With only two founding members remaining in the band, Senses Fail have made a drastic change to their sound with their latest effort "Renacer". Much heavier than their previous work, the album also features a more positive outlook lyrically and even some Spanish. Frontman Buddy Nielsen spoke to Killyourstereo.com about the new album, anniversaries and why it’s better to not worry about your band making any money. "Renacer" is out now on 3Wise Records.
Hey Buddy, how you doing?
Good man, how are you doing?
I’m well thanks. Now you have your new album, "Renacer" (dodgy pronunciation), coming out in about a week or so…
Yeah! Well actually it’s pronounced “Re-nay-sehrr”. [Laughs] Sorry.
Oh okay, yeah it’s difficult because I’ve only seen it written down...
No, no, no, I didn’t really expect anyone to, you know. You can pronounce it however you want [laughs]. It’s all the same thing.
No worries. So the album, I’ve seen a few reviews floating around and I gave it a listen this morning and it’s sounding pretty good. How excited are you for it to be coming out?
I’m pumped. I’m really happy with how it came out, I’m proud of it and I want people to hear it.
You worked with a new producer this time after you did your last three albums with Brian McTernan. Who did you work with and how did that change the writing and recording process?
We worked with this guy named Shaun Lopez who plays in a band called Far. I think it forced us to kind of push ourselves because McTernan had been such a big influence on us and a big help to us when we needed help and weren’t gonna pull through. He really, really saved this band so many times that it felt like we needed to cut the safety leash and do something different because if we had that safety there we would probably fall back on that and that was something that we didn’t want. We wanted to kind of be on our own.
Was Shaun someone you identified a while ago or did it all sort of just come together itself?
We’d always been a fan of his band so it was sort of just like “wow, we can record with a guy that we’ve modelled the sound of the band after”, and when we first started to think of producers, he was one of the first guys that came to mind. We didn’t really think of anyone else we were like “yeah, he’s perfect, great.” We love his music and we like the records he’s done and when he wanted to do it we jumped at the opportunity.
The band has had a fair few line up changes in the last few years, Garrett, (Zablocki, guitar) one of the founding members and chief songwriters, left the band recently. Have you and Dan (Trapp, drums) found it difficult to keep the continuity of Senses Fail going? And what sort of impact did his departure have?
The continuity, yeah it’s definitely changed. I mean you heard the record it’s a lot different than…
It’s more like straight up hardcore I guess.
Yeah exactly. So the continuity, we didn’t have trouble trying to keep that we didn’t try at all. We said “fuck it” we’re not gonna try to recreate Senses Fail because the guy who wrote all the Senses Fail songs is gone, so we need to do something different. If we try to write Senses Fail songs without that guy then I think we’re gonna write some bad shit. So we needed to approach the record differently, we needed to approach it almost like a new band really, and that’s what we did so that’s why we have the sound we have now. It’s more of my influences and more of Dan’s influences. We don’t really listen to a lot of pop music between the two of us. Most of what we listen to is hardcore, is metal, is sort of more obscure… I don’t know… spacey, instrumental, different types of stuff so that’s why the direction went this way. And even then we could’ve totally gone more into it but we sort of dialled it back a little just to be like… just so the change wasn’t so extreme that it was off-putting like we’re releasing seven to nine-minute long songs that have five-minute instrumentals, which is something that we totally could have done and might be on our next record, but this time it didn’t feel right. I felt like it was just too fucked up to do to the fans that have been there to be like “you know what? Deal with it”, so we tried to bridge the gap between what we wanted to do – what we really wanted to do and what the end goal of the band is – and basically where we were before.
So you never explored the idea of leaving Senses Fail where it was and continuing on with something like your side project Bayonet? You still wanted to work under the Senses Fail banner?
Yeah. I mean basically Bayonet is now Senses Fail; the sound of what that was, but just put it into Senses Fail. So Bayonet is basically done because there is no need to have that outlet as a side project when it’s now pretty much in Senses Fail.
And how have fans reacted so far to the change in sound by going from having a lot of melodic and poppy choruses to a lot heavier? Has it kind of polarized fans or are most of them getting behind it?
Yeah! Shit, I mean there are lots of kids that are bummed out but I’m happy about that. I wanted to write a record that polarized people, I wanted to write a record that people said they didn’t like and people said they did like. I didn’t want to just make a record that just was like “eh”, you know? I wanted people to really feel strongly either way. I think that’s where we’re getting, I think half the people think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done and then the other half are like “dude, this sounds like garbage, it sounds like everybody else”; which is not true at all because it’s just not. If you listen to heavy music and you follow what’s going on in hardcore or what’s going on in the heavier realms of music it doesn’t sound like everybody else, it sounds like Senses Fail making heavy music. It’s just people who don’t like that style of music don’t have a lot of references to pull from so they just assume because it’s heavy it sounds like all of “this”. Just like how somebody who likes heavy music says that all pop-punk bands sound the same and they don’t.
You individually are quite renowned for writing very personal and often spiritual sort of lyrics and having those lyrical themes on your records. Is that something that has continued on this album?
Yeah, yeah absolutely. The lyrical content is all positive though. Any other record we’ve put out it’s all been negative and it’s all been sort of like ousting your demons and getting rid of whatever has been playing with your angst at the time. This is all about positive. It’s about moving forward, it’s about accepting life, it’s about a spiritual experience of coming to terms with who you are and spreading a positive message, which is nothing like we’ve written about or done before. So while it is heavy and definitely the heaviest thing we’ve done, it’s the most positive and most uplifting record I’ve ever written.
Continuing with the vocal kind of theme, the title of the album and one of the lead tracks you put out ("Mi Amor") are in Spanish, even the lyrics are in Spanish too. Do you speak much Spanish or is that something you kind of just went about working on for this album?
I don’t speak a ton of Spanish. I studied it in high school and it was more of a “what would be different? What would be cool? Let’s see if this sounds good”, it wasn’t like I’m fluent in it and just decided I’m gonna work this out. It was more “let’s try something different” and that’s sort of how we went about writing the record and I think it shows. It’s just like no rules as far as putting limits on ourselves with what we can and can’t do with the band. It’s just something we wanted to try and I think it came out pretty cool.
Recently your band celebrated a ten year anniversary, and you also put out like a best of, I guess you would call it. Bands like New Found Glory and others have done special tours for anniversaries of their band or certain albums. Do you guys have any plans like that?
Well… no, I mean right now we’re sort of celebrating the fact that, I think, we wrote a record that will hopefully sort of define what the next ten years of the band is like. I’m not really thinking about doing anything older right now because I’m almost looking at it like its two separate bands. The first ten years of what we were is not going to be what we are moving forward. I imagine we might do something in like 2014 for "Let It Enfold You" or 2016 for "Still Searching," but right now my head’s not really thinking about how we can relive a record from ten years ago. I’m more focused on trying to make sure that everybody hears us and we get to go around the world on the back of this record. But I’m gonna bet we will do something because I think it’s fun when bands do that. I don’t want to overplay it though. I don’t want kids to think like we’re just doing it for the money like a lot of these bands are doing. They’re thinking “shit, we can go and get all our old fans to come out and listen to the old shit”, and it’s like… I really don’t want to come off like that. We’re gonna have to find a way we can do it so it’s obvious like “look, we’re doing this because you guys want us to, and it can be cool. We’re not doing it just so we can make money”.
Yeah, I think that’s a sensible way to look at it. And speaking of ten years since the band formed, you’ve been in this band and touring around the country, and around the world, since you were a teenager. How much of an effect do you think that has that had on your life and your outlook on life and where you are now? I think I read recently that you’ve been working a few other jobs in between albums, how was that experience?
Oh yeah it was good, I’ve been working in the music industry and on the business side of things for like three years now. I recently got a job at Vagrant and Workhorse, which is the label that Senses Fail is on. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to… making music for money is a very stressful thing – at least for me it was. You judge yourself based upon your success and it just makes music not fun, it makes it about being successful and it makes it about like how many kids came to the show and you sort of go “fuck! There used to be more kids here” and “people used to like this more”… it’s just kind of depressing to make music that way so I decided three years ago that I was going to start working in the music industry and kind of try work my way into this so I can have a steady job so that I don’t have to make music for money. Then it can be pure and be what it was when it first started which was fun and excitement. That’s what I want this record to come across as, I want there to be this fire and this excitement that you can see on the record. Because that hasn’t been there for years for me and that’s why I’m so excited about this.
You’ve been out here to Australia twice before, I think the last time in 2010, have you got any plans to come back soon?
Oh we don’t have any plans yet but we’re definitely talking about it and hopefully we’ll be there before the end of the year.
Awesome, I think a lot of people will be happy with that.
Yeah, we’d love to.
And just finally, is there anything you’d like to add in particular for your following here in Australia?
Just thanks for doing this interview, I appreciate it. And I hope everybody takes a minute to check out the record and thanks for all the support.
Awesome, I think you’ve got a pretty solid fanbase down here so I think people will check it out and are really excited for it.
Thanks for your time Buddy, really appreciate it.
Thank you very much, have a good one.