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 groupâ€™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 Lifehouseâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 thatâ€™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 thatâ€™s where the whole smoke and mirrors concept came from. We were really kind of showcasing two different sides of the band thatâ€™s reflected on this album.
Some bands would say letâ€™s just go with the organic side and see if our fans will follow us. Did you feel that wouldnâ€™t fully represent who you were?
I kind of feel like we already did that on our album, [2002â€™s]Â â€œStanley Climbfall,â€ and it didnâ€™t really work out too well (laughs). Weâ€™ve kind of been down that road before and I think itâ€™s really important to see yourself from the outside. Thatâ€™s a problem that a lot of bands have: they canâ€™t really see who their fans are and where theyâ€™re at in their career. I think we took a healthy glance of where weâ€™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 didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t take it that serious, you know.
Did your producer, Jude Cole, encourage that in the studio?
Yeah, heâ€™s been a huge catalyst. Heâ€™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 youâ€™re having a certain amount of success, itâ€™s easy to just get complacent and just make the same record over and over just because itâ€™s working and I donâ€™t really think thatâ€™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 itâ€™s funny because I feel like our band has always been the kind of antithesis to smoke and mirrors. Even though weâ€™re in the studio making some albums that are more polished than others, weâ€™re still not really flying anything in, using Autotune live; weâ€™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 itâ€™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, itâ€™s just two guitarists, bass and drums.
So thereâ€™s no illusion when youâ€™re out on the road.
Exactly. What you see is what you get.
You guys are road dogs. Whatâ€™s the one item youâ€™ve learned you canâ€™t live without on the road?
Iâ€™d have to say probably my iPod for listening to music before the show. Iâ€™m just a huge fan of every genre as long as itâ€™s quality music.
Whatâ€™s on your iPod that would surprise us?
The last couple of years, Iâ€™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.
Whoâ€™s your favorite composer?
Iâ€™d have to say, right now, Thomas Newman. Heâ€™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€ heâ€™s a genius.
First single, â€œHalfway Gone,â€ you wrote with Kevin Rudolf. Thatâ€™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 [Nickelbackâ€™s] Chad Kroeger and so he had the idea to fly Richard in from Chicago. To be honest, I knew his stuff, but I wasnâ€™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, thatâ€™s different because Iâ€™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.
Youâ€™re touring with Daughtry and Cavo. How is it different from your previous tours?
Weâ€™re playing a 45-minute set and itâ€™s going to give us a chance to highlight a lot of the new stuff and really sink our teeth into this record. Itâ€™s a long tour, itâ€™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 Iâ€™ve felt 30 since I was 25 with all the wear and tear on the road. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s going to be a huge deal. I already feel 30, to be honest, so Iâ€™ve got that going for me.
Do you have a gig that day?
I donâ€™t think so. The Daughtry tour wraps up mid-June, so Iâ€™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 weâ€™re all having fun doing this, weâ€™re going to keep it going. I hit a point about mid-way through the bandâ€™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 donâ€™t think any band has any right sticking around when theyâ€™re not having fun. So as soon as [current bassist] Bryce [Soderberg] joined the band, the chemistry just really locked it. Weâ€™re just having a blast right now, so as long as that attitude is prevalent, weâ€™re still going to be doing it.