“We never tell fairytales” — Blessthefall’s Beau Bokan talks ghosts, depression and fish tanks

photo: Douglas Sonders

When Blessthefall marched through Erie, Pennsylvania, recently, we sat down with frontman Beau Bokan and asked him about the band’s new album and their music video for “Walk On Water,” among other topics. You can read the other half of the interview here where Bokan talks about his pop-punk experience.

There was quite a shift in the heaviness of the music between Awakening and Witness and between Hollow Bodies and To Those Left Behind. Are you going to continue to go that route?
BEAU BOKAN: It’s hard to say. We had such a great time making this album, and doing Hollow Bodies has opened up a few doors for us and [we’ve been] exploring some new sounds here and there. Then this record, we just kept with that. There is heavy in there. Obviously we have songs like “Walk On Water” and “Oathbreaker” that are quintessential Blessthefall metal, in-your-face, no-bullshit kind of songs. We have those, but it’s fun for us to explore the lighter side of things. I don’t want to say we’re going to go a pop route, but we’ve done those songs, like “Hey Baby” and “40 Days” or, even on this record, “Dead Air.” They’re kind of these pop-structured songs, but they’re very honest songs. We’re not writing them to get on the radio, we’re not writing them because our label [is] telling [us] to write them, we’re doing them because we love the songs. We love pop-punk, we love all sort of different genres of music. I think it’d be fun to explore some new things because [our fans] love heavy music and we love heavy music, but it’s definitely really fun to do melodic shit too because I can do a lot of stuff with my voice. We’ll see. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

Do you think you will drastically change your sound for the next record like you did for Hollow Bodies?
It depends where we’re at as artists and musicians at that point in time because we started writing To Those Left Behind like a year ago. At this point right now, we’re not really thinking about writing. So when we do start writing it, it’ll be interesting to see what we’re influenced by at the time. We’re always going to be Blessthefall, it’s always going to be our sound We’re not going to turn into something crazy. It won’t be a drastic change, I don’t want to say that. You’ll always be able to tell it’s us.

It’s obvious that bassist Jared Warth has had more vocal roles in the last two albums. How has this affected you?
He has an insane scream. Even Elliott [Gruenberg, guitar] does some screaming throughout the record. I’ve actually picked up some duties, like I’ll do different lines live. I’m not that great of a screamer, I never have been and I only started trying it when I joined Blessthefall. I was like, “I can try a couple of these live.” I’ve gotten better at it, but [Jared’s] got an insane scream and it definitely adds to us making it our sound. I don’t think there’s anyone that sounds like Jared out there. We sing and scream where it fits, where we see it works. There’s no real formula for it. It’s like, “Okay, it’ll sound great here.” It’s fine for me, I get a little bit of a break.

What was the story behind naming the album To Those Left Behind?
It started when the lyrics started flowing in and [we started using] our different influences. [It’s not] a concept record, [but] it’s definitely a record that has a theme throughout the whole thing. So [it has a] theme and general stories that we’re telling. Real life experiences [we’ll] never leave out. We never go and tell a whole fairytale. Part of it was me writing from my perspective, leaving my family, going on tour with depression because I’m away from them, especially out in Europe because I can’t just fly home on a day off for things like that, and just being bummed. I felt like I was there and I could talk to [my family], but I couldn’t be there for them. The whole idea of being a ghost, that whole metaphor came into play. So To Those Left Behind, it’s like someone trying to reach someone they love but not really getting to be with them all the time. I thought that was rad. And our influences like American Horror Story and revenge movies can be really creative and be fun with the writing. The title works. It’s a little long, but whatever.

What was the inspiration for the music video for “Walk On Water?”
It was kind of last minute. We were on Warped Tour and we were like, “Okay, we have to do a video,” and we picked that song. It’s actually one of our favorite songs on the record. We started hitting up directors. Raul [Gonzo, who has also directed PVRIS’ “White Noise,” Against The Current’s “Talk” and Dance Gavin Dance’s “We Own The Night“] was recommended to us by PVRIS. We hit him up. We were like, “Cool, he lives in Sacramento [California] and we have a day off in Sacramento.” It was the week before the day off, it was kind of last minute, it was thrown together, but he’s super-creative and super-artsy. Obviously the water theme was involved. He had some really cool ideas of how to involve it. A lot of our videos are either intense as in live performance or very theme driven. [“Walk On Water”] was very artistic. You could say that we haven’t had any videos like that. You kind of get lost in it.

Was it a camera trick for the front-facing shots underwater?
We actually got under a fish tank, and they had water in the fish tank then rolled the water back and forth and had a spotlight to add shadows. It actually looks like we’re underwater, which is rad. When I saw it, I was like, “How is that going to look cool?” because it was a tank, [you] laid down under it and you’re just looking up [while] he films you from up top. He’s definitely really good at crazy camera tricks you wouldn’t think of.

Blessthefall is currently finishing up their To Those Left Behind Tour with Stick To Your Guns and Oceans Ate Alaska. The band’s friends in FigureItOut will be opening for them in Mesa, Arizona and Anahaim, California. You can watch Bokan play hockey in FigureItOut’s video here.

Nov 18 ­ Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theater
Nov 19 ­ Las Vegas, NV @ Vinyl @ The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Nov 20 San Diego, CA @ SOMA
Nov 21 ­ Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades
Nov 22 ­ Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues