Between selling more than 3 million albums and singles, touring the world and recording a new album, 30 Seconds to Mars has kept busy since its 2005 studio release, "A Beautiful Lie."
The band is also fighting a $30 million lawsuit filed last year by Virgin/EMI over 30 Seconds to Mars' termination of its contract, in which the band cited a California law that governs the ability of entertainers to end their contracts after seven years. The band countersued the label last fall, alleging breach of contract and "creative accounting" that it says resulted in unpaid royalties.
There isn't yet a release date for the new album, but the band and producer Flood talked to Billboard about what to expect.
What experiences did you have on the road that you brought into this album?
Shannon Leto: There's a song that we have that encapsulates the sound of 30 Seconds to Mars these days, called "Kings and Queens."
Jared Leto: I had written a verse right as we were going to the airport—I literally almost missed the flight because I picked up the guitar and this song came out. You have that moment of discovery that's exciting.
Flood, what was it like working with these guys, compared to working with the Smashing Pumpkins and other bands?
Flood: Every band I've worked with brings something unique. These guys wanted to move into a different place, and that's always a big challenge. They've established themselves very firmly in one arena, but when Jared first talked to me, it was about trying to make a "classic album." And that's by pushing themselves and me and all of us to a place that you may not have expected to go.
Jared Leto: He has a karmic ability to be with bands at pivotal moments in their creative lives. And I said to him that I really felt like that is where we were at as a band, ready to take new chances and ready to challenge ourselves in ways we hadn't before. And I think all the years on the road, all the years of struggle, the battles we've fought, have really helped make us who we are. We were ready to say something unique in creative terms and Flood was the perfect person to help us achieve those goals.
In light of the lawsuit that Virgin filed against the band, how do you insulate yourself from that strife?
Jared Leto: You can't. You try. But we always felt, and we still feel, like it was the right thing to do, because what we fought for and what we're still fighting for is fairness and for what we believe is right. It's interesting that all of this is happening along with the madness of the financial crisis, the creative challenges, the lawsuit. It's an intense time and I think you can feel that on the record.
Where are you right now with the lawsuit? Is it close to a resolution?
Jared Leto: You never know with these things. Some days you think there could be a resolution, and other days you prepare yourself to take it all the way. It's dependent on a lot of moving parts. We certainly have always been a band that has had a very rewarding, and more than civil, and enjoyable relationship with our record label and the people in our lives that we've done business with.
We've always been really, really grateful. But there came a time with [EMI], where it just didn't make sense for us to continue moving forward with the conditions that were there, and I think any reasonable person [looking] at the facts and the options would readily agree.
Will you end up releasing this album independently?
Jared Leto: There is a very real possibility of that. We're looking at all our options, and there are some wonderful, really exciting options out there, and we're really grateful for that.
The band has become popular in many countries. How do you explain that global appeal, regardless of language and culture?
Flood: Watching them at a few concerts, it seems to be that people who are disaffected or don't fit into normal groups seem to feel a sense of attraction to this band, because they don't feel as though they're outsiders.
Jared Leto: It's more the collective consciousness than it is just us. We really share ownership. I really believe that our fans have a sense of how much this means to us as well, that we're not just chasing a single or an album or just a song or a piece of merch or a party. They know this runs deep, and it's everything for us.