Senses Fail Singer Buddy Nielsen Blames Apathy for Breeding "Garbage Like Donald Trump"
Buddy Nielsen: "I'm never going to bow down to what someone thinks I should say on stage."
Photo by Matthew Vincent
It's been about ten years since Silverstein and Senses Fail last toured together. Back then, both bands were new on the screamo scene and just cutting their teeth. Neither would have imagined that they'd each go on to sell hundreds of thousands of albums, let alone tour together again a decade later, having outlasted most of their peers. "About everything's changed, honestly," says Senses Fail singer Buddy Nielsen, who remains the only member of his band who was actually on that original tour. "The name of the band is the same."
On their inaugural outing, both bands were supporting debut albums and riding a wave of interest in post-hardcore fueled by the commercial success of emo acts like Dashboard Confessional as well as the underground surge of heavier bands like At the Drive-In and Glassjaw. Silverstein and Senses Fail took a cue from both facets, creating a sound heavy with both dropped-tuning metal riffs and melodic heft.
While Silverstein's latest, I Am Alive in Everything I Touch, has been well received by the music press, their longevity can be attributed to honing a style they helped pioneer. Senses Fail, on the other hand, have undergone a musical evolution since their inception. Their early LPs were by-the-books screamo, but in the intervening years, the band has broadened their sound in conjunction with Nielsen tackling headier topics, be it spirituality (their name is a reference to Hindu teachings), addiction, or more recently, sexuality.
On a 2014 podcast, Nielsen came out as queer, though he is married to a woman and isn't gay. Talking about the fluidity of gender is important to the singer, whose merch on this co-headlining tour includes a t-shirt with "Queer Hardcore" emblazoned on its back. Equally important to Nielsen is cultivating openness in the scene. He thinks fans need to hold bands accountable for pushing that agenda or be faced with a watered-down scene. "I'm not here to tell bands how they should do what they should do," he says. "I just think it's important if you do have a platform that maybe you should use it for something other than trying to sell your brand."
Nielsen's thoughts are particularly cogent on Senses Fail's sixth LP, Pull The Thorns From Your Heart, which is also their most sonically daring, shifting from guttural hardcore thrashing to near-psychedelia, without feeling disjointed. Whereas Nielsen's lyrics once seemed to aim for catharsis, the latest offering finds him seeking inner peace. The result is an album that plays like the duality of the human condition, an exploration of our light and dark sides, our contemplative natures juxtaposed with our propensity to rage.
"In the past, I've probably been afraid to say some things," Nielsen says about the album's lyrical vulnerability, "but not anymore." Rather, he says, he's more fearful of speaking his mind from the stage to audiences that have increasingly become close-minded, which frequently take to the Internet to voice complaints at having to hear too many opinions and not enough music.
"I'm never going to bow down to what someone thinks I should say on stage," he offers. "That's not the way this works. Fuck you. I'm not here to solely entertain you. It's about much more than that."
Nielsen is equally passionate about being on the road, and Senses Fail have maintained a rigorous touring schedule, including several summers on Warped Tour. He is particularly excited to hit Florida, which he says used to have the best hardcore scene in the country. "There were so many bands that came out of it — Less Than Jake, Hot Water Music, New Found Glory, Shai Halud, Poison the Well — you can just keep going down the list of bands that were around in the early 2000s."
But Nielsen says the scene has ebbed and flowed since they first started heading down to Florida from New Jersey more than a decade ago. "I don't know what to expect because we haven't played in Fort Lauderdale in maybe five or more years," he says. "When you don't have local bands playing this music, and when you don't have groups of kids into it in their high schools, it makes it really difficult when a touring band comes through for there to be buzz about it."
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No matter the turnout, be prepared for each headliner to play an hour-long, encore-free live set, and of course some passionate words from Nielsen. "My big message is really apathy," he asserts. "The ability in our culture to be apathetic is a privilege. There are so many people that go, 'Well, it doesn't bother me, it's a free country, who cares?' That sort of apathetic approach to other people's well-being is what creates garbage like Donald Trump."
Senses Fail & Silverstein
With Hundreth, Capsize. 7 p.m. Monday, December 7 at Revolution Live, 100 SW 3rd Ave. $17 plus fees. Call (954) 449-1025 or visit jointherevolution.net.
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