As I sat outside the Kings Arms in Auckland hours before BLESSTHEFALL took to the stage, a group of twenty fans were enjoying their meet and greet opportunity with the Arizona-based post-hardcore act - enjoying some enthusiastic smiles, high fives, and enthusiastic conversation with the five-piece. Visiting New Zealand for their second time - the first being in 2009 supporting Saosin - when asked how their second trip to our shores differed from their first, vocalist BEAU BOKAN stated: "I think this time around our show was a lot crazier! We had the stage packed with stage-divers, kids were singing as loud as they could, [it was] just a great time. We seemed to have gained a lot more fans since the last time."
Known for their crazy on-stage antics often involving Bokan hanging from the rafters or climbing up to high heights, this endless enthusiasm and hard-to-ignore energy resulted in Blessthefall being named as "one of the world’s most explosive live bands" by 'Kerrang!' magazine in 2011. With this reputation for a badass live show firmly set in mind, one might wonder how the band will ever top themselves in the future - "pretty soon I'll be lighting myself on fire" is Bokan’s response.
While mis-communication and time delays resulted in our face-to-face interview with the band being axed, Bokan was able to answer our questions via e-mail, opening up about their experience in New Zealand, what collaborations might occur in the future and what he would do if every Starbucks in the world shut its doors...
COUP DE MAIN: It had been a couple of years since you last played here with Saosin, are you stoked to finally have returned?
BLESSTHEFALL - BEAU BOKAN: So stoked! The fans out in New Zealand are amazing. They're genuinely excited and appreciative that you're playing their country.
CDM: How did your shows here compare to your last New Zealand show?
BEAU: I think this time around our show was a lot crazier! We had the stage packed with stage-divers, kids were singing as loud as they could, [it was] just a great time. We seemed to have gained a lot more fans since the last time.
CDM: You also did a meet and greet in Auckland - is making time to meet your fans something that is important to you as a band?
BEAU: Yes, always. We always take the opportunity to meet fans when we can. We'll hang at the merch table after shows etc. unless we're dead tired or sick. Traveling takes a lot out of you, so sometimes that's the case. But yeah, our fans mean the world to us.
CDM: It's been out about six months now, but congratulations on the release of 'Awakening' last year. You've been touring on the album for a while now - has the record taken on new meaning now that you've been touring on it? Or have you noticed the reaction of audiences change the more they hear it?
BEAU: Well to be honest, I think the record has really grown on people. We had a great reaction to it upon the release but I've seen it grow and grow and people are really attaching themselves to it the more they listen to it. I believe that's the sign of a classic album. If it came out and was overly hyped up and we did all sorts of flashy things that are cool right at the moment, it would die out. But I think we have a timeless album on our hands.
CDM: Is there a song on the record that you think best represents where Blessthefall are currently at?
BEAU: I think the song ‘The Reign’ reps us the best. It’s full of energy, has a huge chorus, and doesn't slow down!
CDM: Your song '40 Days’ is linked to ‘And Counting...’ by LIGHTS - which song came first, and are there any plans for a Blessthefall and Lights collaboration in the future?
BEAU: Haha 'And Counting...' came first. That's where I got the idea for ‘40 Days’. I thought it would be different and really cool to link the titles to complete a sentence. Also, I used a line from her song in the chorus of ours. I'm sure there will be some more BTF/Lights collaborations - in fact she remixed ‘40 Days’ and I'm stoked to let people hear that someday.
CDM: CHRIS DUDLEY from Underoath played the synths on the record, what was it like working with him and what made you decide to include synths on the record for songs like ‘Meet Me At The Gates’?
BEAU: He's an amazing dude. Seriously, such a great person and a great musician. We've all kind of grown-up a bit listening to Underoath, so to work with Chris was such a rad experience. We wanted to have sound-design on the album without being it sounding overused or cheesy. We wanted to do it tastefully.
CDM: ‘Meet Me At The Gates’ is quite an emotionally heavy song, and looking at YouTube comments on the song - it's packed with people sharing stories of loved ones and finding refuge in the song. How does it feel when you hear of how your music helps people get through tough times?
BEAU: It’s the best feeling in the world. The fact that our message and my lyrics can have a positive impact on someone's life is really astounding. It definitely makes me appreciate what I do even more because I'm not just doing it for self-gain, I'm doing it to help others.
CDM: Earlier this year there was talk of a possible acoustic EP or some new material being recorded - true/false and has there been any progress on this?
BEAU: Yeah we were trying to get an EP put together with a bit of new material. But the timing was awful and it fell through. Plus we were in Europe for six weeks which can be a bit of a black hole sometimes. I believe everything happens for a reason and that when we're actually ready to put out new material it will be the absolute best we can do.
CDM: Eric in an interview earlier this year spoke about how you'd like to make the next songs you write a bit more aggressive... has that come out in any of the recordings or new songs?
BEAU: Yeah definitely, a song like ‘Bottomfeeder’ is the perfect example. That's the most aggressive song we've ever written to date. It’s not just a heavy, heavy song, but it’s insane and in your face. The lyrics, the riffs, the drumming, the screaming - it’s balls out. We hope to display some more of that on our next album.
CDM: You guys have a reputation for some fairly energetic live performances - do you feel like you have to keep pushing the limits a little more each time in order to compete with yourselves?
BEAU: Yeah, we definitely keep pushing ourselves to get better and better with every show. Pretty soon I'll be lighting myself on fire.
CDM: Recently you came up with the Sprinkler Of Death as an alternative to the Wall Of Death. Where did this idea come from, and what makes a really good sprinkler of death?
BEAU: Hahaha yeah man. The idea stemmed from literally every band doing the Wall Of Death on every tour we're on and it gets a bit old. It's super played-out and predictable. We always attempt to do something original. It just came to me one day when we had a couple extra cases of water. I had a vision of what it would look like if like seventy people at the same time went nuts and sprayed water everywhere. A good Sprinkler Of Death consists of LOTS of water bottles and a crowd that can listen to you!
CDM: Which band has inspired or influenced each of your musical paths the most?
BEAU: For me personally, Blink-182 has been a big influence. Just seeing them way back in the day play little shows and start from a garage band to where they are now, makes me believe anything is possible if you truly want it and commit your life to it.
CDM: Recently you've been involved with the not-for-profit, Keep A Breast. How important is it for you guys to spread awareness to certain charities to your fans?
BEAU: Well in the past we've never really been completely involved in any charities or organisations. We see what K.A.B. is doing and we believe in it. It’s important to let fans know that we really care about people who are suffering from cancer and that we are fighting for a cure.
CDM: You are all quite open and responsive to fans via social networking sites. Do you think in order to be a successful band these days, social networking is something you need to embrace? Do you find yourselves ever feeling the need to censor yourselves?
BEAU: Social networking, I believe, has completely changed the relationship between band-members and fans. Fans these days seem to almost expect a response from band-members any time they tweet or leave a comment etc. - I think it’s important to have a consistent communication with the fans but I don't think it should be expected. That being said, we do read almost all comments and tweets to us. We love to know what they're thinking about our songs etc. - if they all start saying we suck I guess there's something we'll have to change!
CDM: Eric tweeted that maybe if he wore make-up he would win a 'Golden God' award... do you think lately with the rise of the Internet there has been a rise in artists relying on image rather than technical skill in order to gain success? And if so, do you see a way out of this?
BEAU: Hahahahahaha... oh man. Yah know what... I think that talent, good songwriting and passion, will always outlast hype. Our band has been around six years now and we've seen bands rise and fall. We're still here doing our thing and we're only getting better. Our army is only growing stronger.
CDM: If you woke up tomorrow and every Starbucks store in the world had closed, what would you do?
BEAU: I'd open up a coffee shop called StarBeau's Coffee in its memory.
CDM: Lastly, do you have a message for your New Zealand fans?
BEAU: We love you guys, keep spreading the word and don't forget us, we'll be back soon!!! <3EAU