Vertical Horizon Aiming For Imperfection On New Album, Go

Pop-rockers take carefree approach to Everything You Want follow-up.

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

studio.

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

pop hook.

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.