Brooding British rockers Muse have a surprise in store for fans on their next album.
It's going to be upbeat.
"[Depression] is the beginner's emotion," singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy said. "I find it more of a challenge to explore different sides of your personality apart from just the downside."
The band has been touring for months behind its third album, Absolution, a characteristically intense and evocative effort that has garnered the longtime U.K. favorites significant U.S. recognition.
"It's nice to get that feeling of what it's like to be a new band again," Bellamy said of Muse's recent American success. "Over here, people seem to think we're all new and stuff."
Across the pond, Muse are known for having released 1999's Showbiz and 2001's Origin of Symmetry, and many have watched the band's climb from playing secret shows in rec halls as teenagers to winning the 2004 MTV Europe Video Music Award for Best Alternative Band (see "Outkast Win Big As Americans Dominate MTV Europe Awards").
"In the town I came from [Teignmouth, Devon]," Bellamy recalled, "there wasn't really much to do. One summer, we thought, 'Well, we've got nothing to do, so maybe we'll start playing some gigs and inviting our mates.' They were like secret parties for 15-year-old kids who weren't allowed to go to bars and drink."
Muse soon won a solid following and moved toward permanently curing their boredom by recording an album. They printed about a thousand copies of their first EP with the hard-earned dimes they made by spurning college for odd jobs near their homes. Then they took the album around to small record stores; they eventually secured a deal with Maverick Records in 1998.
Since then, Muse have won the NME Premier Award for Best New Artist in 2000 and opened for the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters and Bush.
"We always appreciate what we've got," Bellamy said, "especially this year."
While touring behind Absolution, the band experienced some major highs: playing the massive Glastonbury Festival, earning fans in the U.S. and receiving public praise from Metallica's James Hetfield, who said the band's album helped him cope during hard times. They also suffered crushing lows, including bassist Chris Wolstenholme breaking his wrist during the tour and the passing of drummer Dominic Howard's father.
"Dom's father died at one of our concerts," Bellamy said. "Right as we came offstage at Glastonbury, which is the biggest gig we've ever done in our lives, his father collapsed."
Muse's determination to expose their music to fans Stateside, and the strength of the bandmembers' bonds, carried them through.
"I think you need some kind of intimacy between the band," Bellamy said. "It's a point of reference that we can remember where we were before this all happened. I think that helps us get through those things."
Bellamy is channeling his emotion into writing new songs with a positive vibe. Where Absolution is characterized by lyrics infused with dramatic melancholy, fueled by speeding percussion and screaming guitars, on the next album, Bellamy is looking to "draw on things like optimism and hope."
Bellamy said Muse won't officially get started on the follow-up to Absolution for a few months. In the meantime, the band will finish up its tour and go through one more major personality change for a set of upcoming shows at the massive Earl's Court in London on December 19 and 20.
"I'm just trying to get my head around doing the biggest headlining gigs we've ever done in London," Bellamy said. "We've got to try to become a proper arena-rock band."