Senses Fail are still searching for answers

James “Buddy” Nielsen of Senses Fail likes Australia’s good-looking girls. He doesn’t like vegemite. He does like BLT sandwiches. He prefers Taste of Chaos to Warped Tour. But he’d prefer to play smaller shows. And he’s very proud of his band’s latest release.

These are just a few facts I found out whilst chatting to the laid-back vocalist of the screamo-punk band from New Jersey.

Senses Fail finally made their way Down Under for the first time as part of this year’s Taste of Chaos tour, just in time to promote their sophomore album.

The Australian leg of Taste of Chaos also featured Taking Back Sunday, Thursday, Anti-Flag, Underoath, Saosin and Australia’s own Parkway Drive. Of the latter Nielsen says, “They’re good, really cool. I haven’t really met them but they’re a good band.” But says he most enjoys seeing Thursday on stage. “They’re one of my favourite bands.”

Though Nielsen prefers Taste of Chaos to Warped Tour, he’d rather be doing smaller gigs.

“I actually don’t like playing big places. I don’t think it’s… it’s just… too big. I mean, it’s cool to play in front of eight thousand people but I’d rather play in front of a hundred people. It’s more fun, for me. There’s more interaction, more of a vibe.”

At the same time, he loves touring. “Every tour is new and exciting and just as good as the last one. I haven’t been on a tour that I’ve really hated. Ever.”

There are no plans for a headlining Australian tour yet but he says he’d love to do one if their label will give them the money for it! Senses Fail have recently signed to Vagrant, their third record label (they have been on both Drive-Thru and Geffen). The label move has been a positive experience for the band.

“It’s not just bullshit. Nobody tells us what to do. And it’s cool to be on a label with a bunch of different kind of music, not just focussing on one style.” Vagrant is also home to artists such as Dashboard Confessional, The Lemonheads, and Paul Westerberg.

Senses Fail’s second full-length album, Still Searching, was released on October 10th. Nielsen describes it as, “a cohesive piece of music.” And when comparing it to their debut full-length, Let it Enfold You (2004), says, “It makes more sense and it has more feeling and more emotion, and it’s tougher. [It’s] more organic and natural sounding, with better songs. Better song writing, better musicianship and better lyrics. Better everything.”

It’s clear he’s very proud of their latest offering and he emphasises the fact that they’ve all grown both as individual musicians and as a band.

“You hope you get better every single record and we definitely did that on this record. I think that everybody can agree on that. And most of the people that have reviewed the CD and a lot of people that have talked about it have all [agreed]. The big thing is that it almost sounds like a different band. You know it’s still Senses Fail but it does sound like, we really kind of… changed.”

So what is it that Senses Fail is Still Searching for?

“I don’t think I meant to say that I’m still searching for something. It’s just the overall message. I think everybody is still searching for some piece of information or happiness or love or whatever it is in their life. I think it’s just something that everybody can relate to.”

Let it Enfold You was very much inspired by Nielsen’s spiritual beliefs at the time. For this record however, Nielsen says it might be his “lack of spiritual beliefs” that was the inspiration.

“I [also] talk about a lot of my personal things I went through over the last couple of years and it’s pretty much the purging of bad things.”

His spiritual beliefs may have changed a little over the past few years but it’s still a subject he has strong opinions about. However, he’s not concerned about offending fans with these opinions.

“If I said I was Christian I’d offend people, if I said I wasn’t Christian I’d offend people… If you wear… white shoes you’re going to offend someone. If you dye your hair blonde you’re going to offend someone.

“People can believe whatever the want and do whatever they want. But religion is misused a lot by people for political gain and for power… All throughout history and it’s no different today.

“It’s the fact that saying if you’re not Christian you’re gonna go to hell. See, that offends me. Why would someone who is Muslim go to hell because they’re not Christian? Why would someone who is Jewish go to hell? It’s all so stupid.

“It’s like in high school. It’s like being straightedge and beating people up. There are a lot of straightedge people that don’t beat people up, they just do it for themselves, and those people are great. And there are people that go out and are militant about it. I don’t hate religion, I just don’t like it when people make it militant and say that their way is better than someone else’s way. I don’t think my way is any better. I just know that I don’t hate gay people, and I’m not a racist… I think in America, there are a lot of Christians that are disgusted by any kind of difference and [who] don’t have free minds. And that’s what pisses me off. When people can’t have an open-mind to things… And I’m definitely not worried about offending people in saying that.”

For someone so opinionated, his next answer is short and sweet. When asked to finish the sentence “Senses Fail have made it when…” he replies “We come to Australia!”

Looks like they’ve made it then!

Still Searching is out now on Vagrant.