Turmoil has always been a catalyst for hardcore. It's historically rare for compelling punk music to come from contentment and complacency—which is precisely what made Is Survived By, Touché Amoré's breakthrough album from 2013, such an anomaly. According to vocalist Jeremy Bolm, it's also the reason his world was turned upside down shortly after its release.
"I just turned 30 and was very content with my life and had a hard time deciding what to write about," Bolm says. "So I ended up writing about how you're going to be remembered as you get older. I joke that I jinxed myself because I was thinking of how I had this band that was successful, I'm on my favorite record label….Then while we're touring on that record my mom died, and life handed me the biggest thing I've ever had to write about."
With the wounds of the loss still fresh and the dust hardly settled Is Survived By's promotional cycle, Bolm and company quickly regrouped and began work on the follow up. For a vocalist known for unapologetic earnestness and allergy to abstraction, the devastation of losing a loved one provided Bolm with all the lyrical content he needed. Rather than use the pain as an excuse to dial down their famously manic energy, the quintet used last year's Stage Four as a platform to convert Bolm's heartbreak into a career-defining statement of purpose.
Landing at the top of many year-end lists, the combination of Bolm's painfully honest lyrics and the group's razor-sharp fury birthed one of 2016's most uplifting post-hardcore albums. On tracks like "Eight Seconds," Bolm doesn't hide behind allusions. He spells out exactly what went down, making direct reference to the Gainesville club he was performing at when he got the call that his mother had lost her battle with cancer.
Predictably, a vast swath of Touché Amoré's fanbase has since placed a great deal of personal stock in their music. Once a paragon of a punk subgenre that may have been too aggro or lacking in hooks to resonate with a mainstream audience, Touché Amoré are now the reluctant poster boys for grieving via blast-beats. That's put Bolm in a tough spot with fans who think all he's equipped to do is empathize with others who've experienced tragedy.
"You don't have to talk to me about that to feel like we're gonna connect," Bolm says. "It's a weird thing. In Philly a kid came up to me and talked about one thing, then after an awkward pause he was like, 'Oh yeah, I lost my dad when I was 5.' You don't want to question people's sincerity, but it often gets uncomfortable. I'm not someone who has all the answers. I understand it helps to talk about it, but sometimes it makes the situation more difficult than it should be."
Performing the songs from Stage Four nightly has helped Bolm power through the grief, a feeling the band is now proficient in converting into raw energy onstage. Though he's prone to get choked up on occasion, Bolm's is still well in control of his performance.
"It's only rough in certain situations," Bolm says. "Like on Halloween, when she passed, or a few weeks ago in Austria, on her birthday. I ended the set a little early that night because it got a little too heavy. Still, I'm pretty good at going on autopilot and connecting with the audience who engages with every single word I say."
SEE IT: Touché Amoré plays Hawthorne Theater, 1507 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd., with Single Mothers, Gouge Away, and Dead Tropics, on Saturday, Oct. 14. $15. 8 pm. All ages. Get tickets here.