Sorority Noise's Constant Progression To Be Louder
A Conversation With Sorority Noise in Washington D.C.
[Photo: Andy Deluca]
Sitting in the back of the green room in Washington DC's DC9, with a sound check happening in the background, we meet up with Cameron Boucher, vocalist and guitarist of Feed the Beat alum Sorority Noise. The band, who were in the midst of their first ever headlining tour with Free Throw and Ratboys, have become a staple in the DIY and emo music scenes. In our conversation it becomes easy to see why – the band is deeply engrained in the culture, equally inspired by giving back to their fans and the community that has done so much for them. Having recently signed with powerhouse label Triple Crown Records, we talk with the band about their touring, writing, and the issues surrounding mental health, anxieties, and depression.
How would you describe Sorority Noise, in a couple of sentences?
We were actually just hanging with The Menzingers and trying to describe each other's bands in as little words as possible. Our Twitter bio is "Connecticut Rock Punk" so that's a fun way to describe it. I'd say we are emotionally driven rock 'n' roll music with a guitarist that loves hair metal. Ryan McKenna is a genius. Those are my two sentences. Ryan [bassist of Sorority Noise] wasn't in the van with us for a few days, and we felt so lost. I usually just pose a question to everyone in the van like 'Where does the sun come from?' and he always has the answer. He rode in his own car for the last four shows, so people have had to Google things in the van. We should really just start calling him Google.
How did the current lineup for Sorority Noise come together?
Two members from the original lineup left the band a couple weeks before we were set to leave for The FEST. My other band, Old Gray, was also set to play, so I pretty much just told Charlie, the drummer from Old Gray, that he had to play in Sorority Noise… so he learned the parts. Then Ryan asked myself and Adam if we wanted to join a Rage Against the Machine cover band…
At the FEST Pool Party?
Haha, yeah! I told Ryan that I would play if he played bass in my band. So, the first time this lineup came together was because I forced two people to play with me for FEST. Now we've been a band for about 2.5 years with this lineup and it has been pretty sick!
And you guys have been touring hard since. How has this current tour been?
It has been incredible. This is our first headliner. This is the first time we've been the last band on the show. For the last 4 or 5 tours, we've been the first or second band of four every night, so this has been completely different. We've been incredibly fortunate to have some of our favorite bands take us on tours. But on this tour, we're able to play to a crowd that's been incredibly receptive. It's nice to be able to play for people that genuinely came to see us play. We're super grateful. The other two bands that we're on the road with [Ratboys + Free Throw] are so unbelievable nice. People have been coming out and singing along to every band every single night which has been a really cool thing.
[Photo: Dieter Unrath]
So how does your first headlining tour compare to some of the bigger tours you've been on?
They're smaller rooms, but they have been incredible. It's amazing to play to all these people. I wish shows started at like 4PM so that we could be done by 8PM and we could just hangout. When you're headlining, you're playing late and after the set you're so fried. We don't get loaded out and back to the van some nights until 1AM, and then we drive maybe two hours towards the next city. It has been a lot of work but honestly we are so grateful and lucky to have this opportunity. I'd leave at four in the morning and drive six hours and then sleep for five minutes if that's what I had to do. It's different but it's cool all the same.
I also wish we got to explore cities more. Like Salt Late City… I feel like I've never explored Salt Lake City because it is an 8 hour drive from Denver. We usually get there just in time for load in and sound check. Next thing you know, it's 9PM and it's dark out. There's different cities like that – Seattle too.
How do you spend your free time during those long drives on the road? Any tour essentials?
Definitely my phone because I'm always listening to music. Last tour, I made an effort to listen to new music and ended up listening to like 70 records I hadn't heard before. It was an insane amount of records. I asked my friends to suggest records that I should listen to all the way through. If I liked it, I'd listen to it again and if I didn't I would just say "Awesome. I heard that record and got that experience. I know what it sounds like but I didn't like it. Time to move on."
I also bring my acoustic guitar on tour with me and I'm always writing in the van.
Do you find it difficult to write on the road?
No. I can write anywhere. I've written songs in like 10 degree weather in the back of the van up north Minnesota at six in the morning. If I'm feeling like I should be writing something, I just do it.
A lot of your lyrical content touches on depression, anxiety and mental illness. Sorority Noise seems to really champion bringing attention to these issues.
It's something I deal with personally so I think it's important. I think there are so many songs that pen a relationship as the issue… those all have been written. Those songs are done. The best ones have been written. I've lost a large number of friends who have taken their own life. I know it's important to talk about mental health and depression because you never know who it might help. When I was growing up playing music, no one was telling me that. I just want to let people know that it's okay to have depression and that you don't have to let it win. You don't have to let it take the best of you. It will, but you can do your best to take care of that and deal with it the best way you can.
You recently released a split with The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die on Sorority Noise's new home, Triple Crown Records. How did that come together?
I got to do both songs at my studio in Philly. My friends Ian Farmer and Jake Ewald [of Modern Baseball] and I run a studio and it's a blast. I recorded The World Is… side and our side on back to back days. We knocked out our song in one sitting. Ryan was on tour with his other band, Prawn, while we were recording, so we had to email him the song and he recorded the bass track in the back of a van in Salt Lake City.
The new stuff we have been writing is really loud. It's been a constant progression to be louder.
What's the experience like to be a part of every step of a song's journey, from writing it, to perfecting it, to recording?
I hate it. I've never liked a song that I've recorded for myself, ever. I'm not a perfectionist at all. If I'm playing guitar and I screw up – that's cool. Other people don't really like that, but I think it adds a lot of character and depth to a song because it's humanizing. You can program kick drums for a million years and make it sound perfect - but then it's going to be too perfect. Human error makes things beautiful. I'm not going to quantize shit. I've never recorded anything that I thought was perfect but I think that's the way I want it to go.
As soon as you find perfect, why would you ever record a song again? If you ever think that something is perfect, why would you ever do it again? There is always room for improvement all around.
What other musicians do you pull inspiration from?
Probably Julien Baker right now. She's the most inspiring musician, one of my closest friends, and constantly pushes me to be a stronger person and a better musician. Brendan Lukens [of Modern Baseball] does the same thing. More of my friends inspire me than people I don't know – which is very lucky. I've met so many people from touring in the DIY community that I've watched turn into the people they are. I booked Modern Baseball to 3 people in New Hampshire, I booked Foxing to like 12 people before they put Albatross out. I went on tour with Marietta....
That's something that always feels special about the DIY community, it's so inclusive.
I completely agree. I have so many contacts in my phone that are just like, First Name, CITY. Like Josh from Foxing is just 'Josh St. Louis' in my phone because I knew when I was booking shows, and when I booked Foxing, I thought "Ok, awesome. When I go to St. Louis with my band, I'll just hit up Josh from St. Louis and he'll help me out with a show there." It's a really cool community. And I know it happens in other places but I'm not in any position to speak on it. There's just something really, really special about this community.
With 2016 wrapping up, what were some of your favorite records to come out this year?
1. Scallops Hotel - Too Much of Life Is Mood
I feel like this is a piece of art that people need to hear and devote the entirety of the listen wholly and fully to the record to understand what Rory is doing and saying.
2. Into It. Over It. - Standards
This is my favorite release of Evan's to date, I think. He really outdid himself in musicianship and lyricism and I think you outta check it out.
3. The Grebes - Dark Days//Winter Nights
My friend Brad sings in this band and he played bass in old gray for I think three shows in 2011. This EP is really something else and I am very proud of him for putting it out, can't wait for what's next.
After our interview, Cam sat down to play a couple stripped down songs for Feed The Beat Facebook Live. Watch below: