Senses Fail, from New Jersey, is a band who is almost old enough to vote. Within that time, they’ve released seven studio albums with the most recent one If There is Light, It Will Find You, released earlier this year to positive reviews.
This new album sees a dramatic shift in the band’s music, not to something new, but rather, something old. Buddy Nielsen sat down with us prior to the show to discuss the band’s evolution and direction.
New Senses Fail harkens back to the mid-2000’s, where pop punk was labeled ‘emo’ and everyone was on board with it. Fast and punchy, Senses Fail was popular amongst the teens and young adults, those able to identify with the still young and angsty band. In fact, Nielsen claims that those young fans are still the ones who have grown with the band, and still the ones that support them. “The audience has definitely grown with us,” Nielsen begins, “We have quite a few younger fans but a lot of them grew up with us.”
The night itself proves that not only does the band have the experience under their belt, but also the staying power and fanbase to continue making and performing their music. These are the people who sang along to every song on the speaker during set change like the performers were actually there. They were the crowd that sang every last lyric throughout the show.
In fact, something that sets Senses Fail apart from many artists out there is their willingness and openness to connect with their fans through a special VIP ticket program for their most loyal fans. Nielsen described it as a way to hang out with 10 fans at every performance, complete with side stage passes, autographs and a dinner with and provided by the band themselves. At one point in the show, the band stops to allow a fan to propose to his partner.
The night is highlighted by the band's unrelenting energy, with no one upstage staying in one spot for more than a few seconds. Nielsen leaps around the stage and has mastered the art of the microphone twirl. Nielsen takes time off between songs early on to talk to the audience about the newest record, and how important it is to Nielsen. Written in a hard time, Nielsen explains that much of the inspiration is drawn from his family, particularly a recent experience watching his wife nearly lost her life in childbirth.
During our interview, he talks about a newer social perspective the music seems to be taking. “I would say [the lyrics are] maturing and not just being worried about my perspective or not just being stuck in my own head. I can really look out and take in other things that are going on where in the past I was only wrapped up in my own bullshit that I didn’t have the capacity to be open for other people’s things.
He goes on to discuss how he believes that now is the time to be political in music and his unwavering sense of duty to do so. “Generally bands are afraid of speaking their mind because they’re afraid of losing fans. I’m not worried about that. If someone doesn’t want to like the band because of my political beliefs, then go. See you later. These are human rights issues. These are not political issues, they’re issues that are politicized and I think bands are doing themselves a disservice of choosing to side-step the issue of politics.”
He ends our discussion of politics in music with something that really stuck with me. “I don’t really know what to say because there is so much to say, so I decided to write songs about it. So I can say more, and reach more people, than just yelling into the ether.
Experiences like these have certainly shaped Nielsen in his writing, as the newest album is mature in its lyrics and execution, a departure from the angst of Senses Fail from 15 years ago. Yet the music harkens back to that time, and farther away from the metalcore sounds of the last few albums, thanks to the help of the album’s producer Beau Burchell (of Saosin) who helped steer the band’s new direction.
“Our last albums were kind of heavy. I thought it was a cool challenge to see if I could write an album that people attribute to the band.” When asked about any specific track on the album standing out to him, Nielsen mentions “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket” as a millennial anthem, which sounds like it could thematically sit in mid-2000s era of pop-punk. “It discusses the millennial situation and what we’re in as a generation and how we’re to carry the burden of the bad decisions of generations made before us, and fight their wars and pay their way and live under a system of debt. And subscribe to their way of living while they’re the ones that prosper from it and we don’t prosper from it at all.”
The tour is over for the band, but they’re already gearing up for another spring / summer tour, and flushing out plans for a fall tour as well. And judging by Buddy’s enthusiasm for the future, there will definitely be many tours to come.