It’s been four years now since the last State Of Shock record but you could say it’s been well worth the wait for patiently waiting fans of the Vancouver based band. The group’s new album is called Rock N’ Roll Romance and was just released at the end of September. In this interview with State Of Shock lead singer Cameron Melnyk, Cameron discusses a lot of the background behind Rock N’ Roll Romance, specifically why there was such a lengthy gap between this album and the last record, the writing process and writing with Our Lady Peace lead singer Raine Maida on a couple of songs. Cameron also talks about how he keeps his voice so strong, what the band likes to do in downtime while on the road and how the band came to open for the legendary Aerosmith once. Check out State Of Shock on tour across Canada in the near future.
The release date of your long awaited third record Rock N’ Roll Romance has just about arrived. What would you say is different or new with this album compared to your other two?
Cameron: Everyone in the band always has input in the writing. I think a lot of people in the band had just better ideas this time, we’ve matured, we’re listening to different music, we’ve evolved a bunch, our lives have kind of changed, we’ve been living together a long time so we’ve got a lot more to write about. So we had a lot of material for the record and then we just focused on just narrowing it down and really focusing on each song as a particular single that could possibly be released. And at the end of the day, we wanted to release a record full of songs that we’re proud of and we felt that we could tour for the next two or three years. So not much has changed, I mean there’s still a lot of melody, guitar hooks, it’s still riff heavy. There are some maybe newer sounds that you wouldn’t necessarily hear, a little more poppier side of things but we still have the rock n’ roll involved in it and again it’s a record like Life, Love & Lies was, it’s a record for everybody, there’s a song for ages two to eighty-two really.
You went with Jeff Dawson again as your producer for Rock N’ Roll Romance. Did Jeff have a lot of involvement in the composition of these songs or did he take more of a laid back approach with you in the studio?
Cameron: When we were doing our demos, we did all the demos for this record as we’ve done in the past almost to the quality that we could release them ourselves. Jeff comes in and there’s definitely a lot of direction that we couldn’t have done without him, but I’d say the composition of most of the songs were there. Some of the songs and certain frameworks of ideas weren’t necessarily completed without him jumping in the mix and helping us out but when we do our demos they are almost to the quality that they are on the CD except for the exception of fine-tuning particular sounds and lyrics here and there.
Now I’m sure you’ve gotten this question at least a few times recently but why the over four year delay between Life, Love & Lies and Rock N’ Roll Romance? Was there any one specific factor which made for a lengthy gap?
Cameron: I think there are a few very important factors. We changed labels, we went from an indie label now we’re on with Universal Canada and we’re excited to be with the bigger machine. We just want to keep on growing and expanding into different markets and internationally of course with this band. We toured the last record for about three and a half years and obviously it was a huge success for us and we’re definitely humbled and grateful for all the attention that it got so we kept touring it for maybe a little longer than we should have but I don’t think so. People still wanted to hear the record and we had a lot of places that were still offering us tour dates and stuff so I think any time you can tour a record like that and you get five or six singles out of it it’s a pretty good thing and you milk it while it’s there in a way. I don’t want to say milk it but take advantage of the situation because tomorrow may not come and with the next record you never know what’s going to take and what’s not going to take even if you think you built a record that’s much better than the last one and the ones before. So I think the business side of things really slowed us down, you know paper work sometimes takes a little longer than we would have preferred but at the end of the day we’re really happy with the changes that have been made.
We’re just looking to get back out on the road here and we’re starting to tour right now, actually we’re just driving to our first Western dates here in Nanaimo, B.C., we’re really excited to do that. Other than that we weren’t going to release a record right away just because we knew we had been on the road for a long time and we did take a bit of a break because we did tour for so long. We took a break to be with our families and stuff and you know kind of settle down and just take a little bit of a breather so we weren’t burnt out when we got back into it. It was a handful of everything and we kept writing more songs and they kept getting better and stronger so instead of releasing it right away we step back and said well let’s just take a little longer, it’s a really good record and they’re going to like it whether we release it in a year or two years.
How many songs did you record for Rock N’ Roll Romance? Did you find it difficult to decide between them for the final track listing?
Cameron: No it became pretty apparent. I think we had about eighteen songs that we were looking to record off of our demos and we narrowed that down to about thirteen or fourteen right away and I think only one song that we recorded heavily did not make the record. Other than that, what we brought into the studio after our demos that we did ourselves were really the ones that we focused on and we pieced it together pretty quickly. It’s pretty apparent when you’re putting all the songs together, especially in the studio what’s kind of going to fit and what’s not and maybe there’s a couple of songs here that seem like they stand out and could fit on another record, but there are songs that came out of our lives so we just wrote them honestly and truthfully and we love them so we hope that transcribes.
Who does most of the song writing in the band? Do you all equally contribute or are the basic song structures more the product of one or two of you?
Cameron: It’s another thing that contributes to the length of time that it took in between. There’s so much talent in this band and so much diversity to what we’re paying attention to personally on our iPods and our iTouchs and whatnot. Everyone is contributing, we have something called the Giant Suggestion Box and sometimes it has a big hole in it and ideas don’t go through the mill but everyone has the respect and talent to have their ideas and at some point they get heard and they get worked on. And sometimes you can even take your idea out and it comes full-circle and you just go back to square one, we just focus on everyone’s ideas. You can’t do it all at once so we might split up to twos or threes until one person brings in an idea and then we just kind of work on that for a bit and if it’s good then we get it to demo quality and then we go on to another idea. So everyone has a chance to have their ideas heard, whether they make the record or not, at some point in every song, one line or a hook or a melody, somebody’s got an idea in there and no one’s being left out for sure. That’s kind of what makes our band maybe a little different from most and more of a family.
A couple of songs on the new album, “Still Got Tomorrow” and “Runaway” were actually written with the assistance of Our Lady Peace lead singer Raine Maida. How did Raine come to be involved in helping with these songs?
Cameron: We kind of put some feelers out there, we had been writing for a while and we had a bunch of songs and we had a few songs that were sitting there half done and we knew they could be really good songs but we just kind of needed another writer. Raine was an option at the time and we jumped at it from his experience with Our Lady Peace and personally with his wife Chantelle, writing with other artists like Pink and Avril Lavigne so he’s a remarkable talent in the industry so any time you can pick a brain like that, absolutely.
So we jumped down for two days to L.A., I know “Runaway,” I had the chorus written and most of that written but we were sitting on a verse, trying to figure out a verse for a long time so we went down there, he picked up right away a guitar and he had this idea that came out in not even a minute and a half and I was like holy shit, I’ve been beating down that door for five months. So it was kind of remarkable, it took us out of our comfort zone because it’s not something we do a lot, there are so many writers in the band we try to rely on us. So to take us out of our comfort zone actually helped us step back a bit and see another point of view direction wise with the song and how to write it so that was a neat experience for us. “Still Got Tomorrow” was an idea that he had in his head and again out of two days we came out with two really good songs and hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to work with him again in the future.
Rock N’ Roll Romance is an interesting title for a record. Is there a mutual concept behind the songs on this album or would you consider it just a collection of some cool rock songs?
Cameron: It’s a collection of our lives living on the road for the last six or seven years, touring back and forth through the winter, through any time of year, going through relationships with each other, business relationships, personal relationships with family and loved ones. We’ve lived all of that together and we’ve dealt with it together so we’ve managed so we’ve got a lot to work from. A lot of these songs are very personal to us, there’s very little that’s actually made up, fortunately and unfortunately I guess. We’re just kind of writing the stories of our lives, it’s become a soundtrack to our personal lives as we grow up together and mature and keep going here. I think that’s again how the songs really find a way to relate with the people that we’re singing them to. If we were writing about stuff we didn’t know and we were making it up I don’t know if we would have had the success that we’ve had or even close to it. The title Rock N’ Roll Romance is our constant, ongoing love affair with this business for better or for worse, we’re kind of married to it. You can try to kill rock n’ roll but we’re not going away. It kind of has a stronghold on us.
Check out the song “Have A Nice Day” here.
Being on the road in a band for long periods of time can certainly be draining. What do you do to have fun or keep it fresh while traveling so much?
Cameron: Well back in the day it was party, not so much anymore. We’re pretty light-hearted, we hang out outside of doing this too so it’s pretty easygoing here. I think we just like to take it easy, we all like good food and good company and we’re kind of constantly around that. We meet a lot of people so that’s pretty refreshing and we keep pretty busy you know whether we’re reading books or on our laptops watching movies or just playing cards or something, it’s pretty simple. We’re pretty busy otherwise so there’s not too much of a side hobby.
I saw that you opened for Aerosmith once. What city was this in and did you get to meet Steven and Joe or any of the other guys?
Cameron: If I’m not mistaken and my short-term memory alludes me sometimes, I believe the Aerosmith show was Sarnia Bayfest. And wow, that was an incredible experience to play and then watch them right by their sound man and again, just an incredible time for us as a band; mind you it was just one show. WE didn’t really get to meet Aerosmith, we met the guys in Bon Jovi when we got to play with them which was really cool, it’s just like a surreal experience. I think any band that we’ve been out with, whether it be Papa Roach, Seether or Nickelback, has really just been surreal and a dream come true everyday because we were just sitting at the side of the stage and we’re the biggest music fans in the world. So we’re just kind of in awe, we’re like holy shit, we just played in front of these guys. There are a few more bands you know, if the real Guns N’ Roses or Zeppelin got back together I’m sure that would be the end of my career and I would be pretty happy. But once you start playing with a few of them you realize oh maybe I can play with a few more so you get a little greedy but you never take it for granted.
How long would you estimate that you practice your vocals in a day?
Cameron: I think since finishing writing this record I really haven’t stopped. We’re writing everyday all of us so I’ve lately taken up the piano and I’m starting to pen a few more songs on that and get on that. I’m singing kind of everyday, I’m humming songs in the shower and in my car you know here and there. Not much doing in terms of crazy vocal exercises, more just keeping it loose, relaxing and keeping that muscle fresh and ready to go for when I need it. It’s something I’m very thankful for, I don’t take it for granted either, it could come and go at any time, knock on wood… For now I’m going to take advantage of it. I usually just practice throughout the day and throughout the weeks just trying to write new songs and practice on our own. A few times a week we’re practicing and all the off time I’m practicing and trying to write something new.
What’s next for State of Shock? Take us through your plans for the next little while and the New Year.
Cameron: Well because everything is coming in last minute lately, that’s just how this business works sometimes, we’re just going to tour, we’re going to tour our butts off like the last record, maybe not for so long, maybe we’ll manage that a little smarter. Right now we’re going to start an eight date Western Canada tour and just do smaller venues here for the first little run and get our feet wet with the new songs, just test them out. We’ll play smaller venues, a little more intimate and just go and thank the people and do a lot of radio promo and just work as hard as we can.