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(How To Thrive) As Ghosts: 10 Years on Keeping It Simple and Their Second Act

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

As they continue to enjoy one of the most surprising musical resurrections of recent times, alternative rockers 10 Years appear to be defying F Scott Fitzgerald’s suggestion that there are no second acts in American lives.

Such an assertion makes the Tennessee band sound like an ensemble who’ve re-emerged from a prolonged exile, or reformed following a fractious split, but their eighth album, ‘(How To Live) As Ghosts’, in fact only arrived two years after 2015’s ‘From Birth To Burial’. By that point, however, all was not well in the camp.

For reasons that dated back several years the band, who formed in 1999 and experienced a major league breakthrough on the back of 2005’s ‘The Autumn Effect’ and its hit single Wasteland, were on the verge of flatlining. Tough decisions were made about their lineup, with founding guitarists Brian Vodinh and Matt Wantland eventually picking up where they left off alongside vocalist Jesse Hasek.

‘(How To Live) As Ghosts’ offered a more direct, modern and accessible sonic attack, standing as a remorselessly anthemic LP with a title that, fittingly, referred to the band having risen from the grave. Ahead of their first UK tour in over a decade, we spoke to Vodinh about the group’s near demise and just how triumphant, one year down the line, that latest album has proven to be.

You’ve previously said the group had become really unhealthy and toxic by the time you decided to leave. How did things disintegrate to that point?

The first few albums we had the original line-up. Then we had some changes and I moved from drums to guitar and back. Things were switching around and we had to get new people in. As old members were phasing themselves out one of our original guitar players [Ryan “Tater” Johnson], who we had to let go before this album, was struggling for power in the band. Because he didn’t write and contribute a lot he didn’t feel he had control and then, as some of us started to leave, he wanted to gain that.  

Since a lot of the originals weren’t there anymore his ego started to grow and grow and eventually it rolled out of control and became extremely toxic. There was no way for the band to continue if Jesse didn’t make the decision to move on without him and that’s what got me and Matt, the other original guitar player, back. It took having to go through that dark phase to get into the light to make this record.

‘(How To Live) As Ghosts' saw you take a big creative leap into fresh territory. Now you’ve had nearly a year to live with it, have your feelings towards the album changed at all?

At first, I honestly had a hard time understanding the album. Historically I’ve written the bulk of the material and the last two albums I produced at my studio. This time, going to a different studio with a different producer [Nick Raskulinecz] and totally different mindset, was strange for everyone. Especially me. I know how we’ve worked in the past and I built the last two records a certain way.  

It was interesting to work with someone else, where everything we’d figured out was totally thrown away and we started anew with a fresh approach. Which, truthfully, I did enjoy. It’s almost too much to write the stuff and then produce and mix it. I enjoyed having control and being so far inside of it on the last couple of records, but it’s nice to be able to just sit back and not be worried and stressed out the whole time.

That said, it sounds like you weren’t initially convinced by the direction of the record. At what point did that change and how did you find collaborating with Nick?

It was a really cool experience. His track record speaks for itself, working with Alice In Chains and Rush and Foo Fighters. He tried to get us to streamline things and stop overthinking. Instead of 30 or 40 tracks of vocals, tonnes of harmonies and elaborate soundscapes, he got rid of all of that for the most part. He wanted it stripped down and simple.  

With that mentality in place, as the album was progressing, I kept feeling like it wasn’t there and thinking ‘These songs aren’t where they need to be.’ I was second guessing things and then the night I got the final mastered version of the album I listened to it on headphones and everything clicked. But it didn’t make sense until the album was fully done. Even through the mixing phase I was still hesitant to allow myself to enjoy it, but now I totally understand why he wanted us to streamline things and stop overthinking because we’re really bad about doing that.

Was there one song early on that acted as a eureka moment, in terms of helping to signpost the direction you wanted the album to take?

We actually started writing before working with Nick. We didn’t plan on doing this whole straightforward, streamlined rock thing. We were gonna go super left field: melodic, cinematic and dark. We love that approach but Nick was like ‘Don’t bore me to death. I know you guys can do that. I know you like your pretty little guitar parts, but let’s do something different this time around.’ So that was when the awakening happened of ‘Oh shit, he’s thinking a totally different direction.’  

We’d obviously written a lot of straight ahead rock songs in the past, but it didn’t click until Novocaine. We wrote a verse and a chorus of that song and didn’t finish it. We didn’t even have a bridge because we were like ‘I don’t know if this is any good, it’s almost too simple.’ We brought it to Nick and that’s when he said ‘This is what the record is’ and we worked off of that. It became a foundational element of what the album ended up being.

How have the new songs been translating live?

This album was built to be a live album. We knew going into it we wanted to write something that had that feel to it. The new stuff definitely goes over really well live. There’s one called Vampires a lot of people have been enjoying. Novocaine gets the best reception aside from our song Wasteland.

We have vibey moments on a song like Halo, where we’ve attached an intro to it for the live performance and it’s dark, brooding and moody. But heavier ones like Vampires and Novocaine really get the crowd moving. They’re really fun to play. We haven’t gotten through the whole record yet live, but hopefully we’ll be debuting Blood Red Sky and maybe even Lucky You pretty soon.

Has the album attracted new fans because of its sound?

It has. For the longest time the song fans would sing loudest to live was Wasteland. Of all the songs in our catalogue, that was always the go-to one we knew would work. Now, we have a whole new group of fans in the States who look confused for most of the set until we play the new stuff.

That’s neat because we’re used to everybody knowing us for Wasteland, but now there’s a legion of people that come out and sing Novocaine louder than every other song. At first it was strange ‘Wait, you don’t know the older songs?’ But that’s good. For the first time putting out new music did its job.

On the flipside, rock fans aren’t always appreciative of change. How has it been received by your older followers?

No, they’re not. The one thing we’ve learned from doing this long enough is that no matter how hard you try, or what you do, you’re never gonna win 100%. There’ll be people that want you to make the same record over and over and people that burn you down if you make what seems to be the same record.

The older fans have mostly been very receptive to this album because a lot of them have described it as being a combination of our first couple of records. Even though it is different a lot of the fundamental elements of the 10 Years sound are still there. So fans, old and new alike, have been very receptive and are really digging that streamlined sound.

Have you started thinking about the direction of your next album yet and whether you’ll work with Nick again?

A little bit. I haven’t written anything but I think we’re going to go a little heavier next time. We’re gonna retain a lot of the same elements that ‘(How To Live) As Ghosts’ had, as far as that straight to the punch approach, but we might make things a bit more emotionally and physically intense.

I’m not exactly sure yet because we haven’t even got in the room to hash anything out but after touring this stuff for the past year I can feel what the crowd really get into live. It’s nice to have those moments where we strip everything back and it’s moody and super vibey, but the live performance thrives on intensity and I think we’re really gonna lean into a batch of material that lends itself to that.  

As far as using Nick again, we haven’t discussed that yet so I’m not sure if that’s exactly the direction we’ll go, but I’m definitely open to it. I love Nick, he and I have become good friends, and I think the process works very well for this band right now so we’ll continue on that path and see where it takes us.

What do you want to achieve now?

To continue to grow. We haven’t been to the UK since 2006 so I still feel like we have so much territory to recover. While we have a little bit of success and security here in the States, we certainly have a lot to build on. So just growing the operation and continuing to make the best albums and songs we possibly can. We’re a band that has a lot of heart, dedication and sincerity, so we have to keep putting that to work.

10 Years Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue September 04 2018 - LONDON Underworld
Wed September 05 2018 - SHEFFIELD Corporation
Fri September 07 2018 - SCUNTHORPE Lincoln Imp
Sat September 08 2018 - MANCHESTER FAC251
Sun September 09 2018 - MILTON KEYNES Craufurd Arms
Mon September 10 2018 - GLASGOW Broadcast

Click here to compare & buy 10 Years Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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