When the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Californication in June 1999 it was hard to imagine the career resurrection the band would undergo over the next three years. The follow-up disc to the sales disappointment One Hot Minute sparked the band with new life, and has sold 4.9 million copies to date, according to SoundScan.
Having come back from a lesser level of stardom to achieve heights as stratospheric as those they reached with 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik, you might think the Red Hot Chili Peppers would feel under the gun to produce something truly stunning. But, of course, that would conflict with their laid-back California vibe.
"We don't feel pressure like that, but we might feel pressure sometimes from having to work a lot every day," bassist Flea said. "Having to follow something creatively isn't a pressure for us. It's a challenge. We just get in there and do the best we can."
Not only did the Chili Peppers refuse to bow to the desire to make something as marketable as their last record, they refused to even analyze what made Californication so successful.
"Bands start being lame when they start repeating themselves and try to determine what was great about their past glories and then try to relive them," said guitarist John Frusciante, whose colorful playing was part of what made their last album memorable. "With us, we're just trying to make new music that we find exciting and that we like to play, and to do that, it has to be new and exciting and good-sounding to us."
On the band's new album, By the Way, which comes out July 9, Red Hot Chili Peppers sound like they've been flowing with the California breeze. While the single "By the Way" is funky and upbeat (see "Red Hot Chili Peppers' New Single About Joy, Car Crashes, Playing Dice" ), much of the album is far removed from the white-boy funk the band helped pioneer.
And the band explores some styles and textures they've previously ignored. "On Mercury" pulses with ska flavor, and "Cabron," which Frusciante said was influenced by Jethro Tull, surges with Mexican rhythms and doo-wop harmonies.
"I'm as happy as I can be," said Frusciante, who wrote most of the music on the record. "The writing experience has been like the happiest time for me. I love having nothing to think about but being creative."
By the Way track list, according to Warner Bros. Records:
- "By the Way"
- "Universally Speaking"
- "This Is the Place"
- "Don't Forget Me"
- "The Zephyr Song"
- "Can't Stop"
- "I Could Die for You"
- "Throw Away Your Television"
- "On Mercury"
- "Minor Thing"
- "Warm Tape"
- "Venice Queen"