"This is a recovery record," says Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose candidly about the band's fourth studio album, Seasons. "A bulk of the record is just dedicated to the realization that we've done some bad things to ourselves and people around us over the long haul."
It's not like Sevendust have ever shied away from the personal, the heartfelt, or the painfully honest on any of their previous three albums. But this time, these Atlanta-based practitioners of their own special brand of uniquely melodic heavy rock have looked even closer within themselves than ever before, uncovering some harsh truths in the process. "We wanted to almost apologize in certain spots," continues Rose. "While on other parts of the record, we wanted to come clean about some things. It's all real life stuff, and very close to us."
Guiding them this time was the sure hand of producer Butch Walker. Well known for helming punk confections (SR-71, Bowling For Soup) as well as pursuing his own eclectic pop-rock career, Walker may seem like an odd fit for the hard-rockin' Sevendust. But the band's relationship with Walker - who also hails from Atlanta - goes back to their earliest formative stages, when he produced the demos that ultimately led to the band's record deal.
"Butch is great," says guitarist Clint Lowery. "We already had a closeness, with him being from Atlanta and all that, and there was a language that we already spoke with him. Usually when you work with a new producer, you have to get to know him, learn what kind of person he is, and where his head is at. We already knew Butch's history, he knew ours, and we understood each other from the get-go, so we could cut to the chase and just get right to work."
Working with Walker was a homecoming in more ways than one. After recording 2001's Animosity in Orlando, Florida, and 1999's Home in Massachusetts, Seasons was cut right where it all started, in Atlanta, at Walker's Ruby Red Studios.
"Atlanta is always gonna be home to this band, so there's always a natural feeling there," confirms Lowery. "It's just about being comfortable. We tried to get away from Atlanta on the last album, and it kind of backfired because we wanted to be less distracted, but when you're away from home, it's kind of like any other tour you're on - you get these little wild hairs that you don't get when you're home. In Orlando, we did the opposite of what we were trying to do, which was focus on the music. Doing the record in Atlanta, everyone was really focused."
All the comforts of home helped to make Seasons the most diverse, groove-oriented disc in Sevendust's catalog. Without losing anything off the band's edgy, aggressive sound, the new album incorporates more pronounced melodies and a newfound looseness on tracks like "Broken Down", the groove-heavy "Separate" and the elegiac title cut. Meanwhile, heavier tunes like "Enemy" (the first single) and "Disease" benefit from the raw, live approach the band and Walker took towards recording.
"We'd used loops and electronic stuff like that in the past, but this time, I just wanted to get down to the basics of what makes us a good live band," elaborates Lowery. "We just wanted to make it as organic as possible. We didn't want to do any tricks or effects that we couldn't duplicate live. I think we're a good enough band to pull it off and explore different territories, both heavy and acoustic, and we just did that on this one."
Delving into different lyrical territory was a major element in the songwriting for Seasons, and the band took their journey in an altogether new direction this time. "There are songs about being pulled in a bad direction and how you're trying to keep yourself together and stay away from that side of life," says Rose. "A few of us had a rough time with drugs and alcohol, and we tried not to really go deep into discussing it, but it seems to have somehow grabbed the pen of a lot of people. We tapped into a lot of that and as a result, it's a pretty healing record."
"I believe that Sevendust has gone through a metamorphosis," agrees singer Lajon Witherspoon. "We were these young, wild kids at the start -- there was a lack of moderation when we were younger. Now you have men in the band who are sober, like Clint, and I think you've seen a lot of that on this album - a change from boys to men. We've grown up together. There's things on this album just dealing with love, loss (Witherspoon lost his brother in November of 2002), hurt, and things we've been through, how we feel now and how we've overcome things."
Just getting to the point of making a fourth album in the current musical climate, dominated by disposable pop, is a challenge and an achievement by anyone's standards, and the men of Sevendust don't take their position lightly. "We're the luckiest band around," says Rose. "The people that come to see us are unbelievable. They're like family. I know that when I look at the itinerary and see we're going to Fort Wayne, Indiana, I know that so-and-so lives there, and maybe we can go and grab something to eat with those people. It's a great place for us to be as a band - being comfortable and solid and knowing that the people who listen to our music treat us like family, we treat them like family, and we've got a really close relationship."
"I still can't believe that we've finished recording our fourth album," says Witherspoon. "And people out there still want to hear what we have to say, and care about the band. That's a beautiful feeling to continue to have such a cool career."