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Finger Eleven

Finger Eleven

We've Been Struck by Them

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 15, 2008.

Patience is not always a trait that one thinks of in the kill-or-be-killed world of popular music.  Yet, Finger Eleven’s whole career has been a tribute to diligence and allowing talent to grow.

The band comes out of the Canadian suburbs in the late 90s.  Made up of high school buddies Scott Anderson (vocals), Sean Anderson (bass), Rob Gommerman (drums), James Black (guitars) and Rick Jackett (guitars), they started out as a rock/funk band called Rainbow Butt Monkeys – actually releasing an album under that band name called Letters to Chutney on Mercury in 1995.

Soon after, the band changed their name to Finger Eleven (a reference to a line in one of their songs) and moved over to Wind-Up Records (home of Creed and Evanescence).  Gommerman left the band and was replaced by drummer Rich Beddoe – cementing the current line-up of the band.  Their first two albums, Tip and Greyest of Blue Skies received much critical love but little notice from the general public.  

However, after years of recording and touring, they first really captured the world’s attention with the slow-burning popularity of their 2004 ballad “One Thing.”  The song quietly worked its way higher and higher up the charts, eventually getting to the point that you couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing it in early 2005.

Their latest single, the hard-driving funk-rock anthem “Paralyzer” also took the scenic route to the top of the charts, but has eventually become even bigger than that song.  Released almost a year ago as the first single of band’s CD Them vs. You vs. Me, “Paralyzer” has just in recent months hit saturation rotation on pop and rock radio.  

With that song now one of the biggest hits of 2008, the band continues to move on, getting ready to release the sweet anti-love song “I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague” as the follow-up.  If it follows Finger Eleven’s template, it’ll simmer for a while before finally blowing up in early 2009 – so be the first in your neighborhood to jump on it now.

Drummer Rich Beddoe gave us a call from the road to tell us all about life with the band.

Nice vague question to start; how did you originally get into music and drumming?

I got started as a kid.  I grew up in a very musical family.  No one really played – but always the Beatles on and everyone singing along.  Music was always sort of a happy thing to go to, you know?  Then, drumming, just being a kid it always looked like the most fun, seeing it on TV.  First getting into heavy metal bands and seeing those guys going crazy.  It just looked like a lot of fun, so it sort of happened naturally.  I think I tried guitar first, when I was around nine and ended up breaking it.  I didn’t know how to fix it, so I just started taking drum lessons.  (laughs)  I was all over the place, man.  It was just always a positive thing and a place to go to when things were tough around the house.  That was the thing you did when you were upset.  

The band had been together a little while before you joined on – in fact I don’t believe you were on the first album the guys did together as Rainbow Butt Monkeys.  I’m not sure if you were on Tip, either. 

I wasn’t.  We went back in when I joined the band, because we were signed in Canada.  Right when I joined the band, this big shift happened and we got dropped and that’s when we signed to Wind-Up.  So we re-released Tip and I kind of went in and we changed a couple of things on the record, but nothing substantial.

How did you hook up with the band? 

I was playing in a band – just a local bar band.  I’d always be in an original band and it never worked out.  I tried sending demos to record companies my whole life.  I got to a point where I didn’t really want to work, so I would just play drums for money for people.  I just learned a bunch of songs and go to bars and do these three sets a night.  I heard about the band looking for a drummer through a friend of mine that was actually teaching our bass player.  This really great bass player I know was also a teacher.  He was teaching Sean [Anderson].  Sean told him to put the word out, so he let me know.  It was a very sort of generic interview.  I called the manager up.  There was a set time.  There was like 60 drummers to audition.  So, it was a very sterile audition environment.  Totally awkward.  (laughs)  It all kind of worked out.  I think as soon as we hung out – the music was fine as far as playing together.  Obviously it was brand new for me, but it was more just the chemistry.  Joking around, half the time we just sat there chatting about ourselves – where we come from.  I think that’s what really makes a band.  Right now we’re sitting in the bus.  You’ve got to be able to live in a bus with six other men.  That’s what really makes a band and makes you know if you want someone in your band.  That’s how it all went down.

You had been recording and playing for years with only limited notice a few years ago when “One Thing” hit.  How surreal was that, to suddenly be all over the radio and everything? 

It was weird, but I think when you’re right in the middle of it… usually when things take off for any band it’s usually when you’re right when you’re in the thick of touring.  In some ways you don’t get a chance to really appreciate it until you get home, because you’re just so busy.  It’s really when we got home and your friends and family start to tell you, ‘Wow, man, things are going well.’  That’s when you start to realize what is going on.  It’s still like that now, with ‘Paralyzer.’  Last year we toured for ten months pretty much nonstop and then got home for Christmas and everyone was like, ‘Holy shit, you guys are huge.  Congratulations!’  It was like, what are you guys talking about?  We’re just working.  Nothing has changed.  Then you’re driving your car around and you hear ‘Paralyzer’ 50 times a day and go like, holy shit!  (laughs)  So you have to experience it yourself to really see the scope of what’s going on.

Just like the last album, Them vs. You vs. Me was out for a while before “Paralyzer” hit.  Were you surprised it took so long to catch on?  Had you pretty much given up on having a hit from the album? 

No, I just think it just takes time.  That happens with a lot of bands.  Like you said, ‘One Thing’ was the same thing.  We always had managers and label guys around us telling us, ‘Man, it’s doing great.  Doing great!  It’s gonna get there.’  Six months go by and they’re still saying it.  There was never a period where they were, ‘uh… I don’t know, man.’  It was always – even though it took a year or so to really get going strong, that whole year was still positive.  We were still getting radio adds.  We were still touring.  It was a nice slow build, which in some ways is better than an overnight hit song.  You can ride it out longer.   You can stay on the road longer.  You can see it all happen gradually as opposed to all of the sudden waking up one day and you are playing in front of 5,000 people.  Not that we’re playing in front of 5,000 people, but you know what I mean. 

One thing I really like about Them vs. You vs. Me is that the band is really experimenting with a lot of styles.  “Paralyzer” is very funky dance rock, ballads like “Change the World,” acoustic ballads like “I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague,” there were even some touches of country.  Were you looking to experiment with styles on the CD? 

We were.  I don’t know if we were looking to do anything but just not have any rules or not have any laws about how we wrote songs.  I think with every album we sit and write it becomes more experimental – just because we are getting older and more mature and we’re listening to more new sounds.  Music is just so vast.  You can keep discovering stuff.  Every time we have time to sit at home and listen to more records and write songs, different guys bring more stuff to the table.  It’s never a conscious decision to go ‘we’re gonna change this today.’  We just get in a room and depending on one guy’s mood and another guy’s mood – that sort of will define what kind of sound you’ll write that day.  If everyone’s feeling depressed and it’s raining out, maybe you’ll write a ballad.  Or maybe you’ll write a ‘Paralyzer’ type of song.  Who knows?  It’s always based on that kind of stuff. 

How does the band handle writing the songs?  Is it all a big collaborative thing where certain people do certain things?

Someone [always] brings something to the table, but the way that happens is different.  There can be the generic way of sitting in a room and making noise in a circle and then hashing out an idea.  [Or] we were sending files back and forth to one another from home over the internet.  Someone can have a guitar idea and send it over to me.  I could put a drum part down and send it over to Sean, who’d put a bass part down.  By the end of the day, not even seeing each other you could have this skeletal idea of a song.  A few guys – guitar player and singer – would go away and just jam stuff up with acoustic.  Maybe go back and really get back to the roots of the song and jam it out with an acoustic guitar and rediscover a song.  There’s a bunch of ways a song comes to be with a band, but at the end of the day, everyone usually has some form of a stamp on it – each guy in the band.

It seems like on the new CD, when the songs turn to life like “I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague,” “So So Suicide,” “Window Song” and “Paralyzer,” they seem to be pretty downbeat.  As a songwriter, do you find being troubled more interesting than being happy? 

Well, that’s a lyrical question.  Scott [Anderson] writes all the lyrics.  That definitely depends on what he’s feeling and what he’s going through in life.  I think you can definitely look into Scott’s soul with every album and see what he’s going through.  We also offer up a song – if it’s a more aggressive song like ‘So So Suicide’ – that probably conjures up certain things for him to write about as well.  The whole process sort of affects one another and defines if you’re going to have a heavy song or a slower song.  It’s just how everyone presents the song to one another – the emotions will come out.  But certainly, lyrically speaking, you can kind tell what Scott goes through each time he writes a record, with his relationships and his frustrations or with his happiness about things.   It’s always cool for us to hear his rough ideas of a song.  We’re like, Holy shit, dude.  Are you all right?  (laughs)  It’s almost like therapy.  If he needs to say something, he can show us a new song and we can go, Oh, holy shit.  I didn’t know you were going through that, man. 

“Paralyzer” is a pretty searing indictment on the club culture.  Was there anything in particular that inspired Scott for that song? 

That was a great one, because I think it’s something the whole band feels.  We’ve never felt comfortable in dance clubs.  Sometimes you end up at them on the road or with friends at home.  You’re always the guy in the corner that feels awkward and just drinks too much and then says something stupid and goes home lonely.  (laughs)  We were all coming from that place, so when he wrote that song, it was like, ‘Oh, man.  It’s so cool that finally that’s being said.’  It really defined what we’ve all gone through.  I don’t know if he’s had a particular experience about that or just it’s every fucking time you go to a bar that’s what happens.  Obviously there is a big difference between like a pub and a club.  We belong in a dirty little bar in the corner drinking.  That’s our place – where we feel comfortable.  A bunch of laser lights and girls dancing to Lil’ Wayne – we’re screwed. 

I’ve started hearing “Falling On” on the radio.  Is that the second single? 

It is the second single, but we put that out there just to get something out there on rock radio.  ‘I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague’ is going to be the next big, pushed single.  Because ‘Paralyzer’ has been going so long on so many different charts – rock and pop – and we just wanted to give the rock stations something to play.  It’s certainly a single, but it’s not going to be given as much of a push as ‘Paralyzer’ has.  But it’s great you’re hearing it.  It’s doing pretty well, considering that the label guys aren’t going crazy pushing on it.  It’s cool. 

Does the band have an input on what is going to be a single, or does the label decide that? 

We all have an input.  We’ve been at it long enough that when we finish a song in the studio, you sort of can go, ‘Man, that one can be a single.’  You can sort of tell over the years what’s going to work and what will not.  We definitely have album track songs that we know there’s no way they’re going to be singles.  Sometimes they are the most fun, because you can make a seven-minute song and don’t even think about the radio.  But, I think at the end of the day, business-wise, the label sort of picks.  But everyone has an opinion.  Basically, no one has ever put out a single that we were like, ‘You can’t do that.’  Everyone they have ever picked was the logical choice.  That’s why the record company is good at what they do.  That’s their job. 

As a drummer, which track did you enjoy laying down the most? 

‘Sense of a Spark’ is really cool because in the verse it’s got the really sort of wacky verse-drum part.  We actually wrote that song for the last record and Scott never wrote anything for it, so we sort of just left it.  But we just always felt something about it.  So, when we were writing for this record, we asked Scott to take another look at it.  Thankfully, he was inspired to write a verse and a chorus.  It’s cool it made the record.  So, yeah, ‘Sense of a Spark’ I think for me is the most fun drum line. 

Speaking of that, I read that you guys had done like a hundred songs for the album and then had to cut back to eleven.  How did you decide what would come on and what wouldn’t and do you think any of the other songs will ever be released down the line like “Sense of a Spark” was? 

I hope so. Like, when you say 100 songs, there are always different variations.  A lot of them were just acoustic ideas that one or two guys were concepting.  But I’d like to think that some of those ideas we can look at for the next record and still make use of.  Like you were just saying, with ‘Sense of a Spark,’ but then there’s other songs, you just scrap them, you know?  You have to learn when to go back to a song and when to just say, okay, let that one die.

On the subject of unreleased tracks, I wrote a biography of Tori Amos. 

Oh, cool.

When I was researching it, I found that you guys recorded a cover of “Precious Things” that never got released. 

Yeah.  Yeah.

Why did you decide to do that song and why didn’t it ever see the light of day? 

It was at the point where when we did that – I mean we are all massive Tori Amos fans.  Little Earthquakes is… or was that Under the Pink?  Which one was I…?   Little Earthquakes is one of my favorites.  

Yeah, Little Earthquakes was the debut CD with “Precious Things” on it…

Yeah, I was just thinking of that whole record.  I was just sort of reminiscing in my brain there, how much I like that.  (laughs)  We always were a fan of that song.  She kind of blows that straw on that song.  There are so many cool production things on that song.  We were just at the point where we did it were, I think, we just did it for fun.  I don’t think we were big enough yet that the label sort of wanted to jump on it and release it.  We were still sort of struggling to release our own songs.  I think there’s a demo out there somewhere.  Like we were just saying about other songs that we’ve written before, maybe that’s one of those things that we can still release somewhere someday.  It’s still there and it’s recorded.

Yeah, maybe a bonus track…

Yeah, exactly.

There are so many new alternate ways to get your music out there.  You guys have been on TV, video games, the internet, you’ve even been in wrestling videos.  Do you think that makes it easier for a band to capture an audience?

It does.  Whether it’s easy or not, it’s just another form of getting people to know who your band is – especially in this day and age where the label is in some ways just dying around us.  Radio is a struggle.  Radio has always been a struggle to get a hit, but now even if you have a hit it still doesn’t necessarily mean your record.  I think the more sort of industries out there – such as wrestling and video games – that you can get people that you can get people to realize who you are, the better.  Having said that, you also don’t want to attach your name to some things you don’t believe in.  We’ve been asked to do tons of things that probably would have been a good idea as far as getting eyeballs looking at you, but we just didn’t believe in them.  Like, we’re not going to do a cigarette company commercial.  We don’t smoke.  I mean we’re not anti [smoking]… we will smoke weed, but we don’t want to do a cigarette commercial, even if it can pay us a million bucks.  We’re just not going to do it.  You have to pick and choose, but you can’t be too picky.  I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was a kid, but now I think it’s sort of hokey-pokey.  Doing a song for Kane was fun.  I don’t know if everyone in the band loves wrestling, but they realize how huge it is.  (chuckles)  With that being said, sometimes songs get used in ways where… because we signed up with wrestling, they decided to use ‘One Thing’ as a tribute to Chris Benoit.  We basically did a tribute for a killer.  Like, fuck, who gave someone permission to use our music to fucking tribute a fucking killer?  So when you license your song to something like WWE, you have to keep a close eye on where they use it.  But that’s Vince McMahon; he’s sort of a scoundrel anyway. 

Nowadays musicians have so many more ways to reach out to their fans, the forum on the official site, your MySpace page.  In your career, MySpace played a huge part in getting you guys noticed.  What is it like being able to reach the fans like that? 

It’s just one of those necessary things, you know?  It takes a little more effort these days to be in touch with your fans, because you’ve got to take advantage of your MySpaces and your Facebooks and all that kind of stuff.  So in some ways it’s a little more work for bands, but in this day and age it’s one of those things I think you need to do.  First of all, just let fans know you are paying attention.  Because you can like someone’s music – I know for myself in the past, you can like someone’s music but if you try to meet them backstage and they’re a dick, or you try to reach out to them now on the internet and they are nonresponsive, you can quickly find another band you like – real easy.  It’s as important for us for fans to buy your record as it is for a band to say, ‘Hey, thanks for buying my record.’  Whether it is in person or online, just basically show them you give a shit, because there are a million bands to choose from.  To know that you are the one of them they like, you really have to hold onto that more than ever these days. 

One thing I like about the band is that you are hard, but you aren’t afraid to have a tune.  Years ago when you guys were first starting, it was considered something of a sell-out for a rock band to have a melody.  Why do you think the world is so ready for more melodic rock? 

Well, first of all, I think it’s a testament to how long of a career we’ve had, which is amazing.  But, hey, trends have changed.  That’s just one of a million changes over the years.  Every few years something changes.  That’s why you have these new titles like nu rock or nu metal – all this shit.  There are always new titles because people are trying to figure out what is different about these new bands.  I think the reason that bands like Limp Bizkit died away… I just think there was an overflow of guys not singing enough melody.  There was just a bunch of rapping.  I mean, that whole rap/rock thing, it was a really cool new thing.  Especially in the beginning, no one had really heard it before, but now, it’s so done now.  Everybody did it for so many years and overdid it.  I think people want melody again.  People like to sing along to songs on the radio.  Everyone in the world does.  Maybe for a while there, people liked to rap along to a Limp Bizkit song.  But at the end of the day it’s always going to come back to a melody.  I think it was just a matter of time.  Just a phase.  I think something else will come along.  A lot of the screaming, I find, a lot of these new kind of emo bands with the crazy screaming guy you can’t understand it sort of like the new rap/rock.  There’s a million of these bands where the guitar player sings and the singer guy just scream-o’s, you know?  There are a lot of bands I like.  There’s a Canadian band called Alexisonfire that do it and they’re really awesome.  But, it’s hard to imagine it in ten years.  (laughs)  You know, it’s hard to imagine those bands on their fourth record and still doing it.  At some point, I think, singing just always comes back.  Melody has always been there since the start of time, so there will always be trends, but melody will always remain. 

In the end, how would you like people to look back on your music? 

If it was all said and done, I’d like people to know there is a band that cared about their music.  There is a band that probably didn’t have as much success as they could have because of how much they cared.  Because they didn’t follow the trends.  There was a band that took chances on their own songs and changed every time – even though they probably lost, and sometimes gained, fans.  There’s a band that took chances for the sake of the music, as opposed to the sake of their own careers. 

Are there any misconceptions you'd like to clear up? 

Umm… No.  I mean I don’t think so.  (laughs)  We’ve always been pretty good about not having too much drama with our band.  You know what you get when you meet us.  We do our thing onstage.  We all kind of go into mode and play.  We’re just normal Canadian dudes that write songs and rock out for a living.

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Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 15, 2008.