Frank Sinatra wasn't the only one who did it his way. More recently, the band Staind writes and records their music with the attitude that they're ultimately the ones who have to be happy with it. And seeing how their two most recent releases each debuted at #1 on Billboard's album charts - it seems these guys have got the magic touch for tapping into melancholy and angst and creating smash hits.
Currently riding out the tail end of their tour in support of their fourth release, 14 Shades of Grey, Staind is just coming off a bit of an extended vacation. At the end of 2003, the band had to both cancel and postpone some shows due to lead singer Aaron Lewis' vocal problems. Lewis, after several months of touring, had developed throat polyps and swollen vocal cords.
Staind guitarist, Mike Mushok, explained that Lewis' condition has indeed been improving. "Luckily, they caught it in time. There was talk that if they didn't, then [surgery] might have had been an option. He got the rest that he needed and made some changes and he's doing good."
"We had a break for the holidays anyway, but we took a scheduled break before that for a couple weeks and canceled some shows. That's what we were doing in Spokane and San Francisco, to make up [the cancelled shows]," says Mushok, while speaking to me on his cell phone and standing outside of the Staind tour bus.
With shows scheduled through February, the band then plans on working on their fifth album with the goal of a late-year release. When asked if Mushok himself has been doing any writing yet for the next album, he described their album making methods: "You know, as much [writing] as I've ever written for a record - a lot of ideas. It's just a matter of us getting together and putting it all together. But basically it's when we get off the road. Actually, we did do more in the studio on the last record than usual. But when we went to pre-production we had a bunch of songs written, you know what we thought could be close to a record. When we got to the studio we had these other ideas and just worked on them and ended up recording those, and went back and did the same thing again."
Mushok continues: "The basic ideas usually come from Aaron and myself, and we'll come down with some arrangements of music and at that point everybody starts putting their input in, and kind of making it into what you end up hearing."
So what objective does Staind have for their future release? "To make it better than the last one." Mushok laughs. "That's always really the goal. You put together a group of, what we think are, really strong songs, and just make the best record we possibly can. That's really always the game plan when you get in to do it. And what's to say what's better than the last one? It's really us who has to kind of get that feeling for it as we're listening to it and go through the process."
"I think the last record we did was by far the best thing we've ever done. And if we didn't feel that it was good it wouldn't be out. It actually led us to doing more songs and really looking at what we had and we worked really hard to make the record. Before we put it out we have to feel that it's better than what we've done previously. And all we have to go by is really the four of us."
In response to some of the critics who felt that the Staind's third release, Break The Cycle, was actually a better album than their fourth, 14 Shades of Grey, Mushok simply states, "How the public views it - I mean, everybody can be different. A lot of people took Break The Cycle and got really, really attached to it, and I think if anyone took the time and gave the new record a chance, then they'd say the same thing. Everybody views things differently."
With their upcoming record, Staind plans on making a slight change in their sound by deviating from Break The Cycle and 14 Shades of Grey producer Josh Abraham. "Josh is great," says Mushok, "But at certain times you need to do something different."
"Fuse Music Television station. Early in December, the guys performed a couple of songs on the network's IMX show, one of which was the single "How About You." The footage from which was combined with behind the scenes clips and created into a video that is now receiving exclusive play on the Fuse Network.
"The thing about the videos is that MTV doesn't play them. Even MTV2 now - I think their most played video was like 20 times a week where you used to get like 40, 50 spins a week on M2. They're not playing it. And now there's Fuse, which is great. Actually a great new station who plays videos all the time."
"[Videos] just really don't seem to be as much a part of it anymore. At least that's our feeling on it. You go there and you try talking to MTV and they tell you stuff and nothing ever happens. But they've been doing it for years. They're a TV station not a music station. And their focus audience is young females. And the powers that be would rather have TV shows and get ratings. It's all advertising and that's how they run the station - music's an afterthought. That's how it seems anyway." Comments Mushok.
Staind will be playing at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb on February 8.
Email writer "Sass" at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her online at Rock Star Sass
Staind Press Photo Courtesy of Elektra Publicity
Staind Official Web Site
Fuse Music Television
Melanie "Sass" Falina Official Web Site