Evanescence Returns to an Altered Rock Landscape
It's a beautiful Friday afternoon in late August, but the mood in New York is somber. A few weeks before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the city is bracing for another possible catastrophe: Hurricane Irene is approaching-a Category 3 storm that could wreak massive devastation on the Big Apple.
On the streets, New Yorkers lament living in a mandatory evacuation zone and wonder how they'll get around once the subway shuts down. Amy Lee, who lives in Manhattan with her husband (he's out scavenging sandbags), is hoping her kitchen doesn't flood. Or her basement, where her stage clothes are stored. "We're pulling them up today and getting them out of there in case [it gets] full of water," she says.
I'M WITH THE BAND
While Evanescence has fared better than others that have won the best new artist Grammy Award, the band has had its share of drama since winning the accolade in 2004. By then, co-founder Ben Moody had quit due to conflicts with Lee. A few years later, drummer Rocky Gray and guitarist John LeCompt also left. By the end of 2007, when she wrapped up touring for The Open Door, Lee wasn't sure if she wanted the band to continue.
"I'd never been an adult and not the chick from Evanescence, so it was cool to just be normal for a while and not be working on the next thing," she says. After about 18 months, she started writing again and ventured into the studio to work with producer Steve Lillywhite (Dave Matthews Band, U2). But when the sessions didn't jell, she realized that she missed her band.
"Me stepping away and needing to experiment and do something completely different and open my mind to the idea that we wouldn't have another record was so good for the end product, because what it ended up doing was make me miss it in a really awesome way," Lee says. "I came back to, 'OK, I do want to make another Evanescence record. I want this to be about the band.'
"[The band members] all bring something really good and talented to the table," she adds. "So for us to sit in a room and just write together, sitting on our instruments, was not only possible, it's a cool, really new experience for me. It's not the way I'm used to working."
Lee doesn't allude to past band troubles, but she is vocal about how this album emphasizes the group dynamic. She says that calling the album Evanescence underlines this point, and the cover also reflects this: The first two Evanescence records featured her alone on the cover; this one sports the band's logo.
When sessions reconvened with the band at Nashville's Blackbird Studio, producer Nick Raskulinecz (Alice in Chains, Stone Sour) took over the boards. The new album (which also comes in a deluxe version that has four bonus tracks) has an unmistakable vibrancy that Lee attributes to the group writing effort. The lyrical content is what fans have come to expect from Evanescence: "Life and relationships. Love. Death. Freedom. Brokenness, all the big emotions," as Lee puts it. "What You Want," for instance, is fierce and in your face, while the rock elements on "Made of Stone" are heavy enough to be called metal. And Lee's siren voice is as powerful and flexible as ever, as heard in her piercing wails on hit-in-waiting "My Heart Is Broken" and the deep croons that introduce "Lost in Paradise."
BRINGING IT TO LIFE
Evanescence has gotten a healthy boost for the album from a left-field source: MTV. Although the channel is largely pop- and hip-hop-focused, fan response to stories that MTV News senior writer James Montgomery posted about the band online led to the channel arranging for the group to debut "What You Want" worldwide on Aug. 8 as a live performance from Blackbird Studio, a first for the channel. The event was also streamed on MTV.com, followed by an hourlong Q&A with the band. Montgomery says that overwhelming fan response to the stories he posted is what inspired MTV to set up the premiere. "To see a band still draw this response from fans, even though they weren't active for five years, it's really kind of rare," he says. The premiere aligned with the commercial release of the song, which has sold 78,000 copies, according to SoundScan.
Social media was in its infancy when Fallen debuted, and Lee isn't an artist who lives for interacting on those platforms. But she started tweeting last year and quickly grew to love it. She now has more than 239,000 followers (@AmyLeeEv), and alerts fans to such items as behind-the-scenes photos posted on Facebook.
Press has been lined up with such outlets as Rolling Stone and Revolver (where Evanescence claims the November cover), and an Oct. 13 appearance is confirmed for "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" However, touring is primary in Wind-up's campaign. As a seasoned international road act with pent-up demand for shows, Evanescence stands to do well on the road. The band took in $10.2 million from 60 shows and sold 265,000 tickets on its 2006-07 tour, according to Billboard Boxscore. Lee was initially nervous about returning to the stage; the MTV broadcast was the first time the band performed since a one-off concert in São Paulo in November 2009. Her trepidation vanished after a few shows in August. Like her love for Evanescence, singing for fans is a joy that doesn't fade.
"As soon as I stepped out onstage and the drums kicked in and we started playing and the fans were screaming, it was like, boom!, I'm back. I wasn't nervous anymore," she recalls. "Like riding a bike, it comes back to you."