The long anticipated album, released on October 1st (2012), takes a mixture of classic Papa Roach intertwined with bursts of dub step and electro, creating a fusion that your ears simply cannot deny. I managed to catch Jerry and Tobin before they left Berlin to discuss the new album, their new sound and how it feels to be still swinging...
AltSounds: Countless albums and over a decade of music making, but were you ready for Berlin?
Tobin Esperance: "Yeah, itís not our first time in Berlin but I loved Sage where we were last night! It really sucks, well I donít want to say that it sucks, but partying is really hard on the head! After all those years of being in the band and going out and casually hanging out with people - then the next morning you are just like, 'Aaarrgrh!' I donít understand why we put ourselves through that over and over again!"
Jerry Horton: "I heard the darker the liquor the worse the hangover! And I think we were doing Jack Danielís last night."
AltSounds: It was great to hear some of the new tracks! The first to be released - 'Still Swingin' - had a pretty special debut in the States?
Tobin Esperance: "Yeah it was played during the All Stars Home Run Derby on ESPN. We are friends with the music supervisor for the sports network over there and when he heard it he immediately said, 'I know exactly what to do with that song!'"
AltSounds: The baseball theme is quite apt - can you tell me a little bit about the track?
Tobin Esperance: "Still Swingin was the last song that we recorded and it was like the missing piece of the puzzle. We needed a song that was another up-tempo song that had a lot of energy, like a youthful energy, something that was a little more optimistic and not so dark and reflective. Jacoby ended up doing that rap style he has been known for in the past on the verses and that was really cool."
AltSounds: Did it feel good to bring that style back?
Tobin Esperance: "Yeah, totally. Because he tries all kinds of different stuff and that was the winner for me. Just a big anthemic chorus to sing along and a big beat drop in the bridge, and itís just got a lot of energy just right off the bat that makes people want to jump up and down."
AltSounds: You are hailed for your energy - has that enthusiasm been an integral element to your success?
Tobin Esperance: "Yeah absolutely, we think about that all the time, especially when we are writing songs. Itís good to imagine a song live and think about what the crowd would be doing. We kind of design our songs - It sounds funny but itís true and I know a lot of bands do it - they are like, 'So this one would be shit because the crowd would be like this!'"
AltSounds: So if you predict the crowdís reaction itís easier to bounce new ideas around?
Jerry Horton: "And literally bounce!"
Tobin Esperance: "When we wrote Still Swingin, we started it in the mind of what tempo would be good to jump up and down to! We were literally jumping up and down! And we got it and so we kind of just wrote to that - the first thing that came to mind and we did it."
AltSounds: Do you think The Connection has successfully incorporated your energy?
Jerry Horton: "Well we wanted to capture the energy and this recording process allowed us to do that, to record things while they were still fresh. Itís mature in the song writing but I think it did capture a youthful energy to it."
AltSounds: Your previous album, Time for Annihilation, has been deemed the past and present of Papa Roach, is this new album the future?
Jerry Horton: "I think this one is pretty much all encompassing, but it does have the future as a part of it."
Tobin Esperance: "The last record was kind of like an EP, it had five new songs and the rest of them were old, like our classic songs but live. I think it definitely set up the new record really well because songs like Burn and Kick in the Teeth had the electronic elements like a lot of the new songs do."
AltSounds: Have there been any major changes within the music industry that have influenced how you write and the process you follow?
Jerry Horton: "Everything is a tool, you just have to learn how to make that tool work within your process and discover new things."
Tobin Esperance: "I mean thatís how we keep writing music, we keep getting excited about it. You know back in the day we wouldnít really mess around with anything, it would just be the four of us banging away relentlessly at our guitars. And then after so long you just feel like there is something new out there that you have to do and try, and we are open stylistically so we just incorporate all kinds of new elements all the time which makes it fresh and new."
AltSounds: Does that need to create new material drive your enthusiasm now?
Tobin Esperance: "Absolutely. Because we have always been influenced by the strangest shit. Back in the day we were listening to bands like Wu Tang Clan and funk music, reggae, punk rock and tons of hip hop and that would always influence what we would play on the guitar and on the drums and stuff like that. And now itís all electronic based music now, and we just go for it, still."
AltSounds: And how does it feel to be 'Still Swingin'?
Jerry Horton: "It feels good! We came up a few years ago with a bunch of bands who are not around anymore. We donít necessarily feel old and weíre stubborn..."
Tobin Esperance: "Yeah, thatís what it is and we feel we still have something to prove all the time. We always feel like, 'Yeah, we could make a better record, we could make songs that will just sound great live...and weíll actually like this one!' We keep going, itís what we do."
Tobin Esperance: "This was the last song that we recorded and it was like the missing piece of the puzzle. We needed a song that was another up-tempo song that had a lot of energy, like a youthful energy, something that was a little more optimistic and not so dark and reflective. Jacoby ended up doing that rap style he has been known for in the past on the verses and that was really cool."
Where Did The Angels Go
Tobin Esperance: "That was probably the heavier song, and the riff was actually something that my brother - of all people - was playing over and over again. We were jamming and I was just loving it and said, 'Play that shit again man!' I ended up playing it with these guys in the rehearsal spot and they were into it and at first they were like, 'What is that?' It was so different to anything that we would usually do and thatís why I liked it. Especially for Tony, because the beat had this weird kick pattern and we usually play back beats, like these simple funky beats and Tony was just totally confused! But I think we needed a song like that, something different that threw everything off. And then the chorus ends up being a straight 4 and 4 chant style chorus again, which we are pretty much known for. I like that song because itís the heavy song."
Silence Is The Enemy
Tobin Esperance: "I was doing this piano thing and a kind of electro style with lots of filters and risers and then I just started playing guitar. The whole time I was doing it I was thinking, 'What would Prodigy do?'"
Before I Die
Tobin Esperance: "That was a song that I had constructed on my computer, it was probably the most different song on the record and it was all electro. I had been listening to a lot of M83, Mike Snow and lots of stuff like that."
Jerry Horton: "When we heard it we said, 'We have to do something with that!' So we jammed it out in the room and had microphones up just to record all of the ideas as we were playing. There was the bridge section of that song that came about very spontaneously which we recorded and then just set aside. We didnít actually sit down to record it but James (our producer) and Jacoby liked that one piece because there was something spontaneous and kind of magical about it, so they just put it in as it was, which I thought was really cool."
Wish You Never Met Me
Tobin Esperance: "Is another electro thing which had a kind of zeppelin beat - this syncopated drum beat - and it had this funky disco bass line. And then we turned it into a song. Laughs It was weird! Actually when we started working on that song it was the turning point on the record and I said, 'Letís not go into a typical go-to chorus. Letís do something weird and make a different arrangement, experiment with the riff and break up the chorus and have it not be so typical.' When we did that then it kind of set the tone for the rest of the record because we were taking that approach with the rest of the songs. There were two songs lyrically, Before I Die and Wish You Never Met Me, that I think were really fucking deep, vulnerable and very emotional and reflective, you can hear the pain in them and that just makes those songs. The music always starts first for us and then the vocals are added later, so when they meet together perfectly we always have a great song."
Give Me Back My Life
Tobin Esperance: "I could just not put that away, we tried to write that song like two or three times! Laughs I liked the sound that I discovered, itís kind of my signature thing now - I did it in Burn - I take like a weird violin sound and I will distort it and manipulate it so it has this really cool sound and I had a different version of that for this idea. I just liked that sound so much, although we didnít use it and we ended up taking that riff and just playing it with guitars and stuff. Itís a good song, I really liked it when we first recorded it and I had said, 'Thatís the best song we have!' And now when I go back and listen to it I think, 'Thatís not even close to the best song we have!'"
Jerry Horton: "Itís cool to imagine that if we had a vinyl LP that when you flip it over then that is the first song on the other side."
Breath You In
Jerry Horton: "That song is kind of the odd ball on the record. I was jamming the song with Tony and then Tobin came in and helped out. It was cool because the music was kind of relentless. When we were working on it and Jacoby came in and we said, 'Go away! We donít want you in here right now!' So he left and we finished it, because we wanted it to be right before he heard it. Because he likes to come in and be involved with the writing process."
Tobin Esperance: "And when heís not there from the beginning he will just walk right in after we have tried everything and says, 'Why donít you just do it like this?' And weíre like, 'Dude, youíre too late go away!' But we switched up, we went for the big half-time chorus and just opened the song up and it was cool. And then we made a really cool kind of Foo Fighters riff that we thought was special and we were like, 'Oh itís the token rock song, letís keep it!' It was like literally just an up-tempo punk rock song with no bells and whistles."
Leader Of The Broken Hearts
Tobin Esperance: "I know for a fact that this is Jacobyís favourite song because he says it every day! Musically that one came about when James came in and said, 'You know what we need, a song like Forever.' Itís from one of our previous albums (The Paramour Sessions) and itís such a dynamic song, really chilled verse and big epic chorus, kind of like in the vain of U2 or something like that. The lyrics on that one just came together as soon as Jacoby started singing, 'Leader of the broken hearts' I think lyrically he was kind of at this point that not only was his heart broken because of what he was going through with his wife during the process of making the record but being on the road and having all of our fans coming up to him and saying, 'This song saved me, your lyrics mean so much to me!' I think his sentiment with that song was that he was just grabbing all of those people and just taking them in and speaking for them."
Not That Beautiful
Tobin Esperance: "That was a song we actually recorded like a year or two ago, and it was another song that just wouldnít go away - we tried so many different versions of it. It started off being a fast song, then it had half the tempo of the original and then we made it fast again. I loved the bridge because Jacoby just busted into this nasty rap - like Eminem and shit - and I was like, 'This is fucking great!' Because it comes out of the middle of nowhere and just rips your face off. I think thatís why I wouldnít let the song go, because I just loved that one part."
Jerry Horton: "That song was our woodpecker! Tobin has been listening to a lot of electronic and a lot of dub step and the way that the dub step manifested itself in the record was that it wasnít the literal dub step but it had the half time drop right in the chorus."
Tobin Esperance: "It was the build and the drop and then that space that the beat has in that music, thatís how that influenced us. We were taking arrangement ideas or dynamic approaches that we would get from listening to music like that. You anticipate when something is about to happen with that kind of music, so you look forward to it, and when it hits you it hits you hard."
Tobin Esperance: "Thatís kind of the funkier song on the album. Tony kept playing this beat, and I couldnít figure out what to do other than this weird off-time rhythm. And then Jerry comes in, all like Latin Bubber! It was so kooky and weird and dorky that we loved it and just went with it. It wasnít typical Papa Roach, but I think that was what we were going for. We just kind of put ourselves out there because then when you go back and listen to it, itís like, 'Oh you know itís not that crazy.' When Jacoby sings on stuff he usually ties it all together."
Jerry Horton: "When I was trying to figure out something to play to the bass line in the verse it just came out like this funky weird thing and the whole time I was thinking, 'What am I doing? This isnít cool!' It just ended up being a vibe song and it almost didnít make it to the record, but Tobin kept fighting for it. We kind of went back and forth between liking it and not liking it."
Wonít Let Up
Jerry Horton: "That started out as a jam and then Tobin said, 'This needs something.' So he went to his computer and came up with the hook line on the top of it. Itís cool because the beat is different and I think thatís something we focused on and was something I wanted for the record - not to have any standard, regular, white-guy drum beats and this one definitely has a cool beat."
Tobin Esperance: "Nowadays you can hook your keyboard up to your computer and you have every sound you can possibly imagine, so I did this little gangster line. Thatís the thing that I would do every day in the studio, I would come in and if somebody was playing something straight I would be like, 'Na man, get gangsta with that shit, get rhymey with it!'"
As Far As I Remember
Tobin Esperance: "This was designed to be the last song on the record, itís totally electronic. Jerry started experimenting with the electronic stuff - we all got ourselves set up with little home studios - and then he came up with something really vibey and it was like, 'Dude, that sounds like the song that would be the last song.'"
Jerry Horton: "I was listening to all the songs we had and I was thinking that the record could really use something kind of dark but also vibey. I had a Nine Inch Nails song in my head and that was sort of an inspiration for it - we wanted any new slow songs to be more vibe and less ballad. And I love on that first Nine Inch Nails record there was that one song that sort of put you in a trance, but the vocals were really close and very personal and that was the sort of the vibe I imagined for the beginning of it. After I made it I consulted Tobin and played it for Jacoby and he liked it, but we were working on other stuff and then it came a time towards the end of the cycle and I said, 'Letís not let this one get away.' So I gave it to Tobin and he added his flavour, or as we say, 'Put his stank on it.' Later we gave it to Jacoby and he came up with the perfect lyrics to sum the vibe up in that song. The way I imagined that song visually was that it was like in a movie where somebody is in this huge brawl and then itís sunrise and they are walking down a road or whatever."
Papa Roach's new album The Connection is available now.
Main photo credit: Travis Shinn
Interview by: Sophie Neale