Last month, Armor for Sleep
stunned fans with what may become one of music's highlight moments of the year -- the announcement that they would reunite at Bamboozle 2012 to play a one-time farewell show. Having been defunct since 2009, the news of their reunion came as a tidal wave of shock and excitement for fans who had awaited the moment for years. Despite the onslaught of prep the band faced in those days leading up to the festival, frontman Ben Jorgensen was kind enough to find some time to chat with us. Here, he discusses returning to AFS, the rise and fall of the emo scene, and Asbury Park's very first Skate & Surf. Check it out, spin "Who's Gonna Lie To You" [a previously unreleased track that the band dropped prior to Bamboozle], and take note that the band has added one last farewell show, slated for July 14 at Irving Plaza in New York. Tickets are available now
, and we highly recommend all you East Coasters make moves in snatching yours before they sell out.
PureVolume: When you made the announcement
Armor for Sleep would reunite for Bamboozle, you also admitted that you were the one to pull the plug on things with Armor. Was it important for you to get that out? And was it ever your intention to keep that disclosed or did the opportunity for clarification just fade with the disbandment?
Ben Jorgensen: I don’t think it was something that I necessarily, actively tried to hide. When we decided to walk away from Armor for Sleep, we weren't going to write this lengthy thesis statement about what happened, and who said what first. But, I guess there was a part of me that did want to get it out there because, I know a lot of people over the years that we haven’t been a band have asked me what had happened, and it was something we had never really made clear. So, being the one who was most often the spokesperson for the band, I just felt like if we were going to be addressing our fans, and telling them we were going to be getting back together, that they were owed the explanation, and I realized that they never really got one.
PV: Being that things ended so abruptly with Armor, was it difficult convincing the other guys to do this reunion show?
BJ: I think our bass player [Anthony Dilonno] was the one who got me kind of talking about it. In some way, he stayed friends with everybody when everybody wasn’t all friends with each other. So I hung out with him, and he had been in touch with the other guys, but we had never all hung out. I think I was the last one in the band to know about [the Bamboozle opportunity], because I think [the others] all thought it would be cool, but didn’t think it was something I would want to do. So, it wasn’t really getting everybody else on board. Anthony told me that PJ [DeCicco] and Nash [Breen] were already really into it, and as long as I wanted to do it, we would. So for me, it was really cool to hear that they were already so into it. I think I just needed to gather my thoughts before I could absolutely say yes, but then it made sense, and I’m really excited that we all decided to do it.
PV: You had mentioned in your reunion announcement that you felt ‘the scene in which you had grown up’ was dying around you. When you were dominantly making music, the emo scene was so prevalent, and over the years it started to take on negative connotations and die out. Was there an exact moment when you realized that scene, and maybe even that genre, was dying? Or an example you could give of when you were hit with the realization you didn’t feel like you had a place any longer?
BJ: I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. I guess this isn’t really a specific thing, but there were a lot of songwriters coming in and writing for bands that were considered emo, and were signed to major labels. There started being things like hit songwriters who were pretending they were these emo bands -- and it was the bands playing the songs, but the songs were really written by these pop song-writers. I think once that started happening, I saw that everything was starting to go downhill. And it’s happened a lot – it happened to the grunge scene, it happened to the hair metal scene -- where something that started out as genuine started becoming about profits, so that was disappointing. But there were a lot of signs along the way, and I think there were a lot of ironies in that, the things that made the emo scene thrive were the things that wound up helping it to go away.
The Myspace page was such a time-piece of that whole scene -- but since they were so easy to do, everybody started doing it, and then Myspace was just inundated with millions of bands sending you requests. That’s one little example of something that helped the scene get off the ground, but also helped kind of flood it and water it down.
PV: When it came time to start rehearsing your set for Bamboozle, how was that initial reunion between the four of you? And how was it to be playing the Armor songs again?
BJ: I wanted to be prepared, so I listened to all the songs again to be sure I wouldn’t forget the lyrics or whatever, and then when I saw the guys in the rehearsal space, and we started playing, it was like ‘oh, my brain never forgot one chord or one line of any of the songs!’ We all did it for so many years of our lives that it’s embedded into our brains.
That first practice, I don’t think we really even talked as much to each other -- and not because it was weird, but because we were all kind of weirded out that we remembered everything so well. I think that’s definitely a testament to the human brain, and repetition, and how if you do something enough times you’re never going to forget it. It was a really cool experience to be back playing those songs.
Returning to Armor in front of a huge crowd, and at such a major event, could be very daunting. Are you nervous at all?
BJ: There will be [nerves] the day of the show, [but] I’m not feeling any sort of pressure where I’m scared. I think I’m really excited to get up there, and see who comes out and who’s singing along. I think for me, personally, I’m so far removed from being in a band, and being on tour, that I don’t feel pressure because it’s not like ‘oh, I have to be on this festival so that I can be on the next one’ – it’s not like a stepping stone, it’s more about it being a one time event. So, I think the fact that’s what it is makes me less nervous. I’m just excited to see what happens, and have no expectations. It’s going to be a good time.
Bamboozle [then Skate & Surf] was one of the initial forces that put your band on the map. Can you take us back to that time, and talk a bit about how it felt to be a new band, playing this massive festival for the first time?
BJ: When we started it was called Skate & Surf, and it was in Asbury Park at the Convention Center. I remember we played that show before our first album was out – I believe it was before we even went to record that first album, but we had demos out around New Jersey -- and when we played it was the first time we saw hundreds of people singing along. Everyone who had been going to our little shows in New Jersey all came together, and it was insane. I will remember that day for the rest of my life, just based on the reaction.
But on top of that, it was also the fist time we became exposed to a lot of the bands we would become friends with. I remember Good Charlotte
was there, and Benji and Joel [Madden] somehow had our demo that year and they were really big fans, and they were standing there watching us with the guys from Brand New
, who we were friends with from Long Island. It was just this place where people were starting to talk about the different bands that they were seeing, and that was kind of the tradition of Skate & Surf. You’d go and you’d see who would be the band that was going to be making an impact over the next couple of years. That was the first time I saw, or heard of, Fall Out Boy
. They were playing over in a side room, and they had hundreds of fans singing along, and I was like ‘ok, who are these crazy kids, what’s going on here!’ But, over time it changed a little bit, and the scene grew, and everything got bigger – but that’s how it is was, the one time of year where everyone would meet and check out what was going on.
PV: It’s so great to hear that all of you have been finding your own passions outside of the music scene since Armor ended. Do you ever miss the life of touring and recording, or are you much more content leaving that in the past?
BJ: Touring and recording were always two starkly different things for me. I think touring, right now, is something that I can say I honestly don’t miss. I got in engaged in February, and I love being in the same place at the same time with somebody that I care a lot about, and I think being on tour, there are things you can’t do in your life that a normal person can – one is having a functional relationship. That’s the most important thing I have in my life, and being on tour isn’t really conducive to that, so I don’t miss that kind of hyper-touring.
As far as being in the studio, yeah, there is a part of me that misses [that]. However, I’ve been in the studio a bunch recording different things since Armor for Sleep, and I think that I’m always going to love making music, and I’ll hopefully always be able to find different amazing avenues to do that as I go. Every second I’m not in the studio I miss being there, and then when I’m back, it’s the best.
PV: So, is this the absolute, final chapter in the Armor for Sleep story?
BJ: We’re not going to make another Armor for Sleep album. I can 99.99% say we’re not going to do it. Everybody has their own things going on in their lives, and people’s priorities change, and everyone is really busy with what they’re doing. And another thing is, that [while] we could all do different creative things, I feel like AFS is very attached to a certain time, and to do anything to dishonor that would be unjust in some ways. So, if we do other things – when we do other things – it will be outside AFS.What To Do When You Are Dead
is out now on Equal Vision. Purchase it at eMusic