Sevendust plays its way through 'Animosity'

Band strives for its own identity, overcomes growing pains

There are times when Sevendust guitarist John Connolly wakes up at 10:30 in the morning halfway through a 20-hour drive questioning whether the consequences of stardom are worth it.

But in a recent phone interview, Connolly explained exactly why he and the rest of the band are still doing what they do best.

"You get to the show and the entrance starts and you get out there on stage and you're halfway through the first song and you look at the people and you go 'all right, this is exactly why I love what I do,'" Connolly said. "And it really is all about what we do on stage because we have so much fun with it. We've got to the point where we're really comfortable with one another on stage and we're in a lot better shape than we were on the last record just because we had time to unplug and recuperate and have knee surgery and all that fun stuff."

Connolly isn't talking about himself, but bassist Vince Hornsby, who played for six months until he was treated for a blown Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Medial Collateral Ligament.

For Hornsby and Connolly, injury and doubt is just a small portion of what it is like to be, as a whole, the band Sevendust. For a band that has toured extensively since the release of its self-titled debut album in 1997, nothing could get in the way.

While the band created its fan base from its first album and sophomore album "Home," it struggled to compete with the music industry. Although combined sales of nearly two million copies kept it going, the breaking point was the November 2001 release of "Animosity." To date, Connolly's only regret is that it took the band two albums before it had the quality of material placed on the third album.

Since the release of "Animosity," there has been no turning back. To date, Connolly describes it as the band's "most proud" album, and one that has built a bigger and more diverse fan base.

As Sevendust gets used to no longer being an underdog, it struggles with the fact that America is pretty much infatuated with pop music and the glam that goes along with it.

"As far as the success of the record goes, from that stand point -- us making the record we wanted to make -- we accomplished the goal for sure," Connolly said of the album's success. "It's a tough thing because we got a little bit of MTV support in the beginning of it, but we're not getting quite so much any more."

The road hasn't been easy either; as Connolly would put it, the band isn't the easiest band in the world, and people don't know how to take that. Singer Lajon Witherspoon is African-American, a fact listeners would not be able to tell from first listen nor accept in the world of rock.

"We're still kind of out to lunch on 'what do you call us,'" Connolly said.

Along with establishing an identity, they're still trying to figure out the best way to approach things like MTV and the West Coast.

"L.A.'s the most fickle town I've ever been to," Connolly said. "They've seen everything. They've seen it, they've heard it, they live in it. They're in Hollywood -- it's very difficult to impress them. You go to Boise, Idaho on the other hand -- there's whole families out there just because it's an experience that they don't get."

According to Connolly, the process has been tough, but the band has taken it with a grain of salt. Bands don't absolutely need things like MTV and Hollywood, but it does help every now and then, he said.

"It's not as easy to be a big radio band -- I mean, Creed proved that wrong, but they're an exception, they're the only band that can do it and still be just on the radio," Connolly said. "But you need it, and it's kind of a 'catch 22' because there is a lot of stuff on there between the Backstreet Boys, N'SYNC, Britney Spears and Shakira -- it's all part of that machine, and I respect how it works and why it works, but honestly, it's tough for me to stomach when I watch somebody going up and accepting a Grammy for something that somebody else definitely wrote."

Although Connolly will admit that it makes him sick, he does respect what is different. Connolly said he even likes some of the Backstreet Boys and N'SYNC songs, but he has a problem with the fact they didn't write some of them. He did do his homework, however. The boy bands were making it big, and he attended a Backstreet Boys show out of shear curiosity to find out why.

"I'm impressed by big shows," Connolly said. "I would much rather go see them in concert than I would sit down around the house and listen to one of their CDs.

"I've seen the shows and it's pretty intense. They're singing and dancing their asses off. I give them a lot of credit where credit is due ... the only problem I have with the whole boy band thing is (that) I thought music was supposed to be about musicians ... I want to see a guitar player up there. I want to see a drummer doing whatever he's going to do to impress me."

While curiosity over what exactly makes a fan pay $70 for a "nosebleed" ticket drew him to a show, Connolly is content with three things on stage: sound, lights and the band.

After Sevendust finishes up the final dates of its "Rock the Boat" tour, the band will take two weeks off. What will a band, that in the past has performed over 300 shows in just a little over a year and a half, do with its time? Connolly wants to become a certified scuba diver. He and the band will also go back and write.

"I made the choice that I was not going to start writing until the summer time and it's really interesting because the last time I was home, all I wanted to do was write and it was the hardest thing to do. So, I know we're probably all going to explode when we start pumping out ideas again."

Although Connolly is excited, he has no idea what is going to come out. Although "Animosity" showcased Witherspoon's melodic vocal talent, the band wants to get back to its heavy side. According to Connolly, the envelope will be pushed towards the heavy side, but the focus will still be on the melody.

While Connolly said trying to reinvent themselves on every album is tough, the band draws its inspiration from listening to other bands such as KORN. Touring with the likes of Slipknot and Creed has also developed a more diverse audience.

In the end, for bands like Sevendust, the "growing pains" eventually subside, and the only thing that matters is how the band as a whole can reach its fans.

"It's so cool when I get people who come up to me and say 'you know what? I felt what you were feeling in that song,'" Connolly said. That's what its all about ... it's a responsibility. As we get older we do realize that we are responsible for our fans because they made us. Our fans have put us where we are. Without them we are nothing ... you do owe them."


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