Senses Fail, a five-piece band formed in Northern New Jersey and fronted by Buddy Nielsen, began playing music around Bergen County 16 years ago. Through their unique, punk-rock music, the band has enjoyed long-lasting success that’s taken them across the globe. Now, the band’s back with their latest “If There Is Light, It will Find You” album. Be sure to check out “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket…” from the release embedded below.
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Sean Ritchie: Coming from Ridgewood, New Jersey what stands out about North Jersey and makes it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor to the area?
Buddy Nielsen: Now that I’ve left, and I might be coming back eventually, it’s kind of the food. It’s one thing that people don’t talk about, and you can’t really get it in a lot of other places. When you’re not living there you miss the food, mostly the Italian food — delis and pizza, but also bagels. It’s not necessarily a “foodie” culture, but it’s different. There’s a lot of family-run, food establishments. You don’t really get that in other parts of the country, maybe Chicago or New York and Long Island, but that’s something New Jersey has that specifically not a lot of other places have.
SR: Yes! I always say that there’s nothing like New Jersey diners. You touched on the bagels too, and I couldn’t agree more.
BN: Yes, there are not a lot of places that have the high density of them. Every town has one, or a pizza place and an Italian deli that’s really, really good. There might only be one in an entire city in other places. In North Jersey they’re everywhere.
SR: Definitely. I wanted to bring it back to when you were first exposed to music. Was it through friends or family? How did you get inspired to eventually create your own?
BN: My dad was really into music. He was in a band when I was younger. He was always playing music. My mom was also on Broadway, so there was that too. It was always around me. When my grandpa was in the Navy, he was in the Navy band. You could definitely say I come from a musical family. It ran through my family.
SR: To fast-forward a bit, your new “If There Is Light, It Will Find You” album just came out February 16th. Talk about your excitement and thought process for this release. How cool is it to still be able to release music after doing it for so long?
BN: We just wanted to go back to our roots on this one and reinvigorate where we came from. I wrote all the music on it, which is a first for any of our records. It’s got kind of an old sound with new blood, if that makes sense. It’s awesome to be able to continue to do this 16 years after the band started. I didn’t think that we’d be doing this for 16 years when the band started. It’s really awesome to continue to do what I love.
SR: Fantastic! Now, to follow up, you’re about to go on tour with Have Mercy supporting the album. Talk about what you’re looking forward to touring with those guys.
BN: We’re also touring with Reggie and the Full Effect too — awesome band. They have the keyboard play of My Chemical Romance. It’s his band as well. They’re a band we have a lot of history with. We’re playing the Starland Ballroom on Saint Patrick’s Day, so it’s going to be a really special event. We’re going to be playing our original EP that we wrote in 2002. It’s what got us all started, especially around Bergen County in the [Veterans of Foreign Wars] halls. That’s how we got our original following. I’m really stoked for that. It’s going to be a huge event.
SR: Oh man, Starland’s such a storied venue. That’s going to be a special show. I also wanted to touch on your personal travels a bit. When you do have some down time and are looking to get away, are you a beach guy? Looking for the mountains? Or, more for a city somewhere?
BN: I love them all, to be honest. I’ve done multi-day treks in the Andes. I love traveling to a city to eat and cultural things like that. I now live in a small town in Arizona that’s a mountain town. So, I rock climb and get outside quite a bit. I love to travel for a bunch of different reasons. My wife’s family is from Peru, so we’ll go to Peru a lot. I’ll travel Lima, so we’ll do the city thing, but then we’ll explore out and do things like Machu Picchu and the beach. I’m kind of all over the place, but I just really like traveling. That’s one of the reasons I like being in a band too. I get to travel so much. I wouldn’t be happy being sedentary.
SR: I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t know that you relocated to Arizona. Can you touch on what drew you to that state? I know it has some otherworldly landscapes out there.
BN: It’s a really cool place. I kind of split my time between Los Angeles, NJ and AZ. I love having a variety of settings. The mountains here drew me to it. It’s so beautiful. The proximity I have to Sedona and the Grand Canyons really make it a cool place. After a record cycle it’s nice to come back here and hang out. But, now I’m missing New Jersey. I want rainbow cookies and a chicken parmigiana. I can’t get a chicken parmigiana here. It’s a big problem.
BN: They have Olive Garden, but I’m not going there. I don’t know why they even have them in New Jersey. It’s kind of offensive.
SR: Literally. I always like to ask well-traveled people if they have a travel hack or routine when they hop on an airline. Is there anything you definitely need to have when you get on a plane?
BN: I’ve been flying for so long that it’s no longer the flight that bothers me. It’s the other people that don’t understand what’s going on that gets me. I like to have a nice pair of ear plugs, because it helps me sleep and then I don’t have to hear other people complaining about air travel. It’s got progressively worse over the years, but it is what it is. Everyone is in the same boat. People need to remember that when they get on a plane you are literally in the same boat.
We are all just as uncomfortable. So, being upset about your situation and getting aggressive at other people is ridiculous. It doesn’t help anyone. My number one pet peeve though is sit down until it’s actually time to get up. As soon as the plane lands, before you hear the ding, everyone’s up getting their stuff, but then they can’t get off the plane. It’s one of the most ridiculous things that human beings do.
SR: I hear you there completely. I don’t understand.
BN: It sucks what happened to the airline industry. My favorite airline, Virgin, is gone. That’s all I would fly. It seems like everyone is margining into each other. That doesn’t help people to fly. The boutique airlines are the ones that are good. It’s a really strange world we live in as far as air travel is concerned.
SR: To follow up on your world travels, are there any destinations that you haven’t been to that you still have to hit?
BN: I really want to go to Thailand and Vietnam — really Southeast Asia. I’ve never been to [that region of the world]. I would really like to get there.
SR: Is there anything particular catching your attention about there?
BN: The food, probably. It’s just so different from anywhere else in the world. I’ve been to Japan and other parts of Asia, the Philippines, but the rest of Southeast Asia seems like it has its own culture. I haven’t been to Africa yet either. I’d like to get there eventually. But, I want to go to Thailand before I go on any other big trips.
SR: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling, not only to influence people to see and appreciate our beautiful world, but to also minimize cross-cultural divides. I feel that has a lot of parallels with music. You’re constantly bringing people from all walks of life together. Talk about how special it is to continue to do that, and have the power to do that.
BN: It’s the best part of what we do. Bringing people together is needed right now. There seems to be not a lot of happiness in our country right now, because of the divisiveness of our government, but travel and music are definitely things that can help unite. I think they do pair well together. I’m a firm believer that if people traveled outside of this country they’d have a lot more understanding of themselves and the world they live in. While America is a really cool place, it’s only one country in a big world. When you travel you see the similarities and differences, and what’s really important.
SR: Lastly, I know you have a busy couple of months, but is there anything that you’d like to touch on that I didn’t cover?