Rock group Too Close To Touch came off Vans Warped Tour this past summer with a highly praised sophomore album, Haven’t Been Myself, that packs an even stronger punch than 2015’s Nerve Endings with frontman Keaton Pierce fusing grief and emotional release with powerfully intense lyrics and aggressively chilling vocals.
The Lexington, Kentucky, transplants are hitting the road with their fall tour as recent winners of Alternative Press Music Award’s “Best Underground Band” and will be coming to Baltimore Soundstage with Crown The Empire, blessthefall, New Year’s Day and Light Up The Sky Nov. 21.
The Writer’s Bloc had the opportunity to talk to Pierce about the challenges of being on tour, the inspiration behind Haven’t Been Myself, La Dispute and Incubus:
Jordan: Your tour started yesterday, right? In San Diego?
Keaton: The day before, actually.
J: Ah okay, how’d that go? How was the kickoff?
K: I thought it was great. It was a lot of fun. We have an off day today, but then tomorrow is Pomona, which is pretty much L.A. The turnout has been great so far.
J: Is this the first time you have been on a tour like this, or have you done smaller ones in the past?
K: Oh no, in the last year and a half, I think this is our sixth U.S. tour on a bigger scale. We did Vans Warped Tour this summer. We’re starting to become seasoned in the whole tour routine.
J: What’s been the most challenging part of touring?
K: Honestly, just being away. When you play shows and you’re out connecting with fans, it takes your mind off of it, but sometimes it does get hard being away from your family for extended periods of time. That and I guess trying to stay healthy. Tour always seems like it’s one big time crunch, and a lot of times, at least for me personally, I’ll forget to eat because there will be so much going on, but then I also don’t want to gorge on food right before a set.
J: Being a college student, that’s kind of funny because I would think those two things are the most challenging for me, too. Being out of state, I don’t see my family and forgetting to eat between classes is definitely a thing that happens to me on the daily.
K: Where are you from?
J: I’m from Pittsburgh. I think you guys are heading there, actually. The Mr. Smalls venue? But maybe I’m wrong.
K: I do think I just saw a Facebook invitation from that place.
J: I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s really great. But speaking of venues, what’s been your favorite location or venue so far? Or which one are you looking forward to playing at on this tour in particular?
K: Probably either Webster Hall in New York—we always have a great crowd and pretty devout fan base that is familiar with our music—or the Masquerade in Atlanta, which I think we’re actually playing one of the last shows in the old venue before they tear it down. It’s a pretty iconic venue and the staff there is great. I always like playing there. They always cater to their bands. And they cook really awesome food, which is nice.
J: I was reading about your album [Haven’t Been Myself] and how it’s been ranked in Bilboard’s top 10 Top New Artist Albums and #3 in the Alternative New Artist Album category. Did you expect it to get that much attention? What was your reaction?
K: I think it charted in like six different categories on Billboard, which was insane. Obviously, in the back of my mind I wanted it to do well, but then when I saw how well it did do, it was pretty surreal. It’s a good feeling to know that already, initially off the bat, it reached a lot of people. And then that’s more people who can then share and spread it on their end. It was awesome. It still is awesome. I guess I don’t think about it a lot, but when I do, it’s just kind of crazy.
J: How would you describe the new album compared to Nerve Endings? Are there any key differences, either musically or thematically?
K: Musically, the new record capitalizes more off of the darker direction from the Nerve Endings album. Thematically, this one’s a little more emotional just because it deals with more of a touchy subject, the passing of my sister.
J: I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t realize that was what the album was about.
K: No, it’s fine! That was definitely what I knew I needed to write about, for my sake as well as other people’s sake. It was a breath of fresh air to go in and just be brutally honest and create fresh songs that I deeply care for.
J: Does that serve as part of the grieving process for you?
K: Oh, absolutely. That’s the great thing about having the opportunity to write and create a record. When there are issues like that that you have to deal with, it is the ultimate form of emotional release. Being able to just get it off your chest. It doesn’t make it all go away, but it’s what I love to do and it’s the way I cope with things best. It’s really a blessing to have a medium like that in my life that I can use.
J: In both records, your vocals are very powerful and full of emotion, especially in the more ‘screamy’ parts. What drives that intensity?
K: Honestly, we’ve never been a band where when we’re in the studio and we’re like ‘well, this song has to have screaming in it here’ or ‘maybe some screaming should go here.’ We don’t stick to some formula or requirement. I just feel like sometimes there are parts that we write that I can’t convey the emotion I want to with just a note or melody.
Certain times like that call for more intense vocal style and delivery. It helps with the change in dynamic in the song, too, and I feel like whenever you have parts like that only where you truly believe they are called for, it’s going to be a lot more noticeable in your vocal takes and be more apparent to the listener that that’s an extremely key and iconic part to that song.
J: I’ve always wanted to ask this question when I interview bands, but I either run out of time or it doesn’t come up organically. What bands do you guys jam to when you’re driving around on tour?
K: Oh geez. I want to say the last record I played in the van would actually be this really small, experimental band that I have some friends in called Sianvar. They’re like members of various bigger bands, like one’s the guitarist for Dance Gavin Dance and another one sings in a band called Hail the Sun. I think that’s the last thing I jammed out to. It’s just crazy fast and aggressive. We’re just trying to stay awake.
Thomas was listening to La Dispute [last time I rode with him].
J: I love La Dispute.
K: That’s his baby. He loves them. It really just depends. Everyone’s so different. It just depends on what mood we’re in.
J: Last question: if you could have a dream tour, who would you be touring with?
K: I would have to throw Incubus on there, just because it would be amazing. Hmm… I feel like I always give the same answer to this question, and I’d like to give a different one. Outside the box. Incubus would still make the list. I think Bring Me The Horizon would be really cool to tour with; I really appreciate what they’ve been doing and how they’ve evolved over the years. Probably just bands I looked up to as I was growing up as a musician and developing my style. It would be really cool to bring it full circle touring with any one of them.
J: Is there anything else you wanted to add that I may not have touched on?
K: Just to thank anyone who has been listening and has already picked up our album that came out in September. And to come out to a show! We’ll be in Maryland I believe [toward the end of November]. Come out and have a good time. It’ll be a good show. I hope to see everyone out there!
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Lindsey Byrnes.
Jordan Stovka is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.