As we look back in music in the last twenty years, we can think of the emergence of mainstream pop punk in Sum 41 and New Found Glory or rise to superstar status for metalheads Slipknot as well as the singer-songwriter MySpace and YouTube generation who would go on to play to millions of fans all around the world.
But if we were to ask you to name ten bands you can remember consistently popping up releasing music and playing around the world, we’re pretty confident that Papa Roach would be somewhere in that mix.
With the release of their brand new album F.E.A.R. on 27th January 2015, Papa Roach have been forever selling out shows around the world with their backlist of hits such as ‘Scars’, ‘Getting Away with Murder’ and the forever-immortal ‘Last Resort’. We were delighted to be able to speak with Tobin Esperance, bassist of the band who celebrated their 20th Anniversary this year.
Papa Roach are now over that 20 year landmark. Firstly how does it feel to hear that?
“Man, it’s crazy to look back and reflect on all the things we’ve done as a band. I feel like we’ve grown and accomplished a lot and experienced so much. I’m just grateful that I’m in a band that has been able to get along and keep making music. Through all the ups and downs in the music industry, it’s really something that we can be proud of and gives us a new energy to keep going and keep improving ourselves.”
After the first few years, you released ‘Infest’ and you’re heading out on tour all over the world. Before it was released, what were your intial feelings about Infest as a record?
“We didn’t really have any initial feelings; we were so young and immature and completely unaware of anything other than just having a good time and just wanting to make music that was true to us. That energy – that naive point in your life – kind of gets lost after a while once you’ve experienced everything after that. It was really just a fine time, a youthful time. Looking back on that record, I still love it and proud we’ve written it.”
Was there any point during the process when you stopped and realised how far the band came in such a small space of time?
“Yeah we definitely reached that point two years in the touring and it felt like the wheels were about to fall off. We cancelled the tour. I remember going all the way home. I think we all just tried our best to decompress. We were just like ‘Holy shit. This is crazy. What just happened?!’ – we realised right there and then that our whole lives have changed. Our dreams have came true but at the same time we have taken on a whole new life. Who knew what was going to happen after that?”
I remember watching the music channels at that time in the UK and your music videos were almost on constant repeat, whether it be ‘Last Resort’ or ‘Between Angels and Insects’ and I can imagine that being the same all over the world.
“Yeah definitely. That record was so huge for us and I guess it was kind of like ‘Where do you go from there? How do you top that?’ We were never expecting anything like that. We weren’t planning that. It just happened. And it happened naturally so we struggled with how to deal with that for a while afterwards. We didn’t always make the best of decisions but we had fun and learned a lot along the way and I think being able to look back 20 years later and we’re still doing it so we must be doing something right.”
Then after Infest, did you feel any pressure following up on it?
“There is always pressure after a record like that. Not just the pressure we put on ourselves but the pressure to live up to the hype. After a while, we said let’s just let it happen and it was best for us just to think that way. We just stopped and tried to focus on just writing the songs – it’s really about just putting on a really bad-ass live show and having fun as long as we can make a living doing what we love to do. We’re just the luckiest guys in the world.”
Your sound has changed as more records came out. Is this something that happened naturally or did you look to change your sound?
“We are still very much into making songs that are very much us and I know everything’s changed – the whole music business has transitioned and everyone is all into all different ways of streaming – but we still put out records and still hope people want to buy them and listen to them.”
Your new album ‘F.E.A.R.’ – Face Everything and Rise – is this almost your advice to your fans as you’ve been through so much yourselves?
“Yeah, it’s definitely a personable record – especially lyrically – and it’s also the record we want to put out to give hope to our fans that have grown up with us and have gone through the same troubles and need that connection where there is a way to pull yourself out from the darkness. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope. There is people out there who go through the same thing. It’s really just about that human struggle we all deal with every day.”
You’ve been together for so long now and so few band changes. What’s your consistency down to?
“Stubbornness. I think we’re just that band who just don’t give up. We keep challenging ourselves, evolving and trying to make it fun for us and trying to always connect with our fans and put on the best live shows we can. Doing it our way.”
Is there any advice you would give to bands and musicians in Northern Ireland who are looking for that next big break?
“I think every band is different and has a different goal and purpose. The thing that should be most common with any band is just to be honest with yourself and have fun and realise that playing music a gift. It’s an art form and it should be fun, creative. It shouldn’t be this struggle. You can’t set out to be a rockstar or to sell millions of records and being a success because that’s just an unrealistic thing. Though you shouldn’t give up that dream so if that’s the only reason you’re doing it then you better hold on as it’s gonna be a tough ride. Be the best version of an artist you can possibly be. Be true to your instrument and create that connection with your fans.”
The new album has been rumoured to be a bit heavier than the rest. Is that down to certain influences you’ve been listening to?
“Yeah we’ve been listening to a lot of heavier music. We listen to a lot of hardcore music and metal. But then at the same time, we listen to a lot of electronic music, ambient music. I like hip-hop; some of it’s not really exciting me at the moment but there are some great new sounds and artists out there. I can’t even tell you names as there’s so many of them but there’s definitely an influence for a band like Papa Roach. We don’t really have just one song that is exactly the same as the other.”
The album features In this Moment. Can you tell us a bit about that?
“When the song ‘Gravity’ was being written, we knew right away that this song was gonna be a special one and when we had the idea to add a female vocalist to counter the message in the chorus and we thought Maria [Brink , vocalist of In This Moment] would be perfect as she was coming into the studios anyway to record. It really just happened naturally and Maria just killed it.”
And what about Royce Da 5’9?
“He’s a legendary rapper and Jacoby knows him and had been talking to him on the phone and they connected on a lot of different levels and Jacoby just asked him if he wanted to come in and do something on a verse – he’s on the bridge of ‘Warriors’ which is the last song we did. Royce is a fan of Papa Roach and we’re a fan of his records. It’s the first time we’ve ever had guests on the record.”
What can everyone expect from FEAR as a whole?
“It’s got a lot of energy. It’s heavy. There’s a lot of aggressions – heavy moments, melodic moments, spiritual moments – all these emotions and feelings. Platonically it’s most massive, in-your-face!”
If someone picked up the record tomorrow, what three songs would you recommend listening to?
“Gravity definitely, Face Everything and Rise and Falling Apart.”
Today the music industry has found itself in a maze and trying to figure itself out. What are your opinions on the whole CD vs. Spotify era?
“My opinion is the music business has to evolve. Technology has evolved and we all have to fit in with the transition and it’s not always going to be fair. I personally try to embrace things that are new and are an advance in technology. I feel that for the artist it’s a little bit unfair and I don’t think artists are getting compensated for their music like they should. Some of the deals being struck with labels and bands on some of the streaming sites, I think we have to find a way to figure that out so it is fair. But that’s not been new. For people who don’t know, the artists are the last ones to get paid and get fucked over by labels and technology businesses. But I try not to let it affect my creativity, too many negatives aspects can kill the positive and creative energy.”
And the tour’s happening quite soon. What do you think about that?
“I’m really looking forward to going on tour. That’s really all I’m thinking about. Being on stage and playing in front of our fans all around the world. Australia, Japan, UK and Ireland. We’re super excited. Some of our most memorable shows are out there. We have some plans where we are going to be playing Infest in it’s entirety at certain shows and we’re going to putting together a killer set and a new look on stage that will be exciting and fresh for our fans. But we won’t be investing in a bunch of fireworks!”
Papa Roach play Belfast’s Limelight 1 on 21st March and new album F.E.A.R. is out 27th January 2015 – click to buy on Amazon.