Rare is the band that heads into the recording studio with the expressed intention of replicating the last LP they'd released. And Staind is definitely not one of them, according to frontman Aaron Lewis.
"We're big on trying not to repeat ourselves, and grow in some way with every record we make," Lewis told MTV News — very matter-of-factly — this week from the Malibu, California, set of their forthcoming video for "Believe." "We need to feel, at the end of it, that we made a better one than the last one. I think this is our best record yet — because I'm supposed to feel that way, or else the record wouldn't be done."
On their forthcoming sixth LP, The Illusion of Progress, Staind, perhaps for the first time ever, took an experimental approach to the songwriting process, incorporating unfamiliar elements into their sound. As a result, "We grew as a band from another record's worth of time gone by, and another record's worth of touring. You learn as you go."
Lewis thinks that longtime Staind fans will be rather surprised when they hear the follow-up to 2005's Chapter V because of "how big of a step we took in some songs." He said some tracks, like "Pardon Me," "Save Me" and "Rainy Day Parade," will feature pedal-steel guitar, while one cut boasts a gospel choir. "There's also a lot of guitar solos on the record — basically, there are a lot of things that have never really been done on a Staind record before," he said.
As usual, Lewis' lyrics were largely inspired by his day-to-day existence; he calls Staind's catalog "an audio diary of sorts." While not a concept record, Lewis' lyrics largely correspond with the album's title, which the boys had settled on well before beginning work on the disc.
"It can just apply to so many things," Lewis said. "We came up with it because we were standing around, not writing a record when we should have been writing a record. We were giving the illusion of our own progress. And the title just stuck, and without any conscious thought to it at all, all the songs ended up, in some way, shape, or form, being able to be applied to the title, which is kind of cool."
Lewis wouldn't discuss the songs in any depth, just as he wouldn't provide many details about the video for "Believe," which was a cross-country endeavor. Why? "I don't want to ruin it for everyone," he said. "That'd be like telling people what the end of a movie is before they see it."
He did tell us that the video will begin with the band, piled into a clunker of a car, in their hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. In the video, the band drives across the U.S., so the clip will feature footage from that trip. The video ultimately concludes with Staind in California, and Lewis, singing his impassioned lyrics as he strolls across the sands of "the 'Bu."
"We don't really know what it's going to be just yet, but it's going to center around this journey from the East Coast to the West Coast," Lewis said. When making a video, "you always get a bunch of different treatments, and pick the one you think might be cool. But, they never end up being what the treatment says they are. I always find myself scratching my head at the end of it, going, 'Huh — I didn't really read it that way."
This summer, Staind will be hitting the road with 3 Doors Down and Hinder, and then they'll head over to Europe as the support act on Nickelback's tour there. Lewis said he doesn't mind being lumped into the same category as these radio-friendly rockers, even if Staind's first album was more metal than it was bro-rock.
"We've somehow survived in this business for over 10 years, and we're still here. We're about to embark on the next leg of this adventure we've been on — this dream I still haven't woken up from," he said. "These other bands, we're all just out here trying to do the same thing: trying to write songs people want to hear, and the powers that be want to get behind. Everybody has to group everybody into something, because they have nothing better to do. That's just how it is."
And at some point soon, Lewis hopes to issue his long-rumored solo debut but he said there's nothing definitive in terms of a scheduled release for that effort.
"The whole idea of the solo album came about because I played some solo shows, and they went over well, so I figured the solo stuff can go in the opposite direction do Staind," he said. "It's going to be more acoustic-based and not really a full band experience. But, I am pretty excited about it. It's a way for me to express my creativity in a different way."