Forget metal, emo, pop-punk, retro New Wave or anything else that's been force-fed down your throat in the last few years.
It's OK to simply ROCK again. As in, straight-forward, aggressive, melodic rock'n'roll. And Thousand Foot Krutch is the band that's going to lead the way.
"This is a raw rawk record," explains TFK frontman Trevor McNevan, who was up until the very last moment spending 15-plus hours a day in the studio with acclaimed producer Arnold Lanni (Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan, Finger Eleven) finishing the band's latest and greatest album, The Art of Breaking.
Here's a quick TFK refresher course. Somehow, somewhere, you know this band. The Toronto, Canada natives have sold over 200,000 copies of their previous two records, Set It Off and Phenomenon. Along the way, they've won several major awards in their native country and the U.S., broken through on active rock radio, shared the stage with today's leading alt-rockers (Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters, The Donnas, Switchfoot, etc.) and even created the first great sports anthem of the 21st century with 2003's adrenaline-fueled hit "Rawkfist" which has been heard everywhere from sports stadiums to commercials (NHL, NFL and major league baseball) to even the WB’s Smallville.
Got it? Back to the record. The Art of Breaking is a succinct, straight-forward juggernaut of pure rock glory. "It's where we wanna be as a band," says McNevan, who writes all of the band's songs. Shedding the slight hip-hop influences that colored the band's early releases, Breaking finds TFK perfectly melding heavy guitar riffs with catchy hooks and positive aggression if you like anything ranging from Seether to the Foo Fighters to Papa Roach to Mudvayne, you're going to love this album.
The band convened late last year in a Toronto studio, started with 25 songs, worked hard to whittle that number down, while keeping the record both streamlined and versatile. McNevan credits producer Lanni with helping focus TFK's vision. "I can't say enough about Arnie's help," says the singer. "We really hit it off and see music in the same colors, and the chance to work with another songwriter I totally respect, has been a fun challenge. The only way you can improve as a songwriter and musician, I think, is to get outside of your own musical box. That's what we did here."
"Arnie's been an inspiration," says drummer Steve Augustine. "When we are recording, I always picture us playing the songs at our live shows, and I can't wait to get out there and present the songs in a live setting. That's gonna be fun."
While Breaking certainly has commercial success written all over it, the album also possesses a rare amount of honesty from a hard rock band. These are not guys who hide behind an image or a guitar solo. Take the probable first single "Absolute." According to McNevan, that's "a real emotions on the sleeve type of song," he says. "It's saying 'we want the truth, we want the absolute, we have nothing left to lose. It's just zeroing in on different things in life, whether it's spiritual or political. Essentially, it's us saying we're tired of people trying to sugarcoat things, while giving false hopes. Even if you don't have an answer, say it, that's your answer. It's about demanding honesty."
On the opposite end of the musical spectrum is the stunning ballad "Breathe You In," where McNevan allows himself to feel a newly appreciated sense of vulnerability. "This album has the rowdiest, and also some of the quietest moments we've ever done," he says. "And that song is definitely the quietist. It's my favorite song on the record, and I think the lyrics are applicable in a lot of ways. For me, it's about the feeling of running on empty, and needing a refill. Openly admitting to needing someone to rely on as strength for each day, but I think for the listener it can have other meanings for them."
By the way, if you think tracks like the chugging "Hand Grenade" would sound perfect on today's rock radio next to, say, Three Days Grace, then you're not far off. "Adam from Three Days Grace is on a couple of songs," says McNevan. "Actually, we grew up in the same town together, and we even shared a house."
Long-time fans of TFK may wonder what happened to the hip-hop. While it's gone from Breaking, the spirit of the genre isn't forgotten. "When hip-hop and rock are mixed and put together honestly, it can be a great sound," explains Augustine. "But is seemed like too many bands were doing it just to sell records. I'm sure we'll return to it at some point, when it feels honest for us." Adds McNevan: "Look, we always loved the Chili Peppers, Rage, Anthrax, Faith No More. And when we started in 1997, they were the only ones that had touched on it, then it became ridiculous and a way to make cash. You even had John Mellencamp and Metallica doing scratches in songs. So we've put it to bed."
The band's previous album, 2003's Phenomenon, saw the band slowly emerging from the overplayed nu-metal/hip-hop camp. Not coincidentally, it was also the band's breakthrough album. TFK landed five songs on rock radio charts, and even made an extraordinary step into the mainstream with "Rawkfist." "We sort of intended that song to be for the WWE, for the Rock," says McNevan, laughing. "But then he retired. And now, like a lot of bands, we're known for a song we like, but isn't necessarily the most representative of our band."
[Quick aside: yes, the band has achieved a lot of their success on the Christian rock charts. Unlike a lot of mainstream groups who hide their spirituality, however, TFK remain nonchalant about it. "From a spiritual point of view, we're all Christian guys," says McNevan. "We would never want to hide that fact, but musically, we just want to play. We've been associated with gospel, with hip-hop/rock, with a lot of things. We don't preach. I mean, "Rawkfist" certainly proved that! I just write songs from my point of view, and we just want to spread hope and positivity."]
As the band's fan base grew, so did its connection with fans. "We really feel privileged to talk to kids after shows," says the singer. "A lot of them just pour their hearts out, they feel comfortable, and that's amazing." Thanks to this interaction, the band has become actively involved with Lamplight, an organization that helps suicidal kids find their way back to a normal life. "The kids talk to us, which is great," says Augustine, "but Lamplight can deal with them on a more personal, day to day level."
With a new album and a growing fan base behind them, TFK will be spending the summer on the road, first on a headline tour and certain festival dates, and then, if things go as according to plan, with another major band on a larger tour in the fall. Don't look for the band to be spoiled by their new-found success, however. "We just enjoy playing music, and we'll do it at any 'success level' we can," says Augustine. "The love for music has been ingrained into us at a young age, and I believe that love will help us overcome any obstacles that do come our way"
Regardless, the band IS looking at Breaking as, well, a breakthrough. Which kind of does and doesn't explain the album's title.
"The title's kind of funny, in hindsight," says McNevan. "It refers to the moment when you come to the breaking point, whether it's good or bad in your life. The beauty of it is that there is no rules for it, everyone breaks down in their own way, in their own fashion ... the cool part is that it's our choice how we choose to deal with that breaking point when we face it"
Tooth & Nail Records