Seether plays House of Blues on Thursday, Aug. 17.
South African rock band Seether has changed its sound more than once. When you've been around as long as it has — almost 20 years — you have to if you want to stay relevant. The post-grunge trio's latest album finds it readjusting to the times once again. Unlike previous albums, guitar is back at the forefront on Poison the Parish.
“The intention was to turn up the guitar and bring back a little edge to Seether,” drummer John Humphrey tells the Dallas Observer. “We’ve had the honor of working with some great producers, but maybe in the end a few albums were mixed not entirely how we envisioned them.”
Producer Brendan O’Brien had taken the band away from its Nirvana-inspired groove toward a more mainstream sound that emphasized lyrics over founding guitarist and vocalist Shaun Morgan’s hard rock riffs and Humphrey’s pounding drums.
“I think it’s a combination of things that the band set as a goal when putting together this album,” Humphrey says of Poison the Parish, which was released in May and produced by Morgan. “A lot of it comes down to just listening to the fans, you know? We had a lot of fans going, 'Karma and Effect is my favorite album,’ and the band has always had a heavier edge to it. Producing [Poison the Parish] ourselves gave us a freedom unlike we’ve had before.”
In an interview with Billboard earlier this year, Morgan said Seether has struggled with being labeled an alternative band.
“Alternative used to be something that was the category [we were] in. That’s no longer the case," Morgan told Billboard. "Now it’s more that guitars are less of a player in the music, and it’s more Imagine Dragons and Lorde and stuff like that.”
Writing lyrics has always come naturally to Morgan, so Seether's experimentations over the last decade have been successful. But the band members realized it wasn't the sound they wanted.
“We can’t force ourselves to be something we’re not," Humphrey says. "We’re a hard rock band with a melodic vocalist with lyrics that identify with people.” A lot of people subscribe to the notion that rock's time is over, but Humphrey, who saw success in the '90s with alt-rockers The Nixons, doesn’t feel that way.
“I hear that infamous quote from Gene Simmons a lot: 'Rock is dying,’” Humphrey says. “I am not too sure I totally agree. We’ve done some of these huge rock festivals that are patterned after those big Euro festivals, with 50 [thousand] to 60 thousand people in football stadiums, and they’re sold out and do very well.”
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The only thing Humphrey says has changed in rock since he joined Seether 14 years ago is the decline of rock radio, which he sees as a threat to the band.
“Fewer rock stations mean not as many spins as there were, say, 10 years ago,” he says. “Things have changed, man. Twenty years ago, there were more rock stations. The industry was completely different. Now, there’s iTunes and the digital format.
“We’re in a very fortunate position to have had a lot of successful singles with radio over the years,” he continues. “They’re kind enough to always play our singles, but we’re also a live band. Things have changed along the way as far as the band and how it has to survive. I say it’s kind of like a shark and it has to swim. A rock band has to tour, sell merch and do other things. We have to pay the bills like anybody else."
Seether, with Letters From the Fire, Big Story, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St., houseofblues.com/dallas.