Jonathan Montoya/ Saliva
In every life, there are moments of revelation. Some are tragic, like near death experiences or divorce. Others are joyous, such as birth, new love or a career breakthrough. But both kinds leave indelible stamps on the individuals experiencing them.
For gold-selling Memphis turbo-rockers Saliva, the past couple years of their decade-long career have brought an ocean swell of such change. One or more members have had children, stopped drinking, ended longterm relationships, gotten married and/or left the group, and each instance has been accompanied by a new sense of clarity.
As a result, Saliva's fifth album Blood Stained Love Story resounds with a previously untapped level of passion, energy, sincerity and diversity, not to mention an undeniable melodicism that will endear the band to anyone that feels any sort of connection between reality and music.
"I think we've all been through a blood stained love story of one type or another," says frontman Josey Scott. "It's kind of a metaphor for how things can be a certain way for so long, and then within a day, they just change and you're on this whole other path."
Blood Stained Love Story is an album of growth, a realization that there are more important things in life than cover stories, photo shoots and big Hollywood parties. But while it may be more mature than Saliva's past efforts, it's no less turbulent.
"These songs are about waking up after the party and your wife is gone, your money's gone, your cars are gone and you go, 'What the fuck just happened?'" explains Scott. "It's about trying to get all that stuff back, having a second chance and starting again."
It's also about returning to the fray after three years with something to prove. Blood Stained Love Story opens with the ringmaster vocals and mid-paced guitar chug of "Ladies and Gentlemen" before slipping into surreal Beatles-y vocals and a call-and-response chorus. "Broken Sunday" seesaws between bittersweet reflection and raw frustration, combining head-in-hand sorrow with angry, lunging punches. And "Going Under," is a portrait of beautiful sadness -- a textured amalgam of delicate piano, spare guitar picking and world-weary vocal harmonies.
"I wanted to go back to the nuts and bolts of Saliva, which the emphasis on nuts," Scott says. "I wanted to capture that musical diversity, that heaviness, but in a really catchy way. And that meant going back to [producer] Bob Marlette, who produced out first two Island albums. He really knows how to get the best out of the five of us."
Saliva started writing for the album in early July 2005, but at the time he was in Hollywood working on "Wanted," and the show's grueling schedule kept him from getting much done for Saliva. Around the same time the show wrapped, Scott and his wife Kendra discovered they were going to have a baby, and suddenly the creative floodgates opened up. Almost exactly nine months later, the songs for Blood Stained Love Story were finished. "The baby was really my second chance in a lot of ways," Scott says. "I had the chance to raise a child and be a better man and those feelings and emotions gave me all these ideas for songs."
Along with the personal epiphany came the realization that he could no longer continue living like a stereotypical rock star on the highway to hell. So, Scott stopped partying and focused on being more productive.
"I decided that I didn't have to totally pattern my life after Nikki Sixx," he says. "Before that, there were times when I didn't know if my body was coming or going. I had so many drugs in my system and was partying so hard and living the lifestyle to the letter. One day I just woke up in amazement that I had survived the night before. And I said, 'This is fucking stupid. What am I trying to prove?'"
As he curtailed his self-destructive behavior, Scott found it easier to focus a create, and he quickly finished the music and lyrics for Blood Stained Love Story. Saliva entered Marlette's studio in April 2006. Once again, Scott was joined by longtime bandmates Wayne Swinny (guitar), Dave Novotny (bass) and Paul Crosby (drums), and former Full Devil Jacket axeman Jon Montoya.
"Jon and I have been friends since we were teenagers," Scott says. "It worked out great because it was someone we knew, someone we were comfortable and somebody that knew our songs and was really happy to take the position. He's great player and an absolute dynamo onstage."
Clearly, Scott considers Blood Stained Love Story as a document of redemption, but Saliva never needed a second chance. Ever since their formed in 1996 they have remained relevant and revelatory for an audience disillusioned by fads and fashion and looking to rock. Less than a year after they got together, Saliva was a finalist in the 1997 Grammy Showcase sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Soon after, they self-released their eponymous debut and created a buzz tour the country opening for whoever would have them, and more often than not, blowing those bands off the stage.
Island got hip to Saliva's appetite in 2000 and released their debut Every Six Seconds in 2001. Combining their love for hard rock, metal, hip-hop and southern rock, the group put together an album that was in-your-face and capable of blowing out your teeth.
"We were hungry and fierce and we just wanted to write music we loved," Scott says. "It wasn't about rap-rock. We didn't even know what that was. We were just adding all the flavors that we saw around us in Memphis and pouring that into one mold, and we wanted it to hit like a nuclear bomb."
Saliva scored hit singles with "Your Disease" (#3) and "Click Click Boom" (#15) and spent most of the year touring before the record went gold. They returned in 2002 with Back Into Your System, a more melodic disc with fewer hip-hop references. The album also went gold, thanks to the #1 hit "Always" and its successors "Raise Up" and "Rest in Pieces."
"Back Into your System was a more technical album and we were aiming more for radio play," Scott says. "We really tried to give every song the attention it deserved and make it the best it could be."
The band's last album, Survival of the Sickest, which came out in 2004 was Saliva's unabashed tribute to their influences, resurrecting the seismic sounds of classic hard rock with the reverence and fortitude of true fans. "It was produced by Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down, Sister Hazel), and it was straight up rock n' roll, a big fist in the sky to AC/DC Black Sabbath, Motley Crue and all those bands that paved the way."
As cathartic and enjoyable as Survival was, when Saliva reconvened after Scott's Hollywood stint (in addition to playing a starring role in "Wanted" he had a bit part in the movie "Hustle and Flow"), they knew it was time for a return to form. Only this time they wanted to steer clear of the extra-curricular activity that previously fogged their future.
"We all had the chance to party and do the rock star thing," Scott says. "We got that all out of system, and now things are more serious and valuable. We've found out what really matters to us, and now we want to get down to the business of real rock n' roll - undeniable writing, albums and live shows, with no stupid shit in the mix."