When Jacksonville, Florida, rockers Grundig picked a new name, Cold, in 1998, they also adopted a new logo, the spider, because it described their music: slow and creepy.
The mascot caught on. After fans started paying tribute with tattoos, the bandmembers — singer Scooter Ward, guitarists Terry Balsamo and Kelly Hayes, bassist Jeremy Marshall and drummer Sam McCandless — got their own arachnid ink. This year they've gone so far as to name their third album Year of the Spider.
"It's the year of the spider because we've been doing this for, like, six years, and we think we've made a great record," Ward said. "So it's about time."
If their career continues on the trajectory it's taken since their new single, "Stupid Girl," became a hit at radio, it could be a very good year for Cold (see "Cold Pair Up With Weezer Frontman For 'Stupid Girl,' Battle Giant Spiders"). And a good year is exactly what they need right now.
"There were a lot of bad things that happened as soon as we went to Los Angeles to start our record," Ward said. "Our guitar tech had passed away. Kelly's wife's brother passed away."
"He died of a heroin overdose," interjected the guitarist. "So we just put our emotions into our music for those people that are gone."
The most agonizing moment for Ward came when he found out that his sister had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time, the singer was immersed in recording Year of the Spider and was unable to return to Florida to lend his support. As the weeks passed, he become even busier and she became even more ill.
"Everybody was just hoping that she'd go through chemo and everything would go away," he said, pausing for a moment to wipe his teary eyes. "But once it started spreading, it went to her brain and it really freaked me out. I was just like, 'Man, I don't know if I can even be here, let alone write lyrics.' So I decided, 'Well, what am I gonna do? I'm gonna put all of my energy and emotion into the lyrics.' "
Ward's distress about his sister spans the record, especially "Cure My Tragedy (A Letter to God)," in which he sings, "Won't you take and give her pain to me/ 'Cause my whole life I made mistakes, can you hear me scream?"
"This is the most emotional thing that we've done, and our fans seem to draw off that emotional music," Ward said. "Everyone has had their heart broken, felt suffocated, or had someone around them die at one point in their life. So everyone can relate to that kind of emotion.
"Making this record was very therapeutic for me," he added. "And I hope it will be therapeutic for our fans and for my sister. When you hear the music we created, it helps you a little bit. That's what we try to do."
Ward's girlfriend has since also been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Although death and illness is a theme of Year of the Spider, the disc is also colored with tales of professional tensions, betrayal and relationships gone awry. The surging "Suffocate," which is likely to be the disc's second single, is about a stifling and constricting romance.
"I've been in a few of those," Ward said. "It's just about feeling smothered. Everyone seems to like that song, but the record company hasn't completely decided [on the next single] yet. I love 'em all, so I don't care. Pick any of 'em."