Interview: 10 Years
Wed, 02 Jul 2008 23:34:41
Making a record is kind of like having a baby. It's a long, slow process of nurturing. So it's fitting that 10 Years experienced not one, but two births during the recording and release of their latest album Division. Vocalist Jesse Hasek became a father while the band was writing, and drummer Brian Vodinh became a dad right upon the album's release. Sitting on the band's bus, Brian laughs, "There's a lot going on right now. My wife is expecting our first child on the day our new record is supposed to come out. I'm in shock, but definitely pumped." Brian should be excited, because 10 Years have weathered quite a tumultuous year and come through with an exemplary sophomore effort. The process behind Division saw the band push each other creatively, almost to a breaking point, and they all faced the tragic death of Jesse's cousion. Nevertheless, 10 Years crafted an album that's somber, poignant and often melodically brilliant. Brian took some time to discuss birth, death and Division with ARTISTdirect.
Division feels like a step up from The Autumn Effect [the band's 2005 breakthrough debut], but it still maintains the signature elements of your sound.
That was the main thing we wanted to do with this record. The Autumn Effect was a nice representation of where we were at three years ago. We've grown up a lot since then. I feel like we've matured in every single creative and musical way possible. We finished touring behind The Autumn Effect, and we were like, "Let's write some songs and do a record really quickly." We didn't think, "This is our second album. We had a little bit of success with The Autumn Effect, and now we really have to kick some ass." However, we quickly realized that it wasn't going to be a fast, in-and-out process. That's why it took us a good year of writing, demoing and recording to realize this vision. It was honestly the most difficult process that this band's ever gone through. It almost broke us up.
It seems like there was a lot of pressure, because you guys came off big tours with bands like Deftones and KoRn, and your first record did really well. All eyes were on you.
Yeah, and every day we had management calling, and we had the record company calling. All we would hear is, "We need hits, guys. Listen to the radio, look at the charts, we need hits!" We were just sitting there pulling our hair out. First off, you don't sit down and say, "Oh, I feel like writing a hit today." That's not going to happen, unless you're the dude from Nickelback. I don't know how he does it [Laughs]. A lot of the writing process was really difficult. Not only were we dealing with the pressures from the record company, management and different people, but we were also dealing with each other. We were challenging each other so much. That's the reason we named the album Division. It's a title that sums up this album. We literally became more divided as friends and band mates than we've ever been. The biggest problem was that we stopped listening to each other's opinions. I didn't even want to hear anybody else's opinion, and I know all the other guys felt the exact same way. Everybody in the band is so drastically different from each other. When it came time to really buckle down and write this record, we all had a different vision. It really took us a while to finally get on the same page. When we did, we were actually able to get stuff done. It literally took the entire process.
Given that split, how did the writing actually work?
We tried working at home in Knoxville. We were writing as a band a lot, and it was a really tough environment. Jesse's girlfriend had just had a baby, and it was their first child. So he had a lot of distractions at home. We tried working together, and a lot of times, it would just result in arguments. So eventually, Jesse and I just made three or four trips out to Los Angeles. We just crashed with one of our managers, and a lot of the foundations for the songs came about from Jesse and I finding refuge in a different environment with less distractions. We probably came up with 30 or 40 skeletons for songs there. We would bring those ideas home, and basically just go over them with everybody.
You guys cover a whole lot of subject matter too. It's an album that examines inner feelings, and then there's definitely a political slant to some of those songs.
It's funny, because the political vibe on some of the songs wasn't necessarily intentional. There are people in our lives, especially in Jesse's life, that inspired songs like "Actions and Motives." After the fact, that song sounds political, but that wasn't necessarily the intent. The lyrics on Autumn were pretty obscure. There are a lot of metaphors and similes on that album. Honestly, I really like that clever writing, but I felt like it was time for us to let some people in. I felt like we should give our fans something they can relate to a little bit more with this record. I remember hearing the headline, "'Wasteland,' the biggest song that no one understood," and I was like, "I get that, because Jesse wrote a lot of the lyrics on Autumn for himself." With Division, we wanted to write lyrics that people could really grab onto. There are a lot of kids out there that can relate to stuff that Jesse has gone through or stuff that I've gone through. This time around, we really wanted to approach the writing process that way. We opened up a lot more, and I'm really proud of that.
On previous tours, Jesse would talk to the crowd and give positive advice. Do you think that's important for bands to do?
Yeah, it's interesting, because after you've been in this industry a while, you have kids that come up to you after shows and talk. They basically pour their hearts out and tell you how something you did made such an impact on their lives. You gain a responsibility. As a band in the public eye, you have a large sphere of influence. Trying to stay positive is a big thing in my life. I've gone through a lot of ups and downs. We're not the biggest band in the world, but we do have a small region of people who do look up to us. I think the best thing to try and send out is a positive message. Songs like "Actions and Motives" show us venting about the negative people in our lives. As far as the kids go, we do have a responsibility, and we're always going to remember that.
“As far as the kids go, we do have a responsibility, and we're always going to remember that”
You guys are telling stories on this record. One song that really struck out for me was "11:00 AM."
Thank you. When we got home from touring, it was weird, because we basically toured for two years solid without really coming home. When we got home, it was weird for us, because we were used to living on a bus. All of a sudden, we're home, and we didn't really have anything to do—except write a record. We were watching our friends get up every day and go to their nine–to–five jobs and live that lifestyle. It was like a culture shock, because we had been out on the road living this fantasy for a couple of years. All of a sudden, we were thrown back into reality. It was weird for us to see that. A lot of our friends were coming to us saying, "I hate my job. My life is weird right now. I need to make a change. I'm in a comfort zone, but I don't have the balls to do anything about it and step away from it." "11:00 AM" was basically inspired by that type of thing. It's people's fear of failure, and people never stepping outside of their comfort zone. That'll kill you in the long run.
Another song that really blew me away was the last track, "Proud of You."
That's a really heavy one for us. Jesse's cousin was actor Brad Renfro. He recently passed away. When he and Jesse were growing up in Knoxville, they were extremely close. Brad got his first role in that movie The Client when he was pretty young. And, long story short, he'd been living in Los Angeles and battling drug addiction forever. "Wasteland" was written with Brad in mind. That song was Jesse saying, "Should I change my attempt? I have good intentions, but should I help? Could I even help this guy?" On one of our writing trips to L.A., Jesse decided he was going to have dinner with Brad and then hang out for a while. I decided to stay back and work on some material floating around in my head. So I began working on the song that would become "Proud of You." When I was writing that composition in Los Angeles, it had a weird vibe. It was rainy out, and it was dark. I was in that zone, when I came up with the music for it. When Jesse got back that night, it was pretty late, maybe two or three in the morning. He was really upset. I guess he saw that Brad was still struggling away with his addictions and his habits. Jesse was in that mood that night, and we just knew we had to finish the song that night. "Proud of You" is Jesse essentially telling Brad that he's proud of him, no matter what. Even when his fight is through, he's still proud of him. Jesse's lyrics are almost written from the standpoint that Brad is gone. However, it was written when Brad was still alive. It was almost a foreshadowing, because Jesse saw him in a bad condition, and he was like, "Man, I don't know what to do, and I don't think he's going to make it much longer with the way that he is." It's just really odd that no more than six months later, Brad passed away. That was a really heavy one for us.