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Embracing change to grow with their fans

Theory leaves behind post-grunge sound


Chris Hupe

Whatzup Features Writer

Published July 28, 2021

Theory of a Deadman was the first act signed to Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger’s 604 Records back in 2001. The band immediately made a name for themselves with the release of their debut album a year later.

The album peaked at No. 4 in their native Canada and No. 85 in the U.S., where “Make Up Your Mind,” co-written by Kroeger, and “Nothing Could Come Between Us” became rock radio staples.

Two decades later, Theory of a Deadman have released their seventh studio album, Say Nothing, and will stop by The Clyde Theatre on Aug. 5 to show it off.

Dark and Gritty

Released last year on Jan. 31, Say Nothing is dark and gritty, serving as a nice soundtrack to the year that was 2020. Upon deeper reflection, it’s apparent the album is more than that.

The band presents a mature sound with socially relevant lyrics, spreading their wings and moving away from the post-grunge genre that has been their safety net.

According to guitarist Dave Brenner in an interview with Cryptic Rock, the notion of shifting gears came a few years ago with the success of their song “Angel.” The song was a hit at Rock Radio and peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, despite being an outlier at the time.

“It was a bit of a wakeup call,” he said about the song. “We had our heaviest record (2014’s Savages), but our most successful song was the mellowest, poppiest song on that record.”

Brenner reflected on the band’s realization that while there was segment of outspoken fans who loved the band’s heavy sound, the material that connected with fans the most was more nuanced and softer.

“There’s a lot of heavy bands that are filling that void,” he said. “I felt like the success that we were having and the songs that were connecting most with our fans were not our heavy songs.”

The Sound Must Evolve

While they could have continued taking the easy path by maintaining the status quo and churning out hit after hit that all sounded the same, Theory of a Deadman have chosen to go a different way. It was a conscious decision but also a natural progression, drummer Joe Dandeneau told The Young Folks in a recent interview.

He said that a lot of people told them to just make another “Bad Girlfriend,” which is the double platinum hit from their third studio album Scars & Souvenirs, but they resisted for fear of being redundant.

“I think a lot of people think they want that, but then you make it and they go, ‘Oh, I’ve heard this, it sounds like everything you’ve done already,’ ­— Exactly.”

Evolving the sound of the band was a risk, and they worried that their fans might not like the change. But Dandeneau said they believed in themselves and trusted that their fans would evolve with them.

“When you know that you have good songs, that blows over all the riskiness,” Dandeneau said. “You can’t please everybody. There’s always gonna be people who say, ‘This is garbage,’ or ‘There’s not enough guitars.’ That’s just how it goes. So, do what you do and be proud of it, which we are.”

Loving a Good Song

The group is finally gearing up to get back on the road, bringing their good friends 10 Years along as support.

They had to cancel two separate tours last year due to the pandemic, so these upcoming shows will mark the first time Theory of a Deadman have been on stage in over 18 months.

“We are super pumped,” Dandeneau said. “This has been a year and a half of sitting at home. There’s nothing to do. This is what we do; we tour. It was nice for a little bit to get a break, but we want to work, we want to go play. You gotta remember, playing shows is like a form of therapy. I miss that. It becomes a part of you that you want to just be with the fans and play music. This is why we do it.”

Despite the change in musical direction, in the end, what Theory of a Deadman did on Say Nothing was what they have always done and what has served them well over a career that now spans two decades: trust their instincts.

“I think different things work for different bands. For us, the mentality early on was make it about the song, don’t make it about anything else. Make it about the music. I truly believe people can’t deny a good product, they love a good song,” Brenner summed up.

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