After taking a year off due to "circumstances that were beyond our control," Seether's Rise Above Fest combating mental illness and suicide is returning this year, with a new location and grander ambitions.
The festival will take place May 10, moving form New Hampshire to Darling's Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, Maine, with a bill that also includes Avenged Sevenfold, Motorhead, Hellyeah, Black Stone Cherry, Trivium, Skindred, Kyng, Muckler's Circle and Devour the Day playing on two stages. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Jan. 31, with proceeds going to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE). The 2012 Rise Above Fest raised more than $20,000 for the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
"I was fairly adamant from the start that I wanted to do it annual, but then, through different circumstances, we couldn't get it together last year," Seether's Shaun Morgan, whose brother's battle with depression, which ultimately led to his suicide, inspired the 2008 song "Rise Above This" as well as the festival, tells Billboard. "The first one we did was slapped together quit quickly, but I think this time there's a lot more thought that's been put into it. We've found a venue that's great and it's a great lineup. I think the experience in general is going to be better. It want it to feel like a proper festival, man. I want it to feel like an experience, and I feel like we're on track to make it that way."
Morgan adds that he's also confident that the year off won't hurt the festival, either.
"People really connected with what this festival was and what it's about, and the stories they told just hurt you when you hear them, y'know?" Morgan recalls. "It really blew my mind that people came from Brazil and all these other places, not just to the United States but to the very northeasterly tip of the United States. And, in fact, there were people that were kind of pissed off 'cause they wanted to come to one last year and had already saved money to book (airplane) tickets, and a lot of people were disappointed there wasn't one. I'm sure they're going to be happy with what we're doing this year."
Morgan says Avenged Sevenfold, with whom Seether has toured in the past, was quick to join the cause.
"A couple of those guys actually have told me 'Rise Above This' is one of their favorite songs, so it had a sort of serendipitous feel," he notes. Motorhead, meanwhile, is a particular favorite of drummer John Humphrey; the group recently canceled a European tour because of frontman Lemmy Kilmister's continuing health issues but is still planning to be part of the festival. "The Lemmy we know and love is the one who's always with a bottle of Jack Daniels," Morgan says, "but we'll get him a juicer and a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables."
And if all goes according to plan this year, Morgan is hoping to roll the Rise Above Fest forward as a yearly event and maybe even expand its scope over time.
"If we can just keep it going annually that would be great," he says, "maybe in a year or two expand it to being a two-day festival. Ultimately it would be great to do it in different cities, but I don't' know if I'd ever want to have the logistical nightmare of a touring festival. Maybe it could be something like what the guys from Lollapalooza do, just select a few cities and do it that way. After we get a couple of years under our belt and we've turned it into something that's got a name for itself, then we can start looking into other things to do with it."
Seether, meanwhile, is planning to have some new music ready, if not necessarily released, for this year's festival. Morgan reports that the group is nearly finished with its next album, the follow-up to 2011's "Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray," with producer Brendan O'Brien, with hopes of having it out in late spring or early summer. "It's a little heavier than we've done before, but by the same token it's a little more poppy, so it's this bizarre combination," Morgan says. "We're recording 12 (songs) but I think we're gonna do an album of 10 tracks this time...We wanted to consolidate it down and make sure it was 10 really strong songs from start to finish and there's nothing on the album that feels like filler. We're putting a lot of work into this and a lot of thought into everything."