Shinedown formed in 2002 and after a few lineup changes, it now consists of Brent Smith, Zach Myers, Eric Bass and Barry Kerch. Since their beginnings, they have released four albums, 15 singles and two live albums. This year marked the release of their latest work “Amaryllis”, which the band feels is their greatest album yet. On top of that, they also scored a spot on the soundtrack for The Avengers movie with their song “I’m Alive”. A couple of weeks ago, the band was in Montreal for the first time since 2010. After a little small talk about touring, poutine and Tim Hortons, I got my things set up and we started this discussion that was mainly focused on “Amaryllis”, an album Eric and Zach are very proud of.
CONFRONT: Speaking of touring, what’s your dream tour?
ZACH: Mine would be Shinedown, Foo Fighters and U2.
ERIC: I’d probably add Muse in there.
ZACH: And it would be a world tour. When you’re a band like U2, Muse or Foo Fighters, you get to go places like Dubai and Antigua and you got fans everywhere. Us, not being able to go to those sorts of markets, it would be really good to be able to do that and plus they’re some of the greatest bands in the world.
CONFRONT: And what is your most memorable tour so far?
ZACH: For me, it would have to be the acoustic tour. I felt we became tighter as a band and I felt there was an audience there but we were more concerned about playing with each other.
CONFRONT: It’s a different experience right?
ERIC: As a four-piece band, basically a power trio and a singer, and trying to make records that have a lot of stuff going on with synthesisers and string sections and all that, when we play a full electric show, we’re running all that and it’s a very put-together show. But we write a lot of our songs on acoustic guitars when we do an acoustic tour, it gives us the chance to play off of each other and it’s more intimate. We’re more exposed. Also, in order to recreate all that stuff, we have some of our friends come out and play with us so it was a really special tour. The Carnival Madness tour we did was special for me because we got to tour with a lot of our friends. We were having fun, hanging out with people we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s fun to actually go on a tour and get to see them every day. Really for me, it’s all about the personal experience and the people. It’s still about the show; that’s why you do it; it’s your life, it’s what you do so when you have those special tours you connect to other bands, and have a lot of fun that’s what sticks out to me.
CONFRONT: Then it makes more fun than an actual job right?
ERIC: Yeah, you’re away from home, so that gives you a little more sense of community and family. You’re more of a traveling city at that point than a traveling show you know?You’re traveling with hundreds of other people, rather than just your little group.
CONFRONT: So let’s talk about your latest album a little bit. It came out in March right? How has the response been to that?
ERIC: It debuted number 4 in the United States on the Billboard top 100.
ZACH: It’s our highest debut.
ERIC: It’s been number 2 iTunes for a couple weeks. Could not beat Lionel Ritchie out.
ZACH: It got passed Madonna, got passed Adele but could not beet Lionel Ritchie.
ERIC: That was amazing though. When “Sound of Madness” came out, it was number 8 on the Billboard and sold 50 000 records that week and this was number 4 and sold 106 000. So that was a huge milestone for us, we are very humbled and we always look forward. You take those things in and that was a very cool moment. The biggest thing for me is actually hearing a lot of people saying this is our best record and that they didn’t think we could outdo “The Sound of Madness” but we did. That’s a huge thing for us because “Sound of Madness” was a really successful record for us so while we weren’t thinking of that the whole time we were making it, it’s still on the back of your mind when you put it out. Especially in this day and age with social media and instant reaction, the record is out there and immediately, the people are reacting to it; there’s no delay time. You don’t wait for reviews to come out in papers anymore and the great thing about it was a massive amount of positive comments remarks and there were a few really negative remarks. The thing is, people either love it or they hate it, there’s no middle. That means you’ve done something right.
CONFRONT: And do you think your sound reflects the band’s growth over the years?
ZACH: Absolutely. I think getting older, we’re not the band who hits the target and then takes the week off. We’re the band that hits the target and says “now what?” and I think that’s the beautiful part of our band. We’re like that as far as musicianship goes too. You hit the target, you make a record like “Sound of Madness” and then you say now what? Now what can we do on the next record? Eric has been in the band 5 years now and he plays every instrument. I think he’s the most creative person in the band so it’s nice to have that element in there. I come from blues and rock. Brent is just a soulful kind of singing and Barry is just the most rock solid person in the world. We’re not resting on our laurels as far as playing goes; we’re trying to get better and trying to learn things from each other. I think this is why this record is what it is and why it’s musically definitely the best record we’ve ever made. We grew and there are so many different textures on this record that weren’t on the last one, which I love. It sets a really picturesque kind of landscape musically. Songs like “Amaryllis” are so huge and beautiful.
CONFRONT: And what is your favorite track off of it?
ZACH: Mine is “I’ll Follow You” or “Through the Ghost”. It’s always the piano and the ballad ones that really get to me. “Amaryllis” is growing on me more every day though, kind of like “The Crow & the Butterfly” on “Sound of Madness”.
ERIC: I like “I’ll Follow You” and “Unity” and “Ana Rose”! They stick out to me. “Enemies” is fun for a heavy song.
ZACH: Yeah “Enemies” is fun! If I had to pick a heavy song, I would pick that one. It’s just I’m a sucker for piano. I came in, we were writing in shifts so I went out, then Eric went out and then we came out together. When I arrived the second time, they had just finished “I’ll Follow You” and I just remember hearing it in its early stages and thinking it was the first complete thought that he had finished lyrically. That’s what I liked about it and I liked that Eric had kind of pushed it to that point. To me, that’s why it’s my favorite song and it just makes the most sense as to where we were in the writing at the time. It hit me kind of hard.
ERIC: Especially when getting out and playing these songs live, we’ve never been a band that sits in a room and writes songs together with big amplifiers and all that. We sit down with each other with acoustic guitars and pianos and we write like that so then you kind of have to learn how to play them live and translate it over. And we’re still in that process for a lot of the songs. A song will develop its own personality live that it doesn’t have on the record.
CONFRONT: That’s cool because it give them a new life. It’s not like you’re really playing the exact same song.
ERIC: Exactly! And they’re still kind of developing their live personality and I think we’ve only played “I’ll Follow You Down” 5 times live. We bring songs into the set one at a time so it kind of made its way in a few shows ago. And as they develop, you kind of pick out your favorite like that.
CONFRONT: And where do you think you fit in today’s music scene?
ERIC: We’re trying to figure that out.
ZACH: That’s what our band discussion a couple of days ago was about. I think that this record is important right now and I think this is an important band right now. It’s a charming place to be able to say that. You’re not always going to be the cool band because there are bands out there right now that are selling out arenas only in major markets mostly because someone said they were cool. I’m not going to name those bands but I think that people who love our band, love our band because they love our band.
ZACH: It’s true! People who love our band, love our band, because they love what we do. (He was insisting on the commas’ positions) Because they love the music that we put out and for no other reason. They don’t love our band because of the way Eric cut his hair or because of the shoes I wear and l like that about our fans. And I think we made an important record for music, not for rock; for music and for saying something and for speaking out.
ERIC: The fact that we really do believe that means that we feel like we made a great record and we feel really strongly about it. It’s a piece of us and it’s like ripping a piece of your heart out and giving it to the public. That’s how serious we are about it.
ZACH: We see how it touches our fans and what these songs mean to them. That’s why I say I think we made an important record. I think this record is a step forward in a lot of ways musically and production-wise. The good thing about when [Sound of] Madness came out was that a lot of bands didn’t know how we made it sound that big. And we’re hearing the same thing from friends of ours about “Amaryllis”, which is great. It’s that landscaping thing that I spoke of earlier.
CONFRONT: And anyway, now, it’s so easy for anyone to get up there and be the “it” band for a while but if the bands don’t like them simply because they like them, those bands gradually disappear to give room to the next “it” band.
ZACH: I’m so happy that our band has done this and I was just thinking about it the other day. We just slowly climbed. You see the bands that [shoot up] and then it’s over!
CONFRONT: Then they just vanish.
ZACH: Then they just vanish and they go away! That’s why I love bands like Coldplay who weren’t selling out stadiums at first. Like Muse, who played to 300 capacity clubs that Eric went to see them at! And now they’re playing stadiums and I love that about this band too. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I wouldn’t have wanted our first record to sell 10 million records, I really wouldn’t.
ERIC: It can now!
ZACH: If the 4th one wants to sell 10 million, I’m perfectly ok with that!
CONFRONT: Earlier, you mentioned social media and all that so I was wondering what impact the internet has had on how you have to work?
ZACH: I think the bad part is that younger kids think music in 100% free and in certain ways, it should be. On the good side of that, you have a bigger outlet to get to those kids. Kids don’t play outside anymore, they play online and on their computers.
CONFRONT: Yeah it’s a little sad.
ZACH It is kind of sad! Where we came from, you had to fight us to get us in the house by the time the sun went down. We loved playing outside. Now, it’s just that day and age where music is so easily accessible and so easy to get and there are so many different genres, it’s probably one of the biggest double-edge swords in the world now because of the internet. Big studios are going out of business because kids can make records in their houses but then again, you still get to hear new music. It goes both ways.
CONFRONT: Then again, it gives an opportunity to people who may not have been able to do this before because of financial reasons or something.
ZACH: Of course! Absolutely! That’s the beautiful part of it. As I said, it’s a double-edge sword. These kids who can’t afford to go to Ocean Way or whatever in L.A., they can make a record in their house.
CONFRONT: That’s true. And what was your first big “wow” moment of being in the band?
ERIC: I’m from Charlestown, South Carolina and Charlotte is the closest major city. That’s where the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater was and where you go see AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith and Poison when I was a kid. I remember going to see Van Halen there when I was younger when I was 18 or 19. My now wife had gotten me tickets so I remember sitting there and I got really emotional as they were playing at one point in the show because I wanted to be doing that. I wanted to be playing music for a living. I remember looking out onto the stage and having this moment where I was almost crying. Anyway, during the Carnival Madness tour, we played there and it was sold out. I was on the stage and I remember looking back over to that same spot that I was sitting in because I remembered where I was sitting. And the same thing happened. I got really emotional onstage and that is probably the most profound moment I’ve had since being in this band. And then you look back at the climb that you took to get there; all the things that it took and the twists and the turns and the fate that had to happen.
CONFRONT: Wow that must have been amazing! And now, I’d like you to draw something that represents yourself!
ZACH: I can’t draw anything!
CONFRONT: Everyone always says that!
ERIC: I don’t know why this popped into my head but it did. I think the fact that it’s pink makes it even…
ZACH: Even better!
ERIC: Yeah! It’s a record in shape of a heart on a record player. I make music that comes from the heart. Everything I do, whether it’s mixing or writing or whatever. It’s always from the heart.
ZACH: We can make a shirt out of that! It would be a great idea!
ERIC: Why don’t we do that?
ZACH: We should! I drew a mountain on wheels with the four of us climbing up. I feel like no matter where the mountain goes, we’re always going to be trying to get up there. It’s more like a skateboard though.
ERIC: It’s a mountain-skateboard.
ZACH: It’s a mountain-board!
CONFRONT: Well for somebody who said he couldn’t draw anything, you did a pretty good job! Well that’s it for me thank you very much!
ZACH: Thank you for giving us a new merch idea!
For more info about the band and to check out some of their music, check out these links!
Official Site: http://www.shinedown.com/
Clip of Shinedown Interview: