This year’s Soundwave festival sees US rock-band Papa Roach make their triumphant return to Australia after a 13 year absence. I spoke with bassist, Tobin Esperance about their latest album F.E.A.R. (Face Everything and Rise), connecting with fans through music, musical influences and what fans can expect from their Aussie shows.
Congrats on the new album F.E.A.R. (Face Everything and Rise). What was the recording process like?
We worked with two new producers and we’re using a lot of recording techniques and technology that we’ve never used. Usually, as a band together, we’re in our own studio and we write songs and jam for like a month or so and get everything together. Then go into the studio and we record it. This time, we just walked in on the first day with no expectations, came up with an idea on the spot, recorded it and wrote it all on the same day. That’s pretty much how we did the rest of the record.
How does the new album differ to your older albums?
This album is just pure and honest representation of where we are as a band. It was recorded early last year and we’ve been through a lot together as a band. Every record, every couple of years, everyone’s in a different place in their heads – spiritually, mentally, physically.
This time, everyone was super clear headed, super focused – a lot of togetherness as a band. I think it shows on the record. We were super excited about making this record – and as much as we were creatively challenged and maybe a little apprehensive and maybe not so confident at times – this record really changed all that for us. Like getting in and making this record has really put us in a good place. We’re super proud of this record.
There’s a clear difference from your first album to your latest album. It feels like this album may have the ability to cross over into other genres and be played on a number of different radio stations.
Yeah. Which is great. I’m open to that. For me, personally – and I think I can speak on behalf of the rest of the band – we’re not the type of band that is trying to hold on to any credibility as far as, some people are just so afraid of selling out, crossing over from what the thing that they do or started as. We’re just not like that. If we get a song that is played on the rock radio, wants to play it on the alternative station or wants to be played on the pop station or wants to be played on a fucking hip-hop station, I don’t even care. I’m down. We just want people to listen to our music. We want people to get something from listening to our music. And that’s it. I don’t care how they get it.
Do you have a favourite song from the new album?
I like “Falling Apart” right now. That’s my jam off the new record.
My future brother-in-law is a huge fan of yours. And my sister is going to be walking down the aisle to No Matter What …
Oh, you know what’s crazy is we get that everyday. Every day someone comes up to us and says, ‘Are you going to play No Matter What tonight?’ And we’re like, ‘No. We never play that song.’ We did play it like once or twice live. It’s a different song. It’s hard to get into because it is a slow song. But it is a great song. We might have to try and bring it out and put it into the set sometime eventually because it’s inevitable because people really like that song. It’s a special song for them. It’ll be cool to try and figure out how to put it in the set.
How does it make you feel when people connect to your songs like that?
It definitely creates a sense of purpose and you realise how much you mean to people with your songs, and the things you can do with songs and emotions. It just feels like we create so much sense of purpose and it brings us a connection with our fans. It goes way beyond just being in a rock band, being cool, getting on stage and playing your guitar and everyone looking up to you, adoring you and all that shit. It’s like this real life thing – sharing your story, sharing your stories and people going, ‘Yes, I know exactly what that feels like.’
What’s the greatest thing a fan has said to you regarding your music?
Everyday we get people that come up to us and say this particular song has helped me or this record has helped me through a difficult time of life. And that right there is enough to validate what we do and everything that we put into our music and people connecting with it.
I had a two hour conversation with this really close friend of mine who I hadn’t talked to in years and is super critical of, not just our music as a band, but music in general. And he said, ‘Hey, you know what, I listened to this new record you put out and and I gotta tell you man, it really hit me hard. Everything I was going through in my life right now, and listening to this record, it just did something to me. I just wanted to cry,’ And I was like, ‘Oh. I guess that’s a good thing, right?’ He’s like, ‘It’s a great thing and I fucking love it’. That just made my whole day.
You joined the band a little later than the others, was there some trepidation joining an already established band?
No. They weren’t really established then. I mean, we were super young kids. I was 13 years old when I met the guys and played with them. They had another bass player who played with them for two years. But Papa Roach didn’t really form or [get a] sense out of what we were about until I’d say around the time that I joined the band, even though I was definitely inspired by the bass player that they had before. We’ve grown into what we are as the four members that we are today. I’ve been playing with them for over 18 years. There was no trepidation. I was excited. I was waiting for the opportunity to play music and to meet three other people who shared this desire to be creative, wing-nut, spastic, freaky, stage-jumping, head-banging, thrashing-punk-idiot of a person that wants to make music.
Do you think you brought something new to the band that the other bass player didn’t?
Oh yeah, definitely. It was so long ago, honestly, we don’t even really think about that. I’ve been in the band for so long. Our sound has evolved, just like a lot of bands do. When you start recording early on you’re trying to figure out what your sound is, what you’re good at and what you like and how you can incorporate all these influences in. For us, it was hard-core music and hip-hop music, and how do we make these rock songs, which have all these different influences, memorable? We’re still challenging ourselves to figure this out to this day, but I think we’ve stumbled upon something that really works and I think that’s why we’ve had the longevity we’ve had.
Do you have any musical influences?
I have lots of musical influences. For the band, or early on, when we started this thing we were influenced by punk rock and influenced by hip-hop music, funk, metal, reggae music. My favourites early on were bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, bands like Faith No More – anything 90s alternative I loved it. Helmet, Nine In Nails, Smashing Pumpkins. I like punk rock bands bands like Fugazi , Bad Brains, Bad Religion. We love hip-hop music like Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie, Dr Dre. We love metal bands like Lamb of God, Pantera, Metalicca. We love Bob Marley, the Cure, it just never ends. There’s new music influencing me every day. I discover new sounds all the time every day. Deft Tones is another band; sorry I can’t leave out the Deft Tones. They are like the hometown band we grew up with early on [who] definitely influenced us and still [do] to this day.
It must be exciting for you then with Faith No More and Smashing Pumpkins being at Soundwave with you guys?
Oh yeah. I’m super excited about that! That’ll be great. I’ve never seen Soundgarden before, and I didn’t realise that The Smashing Pumpkins were going to be there at Soundwave.
Speaking of Soundwave, it’s been 13 years since Papa Roach played in Australia. Why has it taken you guys so long to come back?
I don’t know. I think we’ve just been real busy. We always wanted to play Soundwave and the timing just never worked out. Now it has. We’re definitely taking our chance, our opportunity to get our foot in the door and hopefully just kinda wake up Australia, just rattle them a little bit and be like, ‘Hey, you remember us? You know those crazy fuckers from California? We’re back!’ You know what I mean? We really want to make it a point to come back as much as we can. It’s definitely long overdue. We’re super excited about finally coming.
Festivals must also be a good opportunity to get new exposure especially when you guys haven’t been here in a long while?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’re going to be playing one of the biggest festivals. We’ve got a really good billing and we’re playing with great bands so we’re super excited.
Do you prefer smaller gigs or a festival gig?
There’s nothing like playing our own shows. My favourite is where we get to play our own headlining shows. We get to play a long set and have a little cool dynamic adventurous side to it. When we put together a festival set, we purposely put together a set that is slamming from beginning to end. And it’s real quick being on stage – 50 minutes goes by in 15 minutes, so I like playing our own headlining shows – that’s my favourite. But playing at festivals and getting the comradery with all the other bands, hanging out and watching people going crazy. I know that people look forward to those festivals and that means a lot to us too.
What can people expect from your Soundwave and smaller gigs that you’re doing, or will it pretty much be the same kind of show?
Yeah I think so. I can’t really understand what we’d do different. When we come back and do our own tour, that’s when we really kind of switch things up and our sets are a lot more dynamic a lot longer. With the festivals, we’re just gonna leave it all on stage. We’re just gonna get up there and smash it. We’re just going to leave blood, sweat and tears on stage. And we’re just going to get the fuck off and let the next band try and top that.
That’s definitely a hard bar to set.
That’s what I hear. We just do our thing. We love what we do and we have so much fun when we get on stage. If you can imagine, we make a lot of sacrifices being on tour in addition to being in a rock and roll band. We travel a lot of miles to get all the way to fucking Australia so we better do something when we get there.
It’s a long way to travel.
Exactly. And It’s such a beautiful place. I remember being there however many years, like 12, 15 years or whatever, and having the time of my life. Being on tour with one of my idols [Red Hot Chilli Peppers]; I just remember being in heaven, this is a dream come true in such a beautiful place. In Australia, with one of my favourite bands growing up, it’s pretty surreal so it felt time to come back and make our mark again.
Papa Roach play Soundwave Festival nationally. Dates and more details can be found at http://www.soundwavefestival.com/ – You can also see them at these sidewaves with Godsmack and Nonpoint:
TUESDAY, 24 FEBRUARY 2015
FORUM THEATRE Melbourne – 18+
THURSDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2015
THE TIVOLI Brisbane – 18+