It’s been 10 years since the last release from English ’90s alternative rock band Bush, but that hasn’t left frontman Gavin Rossdale without a soft spot for the group that made him an international rock star.
“I love the idea of marriage or committing to someone,” says Rossdale, who has been married to singer Gwen Stefani since 2002. “Sometimes in long-term relationships, people break up, and you lose a little bit of faith. Now we got it back together.”
On Sept. 13, Bush will return with “The Sea of Memories,” arriving on the group’s own Zuma Rock Records, in a partnership with eOne Music. And while Rossdale’s feelings toward Bush remain intact, there are a few notable changes for the band this time out: For one, the lineup has altered, as guitarist Nigel Pulsford and bassist Dave Parsons, who both left the band after the commercially disappointing 2001 release Golden State, declined Rossdale’s invitation to return for the new project. “You have to be ready for the fight, [and they weren’t],” Rossdale says.
The Sea of Memories also marks the band’s first independent release. Formed by Rossdale and Pulsford in London in 1992, Bush delivered its breakout debut, Sixteen Stone, on Trauma/Interscope in 1994. The album went on to sell more than 6 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and remains the group’s best-selling release to date. Razorblade Suitcase followed two years later (also on Trauma/Interscope), debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and selling 3 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Bush returned with The Science of Things in 1999 and Golden State, the group’s only release on Atlantic, followed in 2001.
After Bush’s breakup, Rossdale busied himself pursuing other projects, including the album Distort Yourself with his band, Institute (released through Interscope in 2005), and a solo album, Wanderlust, also on Interscope, in 2008. Wanderlust peaked at No. 33 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 138,000 copies, according to SoundScan.
“I felt very inspired by my solo project,” says Rossdale, who notes that the songs for The Sea of Memories originally started as a solo follow-up to Wanderlust. “But I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a boxing match with one arm behind my back, not being able to be doing Bush.”
For The Sea of Memories, Rossdale reunited with Bush’s original drummer Robin Goodridge, as well as guitarist Chris Traynor, who has been playing with Rossdale since Bush’s Golden State tour. Bassist Corey Britz rounds out the band’s roster. Work on the new set began in early 2010, but the initial sessions with producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe), which resulted in roughly 20 new songs, failed to deliver the hit that Interscope was looking for to put Bush back on the map. The one single released from that period, “Afterlife,” didn’t chart.
Bush and Interscope soon split, and the band began working with the MGMT Company, a division of Front Line Management. MGMT advised the group to head back into the studio. “Bush is known for big songs, big hit records,” MGMT Company’s Lenny Beer says. “There was interesting stuff [on the recordings] but not a song we could get exploding on radio.”
Employing what Rossdale calls a “hip-hop” approach to the sessions-capturing songs in the studio rather than writing on acoustic guitar-the group worked with Rock to record five new songs and revamp the existing tracks. The result, The Sea of Memories, hammers Bush’s familiar post-grunge sound home with a modern production style in a 12-song set showcasing everything from adrenaline-fueled rockers like “The Mirror of the Signs” and “She’s a Stallion” to big, bold hooks (“The Sound of Winter”), ’90s guitar grit (“All My Life”) and piano-led ballads (“All Night Doctors”).
“Meeting Lenny and [the MGMT team] sort of revolutionized my life because I suddenly got an incredible A&R team back,” Rossdale says. “That degree of support wasn’t anything I’d experienced in a long time. It’s been invaluable and humbling and inspiring.”
Though various label options were considered, releasing the set independently on the group’s own Zuma Rock Records best suited the Bush camp. As Beer notes, at this stage in the band’s career, it no longer needs that level of assistance to break through on traditional mediums like radio. “Gavin’s a pre-sold brand at radio,” Beer says. “They’re going to listen to him right away, and they’re either going to like it or not.”
The set’s lead single, “The Sound of Winter,” is No. 6 and No. 16 on the Alternative and Active Rock charts, respectively, and has sold 16,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The band is also using new means of access to find where Bush’s former radio audience now spends their time. Marketing firms cqGirlilla Marketing and the Audience have been enlisted to assist with campaigns to bring Bush’s online presence up to speed, and, according to Beer, the band has gained more than 300,000 Facebook fans since the firms were brought onboard.
Touring will also play a crucial role in the promotion of The Sea of Memories, as the band seeks to connect with fans of the band’s earlier hits like “Glycerine” and “Comedown” and introduce them to the new music. Before launching a headlining tour of clubs and amphitheaters on Sept. 13, Bush performed a string of warm-up dates in August at smaller venues including New York’s 550-?capacity Bowery Ballroom. Tickets for the New York show sold out online in less than a minute.
“We’re lucky because we made records that really were instrumental in the backdrop of people’s lives,” Rossdale says. “At shows, I see the kind of release people have and the gratitude they have toward me for doing it again. I had very low expectations going into this, but to see that it’s justified, it’s brilliant.”