"I start to believe/The more that I see/I know it's true/This is a modern way of living with the truth," - "A Modern Way of Living With the Truth"
"How did I get here?" asks The Exies lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Scott Stevens on the band's deliberately raw cover of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," from the band's new album, A Modern Way of Living With the Truth, its debut for the Eleven Seven label distributed by ADA.
It's a reasonable question to ask the L.A.-based band whose two previous albums for Virgin, 2003's Inertia and 2004's Head for the Door, produced the #6 Active Rock/Top 10 Modern Rock hit "Ugly," used by World Wrestling Entertainment as the theme to their Survivor Series pay-per-view event, as well as the #12 Modern Rock hit "My Goddess."
After two years of touring with bands like Breaking Benjamin, 30 Seconds to Mars, the Used, Sparta and Evanescence, then appearing on Motley Crue's Carnival of Sins tour last year by special request of Nikki Sixx, a fan of the band, the group was on the verge of losing two of their members.
"I was ready to quit myself," says Scott Stevens, who founded the band in 1998 with bassist Freddy Herrera. Throw in the fact the band left Virgin Records and changed their management, and you've got the ingredients for either the end…or, in The Exies' case, a new beginning.
Enter guitarist Chris Skane, who was a member of the group in one of its earliest incarnations, and remained friends with them. The three began to write together, pouring their frustrations and dreams into a new set of songs that reflected their anguish, guilt, remorse, shame and pain, but also their hope, optimism and strength of spirit, finding the missing link between grunge and emo. The trio forged forward while, at the same time, harking back to the original meaning of their name—the existentialists.
"We just decided to hang out together and write as friends," says Skane. "It didn't even cross our minds that it could be a permanent situation."
The band describes the new album's sound as a yin-yang synthesis of "beauty and destruction," A Modern Way of Living With the Truth, produced by James Michaels (Alanis Morissette, Motley Crue and Meat Loaf), runs the gamut of sound and emotion, from the wistful opening "Leaving Song" and the harsh anti-materialist rant of "Lay Your Money Down" to the simple piano chords of the regretful "Stray" and the wistful ballad "My Ordinary World" to the propulsive melodic hardcore of "These are the Days" to the techno questioning of the title track.
The album reflects the band's inner torment, a way of dealing with the uncertainty of the modern world. Songs like the album's first single, "Different Than You" and "Fear of Being Alone" explore the conundrums of, as Scott puts it, "coming into this world alone and leaving alone, what you gather along the way. And the fact it's all gone at the end." Quieter songs like "Stray," about the regret caused by infidelity, and "My Ordinary World," which talks about the desire for change, co-exist next to cathartic bursts of anger such as "Dose" ("You always leave me behind for someone new/Now it's my turn to hate") and "Better Now" ("I gotta believe/That she's getting better/While my heart bleeds/While I can't forget her").
"The whole impetus for the album came from me standing back and taking stock of my life and the band," recalls Scott. "That desperation and fear, ‘Is this it for me? For us?' You just start to wonder what you're doing wrong."
Chris explains he came up with the album title while watching the news. "It's about the way our society is so quick to blame others for the things that go wrong in their lives," he explains. "And that can involve politics, sex, spirituality, relationships, work of any number of ways we use to convince ourselves just to get through."
Of course, more often than not, Scott is pointing the finger at himself. "I seem to badger and beat myself up a lot, but I'm no different than anyone else in that way," he says. "Shame is a big topic on this record, but I'm also trying to make peace with myself." "We made the record we wanted to make," offers Chris.
"We were allowed to be creative and make statements without anyone questioning what we were trying to do. We have a support system really into the record and what we want to do, and the independent nature of how this record was made plays into what's happening right now in the industry."
"This is a change, sure, but it's also a progression," adds Freddy about the band's new effort. "We've gone way past what we've done."
"I'm very proud of the album," concludes Scott. "Even if not one soul hears it, I've accomplished something I've wanted to for awhile. It's the most mature record we've done and, song for song, the most consistent."
"These are the days/That last forever/A time in my life/I won't surrender," he sings. "For better or worse/These are the days I will remember."
With A Modern Way of Living With the Truth, The Exies truly tapped into these feelings, and exposed them for the world to see.