after that, Evanescence’s Amy Lee reveals why it was so important to look back, before moving forward, on new album Synthesis
IT’S BEEN SIX YEARS SINCE THEIR SELF-TITLED THIRD ALBUM, BUT EVANESCENCE AREN’T READY TO MOVE ON JUST YET. RATHER, AS AMY LEE EXPLAINS, THEIR UPCOMING SYNTHESIS LP IS AN EXERCISE IN CREATIVE REINVIGORATION…
The march of progress, they say, beats only towards the break of day.as the world turns faster, artistic prosperity seems judged on sheer volume. It’s become a quickening cycle of fresh faces with bright ideas about new sounds just waiting to be chewed up and spat out by a planet without the patience to let tomorrow’s heroes find footing on solid ground.
Amy Lee, fortunately, comes from an older school of thought. More than two decades into her career, the Evanescence icon knows a thing or two about breaking into the public consciousness and staying there. More consequentially, she knows that first-rate music, like fine wine, only grows more flavoursome with age.
Six years since Evanescence’s self-titled last LP – and 14 since their world-beating Fallen breakthrough in 2003 – conventional logic would dictate that it’s time to move on. Instead of ploughing forward, however, amy has opted to journey inward and reinvestigate the spark at the centre of some of her favourite songs. what began as a nagging desire to highlight the contributions of composer and long-time collaborator David Campbell “snowballed” into an album, Synthesis, in which the Little Rock, arkansas quintet unlock their catalogue’s big emotions.to do so, the project sees the band jettison guitars and conventional percussion in favour of part-organic, part-synthetic orchestral electronic composition.
“It’s hard to explain,” Amy laughs of her creative trip down memory lane. “i basically just strip away the rules and try to feel my way. I ask, ‘what do I want?’ or, ‘what’s going to feel satisfying, creatively?’ But then, after I’ve gone down all these rabbit holes, I have to start answering questions about why I did what I did. that’s really hard. I think this is just a cool combination of wanting to express something new, where we are now, and a different side of our music, with a return to our roots.” How so? “This stuff has always been part of Evanescence,” she expands. “it’s just that it normally ends up taking a back seat. Beneath that wall of distorted guitars there are actually very complex, intricate and thoughtful arrangements.”
The electronic elements, too, sit close to Amy’s heart. Producer Will Hunt (not to be confused with their drummer of the same name) has brought a synthetic structure to the songs that take Amy back to her earliest days in the band alongside founding guitarist Ben Moody.
“When we first started making music it was just the two of us sitting in front of whatever device we could afford,” she explains. “it wasn’t much, normally a 16-track recorder,
but we’d use it to layer sounds and beats along with chord progressions.the idea of a full band playing these songs was something that only came along later. I still write that way – in front of my computer, just finding a drum loop and building on top.”
As much about embellishment as distillation, Synthesis pushed Amy and her bandmates far beyond their comfort zones. Usually, she and the band have a good idea where they’re headed.this time, however, it was more of a mystery.
“A lot of the time, we know what’s next and we know what to do,” she explains.“you’re making an Evanescence album, you’re making a rock album – you know how to do that already! This one came from such a different place.”
Working with a full orchestra, however, left Amy with the kid-in-a-candy-shop conundrum. She ended up with myriad options clouding the creative path.
“I kept extending the time in the studio,” she laughs. “It got to the point where we had already released Bring Me To Life as an instant-grat track, but I was still in the studio trying to perfect every word, every part of the rest of the album!”
If anything, the time away from the studio was equally important. Playing gigs served to intensify the sense of unfinished – or rather, ongoing – business for Amy.
“Playing live was important,” Amy nods.“songs have a life that goes far beyond those original recordings, after we’ve played them so many times. They change and grow. I wanted to record some of that growth for the people who might not be able to come to a performance.
“I went through our entire catalogue looking for the little things I wanted to accentuate, or that would fit into this world,” she enthuses.“lacrymosa was a superobvious choice, but there were others with these epic moments that I wanted to expand on. Never Go Back was one of those, andyour Star has that very classicallyinspired piano arpeggio that goes into this crazy place.”
Even fan-favourites, apparently, were over-ripe for a classical revision.
“The version of My Immortal that I hear the most in life is so old,” she laughs.“it’s a demo vocal, a MIDI piano – not even a real piano – and me singing it, aged 17, at the radio station my dad would let us use when they’d finished with it late at night. I hate that recording! Yes, it’s sweet because I’m a kid just experimenting and trying to find my voice, but I wanted the chance to do that as a 35-year-old woman; as someone who’s been singing that song and many others for years now. I had to do that for redemption’s sake. Hopefully it goes to the top of the pile on Spotify so I don’t have to hear the old one any more!”
Hindsight has more than artistic bearing, of course. Was there much of an impetus to detach these songs from the tag of nu-metal, too?
“Absolutely,” comes the affirmation, surprisingly unabashed.“originally, my vision for this band was about the combination of classical music and traditional [soundtrack] scores with heavy rock. I hate to even use the word ‘metal’, but you can definitely hear the connection between heavy metal and intense classical music.they’re the same on many levels. It’s awesome shredding – just on a completely different instrument. It was always about bringing something classical into a contemporary place.”
There are two new songs on Synthesis.‘we stand undefined / Can’t be drawn with a straight line,’ rails Amy on Imperfection, before declaring,‘this will not be our ending / We are alive!’ It is a magnificent feat – verbalising Synthesis’ mission statement while delivering a potent, painfully-relevant plea against suicide. For the only recent, purely-original offering of this cycle,amy wracked her deepest psyche.
“It was a hard song to write,” she admits.“there was so much pressure. I chose all my favourite songs from throughout my career, put them all on one album, then had to write a single to go on top of that. Every single word had to be so perfect. It had to be about something I really truly felt.”
Unfortunately, tragic inspiration – the loss of too many heroes – was close to Amy’s heart.
“I couldn’t deny all of the loss all around us. I realised I was thinking about that, struggling with it every day,” Amy continues.“we meet fans before every show, and many of them have experiences and scars, where they’ve been affected by suicide and depression, loss and grieving. It’s so hard to get through every day in life feeling this intense pain. Step one is admitting it’s really hard – the pain is real. Step two is realising your life is worth living, that you never know what’s coming next, and that we need each other deeply. I hope that that’s what people take away: don’t give up the fight – life and love are worth it.”
It’s a song reflective of the record’s tonal delivery, from darkness into light.
“The concept of the album, and these songs, basically explores the themes throughout Evanescence’s whole history,” she explains.“it’s about processing the pain, confessing the pain and working through it. That is the essence of Evanescence.”
For the band’s other players – aforementioned sticksman Will, bassist Tim Mccord, lead guitarist/ backing vocalist Troy Mclawhorn and guitarist Jen Majura – the re-jigged, expanded set-up took some processing, too.
“I think it’s both challenging and liberating,” reckons the frontwoman.“it’s definitely a challenge in that they had to find a way to fit into a world where we we’re doing something totally different.they were experimenting with effects pedals and different gear, taking their instruments to the limit in seeing the sounds they could make. Even if it requires taking a little bit of a back seat, it’s exciting to get into this world with so many incredibly talented musicians!”
The ultimate realisation of that excitement, we’re promised, will come with the imminent Synthesis live shows – hitting these shores, orchestra in tow, with two nights at London’s Royal Festival Hall next March. So, what ratio of symphony to metal can we expect?
“Things you’ve seen, like [Metallica’s] S&M shows, resemble what we already were – the big string arrangements around the full power of the band,” Amy enthuses.“this had to be subtractive in order to be something truly unique – for us, and in general. Rather than a band with an orchestra, we will all be one.we’ll be seated with the orchestra.the drummer will be in the back with an electronic kit. It will be one fluid thing, like a new version of an orchestra, of which we’re part.”
As spectacular as those shows sound, our appetite for a full serving of new material remains unsated. In parting,amy assures us we’ll get our fill before long.
“I’d expect we’ll be heading into the studio later next year,” she confirms.“i know we’ve got a good handful of songs to start with already.at that, Synthesis isn’t any indication of where we’re going. I like contrast. In my life I don’t go for that much drama, so I wanted to play this up and really go crazy with the orchestra. But, if anything, this could be the opposite of what the next album might sound like. It might be really nice to go raw on the next album, to [focus on] the band again.
“Right now, though,” she flashes, anticipating grand evenings on the nearer horizon,“i’m focused on Synthesis’ live representation.”
A glimmer of that 17-year-old, with her uncomplicated excitement, peeks through.
“It’s going to be pretty special.”
EVANESCENCE’S ALBUM SYNTHESIS IS OUT ON NOVEMBER 10 VIA BMG
Evanescence p24 The band came extremely under-dressed for their photoshoot