What do free hugs, rock documentaries and the late 2000s have in common? They all helped lead to the rise of alt-metal/hard-rock trio Sick Puppies.
The band – now vocalist-guitarist Bryan Scott, vocalist-guitarist Emma Anzai and drummer Mark Goodwin – started in Australia. As the band invaded rock radio, it was revealed in a 2009 documentary about music photographer Robert Knight, that he convinced the band to travel and take its breed of rock to America, which led to a signing with Virgin/EMI and the release of the debut record “Dressed Up As Life.”
The band gained more notoriety from its viral video of the “Free Hugs” campaign, which used its song “All the Same.” The band created two more records, “Tri-Polar” and “Connect,” until things got legally messy when former singer Shimon Moore tried to dissolve the band through a lawyer.
But Anzai and Goodwin persevered, adding Brian Scott to the lineup and will be releasing the new record “Fury” this month.
The trio’s current tour is heading to town for a show May 11 in Buffalo Iron Works. I spoke with Anzai about the new record, dealing with drama, and pushing past it.
Question: Right from the first track on “Fury,” you guys really take it back to the aggressiveness of your album “Tri-Polar.” Was it your intention to go back to your roots here while still pushing forward?
Answer: Absolutely, yeah. Especially after releasing an album like “Connect,” we thought to ourselves, “let’s take it back a bit.” Reading the comments of the fans, they were asking for something heavier. And we said OK. Plus we’re fans of heavy stuff, and we know that’s what we do best.
Q: There are some really cool metalcore-esque breakdowns and a lot of industrial sounds and riffs on the new record. Were these genres places that you garnered some inspiration?
A: When Bryan joined the band, he shared similar influences as Mark and I, so that made things a lot easier. I was always fan of that stuff anyway, but now we have new opportunities to take sounds like that and put them in the new record.
Q: This is the most I’ve heard you make your voice present on a Sick Puppies record. With Bryan Scott stepping in, did you want to really differentiate the vocals on this record?
A: I suppose. I’ve done a little bit more vocals with each album, and as a band we listen to our World Crew, which is a bunch of people around the country that support us. We go on there and see what they’re saying, and there were a lot of comments about how they enjoyed me and the lead singer singing together. There’s a song on the record where I do sing by myself, and it was sort of a happy accident, but it turned out well. It’s just a natural progression for the band.
Q: The band has always had an in-depth presence with your fans on social media, even before a lot of other groups did. How did you get such a big foothold so quickly?
A: We would see other bands start to do it, and we would look at that and say “that’s a good way of connecting with fans.” There’s always new technology and ways to connect with them, and there’s so many creative ways to have them get an insight into the band. We just pushed forward on what others were starting to do.
Q: With such a tumultuous period behind you, what big lessons did you learn and perhaps implement out of all the drama?
A: I would say it would be the same philosophy you would implement in life. If something’s not working out for you or is not healthy, then you must move forward and do something that’s positive for yourself. Musically, you have to keep it fresh. It has to be full of passion and you have to love what you do. You have to make sure you’re having fun and fulfilling for you and everyone around you.
Q: Rock radio in many places has shifted to lighter fare. By crafting such an accessible, yet old-school hard rock album, do you think hard rock is poised for a second coming on the radio?
A: I hope so. We’re all fans of rock music. We want to write things we want to listen to, so that makes it easier for us to write a rock record. That’s the great barometer, but I can’t tell you what the future holds. I certainly hope that is indeed the case.
Who: HardDrive Live with Sick Puppies, Red Sun Rising, Stitched Up Heart, Hudson, Smashing Satellites
When: 7 p.m. May 11
Where: Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St.
Tickets: $17.50 (Ticketfly.com)