Sorority Noise Interview
Fierce, blunt, heart-wrenching lyrics combined with intense guitar riffs and catchy harmonies. That’s how I would describe Connecticut based band, Sorority Noise. Spinning off of his initial project, Old Gray, Cam Boucher created Sorority Noise with friends who figured they were a band after two practices. Touring with Citizen, Turnover, and Milk Teeth, I got to talk to Cam before the show at the Marquis Theatre.
How’s tour been going so far?
It’s been good. It’s been one of the most mentally tolling tours for me, I think. At the same time the shows have been absolutely incredible. I think there’s only been three that haven’t been at capacity so it’s really fucking obscene. To be honest it’s overall one of the best tours I have been on.
How’s it like touring with Citizen?
They’re chill. They’re really sweet, super great people. I’ve known them for like two, two and a half years now. I knew Nick, I don’t remember how I met Nick, but I’ve known them for a while and they’re all super great people. Mat works out a lot. And everyone else started to teach me how to play Settlers of Catan. I had never played before but it’s pretty fun. I did not get it at all but now I think I get it. But yeah, they’re great. The Turnover people are all so nice too.
You have a bunch of different projects: Old Gray, Sorority Noise, and now you just announced that you’re doing Small Circle. How is that like with all the bands?
I have, like, three other bands too that I work on as well. I just think that music is more important, as long as I’m proud of the output, I want to put out as much as I can and be apart of as many projects as you can. I don’t think Small Circle will be able to tour as extensively as like I have with Old Gray or Sorority Noise, any time in the near future at least. But it’s exciting and I like working with friends on music and stuff and getting different influences and different places kind of makes you bring different ideas to different tables. I’m a Jazz musician by nature so playing with different groups of people opens up ideas and expressive interests for any kind of music.
So how did Small Circle come about?
My friend Marissa, who sings, and I were hanging out one day and she was kind of just like… She’s never been in a band before and she was just a great personality and one of my closest friends and said, “You know I would be a good front person for a band.” And I was like, “Yeah you would! Have you ever sang? Would you sing?” So she said, “I don’t know, probably.” And so myself and Adam… I built a studio in Philly, so we were hanging there and my friend, Sean Hallock who plays drums in Rozwell Kid, was in Philly visiting. So we jammed and I was like, “Word, this is going to be Marissa’s record.” So we recorded live tracked those three songs and then I brought them to Marissa’s house and she recorded the vocals under the covers in bed. And she tried to make it as comfortable as possible because it’s hard to be in a band and open yourself up for criticism that you never had received before. So she did a great job and I was really proud of her. So that’s how that came to be.
How do you handle so many projects at once?
You just do it. I luckily have a great friend of mine named Zack who helps manage all my bands. He’s the PropertyOfZack guy and he is just an incredible guy and is so on it. It allows me to work in three or four bands and record two bands at a time and be busy. And he’ll say, “You have to do this. This is coming up. This is a potential thing.” Which means that I just get to focus on music which is really fucking sick. For so long, I was booking all my bands and taking care of literally everything. And to have someone to help, it sounds super posh and very un-DIY, but it’s really great and I’m glad it’s a person that I could also talk to about fucking sports or anything. But it’s impossible, because I graduated college in May of last year, so I was doing most of this while in school and leaving classes early to get to shows in Brooklyn and stuff like that. It was a lot but it was sick.
When you’re writing and creating songs, do you usually know which band it’s going to be for?
Pretty much. Yeah. All the songs start on acoustic guitar, I’ve never really written a song on electric guitar. So from there I can pretty much decide… Is this going to be softer? When I yell it’s only because that’s the way that I can think that those words are best executed. So, obviously, I will know when it will be in a song or not. So it’s pretty easy actually. But sometimes I will decide halfway through that this would be better for this or something more specific. I mean, Old Gray has some very large lyrical tropes and contrasts from the two bands. Where one is, like, leaning towards positivity and the other one not so much. Or at least expressing the ideas that I feel really weirdly. I guess it’s pretty clear, but who knows? Sometimes I toss them around.
Similar to bands like Say Anything, Motion City Soundtrack, and Weatherbox; you are very open to talking about your mental illnesses and take time from your show to talk about it. How do you think that influences your writing or artistic style that shows in your music?
I don’t think that my mental struggles or whatever… I think they’re apparent in what I do, but the way that I think about them, each song is sort of born from a panic attack and I start writing. And that’s because it sort of gets me out of it more often than not. They definitely open the door and I’m worried about continuing to push that envelope, to make sure that everyone knows that if you’re dealing with this it’s clearly not your fault. Because I did not always know that. I think it plays more into it at the show when I try to talk about it but when I’m writing it’s just for me, to be honest. Music is super selfish. If you’re writing music it should be strictly for yourself. I would probably stray from writing about something that wasn’t specifically pertaining to me in whatever moment whether is be years ago or right now. So I think it’s important to be focused on your own stuff. So I’m not really thinking about anyone other than myself. But at the same time someone might take something from that. Like I’ve taken from Motion City or the stuff that Dan and the Wonder Years people are doing. It’s just cool and Brendan and Modern Baseball is very vocal about it. It’s just cool to see that people are talking about it. And that maybe people are taking something away from this or saying, “Wow, I didn’t know this.” But at the beginning it’s something like, “Hey, this is what I’m going through.” And maybe someone can take something from that and make it bigger and cool. And that’s the cool power of music.
Is it scary being blatantly open about it?
No. It was. Yeah. It’s not scary as much as… I used to just sugar-coat lyricism when I was 17 or 19 or 20. I would be writing things and look back and say, “That didn’t even make sense. Those were just words that rhymed.” So now it’s more like I don’t really care about rhyming or I don’t really care about structure. I just want to write and be as honest with myself as possible because it’s the only way to get out of my own head. It was a curve, I guess. Cause it took a while to be honest, it’s hard to write down exactly what you’re feeling. You want it to look way nicer. But there’s a difference between, “My elegant hair fell against the pillow as I fell asleep.” vs. “Yo, I was super anxious so I had a panic attack.” So there’s a difference and I appreciate a lot of people that write that way. But personally, I guess I’m just a different style.
You mentioned Brendan from Modern Baseball and you got to work with him on “Corrigan”.
Yeah he’s my roommate.
Yeah we’ve been best friends for four or five years. The studio I built, Jake and Ian built it with me… It’s really funny because that’s not the first time someone’s asked that. Realistically I was like, “Hey Brendan, you want to sing on this song?” and he was like, “Yeah.”
So it’s not like anyone is going out of their way to record anything?
No, Brendan forgot to do it and we needed it for the final mix. And they were playing a show at Saint Vitus in New York and Jake was like, “I’ll bring my mobile recording rig.” And in the green room they recorded the vocal part and nailed it and sent it to me with whatever wifi that they had. So I plopped it in and the record was done the next day.
I think being on the East Coast in the music scene has to be such a great experience because of all the connections that you have. Here in the middle of the country everything is sort of spread apart and there’s not that huge community.
Yeah, the East Coast, growing up over there and having a DIY scene… I think 3 or 4 years ago when I was heavily, heavily involved, and still continue to be in the DIY scene in New England, or try to be at least, there was a lot of opportunity. We had about 10 or 12 houses in Boston, we had houses in Connecticut, we had, fucking, too many houses in Philly, and I live in Philly now. And it was just different. You get to meet all of these people. Like MoBo we booked a show for, like ten people came at my friend’s living room. There was a cheese platter involved. And you just hang out with these people and encourage everyone and see everyone build around you. I have a friend, Julien Baker, I don’t know if you’ve heard of her but you will. She’s an incredible musician from Tennessee and just watching her explode is just fucking incredible. And I have so many friends that I’m so lucky to watch. Like Foxing I booked a show for them in Boston. We’ve had Old Gray, Calculator, Foxing, Born Franklin, and You’ll Live and there were probably 20 people. We had this fund that would help if a show doesn’t make enough money, to pay the band anyway. And they were having van problems, this was like 2013, and now I watch them and they are headlining around the country. It’s incredible to see your friends succeed in a world you kind of live in.
How did managing school and music at the same time work?
Bad. We had a show… Well actually good. My first two years in school I struggled with time management and my own head getting the best of me and not going to classes because I was feeling awful and what not. And then I moved off campus, and I feel like I was just trapped because I lived on campus, and lived in a house and we had shows for two years. It was the best two years of my life but also just the most dirty, gross two years of my life. We’d have two-three shows a week at my house in Bloomfield, Connecticut and it sucked. We would have to give the key… We would book a show, forget that we all had class that night, and then have to give the key to someone to let the band in and start the show. And then we’d drive up after the class and go deal with that and do homework while the band is playing in your living room. So I played a lot. I played there an obscene amount of times. We would do Halloween cover shows, we would do everything. I think that growing up in Connecticut and New Hampshire and booking shows… The first show I ever booked was a house show in Concord, New Hampshire. The name of the house is “Brad’s Pit” and it was just a carpeted-ass living room. It was the first Old Gray show and Dowsing’s first show on the East Coast. It was sweet. It was cool. Those things make every moment sick. And now, this year we played the Kilby Court in Salt Lake City, and that venue seems like a haphazardly thrown together shed and it’s sick because it’s got that sort of feeling where everyone’s in the same space and you’re pushed together. Punk is about being comfortable in an uncomfortable location.
How did the name “Sorority Noise” get established?
We had two band members, Jason and Kevin, that aren’t in this band anymore. We started the band as Jason, Kevin, and myself. They now play in a band called Queen Moo, it’s incredible. Jason also plays drums in a band called Crag Mask and a band called Ruckie. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. But we started the band and were hanging out at their house in East Hartford. We had had two practices and were like, “Okay, I guess this is going to be a band now. What should we call it?” We kept talking about it. Then a couple days or a week later there was a house (near us) for sale, and we lived in the college part of town. And we didn’t know who was going to live in there. So we hoped that someone who moves in is cool with us being loud, because we would have shows at their house too. And one of was like, “Well what if a sorority moved in?” And we were like, “Well that would probably get pretty loud, maybe not as loud as our shows.” And someone said, “Yeah, there would probably just be a lot of sorority noise.” So we were like, there it is, that’s the name. So that’s how we got to it.
Last year was a huge year for music. What are you most excited for, for new albums coming out in 2016?
Pinegrove is the best band in America. They’re another really great group of friends of ours. We toured with them in 2013 or 2014. I did six shows in the Northeast and Evan (Stephens) is a gem of a human. Their record is really exciting and I think they gave that to me a little over a year ago. Now, we’re listening to it non-stop. It’s a force, it’s brilliant. Also, the new Into It. Over It. record, who’s also on that tour, is incredible. It was definitely some of the best material Evan (Weiss) has put out. Evan put out Forgettable for us. I’m super stoked. I think it’s a great sound and the songwriting is above and beyond… Not anything that he’s ever done because he’s written some incredible music. But he hit a certain stride in and it’s special. Teen Suicide’s record is dope. Sam (Ray) is a homie and that record is really long but it’s good. It took me so long to get through and then I listened to it and said, “Sam, this record is stupid.” Modern Baseball is coming out this year, that’s going to be awesome. I believe my friend Milo, who raps, is putting out a new record. I’m just trying to shout out to my friend’s music. Porches came out this year, that was really cool. Horse Jumper of Love put out a new record, from Boston, that’s really great. Isn’t there a rumor that Brand New is putting a record out? That’s exciting.
Yeah, I think that’s the word. They released “Mene” almost a year ago and everyone thought that was hinting at it. I would think they would release one more before they “break up”.
That would be crazy. There’s just a lot to look out for. Always check out Bandcamp every once in awhile.
You guys are releasing a new EP this year as well?
Yeah, it’s all about my friends passing away. I lost a bunch of friends this summer. So it’s definitely different from our normal sound but I think it’s representative of us as a whole. It’s all the same. It’s definitely quieter. We’re not a quiet band anymore. That was just a thing we were working on and I recorded it at my parent’s house over Thanksgiving. We added some stuff afterwards. So I’m excited for it. We’re also working on a new LP at the same time so it’s plenty of writing.
What’s your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
Michelangelo’s red, right? Or is that Rapheal?
Okay, then Rapheal.
Cause he’s the chill one. He has the three pointy ones… That’s chill. Or Splinter. I would just be Splinter.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Play your hometown a lot. Don’t let anyone tell you not to. I come from a very different background so my advice would be play as many shows as you can because if you can make a community of people excited about what you’re doing, get your friends involved, get them going to shows to see other bands. Go to shows not to just play but because you like music. Just play as much as you can and that will help you get tighter and learn better about your bandmates and become the most representative of yourself. Play short sets too. Play for fifteen minutes. We still play for, like, twenty minutes. And I love it. I hate playing longer than that. I think for an opening band, if someone didn’t want to see us, then twenty minutes is perfect. Because someone might be like, “That band fucking sucked, but at least they didn’t play that long.” And someone else will be like, “That band was really awesome, but I wish they played a little bit shorter because I kind of got bored.” So that’s just where I’m at. Those are some tips I guess.
Anything you want to say to fans?
Just thank you for doing this. Going to shows takes a lot of energy. You don’t have to go to see music live, ever. Leaving your house is stressful. Driving is stressful every time I come out here. There are so many things that can come up on the way to a show that will make them not want to go to it. It’s crazy to see people do things to see music. It’s a lot sit in a crowd of four hundred people that you don’t know or whatever. But I’m really grateful of people that have been coming and it means a lot.