Joshua Todd says that “the bar’s been raised” for Buckcherry. But he and his bandmates wouldn’t have it any other way. The Los Angeles hard rock group’s fourth album, “Black Butterfly,” came out in mid-September to high expectations thanks to its 2006 predecessor, “15.” It was a comeback by any measure of the word, a record that not only brought Buckcherry back into action after a four-year hiatus but also sold platinum, launched the hits “Crazy B****” (also a platinum seller) and “Sorry,” spent 98 weeks on the Billboard 200 and snagged a Grammy Award nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.
It also placed Buckcherry at the vanguard of a rock resurgence that includes similar crossover successes by groups such as Finger Eleven, Daughtry, Three Days Grace, Flyleaf and Lifehouse.
Guitarist Keith Nelson says that “15” was “not so much a reunion as a continuation of where we left off. We definitely felt like there was unfinished business.” But with “Black Butterfly,” which debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart (“15” peaked at No. 39), the group hopes to show that it’s decidedly still in business and ready for the run it temporarily abandoned in 2002 due to declining sales, burnout, internal dissension and some substance abuse issues.
“We spent longer on this writing process than any of our other records,” notes Todd, (ne Gruber) 37, who co-founded Buckcherry with Nelson in 1995 and released a solo album, 2006’s “You Made Me,” during the group’s hiatus. A plan for he and Nelson to be part of Velvet Revolver during that time never panned out. “We wanted to make sure that we had the goods because 15 was a great record. We want to continue to elevate our game.”
Nelson, meanwhile, contends that “the challenge for us has been just not to do anything different, get back to the head space we were (in) three years ago when it was us against the world and we had to make the record of our lives.
“I think that’s exactly where we’re at. We haven’t changed much in the process... the only difference is the cars in the parking lot are a little nicer.”
Buckcherry did change a few things while making “Black Butterfly.” When “15” collaborators Mike Plotnikoff and Paul DeCarli proved unavailable, the guitarist enlisted Marti Frederiksen, a hitmaker with Aerosmith, Mötley Crüe and others who also co-wrote “Sorry,” to helm the new set with him.
“We wrote a couple songs with him on (‘15’) and we had a great vibe going with him,” Nelson notes. “When we got into some scheduling issues with my co-producers from the last record and it didn’t look like things were gonna work out, my first thought was, ‘Wow, if it couldn’t be the way it was before, maybe Marti would be willing to come along with me and produce the album.’
“He said ‘yeah,’ and we went from there.”
Todd, meanwhile, notes that Frederiksen’s vocal range is “so similar to mine that when he sings some backups on the record, you can’t even tell it’s not my voice.”
The song “Black Butterfly” itself did not make the album, but Todd says the “great, iconic image” it connotes was too good to pass up for an album title.
“I like it ’cause it’s a contradiction — butterflies are really pretty, and black is the darkest color,” the singer explains. “We just wanted an image that was edgy enough that a dude would get a tattoo of it and pretty enough that a girl would want to wear it on a T-shirt.”
It does, however reflect the stylistic mix of the album, which has plenty of swaggering, riffy rockers such as the first single, “Too Drunk ...,” “Rescue Me” and “Tired of You” while also making room for more melodic and romantic fare like “Dreams” and “Don’t Go Away.”
“We always want to make well-rounded records,” Todd says. “We’re not always wanting to play the hard, fast rock songs; we feel all different kinds of emotions, and some of those are mellow. Everyone in the band likes a good ballad.
“I just think it’s fun. It’s actually harder for us to write that out-of-the-box, onetime, hit uptempo song, really. That’s the hardest.”
It’s too soon to say whether “Black Butterfly” will measure up to the mark set by “15,” though Todd concedes that he feels the potential for another “sophomore slump.” But he also feels he and Nelson and the band are in a better shape than when they first faced success and its demands in the early part of the decade.
“I feel a lot of pressure,” Todd acknowledges. “I also feel confident. I feel it all, but we work great under pressure. It motivates me, and it motivates the whole band. We feel like we’ve done what we did (on ‘15’) and we just gotta get better.”
Buckcherry, Avenged Sevenfold, Shinedown and Saving Abel perform at 6 p.m. Friday (Nov. 21) at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt Road, Ypsilanti. Tickets are $35. Call (734) 487-2282 or visit www. livenation.com.
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