There might not be any band that was happier to see 2006 end and a new year begin than Seether. "(That) year was a pretty tumultuous year for all of us personally, and as a band," drummer John Humphrey says.
The troubles included the much-publicized stint in rehab for singer/guitarist Shaun Morgan in summer 2006. Morgan's month-long stay coincided with the release of the Evanescence hit single, "Call Me When You're Sober." The song was written by Morgan's former girlfriend of three years, Evanescence singer Amy Lee, and she has said the unflattering song was inspired by the breakup of their relationship.
For his part, Morgan has refused to get into a war of words over the song, other than to tell MTV.com that he was disappointed Lee chose to air the former couple's dirty laundry in public.
But Morgan's battle to overcome his substance issues (he has not revealed the exact problems that prompted him to enter rehab) is just one challenge that Seether faced last year.
The band also lost one of its members, guitarist Pat Callahan, who tired of the touring grind. Humphrey himself also ended 2006 on a sour note, having to undergo back surgery.
"I was literally flat on my back for the (Christmas) holidays," he says. "I had four months of recovery from that."
On a group level, there was some upheaval as well, as the band split with its former manager and signed on with the powerhouse management company, The Firm.
With the business setup revamped and personal issues resolved, Morgan, Humphrey and the band's third member, bassist Dale Stewart, returned to action this past spring with a decidedly new outlook.
The new enthusiasm was focused toward Seether's recently released third CD, Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces. And while more than a few critics dismiss Seether as a knock-off of mainstream Rock bands like Nickelback, Papa Roach or Staind, Humphrey makes his case for the idea that Seether did its share of musical experimenting on the new CD.
"I think there were a lot of chances that we took with this new album," he says. "We're not going to come out with a Polka album or a Jazz trio album, Dave Brubeck or something. But we've matured. I'd like to think we have grown as artists and songwriters and I think this CD reflects that."
To be sure, Finding Beauty still sounds very much like Seether. But within the group's straight-ahead Guitar Rock sound, there are some contrasts to the first two albums, Disclaimer and Karma And Effect. The first disc was released in 2002, and had produced one Rock radio hit, "Fine Again," before it got a whole new life when the band re-recorded a version of its ballad "Broken" with Lee for the movie The Punisher. "Broken" became a hit single and prompted the release of a revamped version of the first CD, Disclaimer II.
This generated plenty of momentum for Karma and Effect, which sold more than 500,000 copies. Because "Broken" had caused some to think Seether specialized in ballads, the band emphasized the hard-hitting side of its music on Karma and Effect and displayed plenty of punch and crunch on the CD.
Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces doesn't ignore the heavier side of the band's music. But some of the more abrasive edges of Karma have been softened. A few songs, meanwhile, display some of the experimentation that Humphrey says occurred during the recording sessions. The chart-topping Modern Rock single, "Fake It," combines a swaggering beat and poppy melody to appealing effect. "Walk Away from the Sun" is a multi-faceted mid-tempo track that broadens the band's usual instrumental palette with keyboard, piano and vocal harmonies, while "Rise Above This" employs a signature riff that's unusually graceful and melodic for a Seether rocker.
Humphrey credits producer Howard Benson with encouraging the band to step beyond the tried and true.
"He really kicked us in the butt and made us think a little bit outside of the box for Seether and maybe add some color and some things musically that we hadn't considered before," Humphrey says. "I think he brought a lot to the table and I think that's reflected in the CD."
After touring in the fall and spring as the opening band on the Breaking Benjamin/Three Days Grace tour, Seether is now sharing a run of dates with Flyleaf. The longer set is allowing the band to expand.
"Karma and Effect was our last release in 2005, and we've been playing those songs from Disclaimer for a long time," Humphrey says. "So we're really excited about playing the new stuff. Yeah, on the headlining set, we'll be adding more material from the newest album, which is fun and real fresh for us to play. That kind of keeps us on our toes and kind of keeps things fresh and new."
SEETHER plays the Madison Theater on May 21. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.