Armor For Sleep: Ben Jorgensen on DIY Shows, "The Rain Museum" and More

(Photo credit: Courtney Kiara)

These days, more than ever, the connection between the emo and hardcore communities becomes more and more apparent. It’s not surprising to find that the people behind your favorite hardcore bands are listening to stuff like Fall Out Boy or Sunny Day Real Estate in their spare time. Naturally, this is inspiring them to start more melodic bands of their own - Koyo, No Pressure, Anxious, and so on.

Of course, we’ve got to give credit to the source of that inspiration, which is why I’m bringing you an interview with a highly influential band from emo’s initial boom in the early 2000’s - New Jersey’s Armor For Sleep.

Towards the beginning of the pandemic, the alt-rock veterans reunited and announced a 15th anniversary tour for their iconic record, What to Do When You Are Dead. This was followed in 2022 by a summer tour, as well as an announcement from the band that they would be appearing at When We Were Young Festival, causing many to wonder if new music was on the way. Those with excited inklings were right - this past Friday, the band released their first new record in over 15 years, The Rain Museum.

The album is a continuation from What to Do When You Are Dead that focuses on a post-apocalyptic world where the weather no longer changes, except in a strange museum in the middle of the desert. In typical Armor for Sleep fashion, vocalist Ben Jorgensen uses his metaphorical skills to incorporate his real life struggles into each track, while still keeping everything cohesive with the album’s established themes.

Ben and I discussed some Armor For Sleep history, from his early inspirations as a musician, to playing DIY shows in Jersey with bands like Thursday. Of course, he also caught us up to speed with the current state of things, exploring how The Rain Museum went from a concept to a reality.

(Photo credit: Courtney Kiara)

AA: Please introduce yourself with your name, what you do in Armor For Sleep,  and - if you’d like - a fact about yourself.

BJ: Hi. My name is Ben Jorgensen. I am the singer/songwriter/guitar player/overthinker for the band Armor for Sleep. 

A fun fact about myself: I like fun facts. 

AA: Do you remember when it clicked for you that you wanted to make music? Was there a particular band or musician that inspired you?

BJ: I knew I wanted to play music the second I listened to the first album I ever owned… The Black Album by Metallica. So many bands and musicians have inspired me over the years. I always point to Chris Conley from Saves the Day and Geoff Rickley from Thursday I looked up to both of those bands immensely, and both of them as individuals always looked out for me over the years. 

AA: You put out the first Armor For Sleep release nearly 20 years ago now. What are some differences between the way you used to write music when you first started, compared to now?

BJ: As different as I would like to think the process is, I think, more or less, it’s pretty much the same. I might have some more tools in my toolkit from the years I’ve been doing it, but when I sit down to write, it’s always the same question I ask myself: “How can I express something that I really feel in a way that’s never quite been vocalized before?”

AA: As a band, Armor For Sleep came up in the New Jersey emo and hardcore scenes of the 90’s and early 00’s. In my opinion, there’s a lot of bands from the area, like Saves the Day, Lifetime, and Thursday that have a really unique sound because of these origins. How do you feel the proximity to hardcore, as well as DIY music, shaped you as a band?

BJ: It shaped everything about who we are as a band. We simply would not exist without the bands you just named. I view us as just carrying the torch from what they were doing. 

AA: Can you recall any DIY shows in particular that really impacted you around that time?

BJ: I played a show one time with my band in High School called Random Task at the cafeteria in Montclair State University. We were opening up for Thursday, who had just released their album called Waiting.  After Thursday played, a guy on his first tour stepped up to the mic and played a small set - he only had an acoustic guitar to accompany him. It was Chris Carrabba’s first tour as Dashboard Confessional. There were about five people in attendance that evening. A couple of them were our friends Mikey and Gerard Way, who had come to watch Thursday play. Pretty wild thinking back on that. 

AA: You guys reunited as a band a couple years go, and The Rain Museum will be your first release back - what’s it like to get back into the swing of making music as a band?

BJ: In some ways, it doesn’t feel weird at all, since the band has always kind of lived on amongst all of us. 

Album art

AA: The Rain Museum is a conceptual continuation of the themes you covered on What To Do When You Are Dead. Could you tell us a little about how the idea came about, as well as what it means to you?

BJ: I do want to leave a little up to the imagination, so I won’t go fully in depth here, but the concept came from an idea I had back in the mid-2000’s. I had the idea back then of making a concept album inspired by a short story I had written. We broke up before we ever got to see it through. When the pandemic hit, I decided it was a good time to resurrect the album. 

Unfortunately, at pretty much that exact moment, my marriage of nearly 8 years fell apart. Despite the insanity of what I was going through, I kept pushing through to finish writing the album I always wanted to complete. What came out the other side is a mash-up of the original idea and the introspection I was forced to deal with going through the dark times I found myself in. 

AA: What inspired the video for "Whatever, Who Cares?”

BJ: We wanted to make a metaphorical music video about the cycle of relationship trauma. I’m a huge fan of shows like Lost and Squid Game, so I had the idea of an evil experiment/ritual set up to torture people in relationships, in a way that I felt reflected some of the thoughts I had running inside my head about the nature of love, life, and so on.

AA: A lot of Armor For Sleep’s material has focused on fairly existential themes - the end of the world, the afterlife, the apocalypse, and so on. What draws you to write about these topics?

BJ: Life is weird. I can’t not think about that stuff. It’s weird to me that more bands don’t write about such topics. 

AA: As someone who was part of the initial boom of great emo bands in the early 2000’s, how does it feel to see it all coming back around in popularity now?

BJ: It kind of makes me go “SEE! It didn’t suck THAT bad!”

AA: Anything else you’d like to add?

BJ: Where are all the Dyson Spheres?

Thank you again to Ben for doing this interview with me. It’s not often that I nerd out over the bands I get to work with - they’re all just people, after all - but Armor For Sleep is a band that meant so much to me in my childhood and teen years. They feature in so many of my core memories of growing up and getting into music, as both a musician and a listener. Ultimately, getting to pick his brain is a privilege I greatly appreciate.

You can keep up with Armor For Sleep via the links below:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Official website

Check out The Rain Museum via Spotify below:


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