Members: Tyler, Dean, Dave, Joey
Theory of a Deadman had a simple but daunting goal for its third album: to make the greatest record possible.
"I always try to remind the guys and myself that there are 20 bands lined up behind us just waiting for a chance to take our place," says frontman Tyler Connolly. "So that means we had to go in there and make a great record." With Scars & Souvenirs, the Vancouver trio has hit its mark.
The balanced 13-track effort is the polished and passionate testament to seven years of hard work, heavy touring and diligent attention to its craft. From the swirling grind of "By the Way" to the nasty snarl of "Crutch" to the soaring melodicism of "Not Meant to Be" and "Wait For Me," Scars & Souvenirs is a broad-reaching endeavor that puts Connolly, guitarist Dave Brenner and bassist Dean Back high in the rock pantheon, achieving creative growth without sacrificing the hard-hitting power that got them here in the first place.
"We really dug hard on this one," Connolly notes. "The longer you're in a band, the more you write songs, the better you get. We've had such a great opportunity to figure out what to do better, how to write a better song and keep building and building. That's exciting for us."
Scars & Souvenirs began taking shape in February of 2007, as Theory was winding down from touring to support its second album, 2005's Gasoline, a slump-defying sophomore outing that launched the hits "No Surprise," "Say Goodbye," "Santa Monica" and "Hello Lonely (Walk Away From This)." The group returned to Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson, who in turn issued marching orders that set the tone for the project.
"Before we even went into the studio, Howard wanted to gear this record up to sound huge," Connolly recalls about Benson's "all killer, no filler" approach to the record. "He said, ?You have to go into a record with great songs. You can't make them while you're there. You can't just go in with one or two great songs. You've got to have 10.' So we just kept sending him songs until we had the 10 to 12 great ones, and then he said, 'OK, let's go.'"
Theory actually brought about 17 songs to Los Angeles' Bay 7 studios in August of 2007. Amidst low-key hijinks -- Brenner and Back grew mustaches, Connolly sported a fake one in the name of band unity -- the group and studio drummer Robin Diaz recorded 15 before choosing the 12 that ultimately comprise Scars & Souvenirs, which proved an apt title for the range of emotions Connolly sings about on the album.
"It's the Scars & Souvenirs of your life," he explains. "The songwriting on the record is really about someone's past or and present, their relationships and how they shape everything. It's more metaphorical than physical scars and trophies."
And while Connolly has certainly done his turn as a rock 'n' roll king of pain on Gasoline and 2002's attention-catching debut Theory Of A Deadman, he went into Scars & Souvenirs determined to show he could be more than the "callous bastard" Rolling Stone magazine called him in an early profile.
Here, Connolly explores broad new lyrical terrain, indicative of his growth as a person and as songwriter. "For awhile there, every song was, 'Get the f*&k out! I don't need women! Screw them!' That's kinda how I felt at that point," Connolly says with a self-effacing laugh. "But I've grown as a songwriter, and as a person. I wanted to write some different, nicer songs for a change."
He didn't have to look hard for inspiration. He wrote "Wait For Me," with its acoustic guitar underpinning and rich chorus, for his wife, paying tribute to her fortitude in being home alone while he's on the road. The piano-laden "All or Nothing," meanwhile, chronicles their relationship, which began as a good friendship before blossoming into romance. "It was kind of sick of me writing all these woman-hater songs before," acknowledges Connolly, whose mother left his family when he was in high school, providing rich source material for his earlier