Seether shows it has something to prove on its current album, “Isolate and Medicate.” The band plays The Knit on Oct. 25.
With four straight albums that have sold well into six figures and produced a string of rock radio hits -- including four top 5 rock radio hits alone from its previous album, “Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray” -- Seether shouldn’t have to worry that any album that underperforms commercially could spell the end to a record deal and possibly its music career.
But that doesn’t mean the group feels it can afford to take its foot off of the creative gas pedal. Bassist Dale Stewart said the group felt as much urgency as ever to make an album that stood up to Seether’s past work when it went to work on its current album, “Isolate and Medicate.”
“I think every album you kind of have something to prove,” Stewart said. “And I think it’s good to put yourself under a little bit of pressure, you know, not so much so that where you start maybe pandering or write in a certain (calculated) way, I think. You have to find that balance to where you’re writing for the love of music and writing songs that you’d want to listen to as a music fan, I guess, writing with your heart instead of your brain. So yeah, I think we had something to prove. In this day and age, we’re in a fortunate position to be in a rock band that’s successful. But we also appreciate that that can go away. So, you have to push yourself and try hard and grow and evolve.”
For Seether, pushing itself creatively didn’t mean reinventing its sound on “Isolate and Medicate.” But the band’s music is a bit more melodic, while very much retaining the heavy edge fans have come to expect.
On the recent single “Same Damn Life,” the guitar riffs are a bit brighter and hookier and kick into a chorus that picks up the intensity without losing the melody. “Words As Weapons” (which topped the mainstream rock singles chart last summer) has an especially catchy refrain introduced by and punctuated by a poppy ‘Ah-hoo” vocal part. “Watch Me Drown” sounds like it could have fallen off of an Everclear album, mixing power pop hookiness with some driving grunge-ish guitars. Other tunes like “My Disaster” and “See You At The Bottom,” though, are classic Seether, with thick and grainy guitar riffs that mesh with darkly hued vocal melodies.
“I think each album we do, we approach it sort of as its own thing,” Stewart said. “So, I think there’s sort of a natural evolution that happens in the music. Yeah, I think the older we get, I guess we kind of get better at writing melodies and songs that are good. And melody has always been important in our music. It’s always been heavy riffs, spiced with this sort of melodic element as well. So, I think at the moment melody is very prominent, but at the same time there has been a lot of really heavy riff stuff and heavy riff work. I think that was kind of our intention.”
The mix of melody and heavy riffage has been a winning formula for Seether since the original lineup formed in South Africa in 1999 under the original band name of Saron Gas. Seether made a quick impact on the worldwide scene with its 2002 debut CD, “Disclaimer.”
The debut spawned a rock radio hit in “Fine Again,” and then took off after the band re-recorded a version of its ballad from “Disclaimer,” “Broken,” with Evanescence singer Amy Lee (who at the time was vocalist Shaun Morgan’s girlfriend) for the soundtrack to the movie “The Punisher.”
“Broken” became a hit single and prompted the release of a revamped version of the first CD, called “Disclaimer II.”
The band has been on a roll since, with the follow-up albums “Karma and Effect” (2005), “Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces” (2007) and “Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray” each delivering multiple hit singles.
If Seether, which includes Morgan, Sewart and drummer John Humphrey, continued to pursue a similar stylistic path on “Isolate and Medicate,” the band changed up the process it used to make “Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray.”
For that previous project, the band recorded the album in several mini-recording sessions that produced three or four tracks each. Those sessions happened over the span of about a year. The approach, Stewart said, was partly a product of producer Brendan O’Brien’s busy schedule and also a function of label involvement as the album came together.
“Brendan had a lot going on, and we were kind of writing the whole time and then sending demos to the label,” Stewart said. “Our record label, it was odd in the fact that we were trying to convince them that we were ready to go in and record this. We had to kind of fight every step of the way, and we’d get (songs) back and it would be like ‘Not good enough. Come up with something else.’ So, it was kind of demoralizing. Ultimately, the album turned out good, I think. It’s an album we’re definitely proud of. I just think this time the album (“Isolate and Medicate”) was maybe a little bit more cohesive because we did it in such a short period of time.”
Indeed, recording was a whole different ballgame for “Isolate and Medicate.” Working again with O’Brien,” Seether finished the entire album in 16 days, which was just fine with Stewart.
“It’s kind of a musical snapshot, if you will,” he said. “We went in and we were in the zone and fired up and all excited about the songs.
We went in and we just knocked them out. It’s the quickest we’ve ever made an album. I guess it shows that you don’t have to sit in there for three months and kind of over-think everything.”
Seether has been on tour since last summer and will play Oct. 25 at the Knitting Factory Concert House. Stewart said that while his band’s success has been great, it does pose issues when it comes to deciding what songs to play.
“It becomes challenging to do set lists after awhile because there are a lot of songs you feel like you have to play because those are the ones people know from the radio and they’re expecting to hear them,” he said. “And that’s what they’re paying the money for.
“So it (the set) will be a bit of a mix, some of the old stuff that people are expecting and then we’ll try and put in some new stuff,” Stewart said. “Then hopefully, you can change it up a little bit and have maybe three or four different set lists and kind of rotate through those throughout the tour just to try to get some new stuff in every so often.”