Tomorrow is Michigan's annual alternative rock festival, BLED Fest. We are so excited to be attending this year, and in anticipation, we've been featuring bands and musicians who will be performing at BLED Fest on the Punk Out Blog and Artist Corner. And stop by our booth to pick up some FREEEEEEE Sir Richard's condoms!
Sorority Noise Lead Singer/guitarist Cameron Boucher is one of the most down to earth musicians you could ever talk to. There's an inviting and approachable presence about him that made our conversation feel like I was catching up with a high school friend that I hadn't seen in years.
We started talking about the upcoming BLED Fest appearance where Boucher will play with both his bands (Sorority Noise and Old Grey). I was drawn to the possibility that playing with two different bands within the same festival could be a complicated task. "I enjoy it a lot,” Boucher admits. “We don't get asked to play too many festivals and this one is always very cool. The dual sets thing - we've done it a few times with some weekend tours. It's totally different projects. Music is very sporadic, so I don't know how I'm going to react to any specific thing. It's cathartic to play those Old Grey songs again along with Sorority Noise. "
BLED Fest is a different breed of festival. There are no barricades, leaving the space between the fans and bands at an absolute minimum. The sets are exciting and chaotic. "The first time Old Grey played, we actually got everyone to come on stage,” Boucher recalled a previous Old Grey appearance. “We were doing one of our last songs which is a gang vocal part. The stage manager just said "let it happen" and I just waved my hand and fans all went on the drum riser and everyone came on stage. Hawthorne Heights tried to do that later and they got in trouble for it. Thankfully we didn't."
Rumors are swelling that Sorority Noise will do a cover of Deafheaven’s “Vertigo” and BLED Fest this year. Boucher plays along, casually stating, "My roommate Brendan (Lukens) who is in Modern Baseball was like, "I'll give you $200 if you play Vertigo.” He pauses, almost pondering, then continues, “We'll see if people buy a shirt or two and then we might not have to play it. Out of sheer necessity, you might hear…” he stops talking, humming the opening riff to the song before we both break into laughter.
The overall landscape of music in 2016 has been humanizing - more artists and bands are being honest with their trials and tribulations on records. During the well-deserved success of 2015 release, Joy, Departed, unfortunately, Boucher had lost many friends. Throughout the interview, he is candid and open with me about his experiences.
He explains how the four-track EP, It Kindly Stopped For Me is a hearty depiction of coping with that type of loss. “"XC" is where I'm playing piano and I'm coming from the point of view from my friend Shawn who passed,” he admits. “The only other time I put myself in someone else's shoes was this Old Grey song called "Vulcan Death Grip" I wrote in 2011 where I was talking about my friend as well. I usually write from a very personal, "this is me" and what's going on with my life type of thing. That song, I always had this idea where you might have a great aunt who is about to pass and potentially leave you a will. You can take something positive from that will. With a friend who passes, they are taking friendships. You don't really think about it at the time, but I would hope to think that friends that have taken their lives see what happened and wish they hadn't. I would love to be the continuation of their lives. We are the survivors of those we have lost. I'm going to continue my life in hopes that they are on my side, cheering me on."
Unprompted, he does deeper. “Given how taxing the music industry is with the non-stop call to touring, it's hard for a person in a young band to relinquish that lifestyle and miss vital things that may occur. "I've missed most funerals since I've been on tour. At times, I've been like "ok, fuck these shows, my friends are so important to me that I need to go back. Then I feel that they would be like "dude, you're being an idiot. This is the only thing you've wanted to do your entire life. You better play those shows."
One of Sorority Noise's most enduring songs is "Using", from Joy, Departed. Throughout the song, Boucher focuses on leaving a negative life to progressively go positive. The beauty of the song lies within it is honesty. It shows that the march to coping with mental illness is a step-by-step process. Coupled with the band’s newest song, "Either Way", which is almost a response to "Using", where the band "talks about the bad parts of Boucher’s life and how to make the best of them doing what I can. "Either Way" was about how he found the headspace for working on himself.
“I had friends who were passing and taking their lives while I was doing the best I could to make my life as positive as it could be. A messed up part of this whole thing was seeing myself improve, but meanwhile, I was losing friends. I started to talk about it at shows and tried to be as vocal about it as I can. There were people coming up to me after hearing songs like "Using" and would say, "this song is so important to me". It really helped me out and I can't thank people enough. It was a really weird time to know as much as you work on yourself, there are those that are still struggling and you have to be as attentive as you can to help those people and let them know that you care.
"Fource", a spoken word narrative off of It Kindly Stopped For Me is an unflinching depiction of Boucher's thoughts right after hearing word that a friend passed. "I was just walking through the woods and I found out that one of my friends had passed away, “ he remembers. “We were on our way to hang out at the Redwoods with the bands we were on tour with and I was in a really weird state. I was walking through the woods and tried to stop and write - I couldn't write because I was so shaken up. I started talking to my phone as I tend to do when I can't get things on paper. I tried to sing a melody and I bailed on it. There's no writing process to that song lyrically. It was very super consciousness. Then I thought about putting music around it to give it more emotion. I had second thoughts about it because that one was so personal, but I'm glad that we released it".
As I spoke to Boucher, it became abundantly clear what role that mental health and depression awareness plays in his music. In some ways, Sorority Noise and the collection of fans they’ve gathered are molded by this honest approach to songwriting. Boucher has created a snag in which he can openly and honestly talk about his struggles. His family and fans support him and he feels same in the fact that they will not vilify and degrade him for experiencing those problems.
He should be an example of a healthy music scene. If you don't know how to help those close to you who are battling depression or mental health, Boucher had some helpful advice and insights.
"Everyone deals with things differently, so you have to find what is specific to help the person you care about. It's much less about you. You shouldn't get frustrated about offering advice and the person not taking it. Our job is to help those we care about regarding of what's going on or anything that we are doing to try to help them that might not be working. Focus on the person and see what makes them happy. Ask them, "how can I help you and what can I do to help you battle this. I think that's the best way to do that".
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner are exclusively of the author or interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization. If you're a musician or an industry insider and would like to participate in our Artist Corner, email us at email@example.com.