Theory of a Deadman's first album feels like it was released a lifetime ago.
In 2002, the band's debut was soaked in the heavy guitars and post-grunge workings of the early aughts. Tyler Connolly's gravelly growl was notable, his jet black hair, tattoos, and all-black attire signifying the arrival of a new bad boy in rock and roll. The band's hit project, Gasoline, expanded on the post-grunge fixings of its predecessor but dipped into a previously untapped commercial sensibility. "No Surprise" was filled with the angst of a relationship turned sour, but the band's unique fusion of country and rock, combined with an ear worm of a chorus, made for commercial success. Meanwhile, tracks like "Santa Monica" and "Since You've Been Gone" showed the versatility of Connolly's range: at one moment coarse and abrasive, the next open and cathartic.
Over the next 20 years, the band would slowly shed their post-grunge skin and lean more into these radio-friendly sensibilities. Now, after six albums, Theory of a Deadman isn't even the same band anymore. They've even shortened their name. "The darkness is definitely still there," said frontman Tyler Connolly, "but what inspired the change? I think I had written every riff there was on the guitar!" After 30 years playing guitar, Connolly has transitioned over to the piano. "It awakened this creativity," he said. "It also allowed the kind of room for us to be a band where we all have our effects." The frontman sat down with Popdust to talk about the band's new album, Say Nothing, their drastic change in sound, and the effects of the #MeToo movement.
THEORY - History Of Violence [OFFICIAL VIDEO] www.youtube.com
What transpired between Wake Up Call and Say Nothing? It seems like you guys got back into the studio pretty quickly.
"I think it was just a lack of time off. We weren't allowed to decompress from Wake Up Call, so a lack of sleep, and [going back into the studio] is where a lot of the inspiration came from. The creative process was very similar outside of having time off."
Sonically, the two sound similar. Who produced them?
"Martin Terefe produced Wake Up Call as well as Say Nothing, and I think he was much more timid on the earlier record, not really knowing us. [On Say Nothing] the only difference was that he really went gangbusters! He really spent a lot of time with the songs he was sent. We were so blown away by how much input he had. It was really amazing."
What inspired your lead single "History of Violence." What's the story behind its creation? Why did you choose this song as the lead single?
"The #MeToo Movement inspired it. I think the #MeToo movement is so large and powerful, and it's fantastic that women are gaining strength and [fighting for] equality. Being an all-male band, I think for us to support that is what we're looking to do with "History of Violence." There was no story behind it other than the fact that we wanted to create something to help women. The label chose the song as the lead single, and we're very happy they did; we love the song and it's great that it's out there."
What should listeners take away from it?
"Empathy for the character, but, also, I think it's going to help people, help women, come forward. Like "Rx," we hope it gives people strength to talk to somebody and say, "Hey, you know what? This has happened to me." Sometimes people need a lighthouse, something to direct them, and, for us, hopefully this is something we can do to start that."
Tell me about "Strangers," your latest single. It seems to be a similar sort of rallying cry.
"That's exactly what it is—it's a cry for help, a cry for unity, a cry for everyone to get together. It's not about necessarily who you vote for or which side you're on, but it's really just about trying to get to the middle and agree that we're all human beings and we can all have our own opinion. It's just gross how biased the news is. So [the song] is me trying to process how I can say something without sounding like I'm complaining or picking sides. You have to be very careful not to pick sides [and] try to get everyone to come to the middle."
THEORY - Strangers [Official Visualizer] www.youtube.com
Tell me about your tour. How's life on the road?
"It's awesome! I recommend it. We get to go all around the world. I think people assume that every night we're playing Paris, New York, or LA, when in reality, we're actually going to every corner, every state, every province. We go to a lot of places that maybe don't have internet reception, because that's where everybody is. I think now, more than ever, we've really hit our mark. We've been doing this for almost 20 years, and I think we feel the most at home now finally up on stage in front of all our fans. It's really a blessing."
How's your chemistry as a band after all these years? You guys are veterans now, it seems like.
"Well, it's interesting because when you start a band, you get on a tour bus and there are 4 guys that you've never lived with before and now all of a sudden, you're with these people 24 hours a day. So, in the beginning, it was definitely tough. You have 4 different personalities that maybe don't mesh. I think after all these years, we're brothers now. We love each other. It couldn't be more fun. We have a blast. And yea, guess that's what we are now, we're veterans."
You called Say Nothing your most "honest" album.
"I think I'm just talking about things I really want to talk about. I used to shy away from certain topics in the past, being afraid to upset fans. On [Say Nothing], I just dove right into topics like politics and stopped thinking about what upsets people. It's just a perspective that I think people need to hear. I think sometimes that's what music is for, outside of being an art form or a creative process, it's also sometimes a voice for a generation. I grew up listening to guys like Bono and Rage Against the Machine and you wonder if you could do something like that. Maybe as you get older, you get braver."
Say Nothing is set for release on January 31st, 2020