Looking to capture the magic of their favorite classic rock albums, Finger Eleven is back after five long years with their sixth studio album, Five Crooked Lines.
Recording their album in an astonishing eleven days, as their producer, Dave Cobb was on vacation, Finger Eleven had an idea to capture a primal and authentic feeling to the upcoming album.
We had the pleasure to talk with vocalist, Scott Anderson to talk with him about the new album, Five Crooked Lines, becoming an influential musician, fast-paced recording, and touring. Check out our fun interview below:
AltWire [Derek Oswald]: Five Crooked Lines is your first new album in about five years, which from what I can tell is one of the longest periods the band has ever gone between album releases. With such a long break in-between, how do you feel the band has changed and evolved between the previous record and this one?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: First of all… five years between records is too long; I get it! [laughs]. We traditionally have never been the quickest band to follow up on any success or failure and instead, we just take our time. This record is probably the heaviest record we’ve done and there’s still a bunch of dynamics, but we wrote enough songs that we could shape the record into what we wanted it to be. Not that we would’ve put out twelve ballads, but there were songs that were good, however, they had more of an adult contemporary vibe and we were like: “look these songs are good, but we have enough songs that we can shape this into a heavy rock record.” For the first time, let’s do that! So we did. We focused on the heaviest stuff and that just so happened to be the material that resonated with our producer David Cobb as well. We tried to give all the songs their due and we got to finally say “okay let’s make a specific type of heavy record” instead of “let’s just throw our twelve best songs on a record”.
AW: At what point during the recording process did you guys decide you were going to go in a much rawer direction? Was it almost immediately or did it come late in the writing of the record?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: I guess it happened naturally. The decision became so much easier because most of the heavy stuff we were in love with was the same songs that got Dave Cobb excited as well. So at the end of the session, it was like ‘these are all the heaviest ones man’ so it was easy.
AW: The press materials for the album state that you pulled from some of your earliest influences to help inspire you for this record and get that authentic rock sound. Who are your musical heroes? Who inspires you most as a musician?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: It’s probably the same with every band, but my earliest ones were Iron Maiden and Genesis. Those were the bands I was listening to when I was in Grade 6 and I was like 11 or 12. Nobody was listening to Foxtrot. Everyone was busy listening to Wham, and um what the fuck else was going on back then…
AW: Rick Astley?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: [laughs]! I had a tye-dyed Iron Maiden t-shirt and nobody really knew what to make of that. I had Iron Maiden and Genesis on my binder and my teacher came by and told me ‘That’s disgusting. You shouldn’t have that band next to the other band’, and that’s the only lesson she taught me! It’s like ‘oh you’re a fucking idiot, I don’t need to listen to you!’. I was like ‘what are you talking about? I love these two bands’. But yeah, those two bands are deeply ingrained in my psyche, but I think for the influences you can hear on the record, we cherry-picked from the best. You got bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, you’ve got Pink Floyd, those bands are never far away from any of our playlists. We can all agree that if you’re gonna put something on in the bus, nobody will say anything with those giants. We’ve got some serious influences, but I think we try to shake them up and make things our own.
AW: What’s crazy is that I realized earlier today that your first album (before you changed your name to Finger Eleven) came out 20 years ago as of today. Meaning some bands are now coming out being influenced by YOUR music. How does it feel to realize that your first full length is 20 years old as of this year? Does it feel like it’s been that long?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: No, I still feel like a fucking clueless teenager! But I think that’s great. I remember the guys from Three Days Grace coming to our shows and then they took over the planet, and we’re still here! Sometimes you’ll get somebody who had a song ten years ago that was a part of their life, and that fucking blows my mind. I love it. I love it because I’ve been there. It’s just that musical connection. If you can connect that way with somebody, then mission accomplished! What else could you want out of this life?
AW: What was your favorite song to work on with this record? Was there any song in particular that you’re most enthusiastic for the fans to hear when they pick up the record next month?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: Five Crooked Lines was pretty special because we got to the studio on the day when we were just supposed to check on our amps. It was day one, we hadn’t met Dave Cobb yet, we only talked on the phone, and then James picks up the guitar, starts the riff, and Dave is like ‘holy shit what is that riff?’ and James was like ‘oh that’s just a song we’re working on’ and from there it went from a gear testing session to ‘lets fucking start this record right now’. By the end of the day, we had the song Five Crooked Lines. So that’s always going to be a special moment for the band, and the way I sang the songs in the studio in Nashville, I was in the control room with Dave and it’s much more fun to sing in the control room because you’ve got the speakers that are bleeding through into the mic. That’s the way they used to do it in the old days basically. Normally it’s supposed to be in the isolation booth, but he was like ‘no if you don’t mind, we’re going to do it in here!’ So I would try three or four times and he would tell me ‘no, more energy! more, more, more!’ and he would get the best out of me instead of clicking in the microphone and saying ‘hey Scott you ready for another vocal take?’
It was much more energy and it was really smart and he explained to me how some of the older records were done exactly like this. You just hold the mic and you do it in front of the speakers. So that was special too. I remember singing Five Crooked Lines like that, I remember singing Criminal like that, and Gods of Speed was the same thing. I didn’t sing any song more than two or three times and that was it. Like you can hear the mistakes and that’s okay! It’s got the energy, it’s fine! We would normally obsess about getting it perfect and pitch correcting it, but we didn’t bother with too much of that this time.
AW: Yeah! I see that amazingly, the album was recorded in 11 days and mixed in four. Considering your band’s passion for perfection, was it a weird feeling to finish up the record so quickly, or has your band always preferred to do the recording at a fast pace?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: I prefer the fast pace. The studio bores me so much. Our secret weapon was that we had these really elaborate demos to pick from. We had guitar tones that we didn’t have to chase for three days because we already knew exactly what we wanted. So we used those…but it’s funny because in the studio you always use exactly how much time you were given to the minute. So if you’re given three months you’re going to use all of those three months, if you’re given eleven days, well that’s all Dave had. Because Dave recorded this album on his vacation time. He decided not to go on vacation and instead make this record. But it meant that his next session was in eleven or twelve days, so we had to get it done.
All it means is not obsessing or second-guessing. It’s just basically trusting that whatever you are doing is cool and later going ‘okay cool let’s move on!’ You just have to really commit instead of ebb and haw. So I would love to do every record like this now. It took a ton of planning. We went down there with very strong ideas. We had a ton of bridges and outros we had to figure out, and those can take time, but Dave helped us with those too and it was awesome. When we spoke to him on the phone he was like ‘yeah dudes we’re just going to hang out and we’re going to make some music, it’ll be great. I’ve got a studio in my house’ and I was like ‘This isn’t an after-school project! There’s no time to hang out! We’ve got eleven days for fuck’s sake!’ and he was so relaxed but he works so fast. He’s a really great producer and I loved working with him.
AW: The drums on this record were done by Chris Powell, but despite that…unless I’m mistaken (and feel free to correct me) it doesn’t seem as if you guys have a permanent new drummer yet in the band. Is there any update on that situation, and do you think you’ve found the replacement?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: I definitely think we’ve found the replacement, and I definitely think we’ve found the guy for us. We haven’t written with him yet or broken open any new songs but his name is Steve Mollela and he’s out on the road with us now. He’s fantastic. He’s really, really good and from the very first audition, we felt he was the right guy. We’ve been through this drummer replacement stuff before and it was never this easy. We’re just finding out what he’s like on the road, and so far he doesn’t know that he’s supposed to put his bag on the junk bunk, and instead he puts it on the front of the bus so he’s on everybody’s bad books now. So we’ve got to think of some sort of fitting punishment! But if that’s the only problem, well then hey man, we’re laughing, right?
AW: Maybe you could have him do a drum solo one night, and then just all walk off the stage and have him up there by himself in the dark!
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: That’s awesome! But I get the vibe he’ll get me back threefold. I fucked with him at rehearsal, like we were looking at the setlist and clearly, the next song was something like ‘First Time’, but instead, I went so ‘okay the next song is One Thing! Is everybody ready? It’s One Thing!’ and Steve’s looking at the setlist, and he doesn’t know me that well, so he goes ‘well wait are you sure?’ and I told him ‘yeah let’s go!’ and he just got so confused and he froze up. I don’t think he enjoyed that feeling. I think he’s going to get me back for that. I was like ‘dude we’re in a fucking industrial rehearsal hall, I wouldn’t do that to you live!’ but he got a little shaken up about it [laughs]! As far as pranks go though, that’s pretty timid however so we’ll see what kind of antics take place. It’s going to be a long tour so we’ll see where the final prank goes. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up lighting everybody on fire or anything, but I’m sure it will escalate!
AW: About ten days ago you guys played a secret show at The Rivoli under a pseudonym named after your new record. How’d the idea for that come about, and how did you guys feel about the fan reaction to the new songs. Were you happy with the response?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: We needed a warmup gig because we were playing this big festival at our hometown called The Sound of Music and that was with Weezer, Collective Soul, and Our Lady Peace so we didn’t want to screw that up! So we needed kind of a run-up, we needed to play these songs live for real people. We booked it under Five Crooked Lines and it was just this club in Toronto that had a day free on Wednesday. So we kind of leaked it to our fans got some really hardcore people who have been with us for a very long time, and we played a small sweaty club that didn’t hold more than a couple of hundred people.
The reaction was really good. It was hard because they hadn’t heard more than one song, so it doesn’t matter you think of the new stuff, you’re not familiar with it so it’s hard to react. But it was great! So far we’ve played the new stuff for the last couple of days and the fans we’ve met, most will tell us that their favorite record is Tip, or Grit or Blue Skies but there’s something to this record that kind of throws back to that a bit and of course, no fan is going to come up to me and say ‘dude this record is a giant piece of shit’ but so far the reaction has been good. It was really good at the Rivoli that night. The band was happy, we didn’t fuck the songs up, and if anything we were overly rehearsed. We knew the songs back and forwards. But that just makes it so you can let loose during the live show. Rehearsal is important. It can get a little boring, but hey I get it! The reaction was good that night, and it’s been good ever since, so I’m looking forward to seeing more fan reactions. That’s for sure!
AW: Speaking of tours, let’s talk about the upcoming mini-tour with Three Days Grace. What stops and cities are you most excited about for this tour?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: I’m excited to play in any city where people actually show up. Full disclosure I’m not sure where we’re going, I haven’t looked at the schedule recently, but I know the guys in Three Days Grace and they’re so nice and they’re very kind. I know it’s going to be a fun tour that’s not full of rock and roll posturing, or people being dicks backstage, or someone not getting a dressing room as you hear in some of those nightmare tours. So I’m excited to go where the rock fans are. Wherever the fuck that is, that’s fine with me. I could be in the nicest city in the world, but if nobody shows up at the gate? Well then fuck that city.
AW: Now that your album is on the verge of coming out next month, and a tour is lined up…what are your hopes for the rest of 2015. Anything the fans can look forward to?
Scott Anderson [Finger Eleven]: I’m hoping that we can squeeze a few more singles out of the record, and we have a bunch of music that might find its way on to something else. There were just some songs that didn’t fit onto the record, and so maybe we’ll get creative and we’ll put a bunch of them together. We’ve been talking and trying to figure out what we can do, so without promising much there might be some more music coming your way, and there’s definitely more touring. We’re a band that loves to tour, so if you want to come to see us we’d love to see you and we’ll definitely be out there!