It’s hard to believe that Seether, who have sold millions of albums across the world and tour for about eight months a year, would be worried that people wouldn’t care about the new album: Isolate And Medicate. And yet, that’s exactly what drummer John Humphrey’s saying down a dodgy phone line from Italy.
His voice has a touch of the typical southern accent but by no means screams deep south (he’s from Oklahoma) and he hesitates for a few moments, finding the right words.
“That’s always in the back of our minds when we write music.”
There’ve been a fear few calls that Seether are aiming for radio hits and they’ve been begrudged for it, but we’ll get to that.
“But,” Humphrey continues with a touch of defiance, knowing that when you’ve sold that many records you can afford not to give a toss, “we’re confident of what’s good for us and what’s good for Seether…We only wrote 12 songs, the ones that are on the record, this time around.”
After having the radio friendly criticism levelled at him you can hear the smile on Humphrey’s voice. It’s the smile of a man who’s been living his dream for the past decade and world be damned if some trumped up journalist will tell them how to write their songs.
“You know what, who cares? We do it because we love it. We work on riffs and on songs and we don’t think about singles or if it’ll go down well or not. We look at each other and say, ‘is this cool?’.”
He continues after a brief pause and reveals what could be the secret to a long career. “We’re not trying to fit into a mould or to be something that we’re not. We’ve never been the cool, hip band and we’ve always felt that we were on our own in that respect.”
There’s probably a fairly massive dose of irony mixed in there – after all, their being around for so long and record sales will tell a different story. But, that’s not important, he’s happy to leave the number crunching up to the folks at the label.
“We’re fortunate that it’s good for radio play, it fits into that commercial vein but’s always about us.”
He’s clear on that – there’s no ‘oh, I know, let’s write a radio hit’ it has, and always will be, 100% Seether.
Ultimately though, Humphrey’s more concerned with just how Seether, Seether can be. He’s anxious, nervous and says there’s a fair amount of vulnerability that comes with it.
“Without sounding arrogant,” (he doesn’t, he sounds like Seether are about to release their first ever record and that his dreams have just come true) “I want to say to people, ‘hey, listen to this. I feel really strongly about it.’ I’m still excited about it…we’re not going through the motions, we’re very passionate about this.”
And yes, every band says the new record is their favourite or it’s the best they’ve put out, the difference with Humphrey is that he genuinely believes Isolate And Medicate is their best work.
“We hope it comes across that we’re getting better at our craft, at songwriting and arrangements, that we’re honing in on what we do best. I believe that this is our best stuff to date and working with Brendan [O’Brien, producer – whose credits include several other Seether albums] again, man, he’s the best ring master.”
He gives kudos to Brendan O’Brien a few more times during the interview and it’s clear that he’s become another member of the band. Which, as Humphrey turns his attention to which tracks on the album affect him the most, really shows.
“I don’t how familiar you are with the album,” (have been listening to it about five times a day for the past month – which he seems a little disconcerted by) “but ‘Crash’ and ‘Suffer It All’, which is one of the heaviest songs we’ve written, are two that really stand out for me. Musically they’re very different, they’re very passionate and I’m very fond of them.”
The modus operandi for Seether is that vocalist Shaun Morgan writes the lyrics and they write the music together. From Humphrey’s perspective, while “a lot of people relate to Shaun’s lyrics, which can be pretty visceral in terms of what he gets out and says”, for him, “it’s about the music. The emotion comes from the music, whether it’s epic or heavy, it’s about the music.”
Whether it’s Morgan’s lyrics of the music (or both!) that gets you going, Isolate And Medicate, is as Seether as you can get and it’d be a travesty not to own a copy.