Seether
By Dave Schwartz 

There is an old adage that tells us: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Perhaps one of the newer bands on the scene, Seether, can attest to that wisdom.

Seether, formerly known as Saron Gas, came to life in the late '90s in the decidedly unexpected rock haven of South Africa. The group trekked across South Africa, playing countless shows and eventually headlining all the festivals; performing in every city and every single club there was to play. Along the way the hard work paid off in a record deal, which eventually included American label, Wind-Up Records. After tasting success in their homeland, Seether released its stateside debut, 2002's "Disclaimer" and it was time to embark onto their next great challenge, a tour of America.

This is where the band's history and discography becomes a bit more complicated. Having released and toured on "Disclaimer," Seether was preparing to return to the studio and begin work on a follow up album, but their record company had a different idea. Seether did return to the studio, but this time it was with Amy Lee, vocalist of Evanescence and girlfriend of Seether front man Shaun Morgan. Morgan, together with Lee, worked on a remix, a duet of "Broken," a song from the first Seether album. The rest, as they say, is history. Adding a couple of additional tracks to the original record, "Disclaimer II" was released and the single "Broken" raced up the charts. And both records, "Disclaimer" and "Disclaimer II," were eventually certified Gold.

Once again hard work and perseverance had yielded success, but as any band can tell you, this is where the going gets tough. Often called the sophomore jinx, it was time for Seether to prove their worth. It’s a time when a record company will call a young band and ask, "What have you done for me lately?" Seether was prepared to answer the call. After some time off and a line-up change, original members Shaun Morgan (guitar and vocals) and Dale Stewart (bass) welcomed John Humphrey (drums) and Pat Callahan (guitar) to the band and Seether entered the studio and recorded their latest album, "Karma and Effect."

During the first week of its May 24, 2005 release, "Karma and Effect" sold 82,000 units, giving Seether the #8 album in the country and making it the band's highest ever debuting album. "Karma and Effect" has recently been certified Gold by the RIAA. At the time of this interview the first single from the album, "Remedy," was top 5 at Modern Rock radio and had spent over 18 weeks as the #1 song at Active Rock. And although "Remedy" showed no signs of slowing down at radio, in early September Seether released "Truth," the second single and video from "Karma and Effect." And history repeated itself.

In early September I sat down with Dale Stewart and John Humphrey backstage at the Marquee Theater in Tempe, Arizona. They were in the waning days of a headlining tour with Crossfade and Dark New Day and about to embark on their next tour supporting Audioslave.

I offered congratulations and asked if the band had begun enjoying the fruits of their hard work.

Stewart laughed and replied, "Yeah, we’ve got a nice bus! I think the most important thing is the people at our shows. We’ve had great shows. I think we have definitely won over a lot of fans over the past couple of months touring. It takes a long time. The perks will happen a couple months later."

I asked about the new album and the recording process; I wondered if the songs were written long before entering the studio or if there was rush of creativity and spontaneity.

"We had most of the album written. Most of the process was just changing the songs that we had, you know, modifying them a little bit. It was a little bit weird. We were just finding a way to make everything fit." Stewart explained.

Aside from having two new members, "Karma and Effect" is the first album that Seether has written as a band. I expected that the dynamic of new members yielded welcome surprises as well as placed some tension on the band as everyone scrambled to establish a role in the writing process.

"I don’t think it cause any tensions really," Humphrey shared. "I mean Dale and Shawn, coming into this with me, they were very receptive to my input. There wasn’t an attitude or ego about you know, ‘this is how the band is and this is how we do things.’ Pat and I felt very welcomed and we were able to put our stamp on it as well. This was definitely a band effort and Pat and I were a part of it."

The results of this new dynamic can be heard on radios all across America. Those following the band have witnessed an obvious growth and maturity to Seether’s music. I wondered if there was more to the change than just two new members.

Stewart leaned back in his chair and smiled, "I think the new members, John and Pat, have definitely changed the band in the way we approach songs and writing and stuff. The rest is just experience. We’ve been playing a lot and learning to play our instruments. There’s just no substitute for experience. Over time you get better at what you’re doing."

Early successes can often be like a pair of golden handcuffs. You’re never willing to give them up, yet you remain restrained. The key of course is always the second hit. Was being out on tour with a new record liberating? Did they feel they’ve finally got that "One-Hit" monkey off their backs?

Pausing for a moment Stewart replied, "Yes, I think so. You know the re-release of our first record wasn’t entirely our decision. We weren’t planning on touring for another year. We were ready to record. Ultimately it was really good for the band. It raised the profile of the band. We were a little frustrated at the time but ultimately it was a good thing. Now that the new album is out and being well received it’s cool to just be able to have a good time."

Seether is no different than other bands in that they take great pride in their performance. The music has always been about the energy of performance but the intellect falls within the lyrics. I wondered if the fans had found the message within the music.

Laughing Stewart said, "I hope people are getting it! We definitely have that dynamic where we have some really heavy songs and we’ve got some acoustic stuff. Hopefully there is something that people can find within that span. But I think generally that the melody of the music is what people relate to quite easily. Often we’ll have the melodic song or the single and that will draw in people. Then they buy the album and find a completely different song that they like."

Building on Stewart’s comments I asked about the first single, "Broken." The remix, a duet with Evanescence lead singer Amy Lee, became the hit. I’m sure that single brought many fans to Seether shows, but it must have been difficult to support on tour while missing one half of the duet.

"Actually we toured with Evanescence so we did get to perform the duet," Stewart corrected me. "We still play the song. In fact we did it the original way, how we originally recorded it."

Humphrey added, "In fact we’re doing the song that way now. We end the show with it. But last summer we toured all summer with Evanescence so it was easier to support the single. And I think that was certainly premeditated so we would be able to play that song while it was doing so well."

We had been at the interview a good 20 minutes when I found myself left with that well-worn closing question, What do you do with your free time? This of course preceded the well-worn closing answer. "Umm…"

Humphrey was quick to jump in and save the moment, "He rented a motorcycle yesterday. He had to let the wind blow through his hair!"

"I about got heatstroke too!" Stewart lamented, as temperatures in the Phoenix area had approached 110 degrees. "I rode up to Pine and Strawberry. I went and had lunch out there and came back. It was a fun day. You know, we have days off were we just lay around, watch movies and go to bed. It’s kind of fun to get out and see a little."

Seether will be out on tour with Audioslave at least through mid-November. Beyond that, well, check out Seether’s Web site! My thanks to the band for a great interview!

www.seether.com 

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