Between 1981 and 1998, Van Halen stacked up 13 No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart, setting a record that stood until mid-September. That’s when Canadian post-grunge quartet Three Days Grace scored its 14th No. 1 on the airplay-based ranking with “Infra-Red,” off its March album, Outsider. Through ups and downs (including replacing its lead singer in 2013), the band has gradually become one of rock radio’s most all-time successful acts.
Jive Records’ Michael Tedesco brought the band’s debut single, “I Hate Everything About You,” to Warren Christensen at management company Q Prime to get his opinion. Christensen recalls thinking that the song, which was released in 2003, was perfect for rock radio, precisely where the format was heading. He told Tedesco: “The first thing you do when you leave my office is you sign this band.”
The band wrote “Animal I Have Become,” its second No. 1 (“Just Like You” was the first), as a demo while on a bus in Germany in 2004. “I remember saying [that] that riff would be great heavy,” says bassist Brad Walst. “As soon as we got back to North America, we started jamming it as a heavy song, and it was like, ‘Shit, I think we’ve nailed it.’”
“Adam [Gontier, ex-frontman] is so skilled at writing dark songs that connect with people,” says Joanne Grand, then-senior director of rock formats at Jive. But Gontier insists he’s never tried too hard to make that happen: “I’ve always stayed away from trying to predict whether or not a certain song will connect,” he says, “but there was something raw and vulnerable about ‘Pain,’” which hit No. 1 in December 2006 and remained there for 13 weeks.
Despite the band receiving only scant pop-radio airplay early in its career, 2006 single “Never Too Late” broke Three Days Grace at the format, reaching the top 20. “Timing was everything during those years at the band’s peripheral formats, adult and pop, and we made a conscious decision to try and cross over,” says RCA co-president Joe Riccitelli. Adds Walst: “That was the end of the bubble at pop radio, where they stopped playing rock music. We got in right at the end.”
“I remember sitting in the control room with [producer] Don Gilmore for hours and hours and hours, trying to figure out how to get that punchy, heavy sound out of something other than a guitar,” recalls Walst of recording “Chalk Outline,” which stayed at No. 1 for 13 weeks in 2012.
After Gontier left the group in 2013 over creative differences, Walst says the band didn’t have too much time to be hung up — five weeks later, it embarked on a co-headlining tour with Shinedown, enlisting Walst’s brother Matt, then-lead singer for My Darkest Days, as its new frontman.
With “Infra-Red,” the second single from 2018 LP Outsider to lead Mainstream Rock Songs this year, the band continues its hot streak. Even Gontier admits: “For a few small-town Canadians, we didn’t do too bad.”