BY KAT H. WENTZELL
Beau Bokan is the charismatic and energetic vocalist of the wildly popular metalcore band Blessthefall. He has fronted the group since its second studio album, Witness (released in 2009), and has spent his time since with his bandmates - bassist Jared Warth, guitarist Elliot Gruenberg, guitarist Eric Lambert, and drummer Matt Traynor - crafting a new, refreshing sound that distinguishes Blessthefall while still holding true to its roots. Blessthefall just recently dropped its sixth record, Hard Feelings, on March 23, and may have struck serious gold.
How’s tour so far?
Bokan: "It’s been really fun! We just got out of the ultra-cold weather. We escaped a few snowstorms. We slid off the highway once. But we’re here!"
Blessthefall recently signed to Rise Records. How has this affected you?
Bokan: "It’s funny, because some people have this preconceived notion that because you sign to a certain label, that you’ll start sounding a certain way, which is completely false. Rise has been so so so supportive of our process. They make us feel good, like a new band, and that’s something that we haven’t felt in a while. This feels like a restart; we feel brand new again."
How did you go about writing Hard Feelings? What were the driving influences of the record?
Bokan: "The hardest part for us was to make sure that we still sounded like Blessthefall and still grew at the same time. I feel like it would be a disservice to put out the same record five times. For us, we love all different types of music: pop, r&b, hip-hop, everything. We get inspired by a lot of different genres, and for this record, we weren’t afraid to let those influences influence us. We would be like, 'Oh, this song sounds like Taking Back Sunday,' but then we’d say, 'So what? That’s sick, we love Taking Back Sunday.' We weren’t afraid to let the influences shine through. I think that shows that Hard Feelings is a very diverse record. Some songs are a little off center, but overall, the album still sounds like Blessthefall! I think this album is going to take us to a different level as a band and will open more doors for us. We’ve been a band for ten years; it’s really cool that we can discover new sounds and grow."
How does Hard Feelings compare to the rest of your repertoire? What made you want to go a more electronic/melodic route with this record?
Bokan: "I think it happened naturally. We always sort of had those elements in our music. But like I said, we wanted to let our influences shine on this album, and [we didn’t want to] hold back and be afraid of what people thought. In the past, [while writing,] we would be like, 'I don’t know, this song sounds too pop-y,' or 'Someone might not like this.' This time, we just said f*ck it. Tyler Smyth, also known as 'The Chef,' was the producer of this album, and he is an amazing producer. He is young, he is hungry, he is inspired, and he made us feel inspired and feel good. He was always in my corner like, 'You’re the f*ckin’ man! You’re the best! Nobody’s better than you!' He would just say really ridiculously flattering things to inflate my ego, and I would try to stay humble. He was the one that really brought the electronic elements and really honed those cool sounds on the album. I think we did it all really tastefully. It sounds fresh."
“Sakura Blues” is one of the more emotional songs off the album. Can you talk a little about this song?
Bokan: "Elliott [Gruenberg] wrote the music for 'Sakura Blues,' and he wrote it in Japan. There were sakura [cherry blossom] trees [there]. He wrote the song when it was rainy and he was going through a hard breakup with his fiancée. I tried to channel his feelings into the songwriting, and [I tried to] draw from my past experiences as well, mostly with breakups. I think that’s something that everyone can relate to."
What can people expect to see at a Blessthefall show?
Bokan: "High energy. Sometimes, it’s almost to a fault, because I’ll forget about singing while I’m jumping around. Blessthefall genuinely likes to have a good time, and there aren’t any gimmicks to us. What you see is what you get with us. We try to maintain the punk rock and hardcore roots and just have fun and not think about anything. I say on stage every night: 'I just want everyone to forget about what’s bugging them. This is a place where you let loose. This is a place where you don’t have to worry about anything. You can just take an hour and a half to two hours to just hangout and be present.'"
What’s in store for Blessthefall?
Bokan: "Touring, touring, touring. We’re also shooting a video for a song in Phoenix, so that will be coming soon. We can’t really give anything away yet. Hopefully, if all goes well, we can put together a really cool headliner for next fall, around September or October."