“I don’t want to be in an emo band anymore,” proclaims SORORITY NOISE frontman Cameron Boucher. “But I have no problem with people calling us that, because in the strictest of senses, we are an emotionally driven band.”
That, is Sorority Noise in a nutshell: part of a movement, but also discrete and determined to break free from the pack. Truth be told, the Connecticut-based quartet—Boucher, guitarist/vocalist Adam “Scuff” Ackerman, bassist/vocalist Ryan McKenna and drummer Charlie Singer—have always operated a little differently than most of their peers.
For starters, Boucher attends the University of Hartford for jazz saxophone and music production, while guitarist Ackerman studies acoustic and upright bass. But it’s not just their unorthodox musical chops that set the band apart in the underground punk scene. With the release of their Topshelf Records debut, JOY, DEPARTED, Sorority Noise—recently named one of the 100 Bands You Need to Know in 2015 by Alternative Press—are poised to break out in a big way.
It’s clear from the opening track, “Blissth,” which creaks and swells like the best of Brand New’s softer side; the buoyant energy and self-reflection of first single “Art School Wannabe,” featuring Modern Baseball’s Jake Ewald; the Pinkerton-era Weezer stomp of “Nosley;” and the heartbreaking, album-closing “When I See You (Timberwolf).”
Joy, Departed is more than just the best iteration of Sorority Noise to date; the album also marks a creative shift for Boucher, who draws musical influence from a diverse crop of acts spanning Regina Spektor and jazz trumpeter Chet Baker to The Smiths and Broken Social Scene—and previously spent time fronting screamo band Old Gray. In some ways, the singer says he approached the creative process like writing his very first album.
[Before this record], everything was just scattered songs I’d been working on for two or three years,” Boucher explains. “Without having an outlet to put them out, I was just sitting on them. We’d pull a song out and jam it and put it on an album. Same with the lyrical content: It was spread over a much larger time. Going into this record, I’d used up all of my old songs. Joy, Departed was written over a three-month period of my life. There are points where I look back and look forward, but it’s definitely more lyrically focused on a set time and experience in the present. There’s a sense of cohesion on this record.”
Boucher started Sorority Noise in late 2013 with friends as an outlet to explore musical styles outside his work in Old Gray. The group then recruited Ackerman and issued their debut full-length, Forgettable, in May 2014. Much buzz—and tours with buzz bands Modern Baseball and The Hotelier—followed, as did a split 7” with Somos and the arrivals of Singer (whom Boucher had played with in Old Gray) and McKenna.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Joy, Departed is Boucher’s candidness, addressing heavy lyrical topics some of his peers wouldn’t dream of covering. Look no further than “When I See You (Timberwolf),” which paints the forlorn portrait of a close friend spiraling through the throes of addiction, a situation Boucher saw manifest itself in his own life.
“It’s about someone getting over drug issues while another person falls into it,” the singer says. “It’s like, ‘How could you let this happen to yourself after you’ve seen what the people you love went through?’
“Charlie went through years of opiate problems, and I went with him at points,” Boucher continues openly about his bandmate. “We’re both 100% percent fine now, but there’s so many people having drug problems—and a lot of bands who play it safe and don’t want to talk about it. I think it’s important to be shown in modern music. I like to be honest about my past and talk about things that have had me down. As a lyricist, you are responsible for the people who care about your music.”
That’s ultimately what makes Joy, Departed such an important album: It’s life, warts and all, sung by someone who’s experienced it firsthand. It’s not always rosy, but it’s real. Above all, it’s an album meant to be experienced as a body of work, not single songs plucked piecemeal or shuffled on a streaming service. And for Boucher, he hopes it will show critics and fans alike Sorority Noise has something to say.
“The pomp and circumstance that comes with the bastardization of depression in emo music—the entire song broken into one lyric, into one Tumblr post, and having that represent the band? I don’t want that,” Boucher concludes, circling back to his earlier point. “I want someone to put on a whole record and connect to it that way. I don’t intend to write a line that’s a tattoo lyric or something that could be deciphered easily. The emo culture has a tendency to adapt itself to that, and I want to be more than that.”