IVA, Shatter, Like Tides
504 E. Locust St,
Des Moines, IA, 50309
Doors 6:00 PM / Show 7:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
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!”
The "Free Hugs" video, which accompanied the band's song "All The Same," earned Sick Puppies exposure on Oprah, Jay Leno, "60 Minutes" and CNN, and inspired people around the world to begin their own free hugs campaigns. It also propelled "All the Same" into a top-requested single at commercial radio stations across North America. But while the "Free Hugs" video helped spread the music and message of Sick Puppies, the band is anything but an overnight success.
Years before YouTube, Sick Puppies were winning prestigious commendations, including "Best Song" from Triple J Unearthed, and "Best Live Performance" from the Australian Live Music Awards. The Australian edition of Rolling Stone even called Sick Puppies "the most dynamic new band in the country."
The band's North American debut, Dressed Up As Life, validates the praise with a heartfelt collection of exultant rhythms, propulsive beats and choruses that span miles. It's the kind of record that captures the beauty, pain and endless possibilities of LIFE.
The aching vocals, melancholy acoustics and triumphant guitar swaths of the renowned "All the Same" transcend even without the video. "My World" pinpoints the moment where epiphany turns regret into acceptance by juxtaposing layered instrumentation with bare, simple arrangements. "Pitiful," combines start-stop blasts with brooding atmospherics, resulting in a song that's both angry and undeniable. And, "Asshole Father" is even more sweeping and multidimensional, intermingling serene vistas with stabs of animosity.
"The record is an honest reflection of what we were feeling and going through when we were making it," says singer and guitarist Shimon Moore. "There were times when we were really depressed and then suddenly we were happy. So these songs capture that whole rollercoaster ride."
"The songs are a combination of all of our influences, from Rage Against the Machine to Green day, mixed in with our own style," bassist Emma Anzai adds.
The origin of Sick Puppies dates back to 1997, when Moore and Anzai met in their high school music room. Moore was bashing away on the drums and Anzai walked in looking for someone to jam with. "She stared at me and asked if I knew all these songs by different bands, and I was like, 'Yeah,' and, we just started rocking," says Moore. "At the end of the week she said, 'You wanna start a band?' and we've been together ever since."
Moore stepped out from behind the kit and strapped on a guitar, and the two hired Chris Mileski to play drums. They started playing covers, then wrote their own material and booked local gigs. In 1999, Sick Puppies released their first Australian EP, Dog's Breakfast, and two years later, their song "Nothing Really Matters" won Triple J's Unearthed band competition. Their debut album, Welcome to the Real World came out later that year. After numerous tours across the country, Sick Puppies went on hiatus for a while so they could achieve their goal to record their North American debut.
Anzai got a job in telemarketing and Moore carried a billboard of a lollipop sign advertising two-for-one shoes at an outdoor shopping mall. It was there that he met Juan Mann, who came to the mall every Thursday with his "Free Hugs" sign. "We started talking and became really good friends," Moore recalls. "Then I asked if I could film him. But we never ended up doing anything with the footage until we came to Los Angeles."
Since Mileski was unable to come with them to the U.S., Sick puppies placed an advertisement on the Internet site Craig's List, looking for a new drummer. Soon, they hooked up with Mark Goodwin, whose hard-hitting style perfectly complimented the band's aggressive style. While they worked on the new album, Moore kept in touch with Mann, and during one of their phone calls, he learned that Mann's grandmother had died unexpectedly. To help cheer him up, Moore pulled his old footage off the shelf and edited together the "Free Hugs" video and sent it to Mann.
"It was meant just as a video get well card, and that's the only reason it got made," Moore says. "He saw it and said, 'Why don't you put it on YouTube.' I still have no idea how it got as big as it did."
Upon arriving in Los Angeles, the band signed a new recording contract with indie label RMR Music Group run by Paul Palmer, co-founder of Trauma Records (Bush, No Doubt). The tremendous success of the video piqued the interest of numerous record distributors, including Virgin Records, which signed Sick Puppies to a deal in 2006, right as their new album neared completion.
"It was far more difficult to make than we expected," Anzai says. "It was a lot of hard work and it basically took us a year to finish. We spent a lot of time discussing the style of the music and the arrangements, and we reworked the songs over and over until they felt right. So, it was definitely grueling, but it was character building as well."
In addition to learning to write better rhythms and melodies, Moore flexed his lyrical muscles and tapped into a new level of emotional poignancy. He penned songs about his fear of abandonment ("My World"), a desperate effort to save a crumbling relationship ("All The Same") and a freaky stalker ("Deliverance").
"I think the songwriters who really connect with people are the ones who are willing to release their deepest, darkest secrets," Moore explains. "So, I decided to bare my soul regardless of how embarrassing or frightening it might be. And I think when you give in to that, it can be very liberating."
With infectious tunes, a jaw-dropping stage show and equal doses of hits and hugs, Sick Puppies are striking a blow against the horde of faceless modern rock bands that are virtually all the same.
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