POZ Interview: Armor For Sleep

by Zack Zarrillo - Jul 12, 2012

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To say some of the team members of PropertyOfZack are huge Armor For Sleep fans is probably an understatement, and boy were we all excited at the news of their reunion. The band will be kicking off their first of three final reunion shows in Saturday in New York City, and PropertyOfZack had the pleasure of catching up with Armor For Sleep frontman Ben Jorgensen for an in-depth look at the band’s reunion, ending, history, reflections of the scene, and so much more. This is one that we’re incredibly proud of, so make sure to read it and get stoked for the reunion!

We’re just a few days from the beginning of the final chapter for Armor For Sleep. These three reunion shows had to be booked before the Bamboozle date, but was there any guarantee that you’d be playing several shows instead of one when this reunion came up?
No. The Bamboozle thing definitely came before any of the other shows. We knew we wanted to do that and there was never a pre-requisite for playing other shows. Our booking agent said a month before Bamboozle that there were other promoters looking at us. He knew very well that we were doing it as a one-off not a comeback tour. He was hesitant, but told us a month beforehand that there were promoters from across the country saying that kids in their area were saying there was no way they could fly and then pay $90 a day for Bamboozle to see us, but that they would if we came to them. So he let us know about that, so we tried to book these dates close to Bamboozle.

Reunions are a tricky thing now in terms of how bands go about them. At The Drive-In were forward and said outright that a large part of the reason for their reunion was for money, but there are also bands like The Early November who have come back to be a full-fledged band. Have fans been overwhelmingly supportive?
It’s been overwhelmingly positive. The only negative was that a lot of our fans were begging us to stay together as a real band, I guess. I don’t think we ever wanted to make ourselves clear when we ended, but I guess we weren’t sensitive enough to our fans to really give them an ending. We’re doing this to make up for the fact that we didn’t do anything before. I think that that has been really well appreciated. Everyone has been really cool. It has been so many years since then that the people who would have begged us to stay together four years ago are now understanding of us being over, but are into us playing one more show. They can reminisce with us. 

Bamboozle was the first show, but it was obviously a shorter set. Was that a great start?
It was a really short set. It was the hits; the immediate, fast songs. We practiced, but you don’t practice rocking out or getting into it. I had a fear that I’d get on-stage and forget what that feeling was. As soon as I got up there and saw people really happy to be there, it all just came naturally. I didn’t think about anything; it all came out. It’s definitely going to be really good to play a really long set.

I think a lot of bands who plan to reunite for just one or several shows can see the glimmer of sudden success and try to extend their welcome a little more. I’m sure people that the band knows could also be whispering in your ear for more. Was there that feeling?
The people in our lives, who were in our lives when we were a real band, know that our lives are so much different now and that so much time has passed. It’s not like we have management or a booking agent whispering in our ears. We actually got a couple offers for big tours to support other big tours that were going out. Our booking agent was like, “I know you guys aren’t a band anymore, but I want you to know what’s going on.” The opportunity was there, but it’s not something that is in our minds right now. 

Armor For Sleep did just fade away. Eventually you released a statement, but before that news for the band just ceased to exist. Can you talk about that fade away?
We definitely had our reasons for wanting to stop when we did. We had a bunch of meetings about it. The whole fade out thing, we decided to do that because we didn’t want to have a big dramatic thing. We didn’t want to do it for the drama, we were ending that way of living our lives for personal reasons. We didn’t want to make it a giant statement. We just thought it would be better for a good note and have people remember us for the band, not the way that we ended. In hindsight, maybe it was perceived that we were too secretive and that no one really knew what was going on for years. Maybe it would have been better to have made it more definitive then.

You spoke about the scene once the reunion was announced. I think it’s interesting to note that when Armor For Sleep faded, so did a lot of the other bands. A lot of the bands that didn’t right away broke up not so peacefully after or  are much less popular today and tend to resent “the scene.” Did you feel trapped by it?
I don’t think we felt trapped. For me personally, I always felt like, at least towards the end, that whatever we wanted to be and whatever grand visions of ourselves we had, that we were very tied to this whole movement of music. So matter how hard we tried to bust our elbows to the sides and to move out of the pact, that’s just what we were. Certain bands are indispensable to certain periods in time. Maybe we were more realistic of that to ourselves than other bands were. This scene became bastardized and a parody of itself. I think it took a lot of bands a while to understand that. I don’t like that obviously, but it happened. We realized it before a lot of the other bands.

All of you have stepped away from music now, and there wasn’t an awkward fourth album trying to go in some weird direction. Is that something that you can look back at and enjoy? You’re a band that’s celebrated and not looked at as one who skewed far to the left.
Yeah, I do. We saw that. I’m not sure I can say that I’m proud or that I’d tell other people “I told you so.” I just think it’s how it went down. We maybe were in a situation where we got to see it a little bit more. Maybe we were a little bit behind the curtains of what was going on. I think there’s a story there and one day someone’s going to do a good job of telling what happened over those years. 

Was there bad blood in the end?
There wasn’t bad blood. I can’t say that everybody else wanted to totally end it like a couple of us wanted to. It took a little bit of time for us to get to the decision. But we all agreed that if we were going to keep doing it, it would have only been because it was our jobs and because we didn’t know what else to do with our lives. Ultimately, that’s not a good reason to stay in a band. You just feel like everything is working against you, but you have to keep doing it because you’ve been doing it for so long. That would’ve been the only reason we stayed together.

Dream To Make Believe and What To Do obviously had large impacts on your fans, but the last record was met with mixed reviews. Is the final record one that you’re proud of? How do you compare it to the first two.
The first two albums were totally made without anybody else’s input, and by that I mean with label or management. We signed to Warner for our third album. A lot of people say signing to a major label is bad. There’s nothing inherently wrong about it, but chances are that if you’re signing to a major label that you’ve sold a bunch of records on an indie label or people have high expectations. Chances are, when you go into making that album people are going to throw their opinions in. What happened with that album was that we had people from the label and management and tons of people from the outside trying to put in their opinions on songs and parts of songs. We were trying to appease people on a way that we weren’t trying to do on our first two albums at all. That’s how it came out. I’m proud of certain songs and I’m proud of that era for us. I think we wrote some of the best stuff we ever wrote. Most of that didn’t end up on the album, but listening back I totally see how people think it’s a watered down version of ourselves. But we were on a major label and that’s what we thought we had to do. We thought we had to make an album that was a combination of who we used to be and who people that we respected wanted us to be in the next level. There were probably ultimately wrong.

Besides a solo EP, you and everyone else in the band have been very quiet since the end of Armor For Sleep. Have you completely stepped out of music now?
There’s a part of me that feels a little bit jaded from the whole process and a little beaten up. I don’t think that’s really deterred me from creating music, but maybe in terms of wanting to release it. I don’t think it’s going to be a permanent thing, but the whole universe of music has jaded me to a certain extent. Being creative and putting new ideas out there is something I can’t live without, whether it’s in music or other ways. It’s something that I don’t think I’ll stop doing.

There was obviously a Bamboozle offer, but the band could have said, “Maybe next year.” You’re obviously getting married, but was now the ideal time for everyone?
When I talked to Anthony about it we did think about next year, but the consensus was that we didn’t know if Bamboozle would be there next year. I haven’t talked to anyone at Bamboozle since we played, but we got the feeling that they moved it to Asbury was because it could be the last year. We thought, “Well if there’s no more Bamboozle, where would we play?” That was our thing. We wanted to do it because we’d never have the opportunity again. 

Are these shows the best closure you can give to fans?
Yeah. It’s the best closure. I think for me, talking about how the scene fell apart so much and talking with other people who are still really passionate about those bands, starting from a few years ago I’ve been on a little mini-journey to have people respect that scene of music. In the larger mainstream sense, it became a joke and there was so much awesome-ness and creativity in that era. Playing these shows is a way for closure, but knowing how excited people are to see it is also a little bit redeeming in my eyes towards that era, which sometimes seems like it got swept under the rug.

I’m sure many people would like the first two albums played through at these shows. Are we just going to see a lot of material?
You’re not going to see a lot from the last album. We went into it with no preconceptions about what we wanted to play. We toyed with doing the albums front to back, but some people might have been disappointed if we only played one album. We wanted to play whatever we wanted to hear. In the end, the set that we want to play is mostly off of the first two albums. There will be a couple b-sides and all that. It’ll be a ton of songs.

You said playing on-stage was a lot different from rehearsing, but those songs obviously mean a lot to people and to you as well, I would imagine. Was it weird to get back into that headspace of dissecting and relearning the songs?
It is. I think it’s more a testament to the human brain to how deeply embedded those songs are in me. I didn’t have to remember the words, they were second nature. Playing those songs brings me right back to then. I’m more amazed by the machinery of my brain than anything. I’ll never have to force myself to fake it. I can go back to those places, some of which were when I was 18.

The band has released two demos since the announcement, and fans have loved them. Was that just something nice to do?
It was nice to do. Now that we have attention from our fans, it’s a good time to have them out. We’re not going to be active on the Internet when we’re not doing anything. It’s vindicating too because we fought for those songs to be on the last album and we trusted our instincts knowing that we liked those songs. After all this time, having our fans hear them and for them to love them, it’s cool. It’s still cool to know they can relate to that .

Some fans have wondered if we could see some sort of demo release for free download.
There could be. As much as we like those songs, we also dislike many of them. There’s some really bad material and bad sounding recordings. We could release them, maybe. Maybe we will. I’m not sure if anyone would want to put them out. It’d have to be in the next few weeks and if there’s anything that sounds decent. 

Texas Is The Reason played their reunion shows in 2006, and now there’s another in October. That’s not something fans think about now, but fans did hope for a full tour or another album. Is it definitely over?
I don’t know yes or no either way. All I do know is that the planets aligned on this one because of where we are in our lives. We were able to take the time to do this. We all have things coming up and I can see that we can’t make something like this happen again. I don’t ever see it happening again, honestly.

Is there any possible way for a vinyl release?
We really wanted to do it, but there were contracts involved and we couldn’t get to an agreement without feeling like it made sense. It’s possible for the future, but the fact that we didn’t have it now isn’t so positive. There was a lot of interest. I’d like to see it. 

It’s been years since you all have been in music. From an outsider’s perspective who was once inside, what are your thoughts on where this actual scene is headed?
I think it’ll always be there in some way. I think about it like punk rock. You see street punk kids walking around, but punk rock is not what it is now as it was in the 80’s. There will always be people emulating that period of music. It had its heyday. I think the same is true for this scene of music. There will always be kids passionate about it, but between 2003 and 2007 or 2008 is when this scene had it’s time that was going to be something that was going to stay or be a fad. Based on certain factors and certain people’s decisions who are in certain taste-maker bands, it just went sour and went the wrong way. I don’t think it’ll really have that same kind of effect on as many people as it did on that time. It was almost the mainstream form of music then, and it changed a lot of people’s lives and then it went sour because it did. I think it’ll be there and people will make creative and awesome records, but it won’t be like a giant wave of creativity like it was then.

To finish things up, what’s next for you?
I definitely have stories that have yet to be told and I have songs that have yet to be written that will be put out there. I’m enjoying not doing it on anyone’s schedule. I’m waiting until the right time. 

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