Before their set at this years Groezrock Festival, bassist Robert Ehrenband from Boysetsfire sat down to have a chat with us about his love for Groezrock Festival, Quicksand and being in Boysetsfire!
Boysetsfire have been busy!
Last night we were in Zurich in Switzerland, it was a long drive but we have a night-liner so we sleep while we drive so it’s not too bad.
You have played here at Groezrock before in 2011, how was it then and are you expecting the same kind of response today?
To be honest, we never really expect anything. We just control what we can control and we’re very humble and easy-going about everything else. What we can control is that we play well and we have a good time and the rest just always seems to fall into place for us but we never worry about it like ‘Oh, this band is playing, how are we gonna [top that]?’. You know what I mean, we’re not that type of band. We are out here and we’re travelling with our best friends in the band and also our crew, we’re a family operation and we’re not trying to get anywhere if that makes sense.
We’re just very happy to be invited to be part of Groezrock, we can’t believe how awesome we’re placed on the bill, like how respectful that is for the festival to give us this nice slot on the main stage and we’re just very grateful is the word for the most part. That’s why you will never hear someone in Boysetsfire say ‘How do you think it’s gonna go?’ – we’re just very happy to go out on stage. I think you notice that when you see Boysetsfire, it’s just having a good time and it doesn’t matter if it’s 200 people or 20,000 people, we’re gonna have a great time anyhow and that’s the good thing about this band ‘cause we’re never stressed.
That’s a great way to look at things!
We’re too lazy to be stressed I think!
Being stressed is the worst.
We don’t do well, in the past, with outside influences being labels from managers that were like raising those questions you know and we always felt misunderstood because we were like ‘What do you mean?! This is great’ you know what I mean like we’re so, so thankful that we have so much support all over the world to do what we love to do. We don’t have to compromise one bit, we hang out with so many friends and meet new friends and it really doesn’t matter what’s gonna happen because we already know we’re gonna have a good time! If there’s technical difficulties, well, there’s just technical difficulties!
Last night, we played a sold out show in Zurich, Switzerland – we headlined a little indoor festival and we really honestly thought after a whole day of music, no-one would want to hear an encore so we stopped playing and said ‘Thank you so much!’, it was crazy hot and we went off stage and our roadies started wrapping everything up and packing everything away and people were just not leaving and they were like ‘Play one more, play one more!’ so we went back up on-stage and said ‘We’re really sorry, we didn’t think you wanted to hear more music but okay we’ll set up again!’ and then we set up again!
You actually set up all your stuff again?
Yeah, well it wasn’t all torn down but you know, the cables and everything and then we played again, like played more songs and people waited very patiently! We were all sitting down and taking a breather and then we came back and did it. It’s not always like super-planned or super-professional, it just always comes from our heart but we just always do what feels right in the moment, that seems to serve us really well I think.
If I’m allowed to, yeah! Our tour manager sat me down yesterday and said ‘Look man, I know there’s a lot of bands you wanna see today’, you know ‘cause I love a lot of the bands on the bill today, there’s Terror and Madball and Alkaline Trio, so many great bands! Our drummers other band Paint It Black is playing, H2O our good friends are playing and he’s like ‘I’m not sure how many of those bands you will get to see because we have a lot of shit going on’ so I said that’s fine, you know, I’m here to be of service to the band and if that’s what it takes then I’ll do it but if there is, I don’t know if I’ll have time but, if there is time then I’ll definitely sneak off and watch the bands. I’m not sure if it’s gonna happen though but I’ll try!
Boysetsfire have just been on tour in the UK with Funeral For A Friend, how has that tour been for you?
Amazing! It sold out very far in advance, if they wanted to they could have probably played bigger venues even but it was fucking great! It was so nice to play with those guys, we’re really really tight friends with them and we had a brilliant band with us called More Than Life who are awesome also from the UK and it was perfect. The whole tour has been perfect, it’s always nice to play with good people and when shows sell out in advance it’s always kinda cool ‘cause that’s cool, what else do you want?! You hang out with your friends and then you play a sold out show and then you go to bed.
What’s been your favourite festival to play at?
Groezrock. Always. What I like about Groezrock is – I would never say that just because we’re here ‘cause Boysetsfire is not known to be sugar-coating anything, we always say what we think, always. But the reason why I say this is because it’s the only festival that supports the scene that we come from so let’s say we play Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park later this year with Metallica and Iron Maiden and stuff, this is awesome but a lot of the bands on the bill I don’t even know. At Groezrock, I know most of the bands, personally even.
Would you say you feel more at home at Groezrock?
Yeah 100%! And they allow you to sell your merchandise and they don’t take a merchandise percentage. A lot of big festivals, what they do is that they say ‘You can choose one or two of your shirt designs’ and they sell them for you and then take a huge percentage off of you and that’s how we make a living, with t-shirts and stuff! So it’s very hard sometimes, it really cuts into your budget as a band and Groezrock doesn’t do any of that. They have the merch world over there and you have your merch guy there selling all your stuff and people can check it out, and not just two designs and stuff like that so everything about Groezrock!
And also we have a super-good relationship with Macbeth for example who are one of the sponsors – we just went over there and some of our guys got a haircut and so by far Groezrock, worldwide, no doubt, always. I mean honestly, Quicksand’s playing, which by the way I will not do an interview then, I will watch Quicksand! We actually pushed back our bus call because we have to leave to drive to Munich tomorrow, so it’s a long drive but we said it doesn’t fucking matter, we need to wait until they’re done ‘cause they’re the biggest band – we’ll buy t-shirts from Quicksand for real, we’ll go there and pay for merch because we’re such huge Quicksand fans. Me as a bass player, Sergia, their bass player who also of course plays in the Deftones, he probably is my favourite bass player in the world and I’ll be watching him and hopefully learn a thing or two which sometimes I think I’m more like a glorified dancer than a bass player you know? I’m a really good dancer, not such a good bass player.
Are you actually a good dancer?
A really good dancer, I love dancing, I don’t know why.
Do you incorporate that into your live shows?
Well if you wanna call it dancing but I just like to move around! I like to stay active anyhow, I’m always full of energy so I could never play standing still. I hurt myself a lot on stage and stuff and I always have spots that hurt from playing the night before so every morning I get up and look at myself in the mirror and I’m like ‘Oh what did I do yesterday?’. Horrible bruises, strained ankles and all that kind of shit and my wife sometimes says ‘Why don’t you just take it a little easier?’ and I can’t do it! Once I hear that intro music I just don’t think about anything else other than playing and afterwards I’m like ‘Oh my neck hurts’ and all that stuff and I’m like ‘I don’t know how to do that!’ you know? She’s always mad at me, she’s like ‘Why don’t you just do a little less?’ and I can’t.
Boysetsfire had a break, do you feel like that had a more negative or positive effect on the band?
It was definitely a needed break and it’s nice that you call it that ‘cause at the time we were really dead-set on never ever playing again, not because we didn’t like each other, just because we thought we all experienced everything we set out to do or over-achieved everything we wanted to do and so at the time we should have called it a break but being Boysetsfire, we just had to be very dramatic about it and we were like ‘This is gonna be the last time we’ll ever be on stage’. What we were worried about is, if we call it a break and then the next offer comes – ‘Do you wanna play with the Deftones?’ or something like that then you’re unsure so then we closed the door on all of that and said this is it and we needed that at the time.
We needed a little bit of time to ourselves to tend to our families and our own selves. You gotta think, we’ve been a band for 20 years now, that’s a long time and there is stuff that falls to the wayside, the band was always first with everything and it was so important to have a time where family is first. But we missed it, it was quite obvious that we couldn’t continue being musically apart from each other ‘cause we never had problems with each other, we just wanted to… I moved back to Germany where I’m originally from and everyone did their own thing for a little minute and then we were like it’d be really cool to play again like all ashamed you know like ‘What do you think?’. But it was very necessary at the time, we were pretty burned out, for sure.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was when a friend took me aside, I was dating a girl that was really weird at the time ‘cause she was kinda unsure whether she wanted to really like do the relationship or you know what I mean? And he took me aside and he said ‘Don’t make an asshole out of yourself’ and that is the best advice I’ve ever been given in my life because I always think like you know, if you do the things so you can look in the mirror, the rest will fall into place but if you start bending over and making an ass out of yourself to gain certain things, like I tried at the time – this is a very long time ago but to get that girl, the results are always bad.
So this is how we do it now, we just do what feels right, even if it’s financially not the most awesome decision or even if it requires some time off or whatever, we just always try to be true to ourselves no matter what and that’s why we created a universe where there is no other opinions needed than our own. We have our own label, we produce our own records, we do our own record covers, we design our own banners, we do everything ourselves and so other than the people in this band, we don’t have to play into anyone else’s rules or opinions and we don’t have to make assholes out of ourselves and so it all comes back to that advice from my friend. Not to say that I sometimes am an asshole but I try not to make an asshole out of myself, you know what I mean? Sometimes you’re required to be an asshole to not to make an asshole so it’s a philosophically deep subject but yeah that was definitely the best advice I’ve ever gotten. What about you though? What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Someone once told me that what other people think of me is none of my business and I quite liked that.
That’s very good!
I’m quite young though, I’m sure I’ll get better advice as I grow up!
How old are you?
That is pretty young. That makes me feel very old!
I’m sure I’ll get valid advice along the way.
Well let me know!
Still being able to play with my best friends, you know after all this time, it’s definitely the highlight so now that’s the high point. I just never thought that it would be possible to still be doing music and stuff, I am so grateful for it and we’re in such good spirits and the shows have been so much fun and this is definitely the best time to be playing in Boysetsfire, 100%. We all agree ‘cause we talk about it all the time, sit together and toast to each other and this is fun! There’s no pressure, we don’t wanna go anywhere, we can actually enjoy the moment for once.
There’s no expectations and I’m just really happy and grateful that we’re here and that’s the best place to create music, when you don’t have expectations or pressure and that goes for everything in life I think, you need to breathe and not forget that life is very short and you’re not so important and your band is not so important and what time of day you play at a festival is not so important and what the other bands sells in t-shirts is not so important, it just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Life is very short, we all will be gone eventually and so I feel that the only obligation we have as a band is to really truly and deeply support each other and to be humble and to give it 100% whenever there’s anyone watching or paying their hard-earned money for us and that’s it. The rest I don’t want to control and I couldn’t control, the cards fall however they fall, I don’t care but what I can control is that I leave it all on that stage today and I walk off that stage and think I gave my all with my friends and I hope whoever was watching had a great time and that’s it!
What do Boysetsfire have planned for the rest of the year?
Can’t tell you! My last question is what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m going to be doing this all summer!
Interview by Jess Pearson
For further information on Boysetsfire, check out…
5th June – Rock Am Ring, Nürburgring / Eifel (DE)
6th June – Rock Im Park, Nürnberg (DE)
7th June – Faust, Hannover (DE)
6th August – Open Flair Festival, Eschwege (DE)
7th August – Rocko del Schlako Festival, Püttlingen (DE)
Listen to ‘While A Nation Sleeps’ on Spotify below…