In his first ever instalment of ‘Ten Question Tell-All’, Ben spoke to New Found Glory drummer Cyrus Bolooki about drums, family, coronavirus and more.
You’ve been part of New Found Glory for 23 years. In this genre, that is a phenomenal length of time with sustained success. There’s only a handful of pop-punk bands I can think of that have had the same longevity and acclaim. What do you think is the key is to a band being together for so long with the ability to continue having that level of success?
"I think one of the most important things is communication. You can’t allow things to be brushed under the rug; if there are issues, they have to be dealt with ASAP. We’re like brothers — we grew up together and at times we can butt heads or get on each others’ nerves — but, we’re all united in the same cause, to be able to get our music out to as many people as possible, and because of that, we have to be brutally honest with each other if needed. Sometimes that might mean an argument over a seemingly minute detail or a lengthy discussion to really get to the bottom of someone’s disagreement with the rest of the group, but overall we’re always fair with each other and I know there’s a large amount of respect within our band because we all understand that we would not be here today if it wasn’t for the unique gifts/abilities that each one of us has brought to the table for these 23 years."
New Found Glory have released ten albums since 1999. Which record are you most proud of?
"That’s a very tough question to answer, and normally I’d say 'Catalyst', as that tends to be my go-to answer for “favorite album.” But, since you said “most proud of,” I’m actually going to go with 'Sticks and Stones'. The album was recently certified Platinum here in the US, and I think I’m most proud of it because it truly defined who we were in this pop-punk genre and continues to do so today. From start to finish I think it’s a very strong and complete album, and since it wasn’t our first major release, there were none of the nerves that went along with recording our self-titled record, for instance. Everything “worked” for that record, and if you look at the sales and the legacy of the album, you can easily see why."
I think the track that really got me in to you guys was Dressed To Kill when it was on a compilation CD stuck to the front of Kerrang Magazine way back when, and obviously Catalyst, more specifically Truth Of My Youth was the album and track that made you one of my favourite bands of all time. I think Catalyst might’ve had the same affect on a lot of people, so with that in mind, what was it like at the time having that album do so well and propel you guys to a global stage?
"Like I said above, I almost always cite Catalyst as my favorite album, mainly because I feel like at that time we were on top of our game, firing on all cylinders, and we were able to amass a collection of songs that not only influenced many (like you said with 'Truth of My Youth'), but also bend the genre lines a bit (with songs like 'I Don’t Wanna Know'). We would have never been able to try that if it wasn’t for Neal Avron (our producer), who was able to help us take these ideas that seemed a little crazy at the time and really turn them into complete thoughts. There was a lot of buzz surrounding 'Catalyst', and at first, it seemed to be perfect — #3 debut on the US charts, 139,000 albums sold first week, #1 video on MTV here in the US — but, unfortunately the record industry got in the way, and internal conflict and shuffling at our record label caused this record to be stopped in its tracks.
We learned a lot of lessons with that album, one of the most important being that even at such a high level you have to always do things for yourself and not rely on the label to do them. But, at the time, being in a band where we had gone from opening up shows in arenas to headlining them ourselves within two short years, I think we were all just blown away by how big and how fast things were happening, but we never lost sight of who we were and we were always very appreciative of what was happening. It luckily didn’t allow us to become immune to real-life and get lost in the luxuries that can come along with success, which is probably a big reason why we were able to navigate that part of our career and still be here after 23 years!"
You’ve played drums for Goldfinger and Yellowcard on top of being the drummer for one of the most influential pop-punk bands of the last few decades. How do you find transitioning from songs you know so well and have played for so long, to having to learn entirely new sets when you’re filling in for other bands?
"It’s honestly pretty fun to play with other bands. It wasn’t something I set out to do, it kind of fell into my lap. First time I did something like that was actually way back in 2002 on Warped Tour. Good Charlotte had a random drummer playing with them following the departure of their original drummer, and they were having issues with him, so one day they asked me if I would fill in for a few shows for them. I said sure, and then immediately regretted saying that because I realized that meant I needed to learn like 8 songs quickly, while still doing my normal stuff with NFG. Even though I knew the songs well since we had toured together, I had never thought about actually PLAYING them, so I had to figure out a way to learn them and remember them without having to memorize every hit/pattern.
It was a big lesson in how to fill in for a band and try to “become" that drummer while behind the kit. Those GC shows went well, and later that summer I actually played a few songs with NOFX, filling in for their drummer who had to leave town for a day. Fast forward 10+ years, and I get the call again from Yellowcard. It was an amazing experience, and that one wasn’t easy, because Yellowcard’s original drummer was a beast at the kit, so it became a bit of a challenge to learn the material and play it with confidence, even if that meant playing it slightly different than on record, but it turned out great for everyone involved. And then the Goldfinger stuff also sort of fell into my lap, and much like the GC story, I said yes and then immediately freaked out about it.
With Goldfinger, it definitely was a challenge, because I was given about 4 days to learn 12 songs, and play them with NO REHEARSAL in front of thousands of people. But I hunkered down, actually watched a bunch of Goldfinger live YouTube videos (I was told to learn those versions because there’s extra transitions and parts live that aren’t included on record), and just like with the other acts, everything went off without a hitch.
As far as transitioning between bands, it’s not easy, and I always, if possible, try to give myself some time to basically “shift gears” and get in the mode of whatever band I’m playing with. For instance, I will always try and rehearse myself for a few days before a tour, even if I’m going to rehearse with the band before that same tour. I never want to be the one that’s unprepared in rehearsals! I did have one close call recently, however, when I last went to the UK with Goldfinger, and I ended up basically flying from the studio with NFG where I had just finished recording drums for our newest album (Forever + Ever x Infinity), and got on a plane the next day for the UK to join with Goldfinger.
For that one, I literally finished my last drum take and then announced to all of the engineers in the studio that I needed about 2 hours to rehearse. They looked at me like I was crazy — rightfully so — and I just told them to grab earplugs and work around me, and there we went, me banging away to “Here In Your Bedroom” and “99 Red Balloons” while they were taking down mics and wrapping cables. That was by far the most stressful transition for me, but it was also one of the most fun tours/experiences I’ve had recently, getting to hang with not only Goldfinger and Less Than Jake, but everyone involved on that Fireball tour for a few weeks of fun!"
You didn’t start your music life out playing drums, and only started picking up the sticks when you were 14. What was it that made you decide you wanted to play drums?
"Honestly, I only picked up the drumsticks because there were barely any other drummers in my local area, or at least ones that I knew. I was in a band with friends from school when I was around 14, and there was literally like 2 drummers in our entire school, and both of them were in multiple bands. So after floating the idea around that maybe we’d ask of of them to drum for us (making our band like their fourth or fifth band), and realizing that they would never really care about being in our band, I went ahead and volunteered to try and learn drums.
I borrowed a kit from a friend of my older brother that weekend, and sat down and probably tried to play a few songs on the radio at that time — Bush, Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam, etc — I actually think it was 'The Sweater Song' by Weezer where I actually “got it” and was able to kinda play the drums to that song, and I was like, “OK, maybe I can do this!” Years later (and after tons of frustration), I obviously realized that was the right decision, but it still blows my mind to think about how random it came to be for me.”
For myself, Queen and Roger Taylor were the reason I started playing drums in the first place when I was nine or ten years old, while bands a few years later like you guys, Blink 182 and Yellowcard made me want to play pop-punk. Who were your earliest drumming influences, and have they changed much over the last twenty-five years?
"When I started playing I basically just played along with songs on the radio at that time, stuff that I was already jamming to on guitar, so it was a lot of 90s alternative and metal. Bands like Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, Pantera, etc. So, I’d have to say, some of those drummers would have to be early influences on me.
I never took a drum lesson, and I wasn’t a huge person on learning that way, so I didn’t have some of the classic influences that a lot of people have, like the Neal Pearts or John Bonhams or what not. I really just wanted to enjoy learning the drums, so I’d rather (try) to play along to what Lars Ulrich (Metallica) or Vinnie Paul (Pantera) was playing, or maybe even some Korn (David Silveria) or Deftones (Abe Cunningham) stuff, those were the songs that I knew like the back of my hand, on not only guitar, but also drums, where I could close my eyes and just “picture” playing the drums to them because I was so familiar with the material. Another big drumming influence on me early on was Ben Gillies, who was the drummer of the band Silverchair. I am a HUGE fan of Silverchair, and first heard them when everyone else in the US did back in 1994 with their song 'Tomorrow'. I loved the idea that they were my age and had a huge MTV hit; it gave me hope that one day I could do something similar :-) So, I learned everything that Silverchair did, and even tried to mimic Ben’s setup, which is one of the main reasons why I play with one rack tom and usually two floor toms still to this day, because he did so. I learned a lot from their material, and will always cite him (and Silverchair) as a massive influence in my musical career in general!"
Being a full time musician can be incredibly taxing. When you’re not on the road or in the studio, how easy do you find being able to disconnect from that world and just be a normal husband and a father for the time you’re back at home, and what makes that transition easier for you?
"Family is everything, and I didn’t realize that until I had my own. Sometimes I feel horrible for the fact that before I got married and had kids, when NFG was presented with offers to play and travel right and left, I’d always say yes, even though some of the other guys that had kids at the time were trying to schedule so that they got a little time at home, and I would clash with them on that.
I now understand how important it is to be able to balance everything out, and how when your home life is suffering it can lend itself to a tough time on the road and vice-versa. It’s not easy to go back and forth between the two worlds, though, especially as time goes on. I can’t just go out the last night of a tour and get smashed and drink until the sun comes up, because you’re flying home the next day to children that haven’t seen you in weeks and are gonna want to jump all over you and play around, so there’s a responsibility to give them that part of you just as much as the responsibility you have to go out each night and perform on stage for an audience.
You really just have to have your priorities in order and understand why you’re a musician — it’s one of the most rewarding careers because you get to do what you love for a living, but there are plenty of sacrifices that go along with that, like leaving home and missing out on important parts of your kid's lives, but knowing that my family is proud of what I do definitely makes it easier, and understanding the importance of not only providing for my family but also leaving a legacy with my career fuels me to always do the best that I can in both worlds!"
Outside of music, I’d imagine, like any father would, myself included, that your biggest achievement would be your children. Is there anything else that you’d consider as your number two, if you’d like, achievement that you’ve accomplished outside of drums, whether that be in your personal life or business life?
"Yes, you’re right, my family is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, things to happen to me. But, I am very proud that at the present moment, I’m also licensed in real estate here in the US.
It’s something I got into about 5 years ago at the urging of my wife, who’s also a licensed real estate agent. I was apprehensive at first to have to study and “take a test” in my mid-30s, but I put my mind to it and succeeded, and now I’m able to do that and fit it in my schedule whenever I feel necessary. It’s a fallback option, and something that I can see myself doing as years go on in between tours (like I do now), or when it comes to a point where we don’t tour as much anymore.
It’s one of the best careers to have “on the side” because you don’t have to go into an office from 9-5 each day, you can literally turn it on and off like a switch, and only do it when you feel like doing it, so right now it’s the perfect thing to have under my belt. It’s also a very creative industry, believe it or not, because every deal, every property, every customer is different, and you have to sometimes think outside of the box to get things done.
Plus, you have to understand contracts (which I obviously have a lot of experience with), and there’s a lot of numbers involved (being a drummer helps with that hahaha)."
Being a working musician, COVID will have had a massively negative affect on your career, at least for the six months or so we’ve all been under restrictions not being able to tour or get together with bandmates for the most part. How have you found this new “normal” so to speak, having to find other ways to engage with fans, and more importantly how are you doing with it all on a personal level?
"These times have been tough to say the least, and like everyone out there, but really for musicians, it’s been really hard to have your career upended and have no clear idea as to when you’ll be able to resume work. NFG has gotten creative as have so many musicians, doing things like livestreams, and trying to generate more content for our social media sites, like YouTube videos (the acoustic performances come to mind), or even just being a little more active on Instagram personally. It does give me hope that whenever concerts do resume that our fans will still be right there by us because you can tell that everyone, from the bands themselves to the audiences, are missing live shows, and there’s always going to be a need for music, live music specifically, so I try to keep a positive outlook.
Personally, it hasn’t been a perfect time, because there are definitely situations where I’ll find myself getting bummed over anything, even little things, and realizing that my behaviour might be due to the fact that my routine isn’t normal anymore…there’s something to be said about being a touring musician and being able to go on the road pretty regularly. You might not like it because of the travel, but take it away and you’ll find yourself missing it, and even struggling at times because you don’t have that release that is a live show. I definitely miss that the most, and look forward to that coming back as soon as possible..."
You released your tenth album ‘Forever + Ever x Infinity’ back in July. How was it recording the album within the current global situation, and what can we expect in the next couple of years from yourself, New Found Glory and other projects you’re working on?
"Well, COVID situation or not, NFG is always trying to look ahead, and so we’re continuing to plan for new ideas constantly. Obviously touring is the most uncertain, yet certain thing…meaning, whenever it’s possible, we WILL get back on the road, and that means not only in the US, but abroad, like the UK, as fast as it’s deemed safe to do so. We had a tour with Simple Plan here in the US get postponed due to the pandemic, and we don’t want that to be lost, so that will almost definitely be the first thing we tackle.
On top of that, we’re getting into the 'golden years' as we call it, which means that for the next few years, our biggest albums will be having 20th anniversaries. Next up would be the 'Sticks and Stones' 20th anniversary in 2022, and then 'Catalyst' is right around the corner, so there’s some “built-in” stuff there in the pipeline that will allow us to have some cool, unique things in addition to the usual album/touring cycle that we always do.
And, because of this pandemic and having to find other ways to promote and stay in touch with our fans, I can see us continuing with some of the other things we’ve been doing, like these acoustic versions of songs, more videos, maybe even extra songs here and here. I, for one, am going to try and continue to be active on my YouTube channel (youtube.com/cyrusbolooki), where I’ve been posting “Drum Cam” videos from past shows, and I’d like to continue that and maybe add some drum play throughs or commentaries on individual NFG songs so that people can get a little glimpse into what it takes to play this material.
There’s plenty of stuff to come there and in all things NFG, and I’m really excited for the future…now, if we could just get past the present situation, we can all get back to normal! So, I might sound like a broken record, and I’m not trying to be political or anything like that, but please, WEAR A MASK and help to AVOID THE SPREAD of this virus so we can all just go and play/watch a show again, right?!?"
Keep up to date with Cyrus and New Found Glory: