Post-grunge band Seether began their latest tour tonight in Florida promoting their upcoming fifth studio album Holding On to Strings Better Left To Fray.
The album will be released on May 17 on Wind-Up Records.
The tour will be making a stop in Pontiac at Clutch Cargos on Monday, May 16.
On Wednesday I spoke with drummer John Humphrey, who was at home preparing for the tour.
Q: I’ve got a bit of cold so let me know if you need me to repeat something. The weather’s been changing a lot out here.
A: I”m in Oklahoma today where I’m from and it’s starting to get warm and then it gets cold again and it wreaks havoc with my allergies.
Q: The tour starts on Friday right?
A: Yeah, we’re kicking it off!
Q: Getting excited?
A: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been off the road for awhile. We’ve done some shows here or there over the last year but mostly we were in the studio recording the album. We’ve definitely been away from the life of touring which is what we’re all about. We live on the road. Anytime an album comes out you can guarantee us to be on the road 18 to 24 months. 2 years you know of constant touring.
Q: I know this leg runs through June but will you be continuing on after that?
A: Yeah. You know it’s still gotta be laid out but if it’s possible we’re gonna fill in dates and go to Europe initially in June and do like a month over there and come back. Yeah we’ll be touring. It will be constant. Dates keep coming in.
Q: What should people expect from this tour?
A: Man it’s just Seether and some new songs and we’re a live band. We love and have fun being on stage. It’s what we love to do. Making the album was a lot of fun too and it’s always cool to create and write and make new music but for us it’s about being on the road. We love the radio festivals where we get to see our buddies in Papa Roach and friends in other bands as well as headlining our own shows but we miss playing regularly live. Really with this big old music business that we’re in I always say that hour or 90 minutes, depending if we’re headlining or not, that time on stage we control. That’s when we’re really us. I mean no holds barred and we love playing live and it’s what the band is all about. There’s a lot of energy in our band and we’ll have some new surprises. We’ll have staging and some new things that way and some new material sprinkled in, even for the band. Having played the same material for a long time, we have a lot of fun with it but it’s nice and refreshing to have new music on the list.
Q: Do you have a setlist that you will be sticking with or are you going to change it up?
A: We’ll be changing it up. Obviously “Country Song”, the new single, will be in there and we haven’t decided exactly which possible two or three new songs from the album that we will put in. You know it’s tough. We’ve had a lot of great success with radio and you’ve gotta play those singles. Being in a band now for over 10 years, I mean it’s an hour just in itself. Before we took a break for this last album we were opening for Nickelback doing a 50-minute set and all the time given was nothing but just singles. We’re very fortunate. Not too many bands can say for the first hour it’s just the singles because we’ve been fortunate in having that many do well at radio. We have to play those you know? And we like to throw in stuff we have fun with too. Some covers generally. Of course “Careless Whisper” was a success for us and that’s a fun one for us to play as well. Yeah man, we’re ready to hit it!
Q: Will there be any covers on this album?
A: No, no covers. It’s all original material. There are some B-sides and things that we’ve done that I don’t think will be on the initial album but might pop up somewhere. We did one that we have done on tv before. We did “Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young. We did that on Carson Daly about 3 years ago or so between One Cold Night and Finding Beauty and we actually just recorded it again as a acoustic with a cello and it turned out beautiful. That’s a B-side we recently did when turning in the album. That’s part of the album that will hopefully turn up somewhere.
Q: What makes this album different for you?
A: I think it’s a continuation really of Finding Beauty and with the help of our producer Brendan O’Brien. He helped us just kind of realize our potential. I think he helped us be a little more daring maybe if we were afraid to experiment. Of course with Finding Beauty we used a little piano and percussion and stuff so we weren’t nearly as afraid this time to kind of experiment. Ultimately, it will be Seether. We’re not gonna turn out a polka album or anything but I mean when it’s us in the studio no matter what we do and after Shaun sings over it, it becomes Seether. Somehow our playing and the way we interpret music means it has our signature on it. I think it is a continuation of the last album and branching out. It’s heavy with a lot of melody. It’s got a couple of ballads. It’s a medium tempo as well. It has great rockers and everything that this band is. Our track record is that we’ve had success with songs like “Broken” and songs like “Fake It”. “Fake It’ was stylistically a removal for us just as “Country Song” is kind of a new leap for us and no, the album isn’t country. It’s just that particular single was treated that way. That was the working title and I think Shaun [Morgan, vocalist] toyed with calling it “All Over Now” but the working title was “Country Song” because we had been in Nashville and influenced by that great town and the people and spending time there and it was kind of an homage to being there in that time. It was funny enough that it was the first one we recorded; the first song we worked on when we started writing new material. I think it gave us confidence with Finding Beauty to continue taking those chances. I think ultimately we have to like it. We really do it for us. We love it first and we hope that our fans will too.
Q: It seems to be doing well so far.
A: Yeah we’ve very fortunate. It blows me away every time we put out a album and have it already be in the top 5 at active rock radio and on the rock radio charts. We just did Lopez Tonight and it’s #1 at rock right now on Itunes. Six weeks before the album is out and we’re doing national tv. It blows me away. We’re very fortunate to be doing this and to have success and to be in a band in rock and roll for going on ten years. It’s a rarity. It’s pretty awesome.
Q: Is there a song on the album that is your favorite?
A: Wow there’s a lot of great ones. You know, “Country Song”, obviously. I think stylistically it feels like “Fake It” all over again in that it’s kind of a new single; a new sound for us. It’s another chapter of Seether. I want to surprise people. I could say titles but it wouldn’t make any sense to anybody right now. I think all the album is very strong all the way through. I think generally in the past maybe the first top of the album when you’re selecting song titles and a running order there is always 4 or 5 tracks that are really strong and the others are filler. I’m really proud to stay that for this one I didn’t care what the song listing was really. All of them were great and I attribute that to us being together as a band for so long and it not being our first album and hopefully becoming better song writers. I do give props to Brendan for helping us trim the fat on all the material and really put together songs in a smart way melodically. The songs are all very tight. They’re all their own complete piece in getting their point across or whatever that particular style or how that song is and each one is strong from beginning to end. I’m real proud of it.
Q: So you all did some writing on the album?
A: Yeah, we did. As a band we were fully involved and I was there from beginning to end. It’s tough to say but I’ve been in the band for eight years now and I can’t say that I didn’t care about previous recordings but in some cases Shaun would have the bulk of the material and would show me and Dale [Stewart, bassist] maybe the demos. I would go in and cut drums and maybe hang out for a bit and then leave. For this album we lived in Nashville together. It was split into three session for sixteen songs. They were split with about two or three weeks in between. We lived there in a apartment starting out and were working in the rehearsal space everyday. It was our routine: hit Starbucks and head to the rehearsal place and set up our little kind of Pro-Tools home-made recording thing and just start jamming and then go back through it at the end of the day and start picking out riffs and jams and putting it together; putting songs together. In the process you would do demos that go to the label to be approved. That’s how the business works. It was kind of hilarious because at one point I had a little rolling kit and I had it set up in the hotel, putting down drums and playing guitar because with recording equipment man it’s very compact and you can literally do it in the hotel. We had some complaints when I used the kick drum pedal from the neighbors below us but it was hilarious. We were really having fun getting this much time to work on and record this album. So yeah, we were rehearsing during the day and working at the hotel and all the time sending music to Brendan or the label and he would check off four or five and come back to us to rehearsal and kind of talk about the pre-production arrangement and then go into the studio and cut it live. It was a great experience and Nashville was, I know everybody typically views Nashville as a country town but it’s a music town and the people are so nice there. Being from Oklahoma and being a Southerner myself it’s like being at home so I was really in tune with it, It was a great atmosphere and it got us out of L.A. this time to do the album.
Q: Do you have an idea about a next single yet?
A: I don’t really. All the songs I feel could be singles. It’s hard to say. I don’t know what the choice will be but knock on wood “Country Song” will have it’s legs for awhile. You know the mark of a good album like our last one is to have 3 or 4 singles out. We have been blessed to have that and it’s awesome. That means we’ll be out on the road for awhile and touring and that’s a good indication that things have gone well and a job well done for us.
Q: Why do you feel you have had so much success?
A: I think again it goes back to touring. We’ve had radio success and I think the material with each album is open to a wider audience and has won us new fans incrementally. We haven’t had like one, you know the first album out of the box could have been a smash, it was like each album has intermittently grown and the audience has grown and we have just hit the road. We’ve won fans over opening for other bands. We have no problem like opening for Nickelback. I mean we leaped at the opportunity. With those guys it’s an opportunity to play in front of a big crowd and we’re not ashamed to do that. We’re a live band. I feel we make great records and we give a great live show and won fans that way too. This band has been a touring band since I’ve been in it with the exception of last year we’ve toured every year. I think it’s just touring and we’re blessed to have written some songs that people have liked and have done well at radio.
Q: Is there someone you want to go out with but haven’t gotten a chance to yet?
A: Oh gosh I don’t know. Soundgarden’s reuniting and that’s really cool. I mean I’ve always been such a music fan that it’s like let’s go open for the guys that I love to play. I’d love to tour with the Foo Fighters. That would just be a great fit and a dream come true. We played, years ago, we did Rock In Rio, one of our first European tours and Foo Fighters was there playing and we got to meet Dave Grohl. He’s a great guy. For me it’s just kind of those dream bands. Soundgarden: a band that greatly influenced this band. Superunknown is one of my favorite albums. Someone like that or Foo Fighters I would just love to do it. And then we’ve got got of course friends that we always love to see. You know Three Days Grace we’ve toured with, Papa Roach; those are some great guys. I love Jacoby [Shaddix]. So we have a lot of friends that we put on bills together because we like to have fun. It’s always a good time.
Q: Do you get out to see shows?
A: I do. I mean when we’re on tour I go out. I always love to see Papa Roach. Jacoby is such a great guy and a great frontman. You know, it’s good to go. I make it a point to go out and see the show before we go on because you get an idea of what the crowd is like and with Jacoby, a band like that, it kicks you in the butt and you say okay man we’ve got to turn it on tonight there’s no going through the motions. Not that we do that but when you’ve been on tour a year and a half you get a little tired and going out and watching a band like Papa Roach makes you go out there and lay it down and makes you say let’s go, let’s go. It’s like getting pumped up for a football game or something. Man that’s what it is. I compare it a lot to being a athlete. With a show like ours you’ve got to be in shape. A lot of energy and you’ve got to go out there and deliver it. Especially on shows with bands like that, that bring it every time.
Q: How did you get into drumming in the first place?
A: Music just as a little kid. For me personally I just was a big KISS fan. Just these four guys; this bigger than life sort of image. The mystique, the makeup and the whole thing. That was my first concert, KISS. and seeing this drummer back there with this drum set that seemed to go for days and wrapped around him and I just wanted the whole experience. It was an arena and a huge crowd and just over the top. I thought it was a magical land and I still feel like a kid. I really do. I mean I listen to old stuff for inspiraton and to still be doing this I feel like a twelve year old all the time. It keeps you young.
Q: Is there anything in particular you are listening to now?
A: You know what are some of the newer bands right now. Hmm…you know lately for me it’s been the old stuff for inspiration especially when we were making the album. It’s kind of like I go back to the old school for just vibe or inspiration. Always it’s The Beatles for me and around that time. I just think those guys, especially the later albums, were the kings of the studio. Some of the most longlasting music that just will go on forever. They made some of the greatest music. Amazing for a band that was really together for such a very short time. Huge inspiration! As a drummer Led Zeppelin. I mean John Bonham was an amazing rock drummer who I know at times kept things simple and straight but it was all about groove and twang and he just had a great finesse and was a powerful drummer. It tends to be a little of the old school for me. Especially coming right out of making an album.
Q: I know you lost guitarist Troy McLawhorn who left to pursue other interests recently. Do you plan to add another to your touring band?
A: You know the band originally started as a three-piece and we’d really like to keep it that way. We just got through with Lopez Tonight and doing “Country Song” and it went off great, we did it. The live show will be and always has been given a different treatment than the album. People listen with their eyes and visually it’s kind of a different thing. That’s not to say that we’re not hard on ourselves and we want to go out there bumming notes and knocking over stuff but we want to give a show. It seems to be about being visceral; it’s energy, it’s live and it’s rocking out. I think that’s a little bit different than the album where it’s about ear candy. Things that you can hear when you have your headset on. I think the three of us can do this and the three of us, we’re family, the three amigos. We’ve been together a long time and don’t ask me why two South Africans and a guy from Oklahoma have made it work but we really for some reason the three of us in a room together is Seether and I think we’ll be together for a long time. I love it as a three piece and I’m hoping we keep it that way.