Probably one of the hardest things for an established rock band to do is replace their lead singer. For every act that has successfully accomplished this daunting task (AC/DC, Van Halen, etc.), there are countless others that have failed. Upon hearing Saliva's eighth studio album, Rise Up, you can now add the band to the former category. New singer Bobby Amaru has successfully replaced original singer Josey Scott (who exited the group in 2012), and has joined up with longtime members Wayne Swinny (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Dave Novotny (bass, backing vocals), and Paul Crosby (drums), and has helped deliver an album that manages to push the band's sound into new areas, as well as retaining the group's trademark elements - including anthemic choruses and crushing riffs. "That would be Paul contacted me," is how Amaru recalls first getting in touch with the band. "It was through this guy Jeff that we know - a mutual friend. He used to do lights for the band. He does lights for so many other acts, like Godsmack and Limp Bizkit, but he lives in Jacksonville - he's actually right around the corner from me. We hung out a lot and stuff, so he just called me up and said that they were looking for a singer and if it was OK to give Paul my number, and that's how that happened."
As evidenced by such standout tracks as the leadoff single/title track from Rise Up, Saliva's reboot has certainly inspired the group, as the new material certainly meets the high standard set by such by-now-stadium-standards "Click Click Boom" and "Ladies And Gentlemen." "We made a great record," continues Amaru. "It's like Groundhog Day, kind of for us with it. Déjà vu. But the writing process I think went back to where the band felt they were at one time. Everyone really had input. It wasn't like, 'Oh, we should do this because of this or that because of that.' I think everybody really got to throw their heart and passion into it."
"I'd say that when you're living out on the road, it's kind of hard to write out there," adds Novotny. "You don't get much time alone to do it. But once you finally come off the road and get into the writing mode, you're inspired by everything that happened out there. And we've been out for like two years in a row, just hitting it. Everything just came at once. It all happened really fast. And we think it's the best album we've done since probably the first or second one." Other standout tracks from Rise Up include "Lost" and the ballad, "Closer To You".
Novotny isn't the only long-time Saliva member to feel that Rise Up will rank ultimately as among the group's best discs. "It was just one of the most enjoyable experiences that I ever had in the music business," gushes Swinny. "And a lot of credit goes to producer Bobby Huff, for creating an environment like that, that was very creatively open and everybody was invited to write. No ideas were shut out - no matter how terrible they were. We explored every idea, and that way, everyone felt a part of the process, and I think it shows in the music and in the energy of the record."
Another exciting aspect that Amaru points out concerning the new album's release is that it will be via a brand new label, Rum Bum Records. "All the rum you can drink! It's awesome! It's new - they're a new label, and independent label. So that alone is different than a major and from where the band was previously, it's totally different, because majors are going to do different things than what independents are going to do, and the band gets a little more freedom, I think, on an independent than they would on a major. So we do have freedom. They let us make the record we want - it's not like, 'Hey, make your next single like Imagine Dragons or something.' It wasn't like that, which is how majors, typically, they try and steer you in different directions and stuff. But it was good - we got to choose who we wanted to work with, so it was great."
And for longtime fans wondering if the "new look" Saliva will be able to meet the high standards set by Josey era, Swinny's answer is simple. "I think the best answer is come to a show and see. Because we were worried about it - you naturally wonder, 'Man, is this going to work live?' In the studio, you can make it sound great. It's easy to do that. But is it going to work live? And Bobbykudos to him, because he embraced the songs and he does them justice, while putting a little bit of his own stamp on it at the same time. So it's the same songs, and when we play them, it sounds like Saliva. It doesn't sound like Josey's voice - but the songs still sound the same. And on any given night, there's going to be a certain amount of people showing up thinking, 'This is going to suck. Without Josey, there's just no way.' and I've got to tell you, hands down, every single night there is at least somebody - usually multiple people - come up to me after the show and say, 'I didn't think y'all were going to be able to replace Josey, and I just came out to check it out. Y'know what? This guy is great! You'd better hang onto him! I love the band, and I'm going to keep coming to shows'."
Lastly, Amaru sees this as a brand new chapter in the Saliva story, with many new pages left to be written. "Taking over the world, man, that's what we're doing! No, we've got a lot of stuff - a lot of touring. We're going to tour a lot this year, and just try to play everywhere. Videos. We're going to Russia in March. We're going to try and do a lot more international stuff. That's a big deal - to try to spread it out a little bit, so we don't over-saturate ourselves in America." With a stack of killer tunes and a new frontman, Saliva is gearing up to Rise Up throughout the world.