In the two and a half years Vertical Horizon spent touring behind 1999's
Everything You Want, the band discovered the secret to capturing an
audience's attention for an entire evening.
Some might call it raw energy, but they prefer to call it imperfection. And
now the pop-rock foursome that formed more than a decade ago at Georgetown
University is applying what it learned on the road to its work in the
For their next album, Go, due September 24, Vertical Horizon took a
carefree approach that they feel yielded even better material than that of
their multiplatinum major-label debut.
"We didn't sweat the details," singer Matt Scannell said from the Los
Angeles studio where they recently finished Go. "When we made
Everything You Want, we were very concerned with every note, every
16th note. It was very precise. I felt like it was important for us to back
off a little bit this time around and let the humanity of the performances
come through a little bit allow some of the live feeling to come
through. To me, there's perfection in energy."
The album's title is an appropriate summation of the recording session
as in the "just go for it" mentality though it also fits with
much of the album's subject matter.
"It's a very active word," Scannell said. "A lot of the themes in these
songs are about taking control of your life and living it the way you want
to live it, and acting and doing and not just talking and thinking about it.
It's really important in the big sense in a post-9/11 world to make sure we
all live our life in a way where we feel good about it."
None of the 16 tracks Vertical Horizon recorded for Go (only 11 or 12
will make the album) directly references the terrorist attacks, though
Scannell said the events had a profound effect on his songwriting.
"There are certainly messages within some of the songs at certain points on
the album that deal with feelings of loss and those types of emotions, and
also some feelings of, 'Hey, I want to get up and dust myself off and get on
with my life,' " he explained. "Both of those could be seen as viable and
relevant reactions to 9/11."
One of the reasons Everything You Want did well, drummer Ed Toth
theorized, is because the lyrics are easy to relate to. Vertical Horizon's
next album will be no different in that respect, only the music will be a
bit more experimental.
"We tried a lot of different methods of working," Scannell said. "There's a
song called 'Forever' that I love. We started out with a drum loop and an
acoustic guitar, and those sort of became the sacred tracks of the song. The
feeling of the song was encapsulated in those tracks, and we felt free to
paint different colors over those with the band performing live. That was a
cool way for us to work."
On another track, "Inside," the band and producer John Shanks (Sheryl Crow,
Michelle Branch) composed it as if it were an orchestra piece and then
filled it out with a string section. "It opens up and we're not in a hurry
to get anywhere," bassist Sean Hurley explained. "There's a theme in the
verses, and the final verses are variations on the main theme. The choruses
are just wham, right there distorted guitars, heavy bass. And then
the song continues where it might normally end, not in a self-indulgent way,
but more like, 'I'm not ready for this to end because it feels good.' To not
edit ourselves too much is very exciting."
Although Vertical Horizon, whose lineup also includes guitarist Keith Kane,
have not decided on a first single (or a final track list), both Toth and
Hurley are leaning toward "When You Cry," a harder rock tune with a sharp
Scannell, however, is partial to "Forever," which he wrote in a half an hour
when he woke up in the middle of the night last fall with a creative urge.
"When you have to earn a song and sweat over every detail, those songs
really feel like they are yours," he said. "But every once in a while it's
really fun when a song comes out of the blue and presents itself almost as
if it's from a third person."
Other tracks that will likely make the album include "Underwater" and
"Sunshine," "which grabs you by the collar and tells you what it wants to
say and then lets you go," according to Toth.
Vertical Horizon will take a few weeks off this summer but plan on hitting
the road to promote Go in August.