When your fall tour comes to a close, what does the rest of the year look like for the band as you begin the supporting album cycle for State Four?
Well, the only thing that we have is really just more touring. I’m sure in the springtime, we’re going to do a really big U.S. tour again, and make our way through the East Coast with New York and New Jersey included for sure. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and sharing something that we worked really hard with people. Can’t say anything infinitively, but there’s definitely a lot shows in our future, especially next year.
Touché Amore is currently on the road supporting their latest studio effort, Stage Four alongside Tiny Moving Parts and Culture Abuse. The band will be making their return to New Jersey at the House Of Independents in Asbury Park on Oct. 25. Stage Four is available now on Epitaph Records. For more information, go to toucheamore.com.