Touche Amore Ponders Its Legacy

2013 album, Is Survived By, a testament to well-played love


When the members of Touche Amore saw the lineup for this year's Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain, they were stunned. There, alongside big names ranging from The Pixies and Arcade Fire to Kronos Quartet and the Sun Ra Arkestra, was the name of their band.

According to lead singer Jeremy Bolm, guitarist Nick Steinhardt sent a screenshot of the Primavera lineup to his bandmates' phones, "and the first response was, 'How did this happen?' Everyone in the band [was] just like, 'This doesn't make sense.'"

Such moments have become common for the Los Angeles, Calif.-based post-hardcore band. Since forming in 2007, Touche Amore has earned widespread acclaim for its mix of chiming, anthemic riffs, howled vocals and intelligent, introspective lyrics. The band's latest release, Is Survived By (2013), received five stars from Alternative Press and was named the second-best album of the year by Brooklyn Vegan's Andrew Sacher (first place went to Kurt Vile's Wakin on a Pretty Daze). Pitchfork's Ian Cohen gave the album an 8.0, declaring that the band is "poised to reach beyond a fanbase that can be described as 'hardcore' in one way or another."

Boise audiences will get to see what all the fuss is about when Touche Amore plays The Crux on Saturday, Feb. 8, with Philadelphia, Pa.-based experimental rock group mewithoutYou; Torrance, Calif.-based alternative rock group Seahaven; and Albany, N.Y.-based alternative rock group Drug Church.

Touche Amore's harsh yet accessible sound reflects the compassion that Bolm finds beneath punk's raw power. True punk rock is "all about accepting one another and not judging one another and doing what you can to welcome everybody," he said. Parents or outsiders may only hear anger and aggression, "but what they don't realize is that [at] the core of it [are] very welcoming ideals and acceptance to [different] races or genders or sexualities."

Connecting with others--particularly those who come after him--has been on Bolm's mind a lot lately. He told Revolver last year that getting older has made him think about how people are remembered after they're gone.

"I felt like turning 30 was that 'looking at life as a bigger picture' moment, whereas when you're in your 20s, you still think you're a teenager," he said.

As the title itself suggests, the theme of legacies pervades Is Survived By. "I don't know what my legacy will be. / A song, some words I wrote, or a kid I'll never see," Bolm says on "Just Exist." The title track features the lines, "So write a song that everyone can sing along to. / So when you're gone, / You can live on. / They won't forget you."

Bolm doesn't claim to be some fount of wisdom, though.

"I'll have kids asking [for] advice on how to scream--'How do you do it without damaging your voice?' And I'm like, 'Have you heard me talk?'" he said. "I clearly don't know what I'm doing. I'm just doing what comes natural."

What comes natural has worked well for Touche Amore so far. Inspired by bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Bolm started learning guitar in junior high. After graduating from high school, he got a job at the Burbank, Calif. music/clothing store Backside, where he met guitarist Clayton Stevens and bassist Tyler Kirby when they were only 13 or 14.

"I would take [Stevens] to shows with me and stuff like that," Bolm remembered. "And then Nick [Steinhardt], he played in a local band that was more out in the [San Fernando] Valley area, and they actually did an in-store performance at Backside."

Drummer Elliot Babin joined up in 2009, when the group was preparing to open a series of concerts for New Brunswick, N.J.-based post-hardcore band Thursday. That same year, Touche Amore's music caught the attention of Deathwish Inc. co-owner Tre McCarthy, who eventually signed the band to his label. Since then, Touche Amore has toured Europe with Boston, Mass.-based metalcore band Converge (fronted by McCarthy's business partner Jacob Bannon) and the U.S. with AFI.

Bolm acknowledged that The Crux is a much smaller venue than Touche Amore will play in cities like Los Angeles and New York. He explained that this was part of a conscious decision made to play more intimate venues on this tour.

"A lot of times, you don't know how it's going to go turnout-wise [in smaller cities], so you don't want to go too big anyway," Bolm said. "If anything, you play a much smaller show and that makes that show that much more fun for the kids in that city."

Bolm added that the band is especially eager to play Boise again.

"We've played everything in Boise from a rehearsal space that ended up being a venue to ... a bar that had a skate ramp in it [Shredder]," he said.

The all-ages Crux looked appealing because it seemed to suit Touche Amore's goal of "finding a place that would potentially be a wild show without booking a place that would be too big."

For all of Bolm's ruminations on what he leaves behind, he and his bandmates don't plan to stop anytime soon. Touche Amore's current tour has 26 booked dates across the U.S. and will end with a show in Baton Rouge, La., on March 11. The band will then play the Primavera Sound Festival in May. Beyond that, Bolm foresees more albums and tours.

"That's all we ever cared about. That's all we're ever going to care about," he said.

Between recording and performing, Bolm would also like to work on a series of zines. He tried his hand at this last year and published the zine Down Time, which includes some original poetry, tour stories and advice for kids on holding house shows.

While Bolm appreciates the opportunities and accolades that Touche Amore has received, he doesn't let them go to his head.

"At the end of the day, we're a dumb hardcore band. That's what we are," he said. "We're a band that got our start playing minute-long songs that I'm screaming. And now all of a sudden, we're getting to play with The Pixies. So I don't get it, but I'm happy to take the ride."

When that ride finally ends, Bolm added, he hopes that people will remember Touche Amore "as a band that took chances, that wasn't afraid to do things but stayed true to themselves. That's important for all of us."