Ben Moody put together We Are The Fallen “to come back and finish what we started.”
“We” would be Moody, fellow guitarist John LeCompt and drummer Rocky Gray, who were three-fifths of Evanescence when that band released its multi-platinum debut, “Fallen,” in 2003. Moody, who co-founded the group and co-wrote the songs with singer Amy Lee, left, acrimoniously that same year; LeCompt and Gray parted ways shortly thereafter. They all did other things during the interim — Moody had the most success, writing and producing for Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, Celine Dion and Daughtry, among others — but when he called his former bandmates, they were all ears.
And now they’re on the road, opening for HIM and previewing songs from WATF’s debut album, “Tear the World Down,” which comes out May 11.
“He called me out of the blue,” LeCompt, 37, recalls, “and said he had an idea of something we could do, but it would require all of us — Rocky, him and myself, to make the magic the way it needed to be. I was like, ‘Of course ... ’
“We had such a strong background together. It’s one of those things where you can get away from each other, not talk for a year, two years, but then as soon as you get back in that room it’s like, ‘Wait a minute; we’re exactly the same people we were the last time we saw each other,’ and that magic is still there in the music.”
But Moody had a trick up his sleeve, too; after a number of auditions, he brought in Carly Smithson, a 2008 “American Idol” finalist to front the new enterprise.
“We didn’t want to find a puppet,” he explains. “We didn’t want somebody who dressed in black and could sing the notes. We wanted to actually have a real band and a real family. We wanted to find somebody who would be the equivalent of a soulmate for us. That took a little time.”
In fact, Moody, 29, acknowledges, he was “getting a little bit discouraged” during the audition process and was certainly skeptical when his roommate began championing Smithson, who she had met at a mutual friend’s dinner party. After checking out some videos on YouTube, Moody finally consented to meet with Smithson late one night, and their dialogue lasted until dawn.
“Everything that we spoke about, we were on the same page,” recalls, the Dublin-born Smithson, 26, who was in the midst of making her post-“Idol” solo album at the time. “We just spoke about performance, visuals, what we wanted to see on stage, the music. We just decided to fuse together and create something pretty rad.”
Moody recalls that he and Smithson were “literally saying the exact same things to one another. You just have a feeling when somebody is just one of the guys, and from that moment it was clear to me she was the right one for the band.”
Any residual skepticism her new bandmates might have had, meanwhile, was put to rest when Smithson brought in a song she’d been working on — “Bury Me Alive,” which became WATF’s first single.
“That was a big moment for us,” Moody remembers. “That was the first thing she brought to the table, and it really solidified that this would not just be her singing over our ideas. We knew that we had completed a real band and weren’t just some guys who used to be in another band who got a singer from a TV show.”
WATF — which also includes bassist Marty O’Brien, a studio hound who worked with Moody on a number of projects — made its official debut last June 22, with a press conference and live performance of “Bury Me Alive.” The group gave the song away to the first 100,000 registrants at its Web site, but the overall response was so great it just wound up streaming the single on its MySpace site.
And while Moody planned for WATF to simply release new songs every couple of months online, the band wound up signing a recording contract and recording “Tear the World Down” in Los Angeles with co-producer Dan Certa, along with contributions from longtime Moody collaborator David Hodges and string arranger David Campbell. Its 11 tracks are hard, aggressive and epic in the Evanescence sense, which Moody says should not be surprising given where he, LeCompt and Gray came from.
“We’re not necessarily trying to mimic what we did in the past,” he explains. “It’s just what we do, and we wanted to build on it. With Evanescence, we were kids and just starting to experiment with ... huge sonic landscapes. I’ve had a lot of years in the studio since I left the band, and I wanted to bring all that experience to the sound that I originally had such a hand in creating.”
Smithson notes that the Evanescence comparisons are “inevitable” but still “a kind of shroud that we operate under.” But both sides are taking pains to separate the two; Amy Lee — who’s working on a new Evanescence album now — says that WATF “doesn’t have anything to do with me or Evanescence,” and that short of reminding fans that LeCompt and Gray joined after “Fallen” was recorded, she “doesn’t have an opinion or anything to say about” their new group.
And Moody feels that’s as it should be.
“I don’t really think she’s at all threatened by us,” he says. “Musically, we’re going in completely different directions; ‘The Open Door’ (Evanescence’s 2006 album) sounds nothing like We Are The Fallen. There’s no reason we can’t both exist in the world — and we will.”
We Are The Fallen performs with HIM, Dommin and Drive A on Friday(April 2) at Clutch Cargo’s, 65 E. Huron St., Pontiac. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $26 in advance, $30 day of show. Call 248-333-2362 or visit www.clutchcargos.com.
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