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Finger Eleven Returns with Five Crooked Lines

Veteran Canadian band on tour behind new album

Celebrity Interview by Jason Clevett (From GayCalgary® Magazine, October 2015, page 20)
Finger Eleven
Finger Eleven
Finger Eleven Returns with Five Crooked Lines: Veteran Canadian band on tour behind new album

Five years is a long time between albums. It seemed like Finger Eleven had dissappeared since the release of 2010’s Life Turns Electric. The band was hard at work, however, and that time paid off with the release of one of their best albums to date: Five Crooked Lines. Their Fall of the Hammer tour is currently underway, including a stop in Calgary at the Marquee Room October 27th.

"Oh man I can’t believe it’s been that long – honestly. It felt like a decent chunk of time. We never really stopped writing. We just tried to keep improving the material until we were satisfied. James (Black) and his wife had a baby. We had a label change and a drummer change, so all of that stuff took some time. Why it took five years? I think I regret that amount of time that went by and I don’t think we can do it again. We have to put less time between albums. Having said that, I can speak for the band, I am immensely proud of the new record. I think it’s much closer to the mark than we usually get. You always want to try and get as close as you can: sometimes you hit; sometimes you don’t. It’s a really nice, definitive album for what we were aiming for," singer Scott Anderson told GayCalgary.

Although the writing process took awhile, the recording happened quickly, he explained. "It’s ironic that we spent so long because we very rarely took too much time off in that five years. Ideas were always being thrown around, and we would book trips to go up to cottages and get the ideas a little tighter. After all that time we talked to this guy, Dave Cobb, who finds pre-production ‘fucking boring’ so we knew we weren’t going to sit in a room, like we usually do for a week, and map everything out. We just opened up a song a day, and we had 12 days to do the record, so we went down to his home studio in Nashville and that’s what we did every single day. We broke open a song that he liked and we just let him choose from a catalogue of about 22 songs that we brought down. It was this wonderful process where we picked a song and figured it out as we laid down tracks. It was a wonderful way to make music, and assures it’s not a boring process. I find the studio to be pretty insufferable in terms of sitting around waiting your turn to get your music done. I would love to continue that process; it captures performances much easier and is a great way to keep the energy level up in the studio."

The band – Anderson, guitarist James Black, rhythm guitarist Rick Jackett, and bassist Sean Anderson have been making music since 1989. After the departure of long-time drummer Rich Beddoe, the band brought Steve Molella on board. Molella has fit right in, which can be a challenge walking into a group that has been together for over 25 years.

"I think Steve is getting really comfortable. When we auditioned Steve he nailed the part. He revealed later that he grew up listening to the records. It definitely sounded like that. He is getting more comfortable in a live setting, and it’s almost as if it’s kind of perfect. We tend to try and perform the songs as they are on the record, but it’s kind of nice to hear a flourish here and there, which signals to me that Steve is getting really into the groove of things. It is a difficult proposition because it’s a bunch of guys that have been together for over 20 years. It is an impossible thing for someone to waltz in and feel comfortable. but he’s doing it. There is the stage dynamic; there is the bus dynamic – you have got to hang out and enjoy stupid bullshit inside jokes and stuff like that. It has been a real nice fit so far."

The band returned to the road with a U.S. tour, recently opening for fellow Canadians Three Day’s Grace. Nothing quite compares to the energy of being on stage, Anderson said.

"You miss it. It is fun to make music at home, but there is nothing like playing live. To get that reaction from something you’ve created with your friends – it’s kind of why you do it. That feeling has been constantly the same ever since we played a high school show. It is the same adrenaline rush, and I kind of love that. You keep chasing that feeling; you want to create something and share it with people."

The U.S. tour had the added challenge of opening for another band.

"Playing to someone else’s audience – at the beginning – they might be a little lukewarm, but you can get them to come around to you in the end. That is a nice challenge. I like to surprise an audience that otherwise might be dismissive of the band. You have to look far and wide to find an asshole in a Canadian band. They exist, certainly, but there is not a lot of tension, and there is definitely camaraderie. Maybe it is more of a Canadian thing. The backstage is usually pretty relaxed and there isn’t a lot of egotistical bullshit."

It is great for Canadian bands to be able to tour other countries, but coming home and playing for Canadians is extra special.

"Anywhere in Canada feels like home. Not to be corny about it, but as soon as you cross that border, it’s like oh my gosh. You take for granted how awesome Canada is. All you have to do is go away for a little bit and then you go why leave? This place is amazing. There is the ego thing about you wanting the whole planet to know about your record. I still need to do Japan – we haven’t been there yet. We have got to get big in Japan."

The live performance is what Finger Eleven is renowned for. Although physically it is different playing – compared to 15 years ago – having performed for so long together, there is a different level of musicianship and confidence on stage.

"I feel like I am singing better. There is less nervous energy. I like to pretend that I know what I’m doing, or I have learned something. That might not be true. The band is full of more confidence than we’ve had in some time. I think you are going to see a bunch of guys that love being onstage and get along and want to be around each other. That energy, hopefully, emanates from the stage. That way everybody has a great time. There is nothing worse than watching a band that is a bunch of guys that can barely stand to be on the same stage; it’s a terrible dynamic. [We are] a band that is proud of both the old and new stuff, and we are delivering them in different ways on this tour. We changed it up a little bit and I am excited about that."

The band has spent a lot of time on the road: touring behind their 2007 album Them vs. You vs. Me saw them play Calgary five times. As the band grows older, and has growing commitments like family to consider, it becomes harder to be on the road for that long, even though they love visiting cities like Calgary.

"The Coke Stage at the Stampede is packed with some of the most energetic rock fans that any band could ever hope to play for. Calgary likes its rock and has been really kind to us for years now. I am grateful for that. Every time we roll into Calgary we have a fantastic time. The Stampede is just so full of such a wonderful atmosphere – I can’t get enough of it. I love it, but touring is tough. We are proud of this record; I don’t think anybody was expecting the record to be as good as it is. Who comes out with a great record on album number six? It is kind of odd. We are stuck between wanting to take over the world, and people knowing we have a new record out, and that means touring a lot. We love playing live, but you have to balance that with what’s at home. We have to see where that shakes out. I am hoping that next year is full of touring; we will go where people want us to go."

With six albums released, and a lot of singles and fan favourites, it can be difficult to put together a set list.

"That is the longest part of rehearsing: you book four hours and spend two of them arguing about what you should put in the set-list, and what flows together. I think that we fall on the if you were a fan what would you want to hear? It is important to represent every record. All it takes is hopping off stage, and talking to fans, and they will tell you what songs they wanted to hear that you didn’t play. We take that into consideration and are bringing back four or five songs that we haven’t played in years. That is the result of listening to the fans and trying to put together a kickass set-list."

You can expect hits like "One Thing" and "Paralyzer" to be part of the tour. Despite them being played as staples on radio, Anderson still enjoys playing them.

"I do only because I feed off that energy so much. Those are pretty fun songs to sing anyway. If the audience is really with me, then they can sing it and it’s wonderful. I still love singing those songs."

When the Fall of the Hammer tour hits Alberta this week, expect to hear classics and new tracks amid the same quality live show that has made Finger Eleven one of Canada’s most recognized bands.

"You have got awesome openers with Head of the Herd; we have a re-imagined set that has a really interesting turn midway through it; we are bringing back some songs fans have requested over the years. It’s a reinvigorated band, and if you are a fan of rock music at all, you are going to have a fantastic time."

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