I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the guys in Saosin to discuss their new record, label politics, shit talking, and all sort of other good stuff. We talked for almost an hour, so hopefully there is plenty of new information and insight here.
Okay, let’s start off with the standard intro – state your names and what you do in the band.
Beau: I’m Beau Burchell and I play guitar. Cove: I’m Cove Reber and I sing. Chris: Chris “The Mackdaddy” Sorenson and I play the bassoon. Cove: I played the bassoon in high school!
So you guys have been touring almost nonstop for the last few years since the record came out. Are you burned out at all?
Chris: Yes, very. But we took six month off and then that made us even more burned out. Just kidding. (laughs) Once you’re on tour for a cycle, you get used to that and you begin to believe that is how normal life should be – going from town to town, port to port. Then when you get home, you have three weeks off, and you kind of get adjusted, but you’re still living in a bit of a dream land. So you basically get a clean slate – you can do whatever you want those three weeks. So when we took six months off, it was a little rough. It took me, I would say, a month before I could fall asleep in my bed comfortably. So I ended up getting a jackhammer and just having it go off near my head and that put me right to sleep. Within that six months, Beau and I in particular spent 6-7 days a week, 11-12 hours a day, creating our record I guess you can say. From the building of the studio and rehearsal space, to writing and demoing the songs, figuring out how to record and what’s going to work best in the rooms, and all this other stuff, then tracking everything. Within that time period, having all these crazy weird label changes, and producer changes, and sometimes playing shows in between, it was a ton of work and at the same time a total blur. But now we have 18 songs for the new record that we are pretty stoked about.
So did you guys actually record the tracks already?
Chris: Yeah, we recorded the 18 tracks on our own already – just the music portion. Because Cove’s lazy. (laughs) Cove: Yeah, I’m lazy. (laughs) Beau: I think the way I see it is that we all get much more inspired once the ideas are down and recorded and arranged properly, with all the parts there and everything sounds awesome. To me, that is what inspires the best vocal performances. I think we took it back to the Translating the Name vibe, where all the music is completely done, and then we can throw vocals on it once everything else is completely solid. We spent so much time figuring it out, and where we recorded it at Hurley, is in this section that is a warehouse. So Chris actually built all this acoustical treatment and we were in there every day and we would take one out and say, “Oh, that doesn’t sound good” or whatever. We were really trying to configure the room to make it sound good.
Well you kind of touched on this earlier already with regards to the label and producer changes – I want to ask about both. But let’s start out with the label changes. What is the story with that?
Chris: We’re on a subsidiary of EMI, which is the big one. We were on Capitol, and now we’re on Virgin, which is basically the same thing, but more of the rock end. Basically, we didn’t have an A&R department for like 4 months. Cove: I would say it was even longer than that. Chris: In and out. Either way, it was super sketchy. And it sucked for us, and that is one of the reasons we had to end up switching producers. Let’s even go back deeper into the past. When we released the record, we had the same team for a year and a half at Capitol. Six months later, every one except two people were fired. So basically, you have to pick up these new people who have no clue. And here we are in the middle of the record cycle, we have a single at radio, we just got the cover of AP, and all these new people were like, “What are we supposed to do?”
So did you have a hand at all in who got you, or was it just handed down?
Chris: No, not at all. It’s on to the next one. Cove: We just kind of prayed for the best guy possible, and kept our fingers crossed. Beau: It’s like if you’re a student in a classroom, and your teacher quits. You don’t have control over who the substitute is. Chris: We had a new team for a couple months, and then they got fired. They weren’t very good.
So were you glad to see them fired?
Chris: Um, yes. (laughs) Cove: Some of them, maybe. Chris: Yeah, some of them. So then, we had another housecleaning and instead of getting rid of the low-level people we were constantly cycling through, they got rid of the two heads of the label. So they’re gone, of course with their millions of dollars in severance pay, which my record sales now have to recoup. So now we are in a much more tight knit group. We just had a label meeting with our new team, and the team is the label, and that’s what’s cool. There was like 10 or 15 people in the room, and that was pretty much it. It was the president on down. It’s not the king and all his horsemen anymore. There’s the stand-in head, and even he’s not the guy that just signs things – he’s a lot more hands on.
Would you say they are in tune with what you guys want to do going forward?
Chris: Yeah, yeah. Of course. Then, as you know we had a producer change. Before we started our record, we hit up the previous producer that we used, Howard Benson.
You wanted to use Benson again?
Chris: Yeah, but we wanted to do the music ourselves and have him do vocals, which he is better at, and we feel we’re better a doing the music.
Is that the way you did it on the first record?
Chris: Well on the first record, we went through the whole thing. We all moved to LA, got these overpriced, furnished apartments, had catering budgets, and basically spent more money than we’re ever going to see, times ten. And at the end of the day, all we got was a little silver disc. This time around, we wanted to do something that we felt more responsible for. So we hit him up, and we told him this was what we wanted to do. We’re pretty much not going to spend anything to make it, so if it doesn’t end up working out, it doesn’t work out. At first he was like, “Well, I don’t think so…” but by the end he was saying he through we could make it work and be the band to do it. So we started putting the wheels in motion. We set up things with Hurley to have the cameras in the studio and have it blocked out for the next 4 months. Months go by, and demos are being handed back and forth, people are hearing new stuff. There was no production cooperation. So the last day of tracking drums, we get on a conference call, and at this time, we finally have an A&R person. For the people who don’t know what an A&R person is, they are basically your voice at a record label. If you don’t have him, you are basically a dead bug on the windshield, and you cant get anything done. So we had an A&R guy, and the last day of us tracking drums – drums that we were really comfortable with and stoked on. So we get on the phone with him, and he says we are ready to start pre-production. And we are like, “Pre-production? We are in the middle of recording drums. This is it.”
So the scene changes, life changes. Different phone calls go back and forth, and it ends up being something that just wasn’t going to work out with Howard Benson with the way we wanted to try and do it. Even just an attempt. It wasn’t even an end-all be-all – we just wanted to try it. If it wasn’t going to work out, we would have done whatever we would have needed to do to make it work. It wasn’t like that. He wanted to scratch the whole thing, and basically do the same thing we did last time. After some things involved with the last one, it was kind of hard to go back to being a band. We went basically 8 weeks straight, and then right on tour. So this time, if we were going to put this much money into it – and it is essentially our money since we have to pay it all back at the end of the day – then we want to gain a little bit more out of it. Beau is an engineer and a producer and I’m a world-class producer as well. (laughs) Cove actually has a Pro Tools rig and he is trying to learn. So we’re all trying to learn, and we think we’re entitled to learn, and we did learn. We ended up going into this, and recording the whole thing, we learned a lot. Exactly what we wanted to do.
So how did you end up with Butch Walker?
Chris: We ended up with Butch kind of by default. Cove: I would not call it by default, though. Chris: Right – we took a meeting with him. As people reading or listening may hate to hear, we love pop music. I love the Backstreet Boys. Just kidding. (laughs) Cove: Ne-Yo! Chris: The thing with us is that we like to have contrasts within our music – stuff that doesn’t necessarily make sense on paper, but it makes sense when we put it together. And that’s kind of where the idea of having Butch come in came from. Even us working with Howard Benson – he is the pop/rock song, the big hit guy. And we’re the DIY, underground, kind of like metal punk thing – we have a lot of those ideas. We wanted to find someone that would meet us in the middle, where he would bring us this way, but we would have the freedom to still go this way. Cove: On our last record, too, we wrote the entire LP with the mindset to make every song a single. Everything would have a big sound with a great “hook” you know? We didn’t want any sort of filler on that record. With this record, there’s still no filler, but we didn’t want to have the same mentality that every song has to be a single. Beau: It didn’t work out for us. Cove: It could have worked out for us if the label hadn’t fallen apart. At the end, we all kind of looked at each other and thought that was the best thing that could have happened.
I can see that, though, since there are easily 6 or 7 songs from the last disc that could have been massive singles.
Cove: We could be in the studio right now churning out more songs like that and losing some of our feeling and creative drive. This CD has way more creativity on it than anything we’ve ever done. It’s a completely different sound. Chris: We also have the singles as well. Beau: But we still like a lot of those songs. The “You’re Not Alone” type songs that isn’t a mosh song, we still love those songs. We love all kinds of music. We listen to everything from Shania Twain to Chimaira. We love it all. As for Butch Walker, I was going to say that I am pretty good friends with the guys in The Bronx, and I have been talking with Joby a lot. Cove: Sweet brag! (laughs) Beau: (laughs) He and I had been talking about how we weren’t happy with how things were going, and he was telling me I should look into Butch. Joby said he did some great stuff with them, and I didn’t even know he worked with them. So, since he recommended him, we decided to give him a shot. For me, it was right away – this guy is legit. He’s not just an Avril Lavigne kind of guy, even though he does a lot of that stuff.
Did you guys look hard at anyone else?
Beau: We met with a couple other guys. Chris: Not this time around. We went from tracking the music and the drums up until we left on tour, so we didn’t have the time for all the meetings and to do the whole game. We met up with Butch and he showed up on his motorcycle, and he’s into songs and weird stuff, but he’s still a geek, so that’s the best of both worlds for us. He can sit in front of a console and know what to do, and he can also focus on the song end of it.
How many songs do you think you’ll end up with on the record?
Beau: I think it’s tough to say how many will actually end up on the record, but I think we will have probably 18 songs recorded, maybe even more. Chris: Yeah, we might have more, which is good, since on the last one, we didn’t have enough for our standards. If we have crappy songs at the end, we’re just not going to put them on the record, and that is the reason we did 18.
Do you know who is going to mix the record yet?
Chris: No. With tracking it ourselves and saving a bazillion dollars, I think we might have the freedom to go with whoever we want. On the last one, we spent all this time and all this money, and no offense to Chris Lord-Alge, the record sounds great. But we spent all this time and money just for the record to be resampled and triggered and stuff like that. It was like, “Why did we waste $1200/day on studio rental for this premier studio when we didn’t really use anything?” We would like to find somebody that can make the most of what we spent so much time on, and get that to sound great before you just automatically throw the Led Zeppelin trigger over the top of everything. We want it to sound like our record, not the six records that were before and the six records that were after it.
Are the songs on the Grey EP included when you say you have 18 songs ready?
Beau: Yes. Same as on the Black EP that was released. There were songs on there – what was it called – “No Angel”? That got turned into “I Never Wanted.” So they may end up on the record, but there is no guarantee they’ll be in the same stage. It is kind of cool for people to see the changes, then.
So are you guys going to re-record “Bury Your Head” and put it on there? (laughs)
Beau: (laughs) We were so against putting that song on the record.
Do you have a title for the record picked out?
Cove: I have something I am working on. It’s going to come down to being able to incorporate it with the artwork. I really want to make something where if people buy the record, and they read the name, and you look at the artwork, and hear the lyrics, everything is tied into each other. So it all depends then on what songs we all agree to put on the record because it might change. Nothing is set in stone yet.
A lot of people were interested in how you brought back the screaming on one of the new Grey EP tracks. Does that kind of energy carry through to the other songs?
Cove: I think me personally, I finally have found the niche I have been looking for. I have said a bunch of times talking about the last record that I didn’t want screaming on it because at the time you had a lot of bands that made it so predictable and pointless sounding. They would just scream to scream, and there was no emotion behind it. I have come to realize that you can scream for something so long as what you’re saying has a meaning behind it, and that every single word you say, you mean with all your heart. We did International Taste of Chaos with Underoath, and there are a lot of bands that try to do what Underoath does, but there is only one Underoath. And the reason they are so good at what they are doing is that when you hear the music, and you hear Spencer screaming, he means every single word, and he is completely honest through that entire record, you know what I’m saying? After singing for so long, too, I think I am finally realizing my own scream. There is going to be some stuff on there with definite yelling parts, where you are going to feel impacted. I do like the part on that song, though. It’s like this wave that is building to that part, and when it hits that part, its like “boom!”
I think it caught a lot of people by surprise.
Cove: Well, I felt that in the music, and I think that is the beauty of that song, and even a lot of songs that we have recorded. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the music that leave a lot of room for the vocals to really move in a new direction. When I heard “Secrets” and that breakdown came, I was like, “Dude, that’s awesome!” And it wasn’t like a “Sleepers” breakdown, you know? When that song came out, I had people asking me, why I didn’t scream over that part, and to me, I even thought the same thing while I was writing it. But we all kind of talked about it, and decided why not write a melody instead, and use that to take people by surprise. So I think it is cool that I am learning and developing my scream a little bit more, but you have to use it with taste, especially in our music.
There was an interview that you guys had done earlier, where you talked about using Butch to bring out your “more marketable side.” Is that something you’re consciously trying to do? It seems to disagree with your earlier statement talking about making an album with less singles.
Chris: I wouldn’t say more marketable side, necessarily. We could make a record that is 12 parts per song, and nothing repeating, and all this crap. But the reason we hire people like Butch is to kind of formulate something that can be the best of both worlds. Because at the end of the day, for us to be able to make the music we want, it still needs to be something that the label can push to the masses. We need to have a balance between music that we really want to create and music that people will get, and are going to buy and want to support. We can make basement tracks all day, but at the end of the day, this is our profession and our job. This is all we do, and all we can do, because we don’t have time for anything else. So we have to make the best of what we are always doing. Cove: I think some of us like a more marketable sound. Because when you write a song like that – for me with “You’re Not Alone” – I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a song until I had heard it played back to me. Once I heard it, I was almost in tears, thinking, “Wow, I wrote that.” And I knew right then – we didn’t have the strings over it yet, we didn’t have the piano, it was just guitar, bass, and drums. I knew once everything came together with that produced sound, where it was mixed and mastered, I knew it was going to be that one song that I can look back and be really proud of, because I wrote that song for myself. And if it happens to impact somebody else, then great. If it was recorded in any other way, or mixed in any other way, or had some sort of metal guitar tone, it just wouldn’t have worked, you know? I am just glad that we have the mentality to be able to understand the feeling of a song, and what tones go best with that song. All of us sometimes secretly think that something will sound cool if it is super hi-fi sounding. Where everything sounds like Avril Lavigne CD or something like that, ya know? (laughs) Because there are definitely some songs on this record too where it’s like, “This could sound really cool with that string part, or that piano part, and 60 vocals going on at once.” And yet there’s some parts on others where I just want that one vocal melody that is recorded awesome, and I am signing at the very end of the day when my throat is killing me, and it comes across really aggro sounding. We all kind of hear that, and these guys bring the best out of me as soon as I have something to give to them.
So everything this time sounds a little more relaxed and confident, it seems?
Cove: Way more relaxed, definitely. Beau: I’d just like to say about the original question, the phrase “more marketable” just sounds like a dirty word, you know what I mean? I think if you were to interchange the word “polished” or “expensive sound” – those are the types of records I like to listen to. Take for instance, Blindside’s Silence – that is a huge sounding record. But is that what I would call marketable? Not really, but I guess you could say that because of the way it sounds. I think marketable just sounds bad to me. To me that makes me feel like I am going to have to shave my beard and like, if ska is in, we are going to start playing ska. That’s not what we’re trying to do.
You guys have released a lot of alternate versions of songs, including some acoustic renditions. Have you ever thought of doing a purely acoustic LP or EP?
Chris: We don’t have enough songs yet, I think. Beau: It’d be fun to do at some point. We’re just so busy all the time. Chris: We do a lot of different versions of things – piano versions, string versions, Rhodes piano versions. I hate when metal riffs are played acoustic like a traditional acoustic song. I like flipping the whole thing, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Beau: You can’t really play the “Sleepers” riff the way it stands acoustic. It just doesn’t work. (laughs) It’s like, “Cool, Metallica’s ‘And Justice for All’ acoustic…sweet!” Chris: So we try to switch things up. I mean, there’s 2 on the EP, and 3 on the DVD that no one bought. (laughs)
So do you guys feel like you’re at the point yet, or will you be after this next record, when people stop comparing you to Translating the Name-era Saosin?
Chris: I think the present is stretched. In the internet world, especially there is no such thing as the future and the past, everything is the present. So every five interviews, four are like, “So, you have a new singer…” (laughs) Yeah, it happened 4 years ago! Do you really want to bring this up right now? Do you really think you’re getting something new? Whatever happened when we put out those five songs with that original singer, are we ever going live that down? I don’t know. If people still come out to shows and want to hear them, we will play them. There is nothing we can do to satisfy those people that are dwelling on that. If Anthony came back and sang for us on a new record, people would complaint that it doesn’t sound like the old Translating the Name songs. People can be so spoiled, and take things for granted. Beau: Bringing up Metallica again, I was watching that Some Kind of Monster movie, and it’s like, if Dave Mustaine still gets harassed twenty years later, I am pretty sure it will still happen to us, and we are nowhere near that big.
I guess I will say that I was mildly surprised that people were still drawing those comparisons before the last record came out. Then the record came out, and people still talk about. Now here we are two years later, and people are still doing it.
Cove: But you can look at any situation like that. You look at Cory from Norma Jean, he still gets hassled about it, and they have put out three records since Josh left. Spencer – same thing, and they have put out three records since Dallas left. People still want them to play – and I still want them to play “When the Sun Sleeps.” It is always going to be like that. For people in my position, I love those songs, and that is why I wanted to join this band. And now, looking at this band compared to when I first joined, we are so much better musicians, we are way farther along than we thought we’d get, and we’re four years out, still touring, and we don’t have to get a job when we go home, except write. That rules. I think Beau, Chris and I have all said it – now you have the best of both worlds. You have Saosin, and we have our own sound. And then you have Circa with Anthony. I am still able to listen to Anthony Green sing, which rules. And it should rule for a lot of people out there. If you don’t like the music, fine – that is okay with us. We don’t write music for people, we write it for ourselves.
Since you opened the door for that, I might as well ask. One of the questions from our last interview was about a Saosin/Circa Survive tour ever happening, and the response I got was “Fuck no. That will never happen.” A lot of people are still wondering if that holds since Cove got up and sang with Anthony at Chain Reaction this summer.
Beau: To be honest with you, now, a few years after that interview, things have changed. Would I consider a tour with them? Yeah, for sure. Cove: I think if it was the right time, yeah we would consider it. When I got up there to sing with Anthony, he told me to come up and sing with him literally as he was going on stage. So I was running around trying to find headphones because I was losing my mind, and in that process, I was forgetting the words that I already knew. Those dudes in Good Old War, and Circa, and even Anthony – there’s no beef. I don’t think there was ever really any beef, he just left these guys in a really crappy spot. Now that they have picked up the pieces, and we have become what we are today, there is no bad vibes because we are doing something we never thought we could do. And we are better off now. Who knows what would have happened if Anthony had stuck around? I would probably still be delivering pizzas. (laughs)
Just so you know, it would be a better interview if you would talk some shit right now.
Beau – are you involved in any recording projects right now?
Beau: Well I just mixed for the band Drop Dead, Gorgeous. Other than that, I am focusing just on Saosin stuff.
Cove – one of the questions that came from a user on our site was asking if you were still abiding by straight edge principles?
Cove: I never once really claimed straight edge. A lot of people wanted to put me in that position. A lot of people tend to make judgments like that when they hear someone is Christian, or a Mormon or something like that. And define straight edge for me. You walk around to every kid at the show, and you’ll get a different answer. It’s like trying to define Christianity. I never once really claimed it, but it’s a healthy lifestyle, so I stick with it.
So you guys were an excellent interview last time, I will say, thanks in part to the shit talking. So here is your opportunity…any bands you hate right now?
All: Not really. Chris: We haven’t really toured with any bands we don’t like. Except Chiodos. (laughs) Cove: Here’s the thing. You can like the dudes in the band, and you can hate their music. This whole tour is full of good dudes. Beau: We don’t really have time to hate. Liking bands is way more fun than even remembering bands you don’t like.
So are you guys listening to anything in particular right now?
Cove: I just stopped listening to music like a month before we left. I just got into my life. Chris: I have been listening to Sigur Ros and the new Coldplay. They are a great Top 40 band. Beau: I have been listening to Copeland’s Eat, Sleep, Repeat a lot. I just saw them live when we were in New York, and I bought their new record, but there is still just some sort of connection I have with Eat, Sleep, Repeat that I just like it more. Cove: What was the record before that? In Motion? I had a huge connection with that. Beau: Yeah, that whole show was really good. I got that Lydia record and I really enjoy that one too. Cove: I fell in love with Lights. The girl can sing man. She is awesome, she has a great voice.
Alright guys, well that's all I have. Thanks a ton for your time. We all really appreciate it.
Cove looked like he hated his life when he played in Portland, Maine this past summer with The Bled. It was almost offensive, he just genuinely wasn't into it. The rest of the band were sick though. I will definitely check out their next album.
i never checked out the grey ep... i guess i'll give that a listen. i really enjoyed the full length despite the super polished production. from the way these guys are talking, i think a lot of people are really going to enjoy the direction their next release takes.