Theory of a Deadman had a simple but daunting goal for its third album: to make the greatest record possible. "I always try to remind the guys and myself that there are 20 bands lined up behind us...Expand
Theory of a Deadman had a simple but daunting goal for its third album: to make the greatest record possible. "I always try to remind the guys and myself that there are 20 bands lined up behind us just waiting for a chance to take our place," says frontman Tyler Connolly. "So that means we had to go in there and make a great record." With "Scars & Souvenirs", the Vancouver trio has hit its mark. The balanced 13-track effort is the polished and passionate testament to seven years of hard work, heavy touring and diligent attention to its craft. From the swirling grind of "By the Way" to the nasty snarl of "Crutch" to the soaring melodicism of "Not Meant to Be" and "Wait For Me," "Scars & Souvenirs" is a broad-reaching endeavor that puts Connolly, guitarist Dave Brenner and bassist Dean Back high in the rock pantheon, achieving creative growth without sacrificing the hard-hitting power that got them here in the first place. "We really dug hard on this one," Connolly notes. "The longer you're in a band, the more you write songs, the better you get. We've had such a great opportunity to figure out what to do better, how to write a better song and keep building and building. That's exciting for us."
Scars & Souvenirs began taking shape in February of 2007, as Theory was winding down from touring to support its second album, 2005's "Gasoline", a slump-defying sophomore outing that launched the hits "No Surprise," "Say Goodbye," "Santa Monica" and "Hello Lonely (Walk Away From This)." The group returned to Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson, who in turn issued marching orders that set the tone for the project. "Before we even went into the studio, Howard wanted to gear this record up to sound huge," Connolly recalls about Benson's "all killer, no filler" approach to the record. "He said, 'You have to go into a record with great songs. You can't make them while you're there. You can't just go in with one or two great songs. You've got to have 10.' So we just kept sending him songs until we had the 10 to 12 great ones, and then he said, 'OK, let's go.'" Theory actually brought about 17 songs to Los Angeles' Bay 7 studios in August of 2007. Amidst low-key hijinks -- Brenner and Back grew mustaches, Connolly sported a fake one in the name of band unity -- the group and studio drummer Robin Diaz recorded 15 before choosing the 12 that ultimately comprise "Scars & Souvenirs", which proved an apt title for the range of emotions Connolly sings about on the album. "It's the Scars & Souvenirs of your life," he explains. "The songwriting on the record is really about someone's past or and present, their relationships and how they shape everything. It's more metaphorical than physical scars and trophies."
And while Connolly has certainly done his turn as a rock 'n' roll king of pain on "Gasoline" and 2002's attention-catching debut "Theory of a Deadman", he went into "Scars & Souvenirs" determined to show he could be more than the "callous bastard" Rolling Stone magazine called him in an early profile. Here, Connolly explores broad new lyrical terrain, indicative of his growth as a person and as songwriter. "For awhile there, every song was, 'Get the f*k out! I don't need women! Screw them!' That's kinda how I felt at that point," Connolly says with a self-effacing laugh. "But I've grown as a songwriter, and as a person. I wanted to write some different, nicer songs for a change." He didn't have to look hard for inspiration. He wrote "Wait For Me," with its acoustic guitar underpinning and rich chorus, for his wife, paying tribute to her fortitude in being home alone while he's on the road. The piano-laden "All or Nothing," meanwhile, chronicles their relationship, which began as a good friendship before blossoming into romance. "It was kind of sick of me writing all these woman-hater songs before," acknowledges Connolly, whose mother left his family when he was in high school, providing rich source material for his earlier work. "People thought I was writing about my wife."
While Connolly's lyrics have taken on a kinder, gentler pallor on "Scars & Souvenirs", the band continues to keep the knobs cranked to 11. Connolly also went into "Scars & Souvenirs" trying to write some songs that were "just for fun," and succeeded with tracks such as "End of Summer," an anthem about the bittersweetness of endings, whether that of a season or a relationship. But even though the album mines a deeper emotional trough, it charges with the same potent force of its predecessors. When fans eagerly crank up the likes of "So Happy," "Got it Made" and "Bad Girlfriend," they'll end up with a set of blown out speakers, thanks to the firepower that crackles in these rockers, while "Sacrifice" bristles with the kind of primal, super-charged defiance that has long defined the best hard rock. "A lot of bands, they grow older and they get grayer and they just can't do the rock songs anymore," Connolly says. "I don't see that happening to us. Fans are gonna hear our record and hear some softer stuff, but we're a rock band. I think it sounds bigger than the other two (albums) we've done."
Which is, not surprisingly, why Connolly, Brenner and Back are chomping at the bit to take "Scars & Souvenirs" out on the road. "We really want to take the band farther this time," Connolly says. "We want to get out there to places we have not been before - where a lot of our fans are --Asia, Australia, as well as reaching our fans in North America and Europe. We're just a hard-working band, man. We want to be out there for a couple of years and play these songs to everybody we possibly can." With an album like "Scars & Souvenirs", the fans will be lining up to listen.