As Finger Eleven can attest, a lot can change for a band in 15 years. Since its formation, the Bur lington, Ontario, quintet has changed its image, its musical direction, and, most wisely, its name. This is, of course, the group formerly known as the Rainbow Butt Monkeys.
Having just finished an Urban Rush taping, singer Scott Anderson sits in an empty office at the Shaw Tower in downtown Vancouver to discuss the act's latest genre-spanning disc, Them Vs. You Vs. Me.
"We're not making experimental art-rock," he says defensively of his band's ever-evolving sound. "We're just making cool songs that we're into. But I think that's been a danger for every single record we've put out. 'Are they a metal band? Are they a soft-rock band?' I can't answer that."
On older albums like 1998's Tip, Finger Eleven offered down-tuned ní¼ rock that blended the frontman's melodic vocals with throat-destroying screams. The formula helped the band achieve success across Canada, but it wasn't until the release of the acoustic ballad "One Thing", off its 2003 self-titled album, that the group saw international acclaim.
The mellow approach had the combo playing to the biggest crowds of its career, but Anderson says the song's success is something that can't be duplicated. "We're not smart enough to do it again," the vocalist says with a laugh.
That said, Them Vs. You Vs. Me is Finger Eleven's least aggressive outing. This can mostly be credited to Anderson's abandoning the shredded vocals that fuelled the band's past work.
"There's less feeling like I'm 16 years old, screaming into a pillow in my room. We're just not that band anymore," he explains. "There's just not that much anger left."
"Talking to the Walls" coasts on the quiet/loud/quiet current with a pounding backbeat and bassist Sean Anderson's elastic bass line before propelling itself into a multiple-octave chorus that sounds ripped from the flight manual of the Foo Fighters. Other cuts take their cue from country-rock, with "Gather & Give" working a Deep South shuffle, complete with wanking guitars and handclaps, while "Falling On" could be the official soundtrack for a dirty night at Coyote Ugly.
In fact, no longer rocking the bespectacled, Uncle Fester look that he did in the past, Anderson presents himself as more of an alt-country type these days, sporting a short, mussed-up 'do, a full beard, and a black Magnolia Electric Co. T-shirt. But regardless of how Finger Eleven's members look or sound, the crooner says the band will always feel like, well, Finger Eleven. "The only aspect that identifies a Finger Eleven record is if all five of us are in love with the ideas on it."
The current single "Paralyzer" fits the group's criterion, even though the song started off as a joke. Meshing hard-rock riffage with a discotheque-ready dance sound seemed odd to Anderson when the other members of the group brought him the tune. He chose to turn the song into a self-deprecating rant about how he hates dance clubs.
"I wrote about how every single time I make the effort to go to a club, I feel like an idiot," he notes. "The music doesn't make me want to dance. I don't want to spend 10 dollars a drink. I don't want to be there."
Finger Eleven plays a sold-out Croatian Cultural Centre on Monday (May 14).