“This record is about all the connections I have in my life,” says Jacoby Shaddix, frontman for Papa Roach. “It’s what I feel with my band, with music, with myself, with friends and with our fans when we come together. When we connect, we all become something greater.”
Which helps explains The Connection, the title of Papa Roach’s seventh album and first full-length studio record for Eleven Seven Music. It's a remarkably modern record that both solidifies the hard rock group’s signature sound – big choruses, loud guitars, raw introspection – while sonically taking a great leap ahead.
Exploring new musical territory is nothing new for the California band (rounded out by Jerry Horton, Tobin Esperance and Tony Palermo), which over the course of almost two decades has released an impressively diverse string of Gold, Platinum and Multi- Platinum records, starting with 2000’s Infest (featuring their breakout single “Last Resort”) through 2009’s top 10 album Metamorphosis. In that time, Papa Roach has racked up dozens of hits, including “She Loves Me Not,” “Getting Away with Murder,” “Scars,” “...To Be Loved,” “Forever,” “Lifeline” and “Kick in the Teeth."
The only thing those songs have in common? A refusal to stand put and play it safe.
“I look back on this band's history, and we’ve changed so much,” says Esperance, Papa Roach's bassist. “We’ve gone from spastic punk rock kids to grown men with kids, families, wives, from no money to big hits to battling addiction. We’ve done it all together, and we’re still changing, still evolving and figuring it out -- lyrically and musically.”
Interestingly, The Connection ended up a far different record than was originally envisioned. “The theme of the record is that I’m fucked up and getting my life back together,” explains Shaddix. “I didn’t originally want to write about all the dark stuff going on in my life – I wanted to be positive and uplifting. But our producer [James Michael] was like “write what’s going on in your life. It’s falling apart? Write about it! That’s why this album is so personal and dark.”
"Working with James was really, really cool," adds Horton. "He's a great musician and understands not just how to write a song, but he always got where we were coming from and what the main staples of our sound are."
While dealing with tumultuous personal issues, the band also wanted to test new waters. “We're always inspired by new sounds,” says Esperance. “We wanted to add some electronics and do something really exciting with that. It’s a natural progression.”
“Tobin loves hard electronic music,” adds Shaddix. “And if one person is passionate in this group, the rest of us will go along on that ride. And I think it's catapulting us into this fourth dimension of rock music, pushing our boundaries wider and farther.”
Recorded over several months at the band's Sacramento-based home studio -- The Red House, their first full-length album recorded there -- with producer James Michael, The Connection does embrace a strong digital element, while never losing site of the band’s ferocious energy. "We were able to take our time on this record, and in terms of progress in the band's career, I think it's a leap forward for us," says Palermo.
Tracks on The Connection range from fast 'n furious (“Where Did the Angels Go”) to moody and introspective (“As Far As I Remember”), touching on melodic alt-rock (“Breathe You In”) and even a few nods to the group’s hip-hop past in “Won't Let Up” and the first single, the John Feldmann-produced “Still Swingin'.”
“[Swingin'] was the last song we made for the record,” says Shaddix. “It’s about overcoming your largest obstacle/mountain/hurdle. We wanted a song to encapsulate that spirit, something so fiery and with a sense of 'I’m still alive.' And we made it the first track, this positive energy, before leading you down a rather dark hole.”
Despite the grim themes of the record – from the battleground imagery in “Leader of the Broken Hearts” to recounting the painful dissolution of Shaddix’s relationship in “Walking Dead,” an air of determination fills the record. “It’s really about, if I can come out of all this pain and to the other side, anyone can,” says Shaddix.
The band will release the record this fall and tour extensively, including a stint on this summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival. And it's on the road where the band recognizes its music is actually, as the album title suggests, making the biggest connection.
“I love what we have with our audience,” says Shaddix. “Papa Roach is four people who come together to make this bigger thing, and our fans become a part of that. It just gets bigger, and then it goes around the world. The connection music makes – it’s fucking magical.”
The Connection is set for release on Eleven Seven Music on October 2, 2012.