Connect is the perfect title for Sick Puppies’ third and most ambitious album. The trio is all about connection–with their fans, each other, their own psyches—and each of the dozen songs on Connect–from intense, epic rockers to mellower yet lyrically anguished ballads–is introspective yet also universal. From the first single, “There’s No Going Back” to the band’s most political song, the ironic “Gunfight,” Connect will exhilarate old fans and captivate new ones. The L.A.-based, Australian-bred band struck an elusive musical and lyrical balance of past and future on Connect, as band co-founder/singer/guitarist Shimon Moore explains: “There are two ways to shoot yourself in the foot—never changing… or changing too much.” With Connect, Sick Puppies came into their own, thanks in no small part to five years of touring and a full year of songwriting, finding their musical medium without sacrificing intensity or their trademark, dead-on lyrical acuity and introspection.
Since the release of Tri-Polar (nearly half a million units to date and over 2 million single sold) and its slew of radio hits—the #1 Rock track “You’re Going Down,” the Top Five Modern Rock/Active Rock hits “Odd One” & “Riptide” and the cross-format anthemic smash “Maybe.” Connect (out July 16, 2013), with its melding of room-filling rockers and edgy yet poignant lyrics, is poised to be the lineup’s best-selling record yet. Moore explains how Connect evolved: “We’ve always had the colors to work with, but we really got to use some broad strokes in Polar Opposite, our 2011 reimagined acoustic record. It was always a dream of mine to work with strings and a choir, and our producer made it kinda trippy and unusual on Polar Opposite. So I was looking forward to taking some of the elements of that, and furthering some melodies and sentiments of [2007’s US debut] Dressed Up As Life, and the heaviness from Tri-Polar. It’s an amalgamation of all into one, which is why I think it’s our best work to date.”
Produced, as was Tri-Polar, by the Rock Mafia production team of Tim James and Antonina Armato, Connect also took guidance from another, very pure source: the trio’s legions of fans. With face-to-face and online interaction with Sick Puppies World Crew, the band listened when followers said they loved their agro side, yet also wanted more of bassist/co-founder Emma Anzai’s vocals. Indeed, Anzai comes into her own on Connect, with more vocal presence on songs like “Die To Save You”, “Telling Lies” & debuts her lead vocal on “Under A Very Black Sky”. Though the whole band contributes to songwriting, she takes particular pride in “Healing Now.” “It’s got my bass riff at the beginning, like ‘Odd One’ on our previous record,” she notes. “And on ‘There’s No Going Back’ I love that while it’s slightly nostalgic and a little melancholy, it’s also uplifting. Our ballads can be sweet, but at the same time, the content is quite painful, and I like that contrast.”
The band, co-founded in 1999 by Moore and Anzai while still in high school, signed to Paul Stepanek Management, soon after they rounded out their line up by adding Orange County, California-bred drummer Mark Goodwin, who they met through a classified ad following their move to LA in 2006. Soon after, signed to Paul Palmer’s indie label through Virgin Records, a fortuitous video pairing with a friend led Sick Puppies to online fame with the song “All The Same” (AKA the Free Hugs video), which earned an astonishing 75-million-plus views worldwide, and led to appearances on Oprah, 60 Minutes, CNN, Good Morning America, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Other outside-the-box endeavors also pepper the band’s impressive resume. Sick Puppies were featured on Cinemax’s Tour Stories, a five-part documentary about the band; “You’re Going Down” was the official theme for the WWE’s “Extreme Rules”; plus, as dedicated road dogs, playing over 750 shows in North America, they’ve shared the stage with bands including Muse, Tool, The Killers, Papa Roach and Deftones.
The years of touring are evident not only in the tight, intuitive playing on Connect, but also in the lyrics, which proved cathartic for the group. “We’ve been on the road five or six years straight,” Moore notes. “And when you come back to ‘real life,’ everything is different, and you don’t realize until you have a moment to breathe. Your parents have gray hair, stores have moved, Twitter happened, the world vomited a whole new culture while we were out playing rock ‘n’ roll!” he notes. Grappling with those changes and emotions lend an intimate searching to many of Connect’s sound and words. “You’re like, ‘where did the time go,’ and that’s exactly the title of one of our songs.”
As for the concept of connecting, Moore observes that “there are only a few things every single person in the world has in common. One is that we all need each other. To have a song [“Connect”] that captures that is pretty special.” While most of the songs on Connect were written in 2012, the album’s title track “Connect” contains the oldest riff in Moore’s musical arsenal. “It’s fun; I wrote it while in high school learning how to play guitar, and I always had it in my back pocket,” the singer recalls. “I’ve brought it up on every record, but wasn’t right.” Finally, though his eternal riff found its perfect chorus—with a little banjo added for good measure.
Drummer Goodwin notes: “We’re a career band. We want to build and take the time to make things right. The first time we ever jammed it was a massive wall of sound; amazing for a trio. It’s been that way ever since. On Connect, we went more for ‘big’ rather than ‘heavy.’ We did a lot of percussion–tambourines and shakers—and that’s rounded us out when we play acoustically as well.”
The third time is the charm on Connect. With two powerful albums and three varied EP’s preceding it, Connect ties the Sick Puppies sound and vibe together and sets the stage for future aural adventures in all shapes and sizes. To wit: the persuasive lyrics of “Run,” which is a favorite of Moore’s, contains his personal mantra in lines such as: “You better run as fast as you can / cause this world tries to stop you, stop you, stop you / whenever it can.” He confesses, “I only subscribe to that half the time, so it’s good to have a song you can sing to yourself for inspiration as much as to your audience!” Even with Connect’s myriad lyrical and musical layers, the record still manages to breathe. “I believe that we succeeded in making an album that will stand the test of time,” Moore concludes with a laugh. “At least I hope so!”