Last updated: 07/04/2010 11:00:00 AM
How do you follow a platinum-selling album that featured a #1 hit, a top 10 and a top 20 single, and rocketed all the way to #4 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart? If you’re Tantric, you hunker down in a Nashville studio with producer Toby Wright (Korn, Alice In Chains) for a couple of months and emerge with a record that actually one-ups its hugely successful predecessor. The Louisville, Kentucky-based quartet have outdone themselves with the eagerly anticipated After We Go, an electrifying album built on swaggering riffs, stacked harmonies and hook-filled shimmering melodies.
"You can’t go into the studio worrying about writing another hit or selling twice as many copies as the first album," says vocalist Hugo Ferreira. "All you can do is make music that moves you and hope that it affects others the same way."
Ferreira and crew began penning the new album while globetrotting in support of their critically acclaimed self-titled debut. Emerging from the ashes of Days of the New, guitarist Todd Whitener, bassist Jesse Vest, and drummer Matt Taul re-grouped with Ferreira and quickly established themselves as a vital new voice in rock. They scored a smash hit single with "Breakdown" (which shot to #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart), a Top 10 hit with "Astounded" and a Top 20 single in "Mourning." They maintained a high profile by touring with the likes of Creed and Kid Rock, and appeared on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The band garnered MTV airplay with "Breakdown," which was also prominently featured in various commercials, two Warner Bros. films, Driven and Salton Sea, and television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Witchblade. And as their hits blanketed rock radio, the band took to the road, sharing stages with everyone from Coldplay and Staind to Stone Temple Pilots, Kid Rock and 3 Doors Down. When all was said and done, Tantric had toured for over two years and sold close to a million albums.
"We’re so grateful for all of it," says Whitener. "I’d like to say that I knew it would happen for us, but there were definitely times early on when I wondered where this would take us. I was afraid I’d have to go back to work at Arby’s to make ends meet," he laughs. "But we’ve really poured our hearts into this band and the music and thankfully everything’s worked out. I remember being handed my gold album and just hugging it all night long. I called my parents and just about every other person I know to tell them about it. To be honest, I think I even slept with the damn thing."
When the tour ended, Tantric returned home, road-tightened, revitalized and eager to redefine its focus. Not only was the group looking forward to working on new material, they were anxious to reveal a depth beyond the scope of their debut record. "We were still discovering our sound when we made the first album," says Ferreira. "But two years on the road really helped us grow as musicians and tighter as a band. As a result, we went into the studio with a stronger sense of what we wanted to achieve this time around."
To help them nail it, the band brought back Wright, who was behind the board for the first album.
"When it came to choosing a producer, we knew we wanted to work with Toby again," says Whitener. "I’ve heard so many horror stories about bands fighting with their producers, but Toby really understands us and what we’re looking for and he did a amazing job on this album. He agreed to come to Ocean Way in Nashville, which was great because it allowed us to spend time with our families. If I was stressed from a day at the studio, I’d go home and get a hug and kiss from my daughter and the next day I was good to go."
After We Go sees Ferreira and Whitener blending their voices to thrilling effect, floating breezy melodies over guitarscapes both raw and rapturous. Evoking the emotional life beneath the melodies, their swirling harmonies give the album an intoxicating warmth and flow. Anchoring this sprawling sound is the rhythm section of bassist Jesse Vest and drummer Matt Taul, whose grooving backbeats alternate between kick-out-the-jams-heavy and laid-back-in-the-pocket-smooth.
Though the album showcases the band’s strength as songwriters, special attention should be called to their stunning rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s "The Chain." "We were tossing around the idea of a cover, but couldn’t agree on a song," says Ferreira. "After going back and forth a few times, I turned on a classic rock station and suggested we cover the first song we hear," he laughs. "’The Chain’ came on and we all looked at each other and were like, ‘Wow, that could be really good.’ Then we flipped around the dial and heard two more Fleetwood Mac songs. We took it as an omen."
Hypnotic and languorous, each song on the album has its own atmospheric sound and vibe, with the Ferreira offering belated apologies to an estranged lover ("Hero"), questioning the karmic boomerang ("After We Go"), raging against spinning wheels ("Hey Now") and searching for self ("Chasing After").
"Conversations that I had with fans played a big part in the way we approached the album’s lyrical content," says Whitener. "Over the course of the past two years, I’ve received fan e-mails and had people talk to me at shows about the tough times they’ve experienced—some even contemplating suicide. They told me that our songs helped them get through it. I can definitely relate because music has that same kind of healing effect on me, but it’s amazing to think that our songs can touch someone like that. Hearing those stories really made me think about the opportunity we’ve been given. I think there are a lot of artists out there that take advantage of the situation and that’s irresponsible. We’re more interested in giving people something positive to grab onto."
"We’ve been lucky, but there are a lot of ups and downs you experience as a new band," says Ferreria. "Sometimes it can be really frustrating, but that’s part of the game. Then someone tells you that your song got them through a painful time and that makes everything worth it. Those are the kind of experiences that made us work even harder on this album. Awards and things like that are great, but nothing beats the feeling of making that human connection. We want to feel that again."