Blessthefallare a heavy force in today’s metalcore scene. Vocalist Beau Bokan, guitarists Eric Lambert and Elliott Gruenberg, drummer Matt Traynor and bassist/backing vocalist Jared Warth are riding the wave of their massively successful album Hollow Bodies, which has been out for more than a year.
The Arizona quintet’s most recent release has been hailed as a career-defining record, debuting at number 15 on the Billboard Top 200. The band also held the main stage slot on the 2013 Vans Warped Tour, and has garnered over one million views on YouTube for their music video “You Wear A Crown But You’re No King.”
Their tireless tour bill includes runs with other metal comrades such as As I Lay Dying, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine and August Burns Red.
We caught up with Bokan shortly after he landed in Phoenix, where the band was formed 11 years ago. While he waited for an airport shuttle in the blistering 102-degree heat, he took some time to talk about the band’s success, his family, and what it means to reflect on their hard work.
You’ve had a roller coaster couple of years, both professionally and personally, as you got married and have a little baby named Rocket! And the band is garnering tons of fans, seemingly by the minute! How does it feel as you reflect on this exciting time?
It’s crazy. When we found out were going to have a kid, we heard people say that you can’t really prepare for it so much. You don’t really know what to expect until you experience it, so I’m just experiencing it and kind of taking every day and week and even every month, one at a time.
The first time I left on tour and had to leave my wife and the baby home it hit me pretty hard. I want to be there all the time but it’s my job to go on tour and make money! I was able to fly home on the off days of the Hollow Bodies tour. I made it happen and never really went more than two weeks without seeing them, so that was pretty cool. And then the last tour we went to Europe for almost a month, and that was the longest I’ve been away from them so far. It was pretty tough but it’s awesome that new technologies and communication make the lines a lot more open. I get pictures and video every single day. I can keep in touch and pretend I’m there.
The band’s fourth album, Hollow Bodies, has been out for almost a year, and has proven to be a definitive record for you guys. Are you absorbing the effect of garnering so much attention?
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. When we were making Hollow Bodies—the third record for me and our fourth as a band—we thought it was a make-or-break effort. We knew if it didn’t do better than our last two records we couldn’t see ourselves having a reason to continue. Being on tour year after year, away from family and friends, it has to be worth it. If you’re digressing it’s not worth it, so we all said, “This is it. We’re going for it.” We went for it.
The first week saw twice as many sales as any record we had put out before that. The charts don’t really matter, but they are cool to look at—but still I don’t think it’s the most effective measure of success. Going on Warped Tour and playing a track no one had heard yet—we saw people losing their minds loving it and they haven’t even heard the song! That’s so hard to do. So that was a great sign of things to come. We’d been hard at work and it’s paying off. And the kids that have been following us for so long, they’re like a rabid, tight-knit fanbase—it’s awesome. It’s something that we’ve built and worked hard on. Hopefully we can continue doing that. It’s awesome and it’s humbling.
What’s the band dynamic like in terms of creative composition and songwriting?
Usually, at least for the last record, Elliott would sit down and jam out riffs, they’d get tossed back here and there and it would become a song. I always have stock lyrics—a line or two even when we’re not writing—I’ll have something in the chamber, so to speak, just in case, because I know it will be used somewhere, someday.
Usually Eric and Elliott do the majority of the music writing before it comes to me, which is cool. We wonder if we should keep doing that or if we should experiment for the next record. There are some producers out there who make the singer write a melody first and build around that. That’s kind of a “pop” way to do it but I think it would be interesting to experiment with different styles of writing for the next album. We’ll see.
You guys tour with a lot of great bands. Who would you point to as the bands you most admire professionally and personally, as well as musically?
August Burns Red! We’ve toured with them more than we’ve toured with anyone. There’s a reason behind that. We respect them as people, musicians—they’re good friends of ours. They know how to do it right and they’ve been doing it for so long. We look up to them. When we make decisions we’re like, “What would August Burns Red do?” They’re a band that doesn’t get played on the radio. They’ve been putting out these impressive, awesome albums for so long without any sort of [massive] mainstream success. They’re making a living and buying homes and that’s awesome. We kind of want to follow in their footsteps and be that band that’s respected by peers and has a great fanbase. They have integrity when they write and perform their music. They’re first and foremost on that life.
Silverstein—we’ve known them for years. It’s awesome to see them still writing music after so many years and remaining relevant. We look up to them for that.
Letlive—they’re great friends of ours. They play music with such passion. All their lyrics have meaning and when they are on stage, they perform like it’s their last show. It’s so awesome to see that.
Metalcore can be a saturated market but it seems like, from a promotional perspective, you’ve found a way to cut through the clutter.A key differentiator is that you emphasize a personal brand. Your personal projects and your family is ultimately part of your artistry. You take fans along your own individual journey.
When things got rolling with this band, I was so appreciative of everything. I had so many different ideas about creative outlets. To have a forum to re-launch that on was my dream come true. People were stoked about things I was doing and the ideas I had. When the fanbase started growing I didn’t take it for granted, and I still don’t. I really appreciate literally every fan that’s spending money on the band, giving us their time. There are a lot of fans out there and we’re their lives, which is crazy to think about! I definitely don’t take that for granted and I never will.
Blessthefall will play at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Aug. 17, The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY on Aug. 19, and the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA on Aug. 23. For more information, go to blessthefallmusic.com.