"Our record is all about bringing the joy," said Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea of the band's latest, By the Way, which derived some of its musical tension and sonic intensity from recording in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedies.
"We were writing the record in the midst of when that happened, and I know the way that I feel has a huge amount to do with what I end up playing that day on my instrument," Flea explained last week before the band performed at Ellis Island (see "Red Hot Chili Peppers Blend Californication With Immigration At Ellis Island"). "For sure it affected me emotionally, and the texture and the tone of what I was doing with the band."
Rather than allowing turbulent world events to cloud By the Way with negativity, the Red Hot Chili Peppers drew strength and inspiration from their emotions and in the end used their energy to craft a record that would make listeners momentarily forget these troubled times.
"Anytime there's a place where energetically it's been filled up with a lot of hurt, it's a good place to bring joy," Flea said.
Drummer Chad Smith agreed. "There's a lot of negativity out there," he said, "so if we can do our part to inject some positive energy in there, that's what we want to do, and that's what we make music for."
In the process of crafting the spirited, emotionally tangled disc, the bandmembers discovered new paths that took them in musical directions unlike those they'd previously explored. Doo-wop background harmonies, textural keyboard passages and densely layered guitar echoes all figure prominently on By the Way, and the band toyed with Latin, reggae and ska grooves.
"I don't know if this record is a rebirth and a rediscovery, but it definitely is a discovery and a birth," Flea said. "I kind of feel like through our existence we've always remained very interested and curious about how to learn about music and get better at playing music, and we can find new ways to play music that are exciting for us. So this record is definitely another thing for us that's making it exciting for us to keep growing and reaching and stretching, trying to find new ways to express ourselves."
At present, Warner Bros. Records is working the title track as the album's first single. Smith revealed that the second salvo from the album will be "The Zephyr Song," which will go to radio in the fall, and emphasized that the band didn't strive to write hit singles when they worked on the disc.
"We really don't think of our music in terms of singles," he said. "We think of our records as whole pieces of art. 'By the Way' is different from our next song, and the whole record is very dynamic and has lots of different emotions."
A video will likely be shot for "The Zephyr Song," but there's currently no treatment and a director has yet to be hired. The band will embark on a North American tour in spring 2003.
For a feature interview with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, check out "Red Hot Chili Peppers: The Secret Sauce."