Sick Puppies Interview
The interview below was conducted in 2009. Since then, we've had the chance to interview the trio once more. Check out our 2010 video interview with Sick Puppies.
Sick Puppies math dictates that two-thirds Australian rockers plus one-third American drummer equals the recipe for success. I've gone over the calculations myself and it seems to be correct; Sick Puppies' third album, Tri-Polar (release date July 14, 2009), threatens to top their previous endeavors and blow the competition out of the water. Tri-Polar is by definition the "third level of madness" and aptly describes some of the craziness the band has faced while touring constantly for over a year, which has been reflected in the album. The first two singles from the album are Street Fighter (War) and You're Going Down; War has been used officially in advertisements for the recently released Street Fighter 4 video game and You're Going Down is the official theme for WWE Extreme Rules...and these are just the first two songs released. They're also well known for giving their fans a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating Tri-Polar from their UStream account, to their YouTube and much more. These factors combined make for a great band.
I sat down with fellow UpVenue editor Sheila and Sick Puppies frontman/lyricist/guitarist, Shim Moore, to talk about Tri-Polar, the video shoot for You're Going Down, and much more.
UpVenue (UV): So you guys were filming the video for your single, You’re Going Down, this week?
Sick Puppies (SP): Yeah, yesterday [June 30].
UV: How’s it going? Have you finished?
SP: Yeah, we finished filming yesterday. We find out what it looks like in about a week.
UV: From the photo you put up on your Twitter account, it looks like more of a performance piece. Is it? Or is there acting involved as well?
SP: It’s the band performing and then there’s kids playing with water balloons and water pistols and stuff.
UV: Nice. Do you know when it’s going to be released?
SP: I’m guessing within a month.
UV: Did you guys come up with the concept?
SP: No, we had a few concepts but this idea was thought up by [director] Ryan Smith and we brainstormed with him and put it in his hands.
UV: Have you worked with him before or is this your first time?
SP: No, but he’s good. He’s fun.
UV: So Tri-Polar is coming out July 14. You must be excited.
UV: You’ve said in past interviews that some of the songs on Tri-Polar reflect the craziness that comes from touring from a long period of time. When it gets really crazy, what do you do to blow off steam?
SP: I don’t know if it’s about blowing off steam; there’s no real arguments. The problem is, you spend so much time onstage blowing off steam ... to actually center yourself to be calm and relaxed. Your body is in such a permanent state of flux, playing shows and running around. Realistically, it sounds easy or cool or whatever, and it is - for a couple of weeks. But being permanently in motion, permanently walking, driving, performing, moving twenty-four hours a day for five months straight without a single day in between where you’re at one place for the same time in a regular environment, that creates a sort of manic energy. And so, to actually calm yourself and to stay in one spot, and not move, and not talk and watch a movie for two hours or stay on the phone with your family and not have to hang up for any reason, or get up and leave or do something, that’s the stuff you really focus on doing. Like the stuff that you guys do every couple of nights; you come home, you watch t.v. – we never do that.
UV: Right. I guess we take that for granted.
SP: Yeah, well we take what we do for granted as well. We have an amazing job where we play shows every night. And after a while you take it for granted. We just want to go home and watch t.v. and everyone at home is like, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I’m on the road thinking “What the fuck is wrong with you?’’ You get to watch t.v. and see friends and stuff…sleep. And you don’t appreciate it. The grass is always greener.
UV: So what are you doing in preparation for the upcoming tour?
SP: There’s heaps. There’s so many things to prepare. Everyone’s preparing shows and stuff. And for the band, we have to do the little things like find guitars and get the amps set up, get the right amps, and the stage design. And my job is just mainly running and putting the show together with the guys (a tired Shim yawns). That’s probably why I’m sick right now. Because I’ve been running a few miles every morning, rehearse for a few hours every day, and doing whatever else you need to do. The video shoot was fourteen hours yesterday.
UV: What happens when one of you guys get sick? Do the other band members hide from the infected person?
SP: Usually you get pretty isolated. You can’t afford to get anyone else sick but usually once every two months, there’s a big wave of sickness that goes through the bus. ‘Cause when one person gets sick, everyone’s going to get sick. It just happens. Then you take Vitamin C and Echinacea and it doesn’t do anything.
UV: Your tour schedule is listed until September. What’s happening after that? Will you still be touring?
SP: After that, we start with Shinedown for a month and a half. We finish September…something…and then we go to Shinedown. That’s getting announced soon but it’s confirmed.
UV: Is it going to be another U.S. tour or will it be somewhere else?
SP: No, it’s another U.S. tour. We might do stuff overseas for but the moment it’s the U.S.
UV: Is it just going to be you and Shinedown?
SP: I really don’t know. It’s going to be us and them and maybe some other guys.
UV: Outside of the U.S., what would be your dream city or venue to play in? Do you have one?
SP: Sydney. Yeah, I want to go home.
UV: Any plans for that?
SP: Soon. I’m sure it’ll happen at some point on this record. We have to go back at least once for this album. We might try to get back on Big Day Out if we get enough radio play in Australia.
UV: That usually takes place in January, right?
SP: Yeah, so it might be next year. But yeah, hopefully if we get enough we can go back during the Christmas period.
UV: Do you guys prefer festivals or do you prefer the regular venue shows?
SP: I don’t really have a preference. I prefer acoustic gigs if I have to choose. In terms of festivals and regular gigs, festivals are fun because you play shorter and get to hang out with people afterwards. But also, very rarely, do the shows go smoothly because it’s such a clusterfuck. So it’s cool to do your own show because it’s more organized.
UV: You mentioned the acoustic shows. Are you planning on any acoustic shows?
SP: Yeah we do acoustic shows for promotions and like radio but in terms of selling tickets to a show, I’d like to do that at some point. But there are no plans to do it. But we’ll probably do it at some point. It would be a cool thing to do in between records.
UV: How are the rehearsals going for the live shows?
SP: Really good. Officially, the rehearsals start today [July 1]. We’ve been rehearsing the songs and we have a week’s worth of rehearsals at this big rock star rehearsal space, where all these big bands play and rehearse. Good P.A. and lighting area. You set up for a show but mostly you just sit around on the internet and eat food.
UV: Do you guys play to a couple of people or do you have a crowd?
SP: We don’t play to anybody. Preferably not, except the people who work for us and are trying to make the show look good; they sit there and watch and tweak things.
UV: So far, what’s your favorite song to play live off the new record?
SP: I think for me, the favorite song is Master Of The Universe. It’s good, it’s easy to sing, it’s easy to play and it rocks out really well.
UV: Are you guys going to be releasing any B-sides off Tri-Polar in the future?
SP: Yeah. I think Wal-Mart’s getting their own B-side, Best Buy’s getting their own B-side and some online company’s getting their own B-side. So depending on which store you go to, you can get something different.
UV: You guys chose 13 songs for Tri-Polar. Most people would consider that an unlucky number. How come you guys chose 13? Did you have to pick 13?
SP: Yeah, we were only supposed to have twelve; when you’re actually making a record, it becomes more expensive for the band to put on more tracks. Usually, if you want to put on more than twelve tracks, the band pays out a little more money so it costs them but we really wanted White Balloons to be on the record. The concept of 13 was never an issue. If we only believed in luck, we would’ve never made it this far.
UV: You put out previews of all of your songs and they’re pretty diverse and I know that the fans love that; they get to see the vulnerable side with White Balloons. How important is it for you to have your audience see those different sides?
SP: I don’t know…I never really thought about it. It’s not a matter of importance. […] It’s always been the same thing; people have to figure it out, people have to take the time to listen to the music. You listen to the whole record and it’s not a matter of going, “Oh, they’re a soft band’ or “A hard band” or “They’re kind of in between”. It’s more like, “Oh, it’s that band, that’s what they do.” It’s not a matter of figuring out what you show people. You do what you do and if people like it, they like it. They might like one song, sometimes they like the whole album. Sometimes they love the band, sometimes they just like one song. Sometimes they just like the bass player, sometimes they just like the drummer. People like what they like and we just do what we do.
UV: When you guys are doing the rehearsals, are you trying out all the songs off Tri-Polar? Or are you settling on a certain few?
SP: Pretty much all of them but we’re not going to do White Balloons for this tour, for this run; it’s just something that we didn’t really have the time to totally tackle. That song was written and produced before it was played by the band officially. We didn’t write it in the rehearsal studio, we wrote it in the recording studio and put it together. It’s kind of difficult to pull off live so we’re going to hold off on that for now. Plus we’ve got enough ballads anyway, with All The Same, Maybe, My World…we’re going to do a very heavy song rotation for the next few months.
UV: Any idea what the next single will be?
SP: There are ideas but I’m going to leave it a surprise.
UV: With your upcoming tour, you’re heading out with Hurt, The Veer Union, and Adelitas Way. Did you know anything about them before?
SP: Adelitas Way…I haven’t heard the whole record yet. The Veer Union I haven’t heard much of but I’ve heard they’re pretty bad ass. Hurt, yes we’ve played a bunch of shows with them and we love those guys, they’re pretty cool. So basically, it’s one of those things about going on tour with a band. You get to know them on a more personal level than on any sort of band level, like “Ooh wow, I love that band” you know? It’s kind of cool when you meet people you like and they don’t know who the fuck you are. I mean, they get to know your band ‘cause they know you ‘cause they met you backstage and they like you – hopefully – and then you have a cool common ground and it’s not this weird sort of power play. It’s kind of weird when you meet bands and they’re like, “Dude, I love your band. Wow. Here’s my CD.” It just makes it a little more difficult to hang out.
UV: When you guys are planning your tour, do you ever look ahead to see what’s happening the day you’ll be in a particular city?
SP: Not really. Honestly, we really don’t have much time. Like, when we finally get back to the bus and it’s time to sleep, the last thing we want to do is look a few days ahead because usually we’re looking one day ahead and it’s like, “What do we have to do the next day?” Unless we’ve heard that there’s a big festival coming up or we know something’s going on with the World Crew, like, in three days and that’s something we’re looking forward to but in general, unless a band calls us and is like, “We’re going to be in Seattle at the same time as you”…other than that, we’re just too busy.
UV: When you’re making an album, do the lyrics come first or the music?
SP: No, the lyrics do not come first, usually. I’ve only written one song in my life where the lyrics came first…well…actually, that’s a lie. I’ve only ever written one good song in my life where the lyrics came first. But none of them will be a Sick Puppies song, so…Lyrics are hard, man. Lyrics can be very difficult at times. So you don’t want to spend your time writing lyrics to something that’s not cool. You come up with the whole song and you’re like, ok that’s cool, that’s worth pursuing, then you write some lyrics.
UV: So do you each come up with parts separately and present them to each other or...?
SP: Nah, that happens in any number of ways. Sometimes, it comes out of a jam, sometimes I’ll bring in an idea or I’ll have a lyrical idea and be like, well, what does this sound like?
UV: Did any of the unused songs from Dressed Up As Life make it onto Tri-Polar, either musically or lyrically?
SP: No. Tri-Polar was a fresh start.
UV: So, your World Crew has been around for over a year now. What did you expect initially? What did you think when the idea was brought to you?
SP: I didn’t expect it to happen, honestly. So many ideas turn around and everyone’s got an idea, you know? And when someone says, “I have an idea,” you’re like, “all right”. And then it kept growing and growing. It has a lot to do with Susanna and Donna but it’s become so …I mean, I never saw the Evanescence board; I never saw what that became but it’s become something where every person that becomes involved, it grows larger with every person so it really has to do with everyone. Which is really the best thing about it. That everyone can actually put an idea forward or they can write something or do something and get a response. And it doesn’t disappear, like some of the other ideas might do.
The 'voice of God' (as per Shim) in the form of Sick Puppies' publicist chimes in to inform us that our time has come to an end.
UV: It appears that our time is up but thank you for talking with us, Shim.
SP: Thank you for taking the time to call in.
UV: And we’ll see you [at a Sick Puppies performance] in August.
SP: See you in August.
Check them out for yourself to see if this is the kind of math you can wrap your head around.
You're Going Down
Street Fighter (War)
Something Different (Live)
For more on Sick Puppies, visit their MySpace Page, official website and Joost Countdown to Release. Sick Puppies are: Shimon Moore (vocals, guitar), Emma Anzai (vocals, bass), and Mark Goodwin (drums).