Lifehouse may not grab the headlines for their offstage antics or celebrity hook-ups. Instead, the quartet quietly goes about topping the charts with tunes that stick to radio playlists like glue. Since its 2001 major label debut, â€œNo Name Face,â€ the Los Angeles-based band has crafted hit after hit, including â€œHanging by a Moment,â€ â€œBreathing,â€ â€œYou and Me,â€ â€œWhatever It Takesâ€ and, now, adult contemporary chart topper, â€œHalfway Gone,â€ the first single from the group’s fifth album, â€œSmoke and Mirrors.â€
Released March 2, â€œSmoke and Mirrorsâ€ debuted at a career-high No. 6 on the Billboard 200 last week. It features Lifehouse’s stock-in-trade: instantly recognizable, mid-tempo, lyrically dramatic rock tracks, but also switches up rhythms and instrumentation in the way the band had never attempted before.
Hitfix chatted with founding member/lead singer/primary songwriter Jason Wade, who got his geek on with us. Â
â€œSmoke and Mirrorsâ€ is a hybrid of rawer material that you wrote on the road and more polished studio songs How deliberate was that?
It wasn’t really that deliberate in the beginning, but about halfway through the record, we started to realize we were kind of making a more organic rock record and neglecting the polished radio side that’s kind of kept us alive over the past 10 years. So we kind of shifted our focus to kind of bring some balance to the record, I guess you could say. And that’s where the whole smoke and mirrors concept came from. We were really kind of showcasing two different sides of the band that’s reflected on this album.
Some bands would say let’s just go with the organic side and see if our fans will follow us. Did you feel that wouldn’t fully represent who you were?
I kind of feel like we already did that on our album, [2002’s]Â â€œStanley Climbfall,â€ and it didn’t really work out too well (laughs). We’ve kind of been down that road before and I think it’s really important to see yourself from the outside. That’s a problem that a lot of bands have: they can’t really see who their fans are and where they’re at in their career. I think we took a healthy glance of where we’re at after 10 years. We had a lot of fun making this record, to be honest.
What was so fun about it?
Just kind of pushing the sonic space a bit more. We didn’t want to just recreate â€œNo Name Faceâ€ or the last record. We really had a lot of fun, we pulled out some synth basses and we kind of just messed with some of the rhythms and just didn’t take it that serious, you know.
Did your producer, Jude Cole, encourage that in the studio?
Yeah, he’s been a huge catalyst. He’s always the one pushing us forward and is always the first one to scrap a song and take it back to the beginning. He pushed us pretty hard on this record which I think was kind of necessary.
Because I think that when you get to a certain place where you’re having a certain amount of success, it’s easy to just get complacent and just make the same record over and over just because it’s working and I don’t really think that’s a healthy thing, especially for us, because we felt we just needed to continue to move forward and try some new things and Jude was a huge catalyst for that.
Smoke and mirrors as a saying means that things are all an illusion. How do you feel that also fits into making music these days?
Well, I think it’s funny because I feel like our band has always been the kind of antithesis to smoke and mirrors. Even though we’re in the studio making some albums that are more polished than others, we’re still not really flying anything in, using Autotune live; we’re just two guitars, bass and drums. A lot of people are shocked when they see us live. When they hear us on the radio, they think it’s going to be this big production with a lot of smoke and mirrors, I guess you could say, but really, when we are out on the road, it’s just two guitarists, bass and drums.
So there’s no illusion when you’re out on the road.
Exactly. What you see is what you get.
You guys are road dogs. What’s the one item you’ve learned you can’t live without on the road?
I’d have to say probably my iPod for listening to music before the show. I’m just a huge fan of every genre as long as it’s quality music.
What’s on your iPod that would surprise us?
The last couple of years, I’ve just been obsessed with film music. I have over 350 soundtracks on my iPod. I really hope to get into film music someday in the future.
Who’s your favorite composer?
I’d have to say, right now, Thomas Newman. He’s just brilliant. Just in how he uses the clarinets. â€œAmerican Beautyâ€ is one of my favorites. The stuff he did for â€œSix Feet Under,â€ he’s a genius.
First single, â€œHalfway Gone,â€ you wrote with Kevin Rudolf. That’s a bit of a switch up for you guys.
We were about 90% done with the record. At that point we felt like we had our pop songs covered. We had our rock songs covered, but it was funny, every time that song â€œLet it Rockâ€ would come on Top 40, it was the only song I would turn up in my car. Jude and I had the idea to reach out to him for a collaboration and see if we could kind of fuse together these two sides of the record that we were making. It turned out that he was a big Lifehouse fan and he happened to be in L.A. at the time so he came down to the studio. It was a really different kind of collaboration because I usually write on acoustic guitar and Kevin brought all these keyboards in and all these drum loops and it sounded like a dance party. It was like these two different worlds colliding in a good way. So it was a really interesting collaboration.
You also wrote with Chris Daughtry and Richard Marx on â€œHad Enough.â€Â What was that like?
It was interesting. The whole collaboration came out of me and Chris Daughtry had become good friends over the last couple of years.Â Chris wrote a song with Richard and [Nickelback’s] Chad Kroeger and so he had the idea to fly Richard in from Chicago. To be honest, I knew his stuff, but I wasn’t that familiar and once I got to know Richard during those two days, I realized I knew all these songs that he wrote from everyone from Keith Urban to Luther Vandross. It was kind of going to a professional songwriting clinic, you know what I mean?Â And for me, that’s different because I’ve always come from a visceral place. Not really professional, I just kind of pick up a guitar and go where it takes me, so it was definitely a really good learning experience.
You’re touring with Daughtry and Cavo. How is it different from your previous tours?
We’re playing a 45-minute set and it’s going to give us a chance to highlight a lot of the new stuff and really sink our teeth into this record. It’s a long tour, it’s three and half months and it justÂ came out of a natural progression of being friends and getting to know those guys and I think we share a lot of the same fans, so it just kind of made sense.
You turn 30 in a few months. You were 18 when you started this band. What are your thoughts about this milestone?
You know what?Â I think I’ve felt 30 since I was 25 with all the wear and tear on the road. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge deal. I already feel 30, to be honest, so I’ve got that going for me.
Do you have a gig that day?
I don’t think so. The Daughtry tour wraps up mid-June, so I’m thinking about maybe going to Mexico with my wife.
As you mentioned, the band has been together a dozen years. Are there times you can see it ending or can you see that in the blink of an eye it will be 24 years together.
I kind of think as long as we’re all having fun doing this, we’re going to keep it going. I hit a point about mid-way through the band’s existence in 2005 where everyone started growing apart. Me and Rick [Woolstenhulme] the drummer became good friends, but [band co-founder/bassist] Sergio [Andrade] and I kind of grew apart and we were kind of childhood friends.
So when that happened, just no one was having fun anymore and it just became a job and when music becomes just a job, it becomes miserable and I don’t think any band has any right sticking around when they’re not having fun. So as soon as [current bassist] Bryce [Soderberg] joined the band, the chemistry just really locked it. We’re just having a blast right now, so as long as that attitude is prevalent, we’re still going to be doing it.