Post by princeofpersia on Mar 27, 2021 13:12:01 GMT -6
Evanescence’s Amy Lee: ‘With the fight for democracy, it’s time for rock to come back and be on top’
Releasing Evanescence's first album of original music in a decade, Amy Lee talks loss, grief, and why "woman in rock" is an unhelpful label
At the turn of the millennium, nu-metal was the biggest scene around. With genre barriers broken down by the explosion of digital downloads, the likes of Linkin Park, Deftones and Limp Bizkit blended electronic music with hard rock, hip-hop, industrial and grunge. Selling hundreds of millions of copies, their angsty records spoke to a generation of kids who realised there was more to music than a single style.
Formed in 1995 when the 14-year-old pianist and singer Amy Lee met 15-year-old guitarist Ben Moody at a Christian Youth camp, Evanescence spent years releasing independent EPs and playing coffee shops around their home state of Arkansas. In 2003 they dropped their debut album Fallen and it swiftly cemented the band’s place in that exploding nu-metal scene. A gorgeous blend of gothic cinema, hard rock and classical music, it went on to become one of the biggest selling albums of the 21st Century while lead single Bring Me To Life was a Grammy Award-winning global smash that remains a mainstay of alternative radio to this day. However, the track also features an uncredited guest spot from Paul McCoy who provides the male vorcals.
It was a compromise with the label, who wanted to add a male vocalist to the band full time since they didn’t believe in Lee fronting her own band alone. Evanescence pushed back before settling on that one track compromise. Lee was still nervous though. “I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea. There was always a chance that people were only going to hear that first song and I thought we were better than that.”
The people who doubted that pianos or female vocals belonged in rock music were quickly proven wrong when the album did so well, as did its follow-up The Open Door in 2006, despite the complete collapse of the nu-metal scene. The band also survived the sudden departure of Moody over ‘creative differences’ in 2003 (He went on to form We Are The Fallen with guitarist John LeCompt and drummer Rocky Gray when they left Evanescence in 2007).
“I always felt like we stood out in that world but I like to stand out. I always saw our differences as a positive,” says Lee, a singular voice in a scene dominated by macho aggression.
Seventeen years later and with Lee gearing up to release Evanescence's fourth studio album, she feels vindicated. “You always have something to prove, especially as a rock musician,” she tells me from her home in Nashville, taking a break from signing a thousand copies of their new album. “But I'm down for the challenge. I'm ready to prove it.”
Familiar but modern, The Bitter Truth is Evanescence’s first album of original music in a decade.
After a gruelling tour schedule for their self-titled third album, the band took a brief hiatus from 2012 to 2015, with Lee also becoming a mother in 2014. She kept herself busy with solo work, soundtracking films (War Story and Indigo Grey: The Passage), creating the song Speak To Me for 2017’s psychological thriller Voice From The Stone, releasing a covers EP and a debut solo album of children’s music called Dream To Much.
Evanescence also reworked hits from their back catalogue on 2017’s Synthesis, replacing the heavy rock with ethereal electronics and orchestral movements. The tour for that album saw the band play over 80 shows around the world but The Bitter Truth sees them return to their roots. “It has to do with the depth of emotion” the genre offers, says Lee who didn’t want to go into the studio until she had something to say. New music, according to Lee, “has to come out of a need to make it. I can't just make something because there's money to be made. These records do take a lot of work and energy, and I just can't fake it.”
Inspired by a lot of everything, The Bitter Truth started taking shape last January when the band went into the studio to record four songs before touring. The album wasn’t finished but “as you get older you start to realise how precious time can be, especially when you have kids,” so they didn’t want to waste a second. Then lockdown happened, the tour was postponed and the band turned all their attention to a new record. “Making this album has been something positive to focus on and an outlet for all those emotions that are going on,” says Lee. “It really kept us going.”
In that decade between records, Evanescence have experienced “a lot of loss, I became a mum and there've been some big life events that have blown my mind open.” After a lifelong struggle with epilepsy, Lee’s brother Robbie passed away in 2018. “He was one of my best friends,” Lee tells me. “I’ve had to rediscover my identity and faced a lot of deep questions about our existence, our place in the universe, and what it all means. A lot of this album is about processing grief.” The band needed the healing catharsis that making a heavy, emotional rock album offered them. “There are days where I don’t feel motivated to take on the world or be all the things that our music might sound like I am but the fight to get back up again is what it’s all about.”
Now listening to this record makes Lee feel empowered. She hopes that’s the same for other people, especially as a believer “that you can’t heal until you face the pain.” It’s a personal message but one that also speaks to society in general. “It’s the bitter truth, we have to tackle the things that are wrong or they're never going to change.” It’s the idea that sparked the track Use My Voice. Lee was inspired to write something after reading Chanel Miller’s powerful victim impact speech that she used to address her rapist Brock Turner at his sentencing (he only got six months for the assault, a longer sentence would have “a severe impact on him,” according to a judge.)
The powerful track was originally going to be the first song released from The Bitter Truth but with the political situation in America getting more fraught, the band decided to lead with the frustrated, rage-addled Wasted On You. As election day approached though, the band teamed up with HeadCount (an organisation that “translates the power of music and culture into real action) for the Use My Voice initiative, encouraging voter registration. “We wanted to let people know the truth, which is that your voice does matter. So go use it.” It was their first step into real world politics. The reaction wasn’t a surprise, though there were expecting more of a backlash. “We're just proud that we were able to use that song for something good.”
After months of feeling America’s pain, Lee feels better with Biden in office. “Every day when I wake up, I don't have anxiety in my heart just wondering what went wrong overnight. For real, my blood pressure is lower this year. Not everything is perfect but things are better because there’s someone responsible in the driver’s seat. At the same time, there’s a lot of work that has to be done.”
Lee doesn’t know if Evanescence are going to become a force of political change but personally, she’s had an awakening. “I’ve been lazy in the past, I wouldn’t watch the news because life’s hard enough and I wouldn’t want to think about politics but we’ve seen where that gets us. I’m going to pay more attention from now on.” Use My Voice, as well as featuring the barbed line “Label me bitch because I dare to draw my own line” also features backing vocals from The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen, Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, VERIDIA’s Deena Jakoub, Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel, Jen Majura and Lindsey Stirling. It started off as a celebration of getting by with a little help from her friends but now the track is “a great unified symbol of the sisterhood of women and rock, because we are one.”
Lee’s openness to talk more about her experiences as part of that sisterhood is partly due to some emancipation behind the scenes. “I haven't always had people working with us that believed in me or supported me. Even during the self-titled era, people were putting their own agenda first and viewing me as something that could benefit them in some way.” Because of that, everything felt like a struggle. “It's hard to sing about complete freedom when you're still a little bit stuck.” After cleaning house, Lee is now in a place where she’s only surrounded by people that believe in them. “It's a different feeling. I have so much more energy because I'm not spending half the time fighting for the music.”
As for the misogyny and sexism in rock, Lee points out that it’s not just restricted to that scene. The other day Lee was doing an interview with Hale and Momsen about what it meant to be a woman in rock. “It's amazing how similar we all feel about it. We don't really want to be women in rock. You just want to be recognized for being great at what you do and not really have gender enter the conversation. I want to be the best because we're the best, period. But it's important to talk about and it's important to shine a light on the fact that there's way less women in hard rock,” explains Lee who has seen “so much positive change” onstage and behind the scenes since she first formed the band at age 14. “Ultimately, the more of us there are, the more of us there will be.”
The last couple of years have seen the return of nu-metal, thanks in part to artists like Rina Sawayama and her industrial tinged pop and Doja Cat’s reworked version of Say So at 2020 MTV EMAs. Lee always found the term nu-metal funny. “What was really inspiring about music and made me want to start a band was the idea of combinations that were unlikely.” To see all those different influences lumped into the same category was “frustrating. It makes a big thing small” but according to Lee, she finds that true of any label. “I don't think it matters what you call something as long as you listen to it.”
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