There’s one thing Saosin singer Cove Reber really hates about the screamo and post-hardcore scenes that spawned his band: the screaming.
“What’s the point?” he asked during a telephone interview from Australia on the group’s worldwide Taste of Chaos tour. “Everyone’s doing it now, and it’s lost any meaning it might have once had. I’d much rather get across the same kind of emotion through an aggressive vocal melody.”
Reber’s consciously tuneful vocals make Saosin’s self-titled major-label debut significantly more accessible than their screamy 2003 EP Translating the Name, which featured a different singer. The new album is also more musically developed. Over the past three years, the Newport Beach, California, musicians — Reber, guitarists Beau Burchell and Justin Shekoski, bassist Chris Sorenson and drummer Alex Rodriguez — have figured out how to anticipate one another’s moves and complement each other’s strengths. They’ve also learned patience and strategy.
“We kind of talk secretly behind each other’s backs all the time,” Reber explained. “If one of us doesn’t like something that someone else wrote, we won’t go to that person and tell them we don’t like it. We’ll talk to everyone instead, and then figure out what we have to do to make it a good song if it has potential.”
Their game plan seems to be working. Saosin is a multifaceted offering that combines granite-heavy rhythms, metallic licks and strong hooks with cotton-candy harmonies that are equal parts Def Leppard and Blink-182. The album debuted at #22 on the Billboard albums chart, and single “Voices” has been embraced by radio and video outlets. The song, which features tinny, layered guitars over stuttering drums, is about the way people put on different faces depending on who they’re talking to. “I think that even if you don’t know someone, you shouldn’t speak to them like they’re a stranger, because we’re all part of this big melting pot and we need to work together to make our lives better,” Reber said. “Instead of taking steps backwards, it’s about moving forwards.”
The positive message in “Voices” is pretty representative of the rest of the album — and typical of Saosin’s desire to break beyond the anger and cynicism of most post-hardcore. For Reber, good music doesn’t fuel misery and resentment, it inspires discussion and offers solutions.
“We really wanted to write a CD that portrayed who we are as people and what we love to be doing onstage, which is having a good time and smiling,” Reber said. “And I think that’s something that has been missing from our genre of music. It’s not just instilling hope in people, it’s helping those people with the hope that they have, and getting them out of the place that they’ve been stuck in if it’s a bad place in their life.”
One reason Reber approaches music differently than many of his peers is that he retains the influence of the mainstream artists he was listening to before he discovered bands like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday. “I grew up singing stuff like Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’ and [Tracy Chapman’s] ‘Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,’ and not even knowing the right words,” Reber laughed. “There’s melody and emotion in those songs, but not anger, and I remember them being a really positive force in my life. And now, every time I listen to those songs I just start smiling because they remind be of being a little kid again.”
Saosin formed in 2003 when Open Hand’s Burchell and bassist Zach Kennedy hooked up with Shekoski, drummer Pat McGrath and singer Anthony Green. That same year, they released the EP Translating the Name. The disc was well-received, but shortly after its release, Green quit to join Circa Survive. After a nationwide search, Saosin found Reber.
“When I found out they needed a singer, I started flooding all the bandmember’s e-mails, and they finally got back to me to tell me to send them a demo of me singing three of their songs. So I did, and they called me up try out. Then, we recorded some stuff and the asked me to join.”
Reber’s inauguration wasn’t the end of Saosin’s roster woes. Kennedy left the band soon after, and ended up playing bass for Ashlee Simpson until 2005. His replacement, Chris Sorenson, finalized the Saosin lineup. The bandmembers wrote songs for their debut full-length in 2005, then entered the studio with producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach) in April 2006. Since the songs were already so complete, the record was finished in under two months.
“Howard knew I wasn’t going to sing well if I wasn’t happy, so he would always try to put me in a good mood,” Reber said. “The whole experience was extremely positive, and he helped me realize who I am as a person and as a singer.”
Saosin will return from overseas after their show in Cardiff, Wales, on November 21. But there’ll hardly be time to get over the jetlag before they launch a U.S. tour with Senses Fail three days later in Boston.
“We’re definitely doing a lot of running around, but I love that,” Reber said. “It means we’re doing something that people care about.”