Are these million-selling, southern-fried US rockers the best band you haven’t heard?
WORDS: DAVE LING
Shinedown might just be the best band you’ve never heard of. The Jacksonville, Florida-based five-piece’s irresistible mixture of propulsive rock guitars and soaring choruses made them an instant hit in the US, where their 2003 debut album Leave A Whisper sold a million copies. Now they’re focusing on Britain.
So-called ‘modern rock’ bands are 10-a-cent in the US, but the overwhelming quality of Shinedown’s third, current album The Sound Of Madness leaves Seether, Fuel, Saliva, Puddle Of Mudd and even Staind – the fellow post-grungers they’re most often referenced to – eating their dust.
“Modern rock, hard rock, metal… I won’t put Shinedown into a category,” protests singer Brent Smith. “We’re a great arena rock band, we play rock’n’roll, period.” Smith is from the Deep South, although his band grew up on Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Journey, Kansas, James Brown, and even soul and R&B. In 2004 Shinedown released a version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man as a single. Indeed their earliest gigs were at the Freebird Live, a Jacksonville beach club owned by original Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant’s widow, Judy. “That Southern influence could be heard on the first two albums, but it’s not as apparent on the new one,” Smith says.
Last year, in a particularly messy split, guitarist Jasin Todd and bassist Brad Stewart were sacked, with just Smith and drummer Barry Kerch remaining from their original line-up. However, it was something of a coup that Shinedown’s new blood included Nick Perri, a former guitarist with Classic Rock favourites Silvertide. “I’ve known Nick for almost six years, and it was our incredibly good fortune that he’d just stopped working with [ex-Jane’s Addiction singer] Perry Farrell in Satellite Party when all our internal shit went down,” Smith explains.
Last year, they got a taste of old school rock’n’roll excess – and a lesson in, um, hygiene – when they opened for Van Halen. “Edward watched us from the side of the stage every night,” says Smith. “Once, he thought I didn’t wash my hands in the bathroom. He pissed all over our deli tray, stubbed out his cigarette in a piece of turkey and handed it to me. I laughed for days afterwards.”
Shinedown’s next UK dates are in January, commencing at London’s Underworld on the 21st. And if appearing in a basement beneath a pub in Camden sounds insalubrious after The Sound Of Madness smashed its way into the US chart chart at No. 8, Smith isn’t complaining. “It’s our first domestic release in Britain,” he says. “And although our very first record was extremely successful, we toured it for 24 months straight – 500-odd shows – so we’re not afraid of hard work. It’s like starting from scratch again, but we’ve no problem with that.”
The Sound Of Madness is out now on Atlantic Records.
For more info, visit www.shinedown.com.
FOR FANS OF…
“The album that changed my life was Led Zeppelin IV,” says Shinedown drummer Barry Kerch. “All I can say is When The Levee Breaks – Bonham’s groove is just too much. He made me the drummer I am today. Also, Stairway To Heaven. How can you not like it? Even if it has been overplayed on the radio. There is a reason – it’s good!