When Seether’s latest CD hit the market in May 2011, fans heard a band that has grown more collaborative and, more than ever, sounds like a group of guys playing together in a room.
That’s the view on the CD, “Holding onto Strings Better Left to Fray,” from drummer John Humphrey.
This album was a lot of fun,” Humphrey said in a phone interview. “And we were a band, man, living together and working together, demos, recording, it was a full-band process and it was pretty cool.”
Indeed, “Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray,” saw Seether make several key changes in the way it created and recorded its music, beginning with the songwriting process.
On the group’s three earlier albums – “Disclaimer,” “Karma and Effect” and “Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces” – singer-guitarist Shaun Morgan had been the clear leader when it came to songwriting.
“In the past, Shaun has had complete songs that’s he’s shown and introduced to the band,” Humphrey said.
Morgan still brought some songs to the band in fairly complete form for the current CD (including the lead single, “Country Song”), but other songs took a different path.
“We were just in most cases jamming out ideas and things would start falling (into place) and songs would start to form,” Humphrey said.
And when it came to the recording of “Holding onto Strings,” the band also changed things up, going with a new producer in Brendan O’Brien and then following O’Brien’s lead in recording the CD in very different ways.
Yet, for all the changes that went into the “Holding onto Strings,” Humphrey said the CD still very much sounds like Seether.
“I don’t think we’re really far outside of the box as far as Seether is concerned with the (latest) album,” he said.
Seether had good reason not change its basic sound, even if band members Humphrey, Morgan and bassist Dale Stewart were willing to explore new ways of working together on “Holding Onto Strings.”
Since forming in South Africa and releasing its debut CD, “Disclaimer,” in 2002, Seether has seen each of its studio albums yield multiple hit singles, including chart-topping tunes such as “Broken,” “Remedy,” “Fake It” and “Rise Above This.” The latest CD has added to that list, so far producing three tunes – “Country Song,” “Tonight” and “No Resolution” - that have gone No. 1 on the active rock chart.
This success has continued even as the group has expanded on the hard-hitting, darkly hued rock sound that had become its signature.
On 2007’s “Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces,” for instance, “Fake It” combined a swaggering beat and poppy melody to appealing effect.
“Walk Away From The Sun” was a multi-faceted mid-tempo track that broadened the band’s usual instrumental palette with keyboard, piano and vocal harmonies, while “Rise Above This” employed a signature riff that was unusually graceful and melodic for a Seether rocker.
Humphrey said the “Holding onto Strings” CD picks up where the previous CD left off.
“I think of any albums of our catalog that I would compare it closely to, it would be ‘Finding Beauty’ in that it kind of started that new sound and some new ideas, and this is just right along the same line and in some cases a continuation of that,” he said.
Some of the musical progression, Humphrey said, came with the help of O’Brien, who wasn’t shy about suggesting ways to tighten up the new songs and give them more impact.
“All of the ideas were smart. All of his ideas were like ‘Yeah, that sounds great’ or ‘I understand what you’re saying,’” the drummer said. “We could have said, if there was something we genuinely didn’t like, ‘No, I’m not sure about that. That’s kind of weird.’
“There might have been that here and there, but not really. Brendan usually, everything he had a suggestion for worked all the time.”
O’Brien also took a different approach to recording the band.
“Before we’ve done albums with the wall of guitars, and there are like eight or nine guitar tracks, I mean, rhythm upon rhythm, which is kind of great for a record and obviously live it’s different,” Humphrey said. “With Brendan O’Brien, his approach was keep it simple and to do it like you would live, two guitars, bass and drums … .
“There is some ear candy, some of that stuff where when you put on a headset, there’s a Hammond B-3 (organ) in there, and there are different things that are cool that you maybe don’t interpret live. But there isn’t a lot of overdubbing and layer upon layer.
“This album transitions well live, and it sounds, for us, pretty raw,” he said.