There's always been a very distinctive sound to the music of 3 Doors Down. Even if songs like "Kryptonite," "Here Without You" and "When I'm Gone" didn't get inducted into modern rock history, when the first few bars of those tracks play, you know who you're listening to.
That's not a stigma, per se, but it is something that a band may want to escape from - getting pigeonholed into a particular sound can place you in a creative rut. On 3 Doors Down's new album Us and the Night, that's something they looked to escape.
From the sludgy lead single "In the Dark" to lighter fare like piano-led tracks "Inside of Me" and "Fell from the Moon," this album is arguably 3 Doors Down's most diverse effort to date.
To coincide with the record's release, Music Times chatted with 3 Doors Down frontman Brad Arnold about the new record and the present state of rock 'n' roll.
Music Times: It's been five years since 3 Doors Down last album, Time of My Life. What have you been doing creatively in that time?
Brad Arnold: Oh goodness, just staying busy staying busy and time flies when you're having fun I guess. Time really flies when you're on tour for a really long time, and honestly I don't think we really thought about it being so long. We just kind of looked up and four years had gone then we spent a year and a half writing and recording this record and time just slips away. But, you know, we toured on Time of My Life for a while and then we put out a greatest hits record and done an acoustic tour and a tour behind the greatest hits and this and that and then we spent that time writing and recording this one and before you know it five years is gone
MT: When Time of My Life came out in 2011, rock wasn't quite as big as of a thing. But in 2015, some sort of like your contemporaries like Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin had big comebacks. Why do you think your genre of rock is sort of resonating with the masses again?
BA: You know what, I think [it ties into] the whole clichéd saying of "rock will never die" -- it never will. I know it kind of comes and goes, like different things tend to come and go, but I say it comes and goes. It has its ups and downs, rather. But rock n roll will never die, and it was definitely kind of limping along for a couple of years. I can't lie, and I don't think anyone would really debate me on that too much. I'm glad to see it having a resurgence and I think people just go through cycles of music and they get away from it and then they're like hey you know what sometimes you just want to put in a rock 'n' roll CD and just listen to it and I think people are realizing that again that they just want to listen to some rock music
MT: Did that sort of resurgence did that play into your decision to release an album again in 2016 or was it just natural?
BA: It's a very, very pleasant coincidence. It didn't play into the plans, but it's definitely to our advantage that rock is coming around, and it's right on time for us to put a record out, and I think that's going to really work towards our advantage
MT: Us and the Night is your first album with your new members Chet Roberts and Justin Biltonen. Did the new blood bring anything to the table in the recording process?
BA: Absolutely. Those guys are both big parts of writing this record, and they definitely have some new flavors to be introduced and new ideas. They were very welcome in doing so; we really encouraged those guys to do all the writing they could on this record and they were major contributors to it and Greg [Upchurch, drummer] as well. Greg has been with us a long time, but a lot of times drummers don't really write that much on records. We all truly did this as a team this time. If I could say we approached this thing one way, we approached it with an open mind and nothing was out of bounds. Whatever came, there was nothing like, "We can't do that; it's too much of this or too much of that." We were open to anything. The only thing we didn't want to do was make another 3 Doors Down record. We wanted it to be something fresh and new. It didn't have to be left field, but at the same time we didn't want to hit it the same way we'd been hitting it.
MT: Why did you sort of purposefully try to move away from the signature 3 Doors Down sound?
BA: We always said that we'd leave ourselves a left turn, and we wouldn't pigeon hole our sound. But after writing songs for so long, even unintentionally, you can start to get sort of the same sound happening over and over. We just really didn't want to do that again, and we just wanted something new. I always said you write what you long to play live, and when you play a lot of songs that get kind of similar you don't want to stand up there and play those songs over and over. When you have a good variety of stuff, it makes it a lot more fun to listen to and to explore new sounds. It makes it a lot more fun to get up there and play some different stuff.
MT: You wrote with synthetic instruments for the first time on this record. How did that effect the final product?
BA: It definitely brought some certain sounds about, for sure. Especially with "In the Dark," that song was originally really different, and it should serve as an inspiration for kids or anybody of any age that's sitting there with an iPad playing on Garage Band and things like that. Because the original music of "In the Dark" changed quite a bit, not only instruments... but the backbone of that song was written with Garage Band, and you know it was cool. Chet wrote the backbone of that song in the back lounge of a bus playing on an iPad, you know, and that's really cool. It just goes to show you that modern technology and what may be conceived as a toy can really be used to bring about something that winds up being a good song.
MT: What's the story behind the album teaser track "Inside of Me?"
BA: That song was actually written music first, as most of this record was. We had to go back and put lyrics to the music, and a lot of times the music itself will inspire lyrics. That one, we had at least the basis of the music first, and it's saying basically what the song is saying. You only get one chance at life, and the song is about believing in yourself and just knowing great things are in there. You just have to look inside yourself and find them.
MT: Have you typically written music first then lyrics, or is that something you changed for this record?
BA: I would say that more times than not, especially like probably the maybe some of the first records I wrote lyrics first, like "Kryptonite" and things like that were written lyrics first. But I would say that more times than not, we write the music first and then the lyrics but we don't have a set formula for writing. It's just kind of however it comes out, it comes out.