The figures tell their own story. Papa Roach are rare breed. Time, as ever, is the real test. Sure, you might have hits early on in your career, but what do you do when the spotlight moves to someone else, when your initial heat cools off? Many are mistaken when defining the game of rock as a sprint rather than a marathon. Many lose their nerve, flail blindly and change their sound to whatever’s cool this week. Many retreat by default into their catalogue and continue touring as "heritage" acts or museum pieces performing to an ever-decreasing fanbase. Rare, however, is the band that holds their mettle, that take the time to grow, that use those moments when fame’s fickle finger is pointing elsewhere to take risks and to try new things. Rarer still is the band that goes through this process and comes out the other end making the best music of their career, and ready to change the world’s perception of them, and Papa Roach is exactly this band. As front man Jacoby Shaddix puts it, "We were these young dudes making this music that was visceral, raw, angsty and unapologetic. Then we got tattered up by the industry a bit – but that was just the beginning of our evolution." Papa Roach will release their new album, Who Do You Trust? out in 2019 which marks a paradigm career shift, redefining them and translating their sound an entirely new audience, without losing the loyal following they’ve built already.
Indeed. Before Nu-Metal’s body was even cold, Papa Roach had left it behind and weren’t even going to consider looking back. "We felt like, let’s discover what we can be," remembers Shaddix. The albums that followed told their own story, as the group returned to the roots of heavy rock and connected with a purer spirit. A series of strong albums followed – Getting Away With Murder, The Paramour Sessions, Metamorphosis, F.E.A.R. – that saw Papa Roach earn back their bragging rights, that proved they had an identity all their own, that the were a band with a future, a destiny that was in their own hands.
"We fell in love with classic rock, and I wanted to prove I was an avowed rock singer," laughs Shaddix. "But after a while, it felt like we were boxing ourselves in again." Another reinvention was necessary, to keep things loose, fresh and alive. As bassist Tobin Esperance says, "We wanted a new chapter in our career. We wanted to carve a new path, be ‘Papa Roach’, true to form."
Who Do You Trust? is an album that aims wildly and from the hip, but always hits its target. Even at its most exhilaratingly chaotic – as on "Renegade Music," as fine an anthem as this renegade group could ever wish; Esperance talks about the track celebrating the band’s irresistible and to-the-point, fashioned to send mosh-pits mental. But there’s also moments of soaring, uplifting pop here, like the rousing chorus of Elevate, a song which also sees Shaddix reconnect with his swaggering rap MC side. Tracks like "I Suffer Well" and "Maniac" tap into pure, raw, punk emotion, but leaven that spirit with melody and precision, delivering something addictive.
"There’s a lot more ‘major key’ on this record," says Shaddix. "Like rays of sunshine coming through the music, on songs like "Come Around," "Feel Like Home," and "Problems" are songs that are fuckin’ bangers." But there’s depth there beyond the energy and velocity, too. Shaddix says that the album is "a mental health record – we’re at a point where we can be vulnerable and honest about our lives and open up." That honesty shapes and gives power to songs that are emotional and soulful, songs built for the wide-open spaces this in-demand festival act make their own.
Two young producers, Nicholas Furlong and Colin Brittain, began working with Papa Roach on the sessions that would become Crooked Teeth (2017). "We got in the studio one day, and we wrote a song, and it was so fun and the chemistry was great, and we just said, ‘if we just do it twelve more times, we’ll have a record’," remembers Esperance. And that’s pretty much what they did, taking a leap of faith that delivered Crooked Teeth, and a new incarnation of Papa Roach that tapped into their earlier identities and spun them into a new sound that embraced both the anthemic, rousing rock band they had become, and the raw, ratty and unpredictable beasts they once were, mixing polish and precision with something more animal and inspired.
Crooked Teeth (2017) marked a rebirth for the band, commercially and creatively, staking out new frontiers for their music, new spaces for their sound. Who Do You Trust? redoubles that effort, Furlong and Brittain re-joining the group to produce another step into a defiant future for Papa Roach, breaking down every wall that might hold them into a single genre, and just daring lightning to strike twice. Its twelve tracks prowl the range of heavy rock as Papa Roach have defined it, but every razor-edged hook and neck-breaking twist underscores the only rule this band obey now: that there are no rules. "Crooked Teeth taught us that the more we go out and get adventurous with our music, as long as its from an honest place, we can do it," says Shaddix. Who Do You Trust?, he says, snatches that smash’n’grab ethos and runs with it. "This record is about extremes. The heavy is more heavy. The pop is more pop. The hip-hop is mad hip-hop. The punk-rock is just insanely punk. But it all makes sense to us."
But while there might be a sense of darkness that keeps Papa Roach’s feet on the ground, the mood within the band is heady, one of excitement and hunger. "Some bands have animosity, drama, weird shit," says Esperance. "We just don’t have that. We’re just up for the challenge of keeping everything fresh and new. Crooked Teeth was like our shot at proving everyone wrong, to have fun and make people happy. It worked! So now we feel like a well-oiled machine."
"I don’t feel like we’ve been doing this for twenty years," nods Shaddix, restless, and clearly ready to get back out onstage and start fucking shit up. "We have that same intensity we always had, that makes us wanna jump out of our skins the minute the drums start."