By ZACH BIRDSONG
For the last few years, Shinedown has been no stranger to tour life after spending the majority of time on the road. The band will be making its first trek back to Nashville since 2016, when it co-headlines a show with Five Finger Death Punch at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday.
Just a couple days prior to that show, the band will be releasing its sixth-full length album, “ATTENTION ATTENTION” on Friday. The new album features that familiar heavy-rock sound sound that Shinedown is known for, but also delves into a deeper and darker story, as the band has approached this project like a concept album.
The first single off the LP, “DEVIL,” has already seen success, recently reaching number-one on Active Rock. The new single is Shinedown’s 13th song that has made it to the top spot on the active rock chart. The band followed that up with their second single, “The Human Radio,” released on April 5.
Catching up with the band, The News spoke with Shinedown drummer Barry Kerch and discussed the writing process for the new album, tour life and what fans can anticipate from this leg of the tour.
Tullahoma News (TN): Hey Barry, thanks for doing this. How’s the tour been going so far?
Kerch: It’s going really well. We’re in Corpus Christi today and it’s been about three weeks so far. Two right now in Texas and it started up in the Dakotas and then up through Canada and then down the west coast.
TN: Glad to hear everything’s going well. Obviously you guys will be coming through Nashville here on May 6 with Five Finger Death Punch. How excited are you to get that leg of the tour underway and does it help being that you guys have toured with Five Finger Death Punch before?
Kerch: It’s a fun bill and it was cool about co-headlining things, but you end on a set time and all that kind of stuff. Those guys are nice and fun to work with so that makes it easy. But at the same time we have two totally different crowds. So it’s nice. They play to a little bit of a more of a metal crowd, we play to little more of the rock crowd and putting those two together is just a fun show.
And because it’s a popular tour package, I guess, at the big arenas sell out and there’s a lot of people so you get to have a lot of fun. Those shows were always really good and we enjoyed touring with them last year and I guess it was year before. It’s always fun to tour with those guys.
TN: You’ve brought up the fact that this is kind of two different crowds, so is it a little tougher playing to what you’re going to know is two different crowds?
Kerch: No, not at all. What we try to do then is gain fans of theirs, more of the heavy metal dudes and girls, and they get more of the rock fans. When you put it all together, they all have a good time and the show is so entertaining. We bring out all the stops. There’s pyro and lasers and all that kind of stuff. So, if you can’t enjoy yourself at one of those kind of shows I think you’re dead inside.
TN: You guys are putting out the new album here soon. It’s called “ATTENTION ATTENTION.” Before we even start talking about the album and the writing process and all that. The name automatically jumps out at me, and I know it’s a track on the album, but where did the actual name for the album come from?
Kerch: It came from the song – and then it was like you know what, you can tell this is the concept of the record. And also that just the visual aspect, the artwork of it, you know? You look at the album cover, it’s just an exclamation point. It doesn’t event say Shinedown on it. This is a bold statement. The record’s very bold and we want the visuals and the name to be a bold statement as well, and really encompass the whole thing since it is a content-directed. Not a content-directed like “Start Studded Moon” or anything but it’s a flowing theme, it’s a story that travels through on the record. So, we really wanted to encompass that in all ways possible.
TN: How long did the writing process take on this album because you mention it’s sort of a different album in the fact that it’s almost similar to a concept album? With as much touring as you guys have done in the last few years when did you guys start writing this album?
Kerch: You know a lot of it started during that first Five Finger Death Punch run. We started writing that one and then demoing and doing things like that and we continued to do that on the road. Especially [bassist] Eric [Bass] who is getting, frankly, bored on the downtime so he says, “you know I just need to do something for myself.” So, he just started writing and ideas and doing ideas and coming up with stuff and really, he kind of challenged himself to do a song idea and not make it a completed thing, but a song idea every day whether it was good or bad.
So, that really kicked everything off and then from there we just kept plugging away and when we’d have time off between the tour or at the very end of a tour we’d demo some stuff out and go in the studio and it really just started at the end of the touring cycle. I guess last year is when we really delved into the actual recording side of it.
TN: Now as we talked about this is a completely new album in the fact that you guys are going sort of the way of a concept album. But aside from that, musically, what separates this one from some your previous four, five albums?
Kerch: We never really do the same record twice, that’s for sure. This one has it’s very heavy. By heavy I don’t mean sad, that kind of heavy. It just has heavy ideas within the lyrical ideas and heavy concepts in that way. Some of the songs are heavy, but it’s more like the weight in what the song is about, and what the record’s about is very heavy. It’s a story of, it’s about four years of our lives and the things we go through and the things we have gone through and especially [lead singer] Brent [Smith] and Eric where it’s no secret that Brent has had addiction problems in the past and things like that and fighting those. And then Eric’s got depression problems, the I’m kind of the toughest of the guy walks into a room, sits down or a girl walks into a room, sits down and goes “Okay, deep breath, now you’re going to deal with my issues.” That’s what the theme that goes through the record is coming to terms with those issues, fighting them, wondering is it me, is it genetics, is it going to be easier if I just go back to doing it, and then coming out at the end kind of overcoming it, but realizing it’s still a part of you. So it’s a pseudo-happy ending where you’re okay, but you know it’s always there.
TN: You guys don’t shy away from talking about heavy stuff like this, so whenever Brent is putting together the lyrics for the songs, does he value you guys’ input? Do you guys have your input in “Hey, maybe you should throw some lines in there like this,” or something along those lines?
Kerch: Absolutely. We’re an open book in this band. So if there’s an idea, you throw it out there. Brent is the main lyricist cause he’s just really, really good at it, but if you’ve seen something and you go “I don’t know, what’s about this,” always there’s an open door for ideas and we want everybody to be creative equally.
TN: You guys put out from the new album, “DEVIL,” which has a really cool music video. Where did the idea from that music video come from?
Kerch: That was a concept between Bill Yukich, the director, and Brent. He listened to the song, we kind of told him about the concept of the record and we planned to do videos for every song on the record and to tell the story in a very cinematic way and “Devil” kicks off the record so we had to have that introduction of, Okay here you are in the room and you’re going through hell. So, he kind of took that and put it into a visual in his way. And that’s kind of how it started, but it is dark. The girl for all intents and purposes represents the devil, she poisons the guy. Because she, you never see her take a full drink of the drink, she doesn’t eat the meat, she ends up spitting it out on him because she poisons him. That’s where the table grossed in the video and he starts freaking out, spitting out, so that kicks it off and that was concept.
TN: And then you guys follow that up with The Human Radio, again another strong video. Kind of in ways hits at that we’re all sort of slaves to technology to some point, but it sort of follows that same narrative as the other video. When you guys planned the videos, you wanted to make them into a series, correct?
Kerch: Absolutely and that song happens later in the record. It’s the second to last on the record so that’s why it has a little bit more of a good feeling towards it, conquering, overcoming, instead of the darkness of the devil. And you’ll notice in both videos the same chair pops up and that’s kind of the theme throughout the whole record.
TN: I know everybody’s familiar with your cover of Simple Man. Do you guys enjoy doing other covers though?
Kerch: Not really. No. (laughs) To be brutally honest with you. We’ve done them before in acoustic type settings. We’ve been asked to do other covers and we did that one Warner’s session thing that had a couple covers in it and they’re fun to do, but we had to go play our songs and we want to play our songs cause we’ve established a definitely a large catalog of hit songs that people want to hear so why play somebody else’s when you can play your own?
TN: As I mentioned, you guys will be heading to Nashville and you guys have already been on tour almost seemingly nonstop for the few years. What is it about the live shows that you just love?
Kerch: First and foremost, the crowd. You know, you feed off that energy. We’re lucky enough to play in front of larger crowds. To see that, to feel that, it’s a big honor. If it wasn’t for those fans out in that audience, we wouldn’t be here. Secondly, we just enjoy playing. We’re still a band that likes each other. We get along. We have fun on stage. Not to say we don’t get in our fights occasionally. Everybody does, especially when you’re in close quarters on a bus as long as we are, but we enjoy the live show and we put everything we have into it. If you don’t leave that stage completely exhausted, you didn’t do your job because the people paid a lot of money to see you on stage and we take pride in that and enjoy the live show.
TN: My last question for you. Not to say that any other date doesn’t matter, but is there something special about playing in Nashville?
Kerch: Absolutely. I mean, it’s one of the music capitals of the world and it’s just a great city. We have a lot fun there. We’ve spent a lot of time there. All of our gear is stored there. We do a lot of rehearsals there when we get some small tours and record cycles, so Nashville definitely has a special place in our heart. It’s a wonderful place. I always love visiting Nashville. It feels like home. It’s got that southern hospitality that the four band members in the band love and grew up with so, yeah, Nashville is awesome.