The members of the Atlanta rock group Sevendust had to go on the road to
build Home, their second album.
The tone of the record, bandmembers LaJon Witherspoon and Clint
Lowery said, was shaped by the experiences they shared or endured
during 21 months of touring from April 1997 until January.
"You think about how much you learn within a year," vocalist Witherspoon,
26, said from his Atlanta home last week. "After two years on the road,
we would damn sure learn, and we went back into the studio ready to
record a second album."
In addition to inspiring their creativity, the prolonged exposure to U.S.
audiences seems to have boosted Sevendust's commercial fortunes. Before
this year, the band was part of several package tours, including the
Ozzfest in summer 1998. This year, the band performed on the Vans Warped
Tour and played the final day of Woodstock '99 in late July.
Following all of that concert activity, Home plastered
with heavy guitars, funk grooves and Witherspoon's alternating soul and
punk vocals debuted at #19 last month on the Billboard 200
While the album has slipped to #64 in the weeks since, the single "Denial"
excerpt) is at #14 on Billboard's active rock chart and
is at #1 on CMJ's college chart.
"It's an exciting time right now," Witherspoon said.
"It changes everything, because we have expectations for ourselves, and
we want to make a dent in the industry," guitarist/primary songwriter
Lowery, 27, said during a recent tour stop in Milwaukee, where the band
was playing a show with fellow hard-rock bands Skunk Anansie, Staind and
Powerman 5000. "When we got the news we were #19 on Billboard
... it kind of hits you like a motivator. Damn, we want to go out and
kick everyone's ass" (RealAudio
excerpt of interview).
Lowery and Witherspoon said that all is well in the bandmembers' lives
these days. Witherspoon even became a father for the first time last month.
But a casual listener might think otherwise from the lyrics on Home,
which chronicle exhaustion, frustration and life's other speed bumps.
excerpt), which begins with a solitary guitar riff and then kicks
into three layers of uptempo guitar-rock, was written about what Lowery
called the "disappointing attitudes" of the other bands they have
encountered on tour. "Headtrip, trouble with your head so in the clouds,"
the chorus goes.
According to Lowery, "Denial" is based on an argument with a woman, which
he recorded at one show. Fading in with majestic guitar noise and bass
drum, the song builds with Witherspoon shouting words that, Lowery said,
include some taken straight from the tape of the argument: "Why don't
you just say what you mean/ All I hear is steam/ And never say that to
me/ Never say that to me/ Wipe that shit off your face," Witherspoon
Other songs on the album "Insecure," "Grasp" and "Bender"
reflect the darker side of touring, while the title track sounds like a
battle march. After crying out for relief from the road in the verses to
"Home," the chorus finds Witherspoon declaring he's home and not to be
For Witherspoon, all of the traveling meant the end of relationships and,
upon his return home, the need to rebuild his life in Atlanta.
"[You leave] your house for a month, and sh-- is out of order. So you
think about leaving for 21 months and coming back, [and you find] sh--
is gone" (RealAudio
excerpt of interview).
Home was recorded earlier this year at Longview Farms, a studio
tucked into a North Brookfield, Mass., barn. Toby Wright, who has worked
with Alice in Chains and Korn, co-produced the record. Lowery credited
Wright with bringing the fire out of the band when it came time to record.
"He's just a great motivator," Lowery said. "At the same time, he'll
piss you off just to get a performance out of you. [There were times when]
everyone thought he was a complete prick. At the very end of the day,
we would realize he did it on purpose."
The band's first album, 1997's Sevendust, was recorded more modestly
in Atlanta by former Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French, Sevendust's
manager. That album attained gold status, according to the Recording
Industry Association of America.
Sevendust, consisting of Witherspoon, Lowery, drummer Morgan Rose,
bassist Vince Hornsby and guitarist John Connolly, took their name from
a restaurant sign in Atlanta. The group formed in Atlanta in 1996 after
Rose recruited the other members from various local bands. Witherspoon
played in a band called Body and Soul. The others played in metal bands
Steel Rain and Snake Nation.
"We had always known each other growing up on the scene. I was the youngest
cat, so they said, 'Let's try to get this cat and see what he can do.'
That first night we jammed, it was an easy process ... we just did our
thing, and that's what it's been like. We never set out to get a record
deal. We liked each other, we'd get f---ed up together, enjoy each other's
time and play music. So that was what was cool about it, and that's how
it started, and that's how it still is now with the music" (RealAudio
excerpt of interview).
Next month, Sevendust begin another headlining tour, with Chevelle, Staind
and others serving as openers. Witherspoon said the band's chaotic road
life ultimately is just a part of its mission.
"I still think we're before the beginning, because there's so much we
still have to do," he said. "Being out in front of those people, that's
where I think it's the most important. The intimacy between the band and
the crowd ... MTV is great and everything else is cool., but that's where
it's the realest."