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Interview: Ben Jorgenson of Armor For Sleep

Photo Credit: Blair Todd

My history with Armor For Sleep is a fun one, simply by virtue of where I was in my life when things got serious for the band. In the winter of 2000/2001 I moved to New Jersey (where I spent about 10 years) and dove into the local music scene. Around that time, Vagrant, Drive Thru, Victory, and Equal Vision were releasing music from across the emo and hardcore spectrum with a ferocity and frequency that’s since been unrivaled. It was a wild time to be a fan of independent music, an even wilder one if you were in New Jersey during that very specific moment in time.

In 2003, Armor For Sleep arrived, joining an esteemed roster at Equal Vision, and releasing their debut album - and a concept album, at that - with Dream To Make Believe. Their 2005 follow-up - another concept album - What To Do When You Are Dead was something of a breakthrough, even after the attention they garnered and fanbase they accumulated following their debut, and established the band as a power player in the Emo/Rock landscape that was evolving around them.

During my time in New Jersey I managed to catch the band live several times - most memorably with Recover and Say Anything (who were touring on …Is A Real Boy) at the legendary Stone Pony. It’s a live performance, and show, that’s stuck with me since. I’m certain I saw them play huge sets at a Skate & Surf Festival or two, as well.

Armor For Sleep disbanded in 2009, coming together for a handful of tours in 2012 and 2015, but not releasing any new material. Until now. September 2022 sees the first new release from the band since 2007, and from Equal Vision no less, titled The Rain Museum. The album’s first single, “How Far Apart,” is an appropriately big, bold, and timely return to form by a band that had, and continues to have, a devoted and excited fanbase.

I was given the opportunity to chat with Ben Jorgenson, vocalist, guitarist, and founder, about what it means to come back to a scene that is vastly different from what it was when they started. We talk a bit about the new album, touring with Dashboard Confessional and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, and even reminisce a bit about the very special time in New Jersey when it seemed like the bands from the state were basically taking over the world. My thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer my questions, and to my friend Ben and Holly Seitz for sending some questions for me to ask!

Jared Bowers: In my mind there’s never really been an “emo revival” since emo has never really gone away - it’s just changed and morphed and evolved. Thinking back to when the band was touring and making records back in the day, what do you see as the biggest difference in how things are functioning for indie bands and labels now, especially as it relates to what’s considered “emo?”

Ben Jorgenson: I think back when we were starting out the “scene” was just on the cusp of bubbling over into the mainstream. Bands around us started trying to reach for that brass ring of stardom and I think the scene really suffered because of it. Once the emo bubble burst and a few years passed, I think bands and their fans could finally appreciate the music that resonated with all of us without all the extra baggage that came with the emo craze of the early 2000’s.

I think a lot of fans - while excited and looking forward to what’s coming from the band - are definitely curious… Why now? And, as a follow up, how does it feel to have such a dedicated following coming back after a fairly considerable hiatus?

We weren’t going to “get back together” and make another record unless we felt there was a purpose behind it. It feels amazing to have the fans we have after all these years. It still blows our minds that so many people are still with us following along.

Part of the mythology of the band is definitely tied to New Jersey and what was happening in that scene as you were coming up. And with bands like Hidden in Plain View and Midtown and My Chemical Romance and others coming back to life, it’s been interesting to watch since I was fortunate enough to be in New Jersey from early 2001-2010 and I got to witness a lot of it first hand. What are some key moments, or memories from that time, that you have?

This goes without saying, but we wouldn’t be a band if we didn’t come up in New Jersey at the moment in time when we all happened to start going to local shows together. There isn’t really one key moment, it’s just the culmination of it all. So one show that comes to mind…I remember going to the vinyl release party of Saves The Day’s “Can’t Slow Down” in a New Brunswick basement on New Years eve 1999. Gabe Saporta (from Midtown/Cobra Starship) drove me to the show. After Saves The Day played a guy came downstairs and said “thanks for coming to my show-I live here. I have a new band…we’re going to play a few songs.” That guy was Geoff Rickley. I think that was Thursday’s first show. Yeah that’s probably the most NJ scene story I can think of.

How do you approach writing/recording a new album after a decade and a half? Is there pressure to try to recreate the sound from back then, or does it make it easier to experiment more?

Well, there is a lot that went into the writing of this record. The original plan was to resurrect a concept album idea that I had been wanting to finish since right about What To Do When You Are Dead called The Rain Museum. During covid I was going to hunker down and finally finish this album I had always wanted to bring to life…but then my marriage of 8 years fell apart. I continued writing the concept record, but with an extra ounce of realness from the hell I was walking through.

Going out on tour now probably looks a bit different than it did before - especially in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. How have you all been preparing yourselves to hit the road again after such a significant time away?

With covid we have to be prepared to pull the plug at any moment if anyone tests positive...even if we are on the road. We are all prepared for the fact that we could have to end whatever tour we are on wherever we happen to be. It’s like staring down the barrel of a loaded gun every day. It makes us appreciate every show we can actually play in a way I don’t think we ever have before.

Tell us a bit about the tour itself - with Andrew McMahon and Dashboard Confessional - how did it come about? Obviously with the new record coming out later this year, it’s time to start promoting - why this tour?

I’ve always looked up to both Andrew and Chris immensely. I can’t really think of bigger role-models as songwriters and as people. Couldn’t be more of an honor to share the stage with both of them every night.

Is there anything you can tell us about the record that you haven’t mentioned yet?

Probably not the best record for sunny days.

Is there anything else you would like to add or mention?

@benjorg @armorforsleep to keep up with all our happenings! Thanks!

You can catch Armor For Sleep this Saturday, August 6 at The Andrew J. Brady Music Center opening for Dashboard Confessional and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.


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