Musical evolution. It's what every band strives for, but few successfully achieve from one record to the next. Then there's Papa Roach.
In 2000, the group scored triple platinum success with the scathing rap and metal hybrid "Infest." Embracing an "if it ain't broke, fix it anyway" strategy, the band returned two years later with the tortured, despairing "Lovehatetragedy," a ripping album devoid of hip-hop beats and raps. But it's the new disc "Getting Away With Murder" with which Papa Roach take their most mature and daring leap.
"We really wanted to do something new and continue to grow," frontman Jacoby Shaddix says. "We've always felt like outsiders, so we've just sat in our own little category and done what we believe in."
"We're big fans of transformation," adds drummer Dave Buckner. "But each time we reinvent ourselves, we do it without abanding who we were in the first place."
Unlike the many musicians who have changed their sound in accordance with the trends of the day, Papa Roach have developed by turning a deaf ear to the whims of the industry and the advice of so-called experts. As Shaddix sings in the chorus of the album's first song "Not Listening." "The more I learn, the more I ignore."
"There are always outside forces trying to tell you what to do," Shaddix says. "So we just put up our middle finger to critics and other people, and said, 'We're gonna do what we're gonna do.' We stand up for ourselves as a band, and our message to our fans is to shut yourself off from anyone who wants to run the show, and run it yourself."
The show is running like a finely-tuned vintage sports car. From the time they formed in 1993 up until the release of "Lovehatetragedy," the band was angry and nihilistic, lashing out haphazardly at a chaotic and uncaring world. It was easy to get hooked in by their propulsive riffs and energized beats and become a part of their cesspool of communal rage, but there wasn't a whole lot of room for good vibes. The new Papa Roach is much more upbeat and even more captivating.
"Getting Away With Murder" is still loud and abrasive, however the real power and passion in the music lies in what the band has previously downplayed -- melody and vulnerability. Shaddix sings with more precision and tunefulness than ever, and while the band exhibits some of its heaviest and most groove-oriented rhythms to date, the choruses are jam packed with poignant vocal harmonies that bond to your skull like Crazy Glue.
The title track is at once stoic and sensitive, driven by a surging rhythm, tumbling beats and undeniable refrain. "Take Me" starts with wall of tinny dissonance before evolving into a staccato, metallic guitar riff and climaxes with an enthralling chorus, and "Scars" resonates with aching vocals, a mid-paced tempo and textural washes of sound that compliment the melody.
"We're still a tough rock 'n' roll band, but we weren't afraid to break out of our shell and use more melody this time," Shaddix explains. "When I go back and listen to this record, it just makes me feel good. People ask me what I'm listening to lately, I ain't gonna lie, dude. I'm listening to 'Getting Away With Murder' obsessively. I believe in it so much."
"We made a conscious effort on this album to write really good songs, not just really heavy songs," says bassist Tobin Esperance. "We wanted to have anthenms that you can sing along to and good rock and roll songs that have energy."
"When you listen to Papa Roach, you get a feeling of passion and energy as opposed to just melodies," adds guitarist Jerry Horton. "I think that's what separates us from a lot of other bands out there."
Papa Roach started writing "Getting Away With Murder" on the road last year, and finished when they got back to their homes in Sacracmento, California. By the time they started recording demos, they had over 30 complete songs to work from. And when they began pre-production with producer Howard Benson (POD, Blindside, Hoobastank), they had 12 songs chosen and pretty fully arranged. "We knew where we watned to go," Shaddix says. "It was just a matter of honing it and getting it perfect."
"We fine-tuned everything," Buckner says. "Even if we liked a part we kept trying to find a better way to make it work. There were songs we rewrote five or six times before we were happpy with them. They had different arrangements, different choruses, verses, bridges, tunings. Everything."
Many of the guidelines for the creation of "Getting Away With Murder" stemmed from lessons learned working on "Lovehatetragedy." While Papa Roach relied on impulse and spontaneity to craft a visceral and immediate record for "Lovehatetragedy," in retrospect they decided the results were sometimes brilliant, sometimes scattered. For "Getting Away With Murder," they wanted o be sure everything was exacctly as they wanted it to sound.
Shaddix credits Benson for helping him realize the true potential of his voice. On past records, his vocals were vehicles to express contempt and resentment, but after surviving the Benson bootcamp, Shaddix learned that he could express a myriad of emotions.
"When we started, Howard said, 'You know what? I'll work your a-- to the bone in the studio. I'll keep you singing up there for hours and hours until we get the right stuff.'" Shaddix says, "At one point, he was saying stuff just to bait me and piss me off, and I shouted 'F--- you, Howard,' and picked up a big old vase of flowers that my old lady had bought me. I threw it at this big glass wall, which shattered into a million pieces. And Howard turned to oour manager and went, 'Yeah, now we're making a rock and roll record.' He was just trying to get something extra out of my performance, and it worked."
In addition to exploring new musical and emotional realms on "Getting Away With Murder," Shaddix also approached his lyrics from a different vantage point. Instead of immersing himself in hostility as with "Infest" or wallowing in dejection like on "Lovehatetragedy," the singer examined the repercussions of past behaviors and expressed a desire to reinvent himself.
Shaddix says, "I made some really big changes in my life while we were working on this record. This recording was a way to let those go."
On much of "Getting Away With Murder," Shaddix addresses these changes in his life. Some of those changes involved lessons he learned when he stopped focusing so much on himself and started looking at the world around him. "These Walls," one of the heaviest songs and most angular songs on the record, is about rebellion against the norm and expressing individuality.
"Everybody in the world seems to beliving in their own little box," Shaddix says. "I want to inspire people to think outside that box."
Yet with the introspection evident in the writing of "Getting Away With Murder," the end results are decidely Papa Roach. This isn't a band that wants to inspire maudlin emo poses, so trade those salty tears for pure adrenaline. They want you to think about the world around you, question it and make you act for change.
For the first time in their career, Papa Roach addresses political issues in their music. "The Tyranny of Normality" is at least in part about the corruption of a government that appears to be acting out of concern for the common man, but is really motivated by greed and power. And "Blanket of Fear" is about the shroud of paranoia that has been pulled over the American people in an age of war and terrorism.
"We live in a society ruled by fear," Shaddix says. "When you turn on the TV, that's all the media is feeding you. But I've noticed that fear is the medicine that the government wants to feed the people to keep them scared because when people are in fear, they're easily controlled. I don't buy into that. I'm not afraid."
Premeditated, flawlessly executed and conceived with a pure heart, Papa Roach have committed the perfect murder.
--Courtesy of Papa Roach
--- from the official Papa Roach website