Don’t Call 911 When Sorority Noise Play a Restroom Near You
“I’m not only sad. I also love the Red Sox.”
Cam Boucher is basking in the sun, hair beneath a worn ball cap, falling all over his shoulders, cigarette behind an ear. Nearby, a band is soundchecking, and further away another is playing. We’re at the third annual Wrecking Ball festival in Atlanta. It’s the middle of the day, and the heat is as expected; if you drink, you’re already drunk. Sorority Noise are about to play an hour-long set, something they’re still getting used to.
“We usually play for 15 minutes, and I’m like, ‘That was too long!’” Boucher cracks.
His songwriting and all-around presence could be perceived as pretentious if it weren't drenched in disarming earnestness. For the band’s latest release, It Kindly Stopped for Me (Topshelf), Boucher recorded a track on his phone while walking through the woods after learning that a close friend had passed away. There are footsteps and wind, and the verses don’t make sense. He sings in a slur, through a full nose that only comes after crying. He does this often. Loss of life is a constant for Boucher.
“I hear melody in conversation," he says. "So, if we’re just talking and you say something, I might hear it. A lot of songs I come up with just from talking to people.”
Boucher has a preference when it comes to conversations: “Evan Weiss [Into It. Over It.] is the best person to talk to. He speaks so melodically.”
I ask if he genuinely believes this, or if it's maybe just something he projects onto others. He responds with examples of his friends’ synesthesia. “I think different brains work differently — I just find melodies.
“My band wanted to hang out a bar after a show, and I don’t really like doing that," he continues. "I just went to the bathroom. There was this cool reverb in there, so instead of pissing, I recorded this melody in my head with my voice in the sink.
"We have this one song called 'Art School Wannabe,' and the chorus is ‘duh-duh-daduh-duhduh-duhduh.' It came from someone saying, ‘Maybe I’m my own greatest fear.' I just ran with that.”
Loss seems to follow certain people closer than others. It's a branding that only the unluckiest suffer, and Boucher isn’t the only recipient in the band. At a recording of an Audiotree session in February, Sorority Noise's fill-in drummer stops before a song to give a shout-out to a friend who passed just weeks before.
It Kindly Stopped for Me is a departure from the loud, driving, emotional work that Sorority Noise built their brand on. It’s a quiet concentration on the immediate aftermath of death. Memorably meditative sing-alongs are augmented with low breathing over the crunching of leaves. The same dynamics you’d expect from a Brand New song are executed with a whisper. “Fource” is the best example, written and recorded literally moments after more news of death.
“One day I was home for Thanksgiving with my parents, and I drove to my friend’s place without remembering he wasn’t there," Boucher recalls. "I pulled up to the front of the house and just said, ‘Fuck.' I was in denial. Once you admit it, you’re just sadder. But it makes you understand life as a larger thing. It makes you value it.”
The band is part of a growing scene involved in dispelling the romantic mythos of the depressed musician. Boucher's roommate is Brendan Lukens, the vocalist of Modern Baseball, whose last record’s selling point was narrating the fallout from a suicide attempt. Together, they bear the torch of being maturing musicians who grew up on — and have since overstepped — the Long Island anthems of their youth.
“I think shit probably got stale," Boucher admits. "There’s only so many songs you can write on it. I feel like the best versions of those songs have been written. You can’t do better than [Brand New's] 'Jude Law and a Semester Abroad.'”
When I ask Boucher when he thought the switch flipped from self-serving pop-punk to more introspective music, he maintained his faith in the selfishness of songwriting, but from a different angle.
“It took me a while to figure out I had a life worth living, but I realized that no one else had ever told me that," he says. "So, I think maybe if we can talk about it at shows, it would let people know they aren’t alone. I used to pride myself on the days I was saddest. But I’m sick of defining myself by depression.
"We have a lyric, ‘I’m so scared of dying alone, I’ll kill myself right here right now.' For a while, I refused to play that song. But the thought still exists; it’s not disappeared. It presents itself, but I know better than to answer it than I used to.”
As for the catharsis that comes along with playing these songs live, the moments when Sorority Noise manage to get their message across, Boucher tells me a story about a tour date in North Carolina.
“With depression, there’s no telling what each show is going to be like," he says. "I had an anxiety attack. I couldn’t speak. I broke my guitar because of a song about a dead friend. I used to write about wanting to die. Death was so cool until I started losing people.”
Catch Sorority Noise on tour this fall with Bayside and The Menzingers.
08/31 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Complex^
09/02 - Seattle, WA - The Showbox^
09/03 - Portland, OR - Hawthorne, Theatre^
09/04 - San Francisco, CA - The Regency Room^
09/06 - Santa Ana, CA - The Observatory^
09/07 - Los Angeles, CA - The Regent Theater^
09/08 - San Diego, CA - The Observatory North Park^
09/10 - Phoenix, AZ - The Pressroom^
09/11 - Albuquerque, NM - Sunshine Theater^
09/13 - San Antonio, TX - Aztec Theatre^
09/14 - Houston, TX - House Of Blues^
09/15 - Dallas, TX - Gas Monkey Bar N Grill^
09/16 - Lawrence, KS - Granada Theatre^
09/17 - St. Louis, MO - The Ready Room^
09/18 - Nashville, TN - Exit/In^
10/04 - Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK - Think Tank?#
10/05 - Glasgow, UK - The Hug and Pint#
10/06 - Machester, UK - The Deaf Institute#
10/07 - Nottingham, UK - The Bodega Social Club#
10/08 - Leeds, UK - The Key Club#
10/09 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds - Venue 2#
10/10 - Norwich, UK - Epic Studios#
10/11 - Cambridge, UK - The Portland Arms#
10/13 - Bristol, UK - Sticky Mike's#
10/14 - Southampton, UK - WTFest#
10/16 - Wolverton, UK - The Craufurd Arms#
10/17 - London, UK - Dingwalls#
10/18 - Amsterdam, NL - Winston&
10/19 - Hamburg, DE - Goldener Salon&
10/20 - Copenhagen, DE - Underwerket&
10/21 - Gotheburg, SE - Skjul Fyra Sex&
10/22 - Stockholm, SE - Bergunds Strand&
10/24 - Berlin, DE - Musik Und Frieden&
10/25 - Wiesbaden, DE - Krea!%
11/01 - Wallingford, CT - Wamleg*
11/02 - Boston, MA - Middle East Downstairs*
11/03 - New York, NY - Shea Stadium*
11/04 - Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church*
11/05 - Washington, DC - DC9*
11/06 - Richmond, VA - Strange Matter*
11/07 - Pittsburgh, PA - Cattivo*
11/09 - Lansing, MI - Mac's Bar*
11/10 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen*
11/11 - Madison, WI - University of Wisconsin, Madison - The Set*
11/12 - Cleveland, OH - Mahall's*
11/13 - Columbus, OH - Double Happiness*
^ = w/ Bayside, The Menzingers
# = w/ Puppy
& = w/ Turnover
* = w/ Ratboys, Jank