In the video for Breaking Benjamin's single "So Cold," a convict is sentenced to have his arms chained to a slab of stone that he must carry through the woods and into a deep river. But he's not the only one who suffered.
"There were ticks and leeches all over the place," frontman Ben Burnley said of the daylong shoot directed by Smith n' Borin in April. "Fortunately, I was standing on the land, but [guitarist] Aaron [Fink] and [bassist] Markus [James] were in the bog, and I really thought they'd come out with leeches all over their legs because that water was disgusting."
OK, so the sacrifice wasn't exactly huge, but it illustrates the extent to which Breaking Benjamin are willing to go for their career. Two weeks before their sophomore disc, We Are Not Alone, came out, they began a tour to generate prerelease buzz, which may have helped them to debut at #20 on the Billboard albums chart.
"Playing live is so important," said Burnley, whose band hit the road with Evanescence on Tuesday. "It doesn't matter how good your record is, people, they want to see a band live, and if you win them over in concert, they'll love you even more and tell even more people about you."
When Breaking Benjamin break into "So Cold" at shows, fans sing along and cheer so loudly you can hardly hear the band. Even more thrilling for Burnley is that two months after its release, he can still play the tune every night without growing weary of it. "It's a really strong song, and I think that comes from everybody in the band writing it together," he said. "A lot of times I'll write the whole thing, but that one was split pretty evenly."
As much of a unifying force as "So Cold" has been for the band's fans, to Burnley the song is bleak and apocalyptic. "I always picture it as an end-of-the-world kind of thing," he said. "It's not about that, but I picture that because there's a line that goes, 'If you find your family/ Don't you cry,' and it makes me think it's because they're dead when you find them — like in the movie '28 Days Later.' I love that movie."
While "So Cold" was created completely by Breaking Benjamin, three songs on We Are Not Alone were co-written by ex-Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan: "Rain," "Follow" and "Forget It." The band hooked up with Corgan after finding out he had been working with other bands including Blindside and Taproot. The collaboration took place over six days in December and was one of the highlights of Burnley's career, he said.
"At first, I was so nervous," he admitted. "When I met him I was like, 'Oh sh--, that's Billy Corgan.' But after a while I got more comfortable, and then he just became Billy. I'd come in every day, we'd order soup, eat and then we'd get to work. It was great."
Despite such opportunities, not to mention their recent chart success, Burnley and his bandmates are still as humble as they were before they got signed. They see every act of good fortune as a gift, and they remain thankful to their fans for everything.
"We've actually seen a few fans with Breaking Benjamin tattoos, and that just blows us away," Burnley said. "That sh--'s permanent, which is such a compliment. I mean, I have no expectations for anything, and I know we're still nobodies. We're still a baby band, and we have a lot of work to do."