Blessthefall are back from the edge of collapse with new music and more importantly, a newfound fire in their bellies.
We caught up with frontman Beau Bokan in a no-holds-barred interview that spans their signing to Rise Records, new album 'Hard Feelings' and more.
YOU’VE SIGNED WITH RISE RECORDS NOW AFTER FOUR ALBUMS WITH YOUR OLD LABEL FEARLESS. WHY THE CHANGE NOW?
Says Beau: “There were a lot of different things that were in play with that. We’ve been a band almost nine years, so this is our sixth record. Not to talk poorly about Fearless and what’s going on there, but I feel like they sort of dropped the ball with our last album. It went very under the radar which I felt was a great record and we sort of took a hit from that.
“With our band, we go up and down you know what I mean? We have one record and everything goes great, and the next record kind of slumps a little bit and that’s been us. We just powered through it, but with our last record we got left in the dark a little bit and I think they were focusing more on other bands that were big on YouTube or some shit! Yeah, left in the dark is the term I’d say.
“So, we said, ‘Y’know, it’s fine, let’s part ways’. And someone like Rise hit us up and were very, very excited that we were free agents. It’s just to find someone excited about your music, about your band.
“There were a few other labels as well but they were the most excited, they were very grassroots even though they have some massive bands like PVRIS and At The Drive-In and I could go on and on and on, but they are very grassroots still and they have a small core, it’s not like they have 25 people at their label and I have to like talk to like three people to get to somebody that I want to talk to. I call my dude at the label and he answers the phone and we’re talking about ideas. And I said, ‘Hey man, I want to drive to Portland. The Lakers are playing, maybe we can hang out and get a coffee’ and they call me back and say, ‘You know what, we’ll get tickets, we’ll get dinner, we’ll make it a label meeting’ and this was before we signed! I was like, ‘Alright man, if you didn’t have me sold before, I’m sold now!’
“They treated us like we were a commodity and it felt good, I think they have a lot of faith in us and what we can do. They’ve been watching us over the years and it’s a fresh start, so here we go!”
DID YOU FEEL LET DOWN ACROSS THE BOARD?
“Absolutely, that’s exactly how I felt. I felt ‘To Those Left Behind’ was a great record and a great follow-up record to ‘Hollow Bodies’. There’s a lot of awesome songs on there, it’s pretty heavy! It’s funny because kids always want us to sound heavy and I’m like, ‘Yo, those are some of the heaviest fucking songs we’ve ever written on that album!’ And that was that, you can’t really dwell on it.
“For us a band, you know you pack your way and the hard part is that we’re not DJs where we can just write a song in a fucking hotel room and make a million dollars. This is months and months and months of writing and some people don’t realise that. You could put out a song and someone could just kinda dismiss it and it’s like, ‘Fuck man, I worked so hard on that’. That’s how it felt with that album.
“We busted our ass, I was going back and forth from Michigan to L.A. to write and I felt like it was a great record and it was very disappointing but I think you have to go through that a band, I think that it’s making us stronger as a band, where it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve overcome this thing that seems like any other band would maybe call it’.”
COULD IT HAVE MEANT THE END OF THE BAND?
“Yeah, you know what, I would be lying if I said that we were all overly optimistic, because I think like anyone else, the reality of it was, ‘Hey man, we’re all getting older, the scene is changing, the climate of music is changing and I think there was an option of like, ‘Fuck man, maybe this is it, maybe this is the end of the fucking road, we’ve hit a wall or whatever’ but I think after we all collected ourselves and Rise was very excited about signing us, it breathed some fresh air into us.
“We went, ‘Alright, let’s get back on the fucking horse, let’s do this thing’. So that’s when things turned around, we went, ‘Alright, let’s give it one more chance guys, let’s do this’ and I’m glad we did because all that emotion and all that determination went into this record and you can hear it from front to back.”
WITH SONGS LIKE ‘I’M OVER BEING UNDER(RATED)’ AND ‘FEELING LOW’ RIGHT DOWN TO THE ALBUM’S TITLE, WAS IT CATHARTIC PUTTING ‘HARD FEELINGS’ TOGETHER?
“It was. And like I said, we were at the point where we were like, ‘Do we keep rolling, do we keep doing this? We could just all go and get good jobs somewhere and I won’t have to leave my fucking family for months at a time!’ So yeah definitely, there’s so much emotion in this record and I think it’s one of my favourites as far as lyrics go as well. I feel like I really channeled those feelings of feeling like no one gave a fuck about us anymore and feeling like our label doesn’t give a fuck about us, the scene doesn’t give a fuck about us anymore.
“You know all these bands are coming through and getting big and everyone’s jumping on the hot new thing, so all of that was channeled into the record and just having to leave my family.
“We went to Arizona to do the album for about a month. We rented a big old Airbnb house and Tyler Smyth our producer came in. We were going to Europe for seven weeks and it was all time away from the family. As I’m writing I’m thinking, ‘Holy fuck, I’m going to be away from my daughter and my wife for seven weeks, I’ve never been gone that long’ So that all went into it; that shitty, dark place of like, ‘Fuck man, am I doing the right thing?’”
HAS IT BEEN FRUSTRATING SEEING THE INDUSTRY CHANGE LIKE THAT?
“Yeah. You know, I don’t want to be the old jaded dude but it is hard to see. At the same time I know that there’s going to be a backlash to all the overly regurgitated, same EDM songs, like The Chainsmokers’ song that you hear because everyone else wants to sound like that.
“There’s going to be a backlash to that part of it gives me some hope that it’s going to go the other way, rock and roll’s going to come back, it just has to. And I also see that if these guys can make it, then we can!
“I don’t want to take anything away from those people because I have friends who are successful DJs so I don’t want to bash on them, it’s just frustrating for me because it’s like, ‘Man, you can just write a fucking hit song then and there and in a few hours be done with it and there’s no overhead? You don’t have to go to a studio and get drummers and this and that?’
“It is a little frustrating at times, but I understand that’s where we are now and I think rock and roll’s going to make a comeback. I hope we’re at the forefront of it.”
WAS THIS ALBUM A REACTION TO ALL OF THAT, A WAY OF PUSHING THROUGH THE BULLSHIT?
“Definitely. I do truly feel like things are changing, the music scene is riding this weird moment where everything’s sort of in limbo and it’s like, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ and I watch a lot of bands in our scene get big and everything else and I’m really like, ‘You know what guys, it’s our fucking turn now, we’ve put in the work, we’re the fucking veterans here, we wrote an amazing album and what I feel is an important album for the scene and for rock in general’.”
DID YOU FEEL TAKEN FOR GRANTED?
“Yeah, you can definitely say that. There’s a lot of bands in our scene that we tour with that might be bigger than us that always tell us, ‘Yo man, you guys were my first show or like your record was the first metalcore, screamo or whatever they want to call it, album I ever listened to’ so we’ve been pioneers in a sense and we’ve been around for so long... I’m not trying to sound like Liam Gallagher here, I don’t want to be the Liam Gallagher of metalcore! But I guess I will! But we’ve been around for over 10 years really, I joined the band in 2008 and the band was around from 2005 or 2006, so we see us inspiring a lot of bands that made it big and made it bigger than us, so you know what it’s a matter of time. I do feel like we’ve been taken for granted a little bit, and I think it’s time that changed.”
BUT IN AN INDUSTRY WHERE EVERYTHING IS VERY THROWAWAY, DO YOU ALSO FEEL YOU’VE SURVIVED?
“I think we have a very punk rock approach to the way we tour and the way we deal with our band as a business, we’re very smart.
“For instance on this tour we’re supporting Of Mice & Men. We’re not the headliner so we’re touring in a van and it’s a very scaled down production, it’s very punk rock and I think that’s smart. We don’t have a lot of crew that we’re paying and things like that, and we’ve been on other tours where the bands were playing before us in a full tour bus, with the full crew and I’m like, ‘You guys are going home in debt! That’s not going to work’.
“So we’ve been very smart and tactical with our approach to how we tour and it’s allowed us to make a living from it. Even like last year when it was one of our lowest years as a band, we were still able to stay afloat and a few of us own homes and cars and we’re married and everything else, and that’s amazing; that we can make a living and thrive off of the type of music we play, which isn’t very popular in most circles, so we’ve just been very determined and stayed consistent and we stay hungry, I think that’s the most important part.”
HAS THAT ALL BEEN DOWN TO YOUR DETERMINATION?
“Determination is the most important thing and along with it is just being smart and being intelligent and making the right decisions in your career, because you can be as determined as you want but if you’re fucking lighting money on fire you’re not going to go anywhere.
“So I think it’s definitely a combination of things that you need to have, but determination is obviously at the forefront, you know you’ve got to power through things and believe in yourself, you’ve got to believe in the music you’re writing and that’s probably one of the greatest parts of writing this record, that we believed in every single song, there wasn’t a song where we were like, ‘That’s kind of a B-side’. We believe in every fucking track, front to back and that’s what makes me feel so optimistic about it.”
DOES THIS FEEL LIKE A RESTART?
“I think this is the restart, it could be the rebirth, we’re sort of rebranding as a band and we’ve got a fresh start, so we’ve to take advantage of that. And our producer Tyler Smyth, I think the only other record he’d done was Falling In Reverse, their last album, but he’s a really close friend of ours and we went to some big name producers and we wrote some songs with them and we decided to go with Tyler and he’s the next the guy up man, he’s the new dude, and I’ll say that with full confidence because I love the dude and I really want him to get the notoriety that he deserves, I think he’s going to be very busy next year and everybody’s going to want to go and do their album with him.
"And he was a huge part of us finding the new sound, with all the cool synths and the choppy production that’s on the record, that was all him just creating and we got to co-write songs together and he’s just like an amazing, creative human being and he’s very positive so even when I was feeling shitty and maybe self-doubting, he was like, ‘No man! No one matches you man, no one can top you man!’ He’s like the best hype man! He was like Muhammad Ali, so I just want to make sure that we mention him, because he had a whole lot to do with this album.”
'Hard Feelings' is out on March 23 via Rise Records.