Since the release of their Flip/Elektra debut album Dysfunction in April 1999, STAIND have built a remarkable success story. The band have scored three major rock radio/video hits with "Just Go," "Mudshovel" and "Home"; they've played for hundreds of thousands of fans on tours with Kid Rock, Monster Magnet, Sevendust and with their Family Values brethren Limp Bizkit and Korn; and they've sold over a million albums. They were voted Favorite New Band in Hit Parader's Reader's Poll, and in Guitar World's Reader's Poll, guitarist MIKE MUSHOK was voted Best New Talent. They received five 2000 Boston Music Award nominations. They landed the headline slot on MTV's Return Of The Rock tour. Most recently, STAIND had an unexpected bit of luck that couldn't have happened in a better way or come at a better time, as vocalist AARON LEWIS' spur-of-the-moment acoustic performance of the song "Outside," from the Family Values Tour '99 live album, has grown into a #1 radio smash on the eve of the release of their new album BREAK THE CYCLE. And now, with virtually no break, they're going to do it all again.
"We feel like we won over a lot of people while we were on the road," says MIKE. "When we finished touring we only took about a week off before starting this record." With so little rest and more at stake, MIKE admits he did feel some pressure at first. "It was this thing hanging over my head," he says. "I had a lot of ideas, but as a band we hadn't written or practiced in over a year and a half. Even though we lived together the whole time, now we had to create. On the road, you just have to play." All four band members agree, however, that the pressure lifted after a couple of weeks as the new songs began to take shape.
In all directions--musically, lyrically, even in the choice of title--BREAK THE CYCLE moves forward from what STAIND accomplished artistically on their predecessor. Produced by Josh Abraham and mixed by Andy Wallace, the new album has heavy moments that out-thrash anything on Dysfunction, but the band isn't afraid to make some gentler sounds as well. The songs offer more of the introspective intensity found on Dysfunction, but this time, along with the anger and sadness is maturity, hope, understanding and even a love song. Above all, BREAK THE CYCLE solidifies STAIND's identity as a heavy rock band like no other right now, a group that writes real songs and imbues the most aggressive and dissonant sounds with a musicality and beauty that would be equally as powerful even if performed on an acoustic guitar.
"Over the last couple of years I've learned a lot about myself and about life," says singer and lyricist AARON. "There's been definite growth from Tormented to Dysfunction to BREAK THE CYCLE. It took me 28 years to figure out what I'm saying now. It's like I'm finally seeing a little light at the end of a 28-year-old tunnel. I hope that what I've written will help the kids listening to it have an easier time figuring out things in their own lives."
It's tough to pick out highlights on BREAK THE CYCLE--the album is deep with standout tracks--but band favorites include the first single, "It's Been Awhile," a song that had been part of AARON's acoustic repertoire and that has now been newly arranged for the band. "It's pretty self-explanatory," he says. "It's about all the things that you don't do often enough, like say you're sorry, make a phone call, let yourself feel proud about something." "Can't Believe," perhaps the band's heaviest song ever, features, in AARON's words, "a few seconds of singing, then all-out Anselmo screaming" (an appropriate reference to Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo). "Waste" is an intense track about a fan that committed suicide. "The kid's mother came to a show in Detroit and stood outside our bus crying. She wanted to talk to me as if I could give her answers," AARON relates. "The song is me questioning how everything could have been so bad, being angry at the reasons for this kid's misery, and also being hurt and angry that he didn't have the strength to pull through."
And then there's "Outside," the song AARON performed solo, acoustically, exactly once on the Family Values tour. The track, which appears on the Family Values Tour '99 live album, found its way onto the radio and MTV, and quietly became one of the biggest rock records of late 2000 and early 2001. "It's really an accidental phenomenon," AARON explains. "I've been playing it for quite some time. In the early days of the band, any money we made went back into the band, so two or three times a week I played acoustically to make money to live off. 'Outside' was one of the songs I played, but it wasn't really finished, so I made up different words every time. We almost put it on Dysfunction. Then, one night on the Family Values tour, ten minutes before going onstage, we decided to do it. There was never any thought of releasing it this way." However unintentional this turn of events may be, the strength of the song and the performance earned some well-deserved success, and STAIND decided to record the chilling, powerful full-band version that appears on BREAK THE CYCLE.
STAIND's roots go back to a Christmas party in their hometown of Springfield, MA, where guitarist MIKE and singer AARON met. Their conversation ended abruptly, as MIKE reminisces, "when the drunken host smashed his head through a wall and kicked everyone out of the house." With the addition of drummer JON WYSOCKI and a bassist (who would soon be replaced with current member JOHNNY APRIL), they played their first gig in February of 1995.
After a year and a half of steady playing in New England, STAIND self-released their debut album Tormented in October 1996. Nearly a thousand rabid fans attended the release party, and over the next two years Tormented sold over 4000 copies. Of the band and album, Boston's Lollipop fanzine said, "Unlike many a band, especially heavy bands that rely more on strength than dexterity, STAIND has songs. Songs you get to know. Songs you move with, go the distance with." [Tormented is currently available on the band's website.] They also drew plenty of attention for their fierce live show. Northeast Performer said, "STAIND's musicianship is striking, and their live performance takes their recorded material one step further: pushing the envelope, ripping up the envelope, then jumping up and down all over the envelope til there ain't a damn thing left." But by the fall of 1997 they were ready for bigger things. "So when our friends in Sugarmilk invited us to play with them and Limp Bizkit in Hartford, we jumped at the chance," MIKE says.
In a meeting that since has been well-publicized, their first big break didn't go so smoothly. "Fred [Durst] is a spiritual guy," explains MIKE. "The artwork on our first album was a bit, uh, graphic. [a bloody Bible impaled on a knife, with a Barbie hanging upside down from a cross] He threw the CD across the room and tried to get us kicked off the bill. They hated us before we played a note." Thankfully, Fred was persuaded to let the band perform. "When we came offstage, he told us we were the best band he'd seen in a long time and that he wanted to produce us for his new company," MIKE reports. STAIND eventually got a demo to Fred, who invited the band to his home and rehearsal space in Jacksonville, Florida. After Durst played some of their music over the phone for Jordan Schur, president of Flip Records, they became the newest signing to the label's roster. Fred also gave STAIND their formal introduction to the heavy rock world when he invited them to perform at Limp Bizkit's gold record bash for 3 Dollar Bill Y'All in 1998.
As before, the members of STAIND seem both humbled and thrilled by their success and all the things that come with it. "We love this record, and we can't wait to get out and play it for people," MIKE says.
"I've already gone farther than I ever imagined," AARON adds. "I'm just enjoying the ride. We're all about making music. That's why we chose to do this, because we love music, not for the chicks and to live the life of a rock star. It's not as fucking glamorous as everybody thinks. You're always on the go, always tired, always rushing to do nothing. The thing that makes it all worthwhile is the time we get to spend on stage. And I'm looking forward to it all."
--- from the official Staind website