Bassist Chris Sorenson looks at the past, present and future of Saosin, including the long road behind the band’s comeback album Along the Shadow and welcoming original singer Anthony Green back into the fold.
First thing is I would assume most fans, myself included, never thought Anthony would be back in the band, much less you releasing a new record together. Was that something you were equally as doubtful on, or did you always have that possibility in the back of your mind this whole time?
Anthony and I have been friends for a long time. We never lost that friendship, only for a very brief period after he quit. Less than a year after he quit, we picked up our friendship. We always talked about anything, whether Circa stuff was going on or Saosin stuff, or just life in general. We were always on really good terms. Once Cove had left the band, we all went our separate ways as far as who Saosin was. I got a normal job working for a merchandise company. Beau picked up his recording stuff and Alex joined a variety of bands.
I remember there was a point where Circa was on tour with Coheed. I think it was right after Blue Sky Noise had come out. It had been out for about a year. He was still struggling a lot with alcohol and pills, all that stuff, which we later found out was much harder stuff. So I went out to one of the Coheed shows because I hadn’t talked to him that much since Cove had left the band. I think he had just had his first child, James.
So I went there and we hung out, walking around Pomona, which is where the Fox Theater is. I think we went to a music shop or something, just hanging out and doing nothing, being not guys in a band but guys walking on the street. We were talking about Diamond Eyes, the new Deftones record. He was like, “Dude, that record is so good. I want to make something heavy. I dream of being in a heavy band and really miss being able to do that, because it doesn’t make as much sense with Circa.” I was like, “Yeah man, that Deftones record is cool. Yada yada yada. We’ve been writing some new stuff and it’s pretty heavy.” He was like, “Dude, I should just sing on that. You guys send me songs and I’ll sing on it.”
That sparked the snowball. Obviously it took us a few years, but it was more about timing. During that five-year period, that gestated. It turned from “Hey, send me some songs and I’ll sing on them” to “Hey, let’s play some shows. Hey, let’s play more shows. Hey, let’s really think about doing a record.”
Now the band is “back” quote-unquote, or as much as it can be realistically. It’s like we’re back to being a normal band, a functioning normal band. It’s no longer just a legacy, like, “Hey, come hear us play ‘Seven Years.’” Now it’s like, “Hey guys, when are we going to get paid?” type thing. It’s been very fun. Looking back on the last five years, it’s like how did that all happen to get us to this point now? It was kind of a very bizarre chain of events, but it was very natural. Like I said, the timing just had to be right.
When Cove left in 2010, you were working on new material, like you said, and then reportedly had tried out some different singers here and there, which never amounted to anything. How close did you get to finding someone? What kept that from happening?
Before Cove left the band, we were basically in the position where we were either going to move on with Cove or not move on at all, so we would dissolve the band and breakup. We decided, OK, we will in some capacity turn down dissolving the band, but we will do it without Cove. We weren’t necessarily very active at all. It’s not like Cove was out and then all of a sudden we were like, “Well, we’ve got to find a new guy.” It was really like, “Well, Cove is out. We want to do the band more, but we don’t want to breakup. Who knows when we’re going to do that?”
Somewhere in that period of the year after Cove was out, we had tried out a few singers, including Tilian Pearson, who is in Dance Gavin Dance now. He was at the time in Tides of Man. We had flown him out to California. We had rehearsed with him and written three or four new songs with him singing. We felt like that was going to be the end all, be all. But basically if we had done anything with Tilian, it would have been cool for about a year, but we ultimately would have had to breakup. It just wasn’t going to work on a long-term basis.
Also in that period of meeting with Tilian was when the conversations with Anthony got more serious. I think one of the Tilian songs got leaked, and then we got a text from Anthony like, “Dude, I thought we were doing stuff.” We were like, “Oh, well we are doing stuff.” So we basically scrapped everything. Any other idea, any other possibility went out the door. OK, things actually might turn into something bigger with Anthony.
Your first official thing with Anthony was two years ago at Skate and Surf in 2014, and then you did a tour for the 10-year of Translating the Name. What was that like to be back at it? At what point did you realize this thing with Anthony had some legs and a new record was a possibility?
It was like a month and 10 years since we had played anything together. We got back into the rehearsal space, the same rehearsal space we had rehearsed with Anthony the last time, and it was almost like 10 years hadn’t passed. It was like the last time we had rehearsed was Friday and today was Monday. Everything clicked. Everyone was back to their old ways and the old jokes started going. Everything turned into muscle memory, as far as playing together. It was actually a really gelling experience to have it work like that.
So, we played those couple shows. Our first show back with Anthony was in Philly at Union Transfer. It was a no-barriers show. There were a couple hundred people there. All the Circa guys were there and a bunch of other bandmates were there. A bunch of people we had known a long time were there. At the end of the night, we were like, “Well, let’s try to make the most of it over this short period of time that we have when Circa has a break.” That turned into a bunch of shows.
Initially, Brett from Epitaph had given us a call and was like, “Hey, I’m glad to hear you guys are back.” This was before the first show we had even played back. He was like, “I want to put a record out.” He had initially given us an offer to sign us in 2003 when Anthony was still in the band. At the time, it wasn’t competitive enough for what we were looking for, and then once Anthony wasn’t in the band it didn’t make sense anyways.
So when Brett came back, he has obviously been around with us. We would always see him in the same circles. We would always see him at shows. We would always know him, he would always know us, blah blah blah. We had a loose relationship, so for him to come back before the show and be like, “I want to do a record with you guys. I just want to do one, and make it special and make it cool and make it great.” That put the consideration of, well, all right. Maybe we should do a full-length. Do we do the full-length on our own, release it on our own similar to what we did with Translating the Name, or do we put it in the hands of somebody that may know a little bit better about the current landscape of music?
Back in 2003, the Internet was a totally different place. For the majority of bands, popularity was just word of mouth. It was like, “Hey man, have you heard of this band? Hey guys, have you heard this band?” That turned into physical sales. Now it’s like I don’t even know how to reach all the people on our Facebook page without paying. I don’t know how any of that stuff works. I don’t know how to do the right things for streaming. It’s a very, very different business.
We figured out pretty early on that putting the job into somebody else’s hands was probably better. Like I said, that relationship with Brett over the last 13, 14 years is kind of what made the biggest difference. We didn’t even take any other offers. We just didn’t want to deal with anybody who didn’t necessarily know what was going on with us. Somebody who might be late to the party, we didn’t want to deal with them.
What was the writing like for this record? Did you have a lot of it written and then Anthony just put vocals on it? Did he help you write? What was that process like?
As far as the music, it spanned. There’s a couple tracks on there that we literally wrote in 2011 and 2010, as far as music is concerned. The first track that was released, “Silver String,” the riff or the feel of the verse was written in 2011 or something. I think it was called “Riff 7.” Originally, there was this block of riffs that Beau wrote. So yeah, there was a huge span of when the music was written for this. It was more about that we kept writing, kept writing, kept writing, alongside of also doing not being in a band stuff. Beau having his first child. Me working a fulltime job and developing a new career. There were a lot of different circumstances that went into it that we couldn’t necessarily dedicate a ton of time musically.
I think around May of last year we basically had 50 demos, and we whittled them down to 14. Like OK, these are the songs I want to sing over. This is the core group of songs I want to write to. We started getting little vocal ideas, and then that turned into full vocal songs. Then from the vocal demo, we worked on the song further. If we needed to take it further, if it was in a primitive state, we would expand on it then.
The majority of the music I would say is 25 percent Beau Burchell songs only, as far as music is concerned. Then 25 percent of the songs are my songs that I wrote without Beau, and then the rest of the songs are a very good mix of Beau and I. We played guitar and bass on the whole record, with Alex of course playing drums. Anthony just did vocals. He only did vocals and we only did music. He did the vocals on the East Coast and we did the music on the West Coast.
When Cove was in the band, we were very hands-on with the vocals, for better or worse. The way that Anthony’s current situation is in Circa, people tend to have a say in the vocals that aren’t necessarily the singer. Beau and I just wanted to do music and Anthony just wanted to do vocals, and that’s the best way it worked out.
One of the things you can tell on this record is, like you were saying, it does have a little bit of a harder edge to it, more so than what either Saison has done in the past or what Anthony has done with Circa. Was that one of the main appeals for you in writing this batch of songs?
No. In that batch of 50 songs that we had, there was such a wide gamut, such a wide variety of different tracks, that the record as a whole could have gone either way. These are just how the pieces fell. I think it’s kind of cool that it worked out that way. We could have gone softer, just by chance. We could have gone more post-rock and more spacey, or we could have gone more riff-heavy type stuff. I don’t even know. It’s very hard to tell.
The biggest difference between this record and making Translating the Name especially, for the way Anthony is concerned, is all the Translating the Name stuff was written in more of a stream of consciousness type of writing, as far as the melodies and all that. He had a batch of writing that he had had. It wasn’t lyrics, but it was like a journal. So those melodies on Translating the Name are very stream of consciousness and not necessarily structured. Whereas now he’s written so many songs and recorded on so many records, he went into this with a little bit more of an idea of what he wanted to do lyrically and melodically and structurally.
On some level, this record is probably going to get compared to Translating the Name and to Circa Survive. Was that ever in the back of your mind as well, that you don’t want to be doing anything that you’ve already done before or rehashing older material?
No, not at all. The length of time it took us to write this record, and even record it, that had completely passed our minds. The Circa comparisons kind of came out of left field for us because we just hadn’t considered it. Obviously, we should have considered it, but we just didn’t. With five records under Circa with Anthony singing on them, it’s only natural that anything with Anthony singing over the top on it is going to sound like Circa Survive.
Plus, we all come from the same world, as far as musically. The dudes in Circa, when they were in This Day Forward, Alex’s old band toured with This Day Forward a bunch. Nick, who used to play in a band called Taken, Beau did the recordings for Taken. So it’s just natural that musically we come from the same place. But as far as listening to them side by side, the only thing that I really hear is that Anthony is singing. If people want to compare us, we would prefer to be compared to Circa than maybe a lot of bands. I would prefer to be compared to Circa than for somebody to say it sounded like a modern metalcore band or something like that.
You’ve released two songs online so far. You’ve already talked about one of them, “The Silver String,” while the other is “Racing Toward a Red Light.” Can you say anything about how that song came about?
That one was in the later batch of songs, if I’m not mistaken. Beau wrote that riff at Riot Fest. That was in September of 2014. As far as when the vocals came through, I want to say those vocals came in while we were recording drums in August of 2015. So while we were actually tracking the drums for that, we didn’t have vocals for that song yet. That was a very pleasant surprise to hear. It’s just a very cool, different balance between very heavy vocals, obviously, and a hugely melodic chorus, and then an outro that’s very straightforward singing.
Then one other song I wanted to ask about is the song right after that, “Second Guesses,” which has one of the most sweeping choruses on the record. What can you say about that one?
I wrote that song ripping off one of Beau’s songs he had written. Alex and I had written that song while we were tracking some demo drums at the studio up in L.A. They have a rehearsal space studio thing, and we would go in there from time to time to track drums and fuck around with shit. That was one of those tracks that came out of that. I actually hated it just because it’s very upbeat, feeling kind of like a pop-punk song if you will or something like that. But once the vocals came on, it showed a different dynamic of somewhere else you could take it. The possibilities I thought the song could go were a lot more limited to where it actually went.
That’s the best way we work, as far as the band is concerned, coming up with stuff that may not necessarily work in one person’s mind but then channeling it through the other guys in the band and taking it to a different place. Instead of one unanimous brain, like we’re all going to write a pop-punk song and here’s this pop-punk chorus, one of us will hear a song and be inspired in a totally different way from it.
Alex has always been one of my favorite drummers, and it seems he’s never really gotten his due as one of the great rock drummers out there. Obviously, you as the bassist have a close relationship with him musically. What’s it like playing with someone who can do all those crazy fast fills that he does and stuff?
He is super modest. He would rather play four on the floor forever on every song for the rest of his life. It’s very challenging because we always try and push him to be great, to be awesome. All the stuff that is “over the top,” quote-unquote, that he does, it has a very natural place in the song. It never sounds like he’s just shredding all over the drums, like Avenged Sevenfold or something like that.
If we’re in the middle of that, he’s on the extreme opposite of that where he doesn’t like to stand out and then people be like, “Dude, you’re an awesome drummer. How do you play all those crazy fills?” That’s like his worst nightmare to hear that. He thinks he’s in a weird backbeat band where he’s just playing in the back of the room with the bass player.
As far as my relationship with him, we do have a very close relationship. I wouldn’t say that we’re a huge backbeat type band, but I help write demo drums and stuff with him in consideration. I’m obviously very familiar with all the drums on the record. Usually the first thing I hear when I hear a new record is the drums first, then vocals, and then guitars. I’ve always been in tune. I’m a failed drummer and a failed guitar player, who just happens to play bass.
Over the years, you’ve taken on more of a production role in the band. What’s that been like to take on those responsibilities?
It’s been great. It’s been really cool that we have the opportunity to do as much as we want by ourselves. A lot of the production stuff, especially with Cove, came in because I was kind of the middle between Cove and the rest of the band, as far as communication and stuff. I was writing a lot of the vocals and lyrics alongside with Cove.
So it’s been really cool, but at the same time it does put a lot of pressure on you. You’ve got to know when to hit save and bounce the track and walk away. With how much opportunity we have to sit and tinker with songs and change parts, and do this and that, it’s about finding that balance between the song needs to be worked on versus the song is done.
Plus, it’s just cool to be a significant part from the first note written of the song, to the delivery of the masters at the end and now subsequent release, and to see that climbing of the ladder. Beau’s taught me so much. If anything, I’m an assistant to Beau so he can concentrate on playing guitar and I can sit and do the stuff. He comes up with the best stuff when he’s not necessarily thinking about the tone or keeping a session organized, but just sitting there playing a guitar and playing the riff.
As far as the live shows go, until recently you’ve been limited to playing Translating the Name, “Mookie’s Last Christmas” and a couple other b-sides, so this record will more than double what you have to pick from now. How exciting it is to have all these new songs you can play live?
It’s great. We just need to learn how to play them. We didn’t really have a chance to rehearse the majority of the new songs before we recorded them, especially not as a full band. So it’s been fun, and at the same time it’s been, “Oh, how did we play that again?” type thing.
On this last tour, we did a quick little run through the South and we opened with “Racing Toward a Red Light.” That was before it was released. It was a great feeling. We had played a couple of the demo versions of some of the songs live, but now you have that established, this is how the song goes thing, with the recorded track.
Also “Silver String” released a few days into that tour. It was cool to see the response to that song explode over the next two or three days after it was released. Everybody was into it, so it’s cool. I don’t think we have sounded better than we do sound now, as far as playing is concerned. We have Phil Sgrosso from As I Lay Dying playing guitar on stage right. Him and Beau play so well together. They have similar styles that it’s this crazy gel we didn’t necessarily feel prior.
Do you think you’ll ever play any of the Cove stuff again?
We’ve definitely talked about it. Anthony is very into the vibe. He’s very vibe heavy. I think before Taste of Chaos, we are going to rehearse some of those tracks with him and see how it feels. If it doesn’t feel right, then obviously we’re going to scrap them. But if he sings on “Voices” or one of those songs and is just completely into it, then game on. We would love to play those songs.
I would love to see what he does with “Voices” or something like that.
Yeah, we’re definitely stoked.
Looking back to the self-titled record, it seemed you were primed for a big success with that. “Voices” seemed like a great single pick. “You’re Not Alone” seemed like it could be a great crossover single, too. But with that record and the following record, you kind of got chewed up and spit out by the major label machine, but then here you are almost back to the beginning of the band, reunited with Anthony. With that whole journey that you’ve been on, is there a main takeaway that you can come away with from all you’ve experienced?
The main takeaway is all the bullshit that we ever got caught up on, all the minutia, whether it’s a T-shirt design, a promo photo or a “Who said this in the press?” type thing, all of that doesn’t matter. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is keeping the process of writing the music and enjoying the music the way that you had it when you started.
When we first started touring, we were on five dollars a day. We didn’t know the difference. It’s when you add in the difference that you add the ability to compare and contrast to it. Luckily for us, here we are in 2016 and we were able to get rid of that contrast, get rid of that comparison, and just be four dudes writing music and not caring. Be like, yeah, we’re writing songs. That’s it. This is a cool song. I’m writing a song that I like, and that’s it.
Obviously, if we were in a different situation, and we were playing shows and people didn’t care, then the tune might be different. But at the core of all of it, you’re still doing the same thing for the same reasons. It’s just to play music. It’s to speak in a language that you can’t necessarily do in any of the available languages. Something that we’re doing, we need to do to get out and express ourselves in certain ways. We’ll always have that freedom to do it.
When we went into this, we wanted to make sure we’re having fun when we do it and all the other stuff that goes into being in a band. If we’re not having fun, let’s not do it. We can still make music forever, but if being in the band is not fun, if being away from home is not fun, the tensions that happen when you’re on the road and the tensions that happen when you add money into the equation, if it’s not fun then we’re just not going to do it. We can keep making music, but that’s it.
So the new record is coming out May 20. You’ll be doing Taste of Chaos over the summer, which has an insane lineup. How much thought have you given to what comes after that? Will there be more tours or more records? What do you think the future holds for Saosin?
That one’s a tough one, just because Anthony’s got so much going on aside from music. He has three kids and this was supposed to be his year off. We’re not touring that much in comparison to a normal cycle, but I think we’re going to keep things open. If the demand is there, we’ll kind of gauge our availability based on the demand. If somebody is like, “Hey, do you want to come play a show at Chain Reaction?” We probably wouldn’t do it. But if Riot Fest is like, “Hey, we want to have you guys come out and do Toronto, Denver and Chicago.” Then obviously we would love to do something like that.
We really need to pick our battles. There needs to be a time and place for all the stuff. Whatever we do, we have to make sure it’s worth it for everybody to do it. That’s been our mindset. The Taste of Chaos is a great opportunity for us to get back out into the world and remind everybody, “Hey, we’re here. Check out the new record.”
We would love to be able to do maybe 10 shows on the East Coast and 10 shows on the West Coast where it’s our show. We’re playing Translating the Name, we’re playing a bunch of new stuff, and we’re playing whatever we feel like we want to play in the middle. It’s just our fans and whatever. We’re definitely looking for that, we just don’t know where it is yet because Circa is going to pick back up in November or December for a new record and then their new touring cycle, and so on and so forth.