Over the past decade, Senses Fail has released an EP and five LPs, played countless shows, served as a driving force in the scene, and never lost sight of who they are as people and as a band. Leading up to the release of their new greatest hits record, Follow Your Bliss, I had the opportunity to interview vocalist and frontman Buddy Nielsen about the band’s history, the greatest hits album, its new material, future plans, and more.
MEB: Out of all the lyrics from your catalog, why “Follow Your Bliss” for the title of the best-of collection?
Buddy: I just felt that it was the one theme and statement that people seemed to latch onto the best. I have seen a lot of people who have gotten it tattooed and who have taken it on as a personal mantra. I think it’s a statement that can always ring true no matter where you are at in life.
I think it’s interesting that Follow Your Bliss doesn’t follow a chronological order. How was the tracklist set in terms of final song selection and order?
We basically just picked the songs that go over best live. There are certain songs that we always have to play and we included those, along with all the songs we did videos for and were singles.
With former band members being included in the liner notes for Follow Your Bliss, it seems safe to assume that everyone’s on good terms. How big of a hand did those members have in the release? Is there any chance some former members might make an appearance to play older songs to coincide with the release of the best-of collection?
For the most part we are on good terms with every ex-member, all the ones who participated in Follow Your Bliss. We reached out to everyone and asked them to write a little commentary on each of the songs they helped write. I always enjoyed when bands did that because usually the singer is only asked about the meaning and composition of the songs and that is really very one-sided. It’s very interesting to get everyone’s take on what they remember and what the songs meant to them. We have no plans for any former members to come play.
Ten years into your career, how do you feel the older songs hold up? There have obviously been changes in terms of sound and maturity, so how does that fact affect the way you see the older material? What songs are most fun to play live?
I feel some of the older songs hold up better than others, but at the end of the day it is really what fans want to hear. It’s their music, it’s their memories that are attached to the songs. I have played these songs so many times that in some respects they aren’t mine anymore and I don’t have the same value fans do in them. I love playing the old stuff because I want people to have a good time and get what they paid for. I really dislike when bands purposely don’t play songs people want to hear because they feel embarrassed by their older material.
One of the main lyrical themes throughout the Senses Fail catalog is the idea of something being wrong. There’s always some sort of conflict or emotional story to be told. Is this a conscious artistic decision, or is it simply what comes out when pen hits paper? How does that mindset affect the writing process?
I think everyone has conflict, I just choose to write about it. Every story ever told is based on some sort of conflict. I feel my conflicts have changed as I have gotten older but I believe what is relatable about Senses Fail is the honesty in the struggle. My life isn’t miserable and I don’t sit around and think of all the negative things in the world but when it comes time to write I reflect on the truths and things I struggle with.
What was different about writing and recording with the new members?
Well, it is a completely different process, but every time we have ever written a record it is a different process. I could write a long-winded article about the differences in the writing styles or approach, but in short it is different and we have enjoyed the new approach. I feel the songs feel more alive than they have in a while.
The new material was recorded with long-time producer Brian McTernan. Was there ever any consideration about working with someone else? How has the band’s relationship with McTernan played out over your career?
Yes, Brian did the EP. Brian is amazing. He has taught all of us so much about what it takes to make a great record and what it takes to write a great song. He has really saved the band in many instances. We have come pretty unprepared to the the study in the past and without Brian I am not sure if we would have been able to pull it together. He’s a great friend and a great partner.
We have thought about working with other people and we will not be doing the [next] record with Brian. We are at a place where we just need to try something different.
Aside from the new members, what makes the new songs unique?
The passion in them. I hope these songs feel alive. That was something we had in the beginning but I feel might have been lost over the years.
Are there any plans to perhaps release a standalone 7″ record of the new songs?
You’re set to be on the Warped Tour again this summer. What are you looking forward to in terms of that experience? What can fans expect from your set?
Hanging out with so many friends and getting to play. We really haven’t been on a tour longer than three weeks in almost two years. It will be great to get back out there and play. The set is gonna be a mixture of everything, we will be changing it daily.
Are there any touring plans in place for after Warped Tour?
No. We are going to be recording a new record in the fall.
How much material do you have prepared? Will any of the four songs from Follow Your Bliss be included? Is there any timeline in place for a release?
We are right in the process of writing, right now I would say we have three songs and about 20 ideas. I don’t want to put any of the EP songs on the record. The timeline is as follows: record in the fall/winter, release early 2013, and tour.
What is the band’s current label situation?
We are on Staple Records.
The vinyl pressing of Let It Enfold You came out a few weeks ago. What was the motivation behind pressing that specific record, and are there any plans to press the band’s other material in the near future?
When our records came out, excluding the EP, we didn’t press them on vinyl. We are in the process of releasing all the records on vinyl.
For me, Still Searching is the classic Senses Fail album, though many others would hold it to be Let It Enfold You. Does the band have any particular favorite?
I would say Still Searching. There was something special about the way it was written and recorded.
You guys have been great about supporting up-and-coming bands in the past. What are two or three bands that we should be checking out?
The Story So Far, Hostage Calm, I Call Fives.
When can we expect to hear a clear flute solo from Dan? The instrument is listed on the band’s Facebook page, but it always seems to get lost in the mix.
HAHAHA he will be very excited someone asked. Maybe on the new record. Maybe we will have a flute solo like Gorilla Biscuits had a sax solo.