Senses Fail

By Andy

Buddy from Senses Fail is sitting next to me, tattooed arms cradling a hideously discoloured plastic bottle into which he regularly gobs a hunk of brown sputum while bassist Mike sits on the other side, his fidgeting hands brushing his fringe away from his eyes at least four times a minute. “We don’t care about our image,” says Buddy, “well, we do stuff for photo shoots but we don’t push it. We’re not a haircut band. I don’t want to be in a band that’s stuck in a time or anything.” Yeah, but doesn’t everyone say that?

You could argue that Senses Fail are the gorgeous anathema to the putrid mall-punk that so strangles what used to be ‘alternative’ music. Even though they’re old friends with My Chemical Romance (Buddy: “They’re the sort of band that set out to be a big rock band”) their name comes from the Hindu ideology that in order to reach perfect enlightenment you must allow all your senses to totally fail, and the title of their debut album Let It Enfold You is taken from a Bukowski poem. There’s even the odd reference to Daoism. The melodic punk rock they play isn’t a million miles away from the perhaps derogatory term ‘emo’ but do they deserve credit simply for trying to be different?

Buddy jumps in. “I’m not trying to be intellectual or anything, I’m not here to make anybody happy except myself. I’m here to play music and if people like it then that’s awesome.” Mike’s turn. “I think you have to make a record that you like more than anything. If you start making music for people, you’re dead. It’s not going to be good music. It’s better to make a record that you love which bombs than to make something you don’t like.” But why do you fill your songs with such imagery and metaphors? “I do it consciously but that’s just who I am.” Buddy looks down for a second and then continues. “I don’t do it for any reason except that’s who I am. I don’t do it because I think it makes us popular, sometimes it might hurt us more than help.”

What’s most evident, and perhaps admirable, about Senses Fail is the fact that they appear to still feel lucky to be able to do what they do for a living. When pressed on why exactly they’ve reached the stage of being interviewed by foreign journalists in a city thousands of miles away from home (Bergen County, New Jersey) both Buddy and Mike come up with the same reason. “I think people have been able to relate to our band, moreso than just the music. Maybe it’s the lyrics, the live show or whatever. I think some people see as not just ‘another’ band.”

Ah, back to the issue of difference. If standing out from the pack is of such importance to you, what are you doing to ensure progression, to ensure that you’re not stuck to a scene or a moment? Mike steps up to the interrogation plate. “In the past there was a lot of uniformity but now a lot more people want to hear different stuff. I just think that people are sick of the same thing because with radio it’s just so overdone. We’ve heard the same bands come out with a different name come out for like ten years.” That’s cool, but it’s not really answering the question… “A few bands, when they make a couple of similar records and then begin branching out, they’re the bands that stick around. But bands like Staind who just do the same thing over again – people have already heard that because they have 3 or 4 CDs that sound like that. They don’t want to listen to that any more.” Well, arguably that’s because Staind are utter shite. “We try and progress every record. A lot of bands make the same record over and over again but we don’t. I mean, we’re not going to change like Radiohead every record, but we’re not Pennywise.” So you want to be different, but not that different? How thrilling.

Let’s talk about Let It Enfold You. Their first release on Vagrant (home to Alkaline Trio, Eels, Rocket From The Crypt and the dearly departed Face To Face as well as more standard fare such as Saves The Day and The Get Up Kids) after leaving Drive-Thru is an album that does indeed tick a lot of the boxes that Buddy and Mike have been hinting at. Lyrics that shy away from high-school romances and music that swoops and crashes enough to make sure that yes, they should be around in a few years. And impressively enough, it actually feels like a cohesive album rather than just a collection of songs. Was that meant to happen? Mike is slightly hesitant on this subject. “It depends. With an album I think there’s stuff that’s a certain style that is in each song. But I’d prefer if it’s something different each time, I wouldn’t care is every song sounded different. I want everything to sound different from each other, I don’t like listening to an album and thinking ‘Hey I just heard that song.’ But having said that, the best thing about writing an album is that we don’t know how much we feel the song until we actually jam it. You feel the parts really move and it starts growing on its own.”

What’s next for Senses Fail? “We wish we could come over here a lot more. In the future we plan on coming over here maybe 6 times a year.” Buddy’s sure about this one. “I think in America people are excited to see us live because they’re more used to our show, and they like the sense of unity that our shows can give.” On the other hand, Mike’s a lot more idealistic. “I want to go to Australia and Japan,” he says, with a smile the size of North London creeping across his face. “Touring with The Foo Fighters or Jimmy Eat World would be a dream of mine too.” “Yeah, or Saves The Day,” opines Buddy. “Actually, we’re touring in the States with them, so I guess it’s all good! But everything comes through touring and making a name for yourself.” So it would seem that ‘more of the same’ isn’t actually a bad thing in the end.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]