» Tobin Esperance - Papa Roach
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Interview conducted May 17 2017
Interview published May 24 2017

American outfit Papa Roach's new album Crooked Teeth is out May 19th and Metal Covenant got on the phone with one of the main songwriters of the band, bass player Tobin Esperance, for a quick talk about his views of it.

Tobbe: A new album coming out soon. Exciting, huh?

Tobin: Very exciting. Yeah, man, we've been ready to unleash this beast for a while now. It's been done for months and it's finally coming out, so it feels good to hand it over to the listeners, you know.

Tobbe: In which way will someone be able to immediately hear that Crooked Teeth is a Papa Roach album?

Tobin: It's definitely a diverse Papa Roach record. You know, it has all the elements that make Papa Roach authentic. The hip hop punch is there, the rock 'n' roll riffs are there, the lyrics, the storytelling. It's just authentic P Roach at its best.

Tobbe: How much extra effort do you guys actually put in making those striking choruses?

Tobin: Well, we definitely don't settle on, you know, the first idea every time and we definitely make it a point to have a strong, memorable chorus. I think we've always kind of gravitated towards having like an anthemic quality about our choruses and having them be like a statement, you know what I mean?

Tobbe: It's a tough musical climate today and kids find music all over the place. So in what way does Papa Roach try to convince its fans that a new record can be just as good as what made Papa Roach a well-known band in the first place?

Tobin: I mean, I think it really just comes down to the quality of the music. You know, it's like, if we're doing something that's interesting and intriguing and that sticks out to you and that grabs your attention you're gonna wanna listen to it. And I feel like we're gonna get a lot of new fans, maybe who have never even heard of us. Or might hear some songs and be like "Wow! I really like this. Who is this?" and then, like, surprised it's Papa Roach, you know what I mean?

But at the same time, you know, we've got the bangers that we always deliver and just the good old riffs and whatnot? People can discover music in so many different ways now, so automatic, you know, with streaming and the sites and everything like that, so you really have to kind of stick out from the rest.

Tobbe: Yeah, but you guys have always stuck out from the rest a little bit anyhow.

Tobin: Yeah. I mean, it's important for us to do that. I think that's what makes the best bands, you know, and the most memorable ones. The ones that have longevity are the ones that stick out and have their own identity.

Tobbe: Slowly you have kind of developed from the original sound that you had around the millennium change and today you're kind of more like a light metal band with just a modern way of expressing it. Yet, on the new album you have kind of revisited some of the old attributes, like from the old days, and what made you go in that direction this time?

Tobin: I think we were just really inspired by who we are as a band and individuals. And all the types of music that, you know, inspire us and the different types of art that inspire us. And working with the producers on this new record, two younger guys that have never produced a full length rock record before [RAS (Nicholas Furlong) and Colin Brittain].

You know, they've grown up listening to P Roach and they love the fact that we have all of these different elements, like the melodic aspect, the grimy punk rock aspect and they love the fact that we had the hip hop influence and we weren't afraid to experiment with electronics and different things. You know, just as long as we did it tastefully well, they wanted to bring those aspects out of us as best as possible, and they were great at that and I think that this record displays it.

Tobbe: For people who don't listen to Papa Roach, I wonder if they really know how diverse of a band you actually are.

Tobin: Yeah. I mean, we try to remind people with every record. It's like: not every record sounds the same, not every song sounds the same. I think our fans, our hardcore fans, know that about us and they appreciate that, you know what I mean?

Tobbe: On the new album there's a lot of different songs and let's say Periscope, that duet with Skylar Grey. It's a very, very light song. So how did that song come about to begin with?

Tobin: That was just a jam that we started doing in the studio and immediately one of the producers, Colin, was like "We need to take this idea in a different direction than anything that you've ever done before.". Because, you know, we had already done like 6 or 7 songs and it's kind of like an adventure into another dimension. So he had a hand in making the arrangement be, you know, not a typical arrangement, but still having that underline pulse.

You know, that can tie it together. You know, that once we completed the song and we listen to the vibe of it, we were just like "There's such a beautiful…" You know, it's a sexy, dark, twisted love song and we felt like it needed a woman's touch, so we were like "Who could we get to guest on this?" and Skylar Grey was one of the female vocalists that we thought of and we immediately reached out to her and she loved the song and wanted to do it. So, it just came together perfectly.

Tobbe: Are there any specific songs on the album that your fans maybe should pay a little bit extra attention to, because the band wants to come out with something important through the songs, or through the lyrics?

Tobin: Well, I think lyrically, some of the really important songs are, you know, I'd say Help and American Dreams. I mean, we're storytelling to; you know, Sunrise Trailer Park, it's a very visual song. Lots of imagery comes to mind and it's a lot of true stories of us, you know, growing up in our small town [Vacaville, California]. And then None Of The Above; you know, when we were writing the record it was, like, the height of the whole, you know, political, media, elections, so that kind of inspired that one.

Tobbe: When you were about to start writing a bunch of songs for the new record, what went through your head at that point?

Tobin: Well, initially we wanted to take our time and we wanted to shake things up and just get corky, you know. We wanted to do it different than how we've done it in the past and we didn't wanna work with people that we had worked with in the past. We wanted to work with some fresh, new blood. We wanted a certain type of energy in the room when we were trying to get our ideas out. We took the time to find the right guys to help us put this thing together, so when we found Colin and Nick, you know, we felt like we had made the perfect match, and that was important. And we had the most amazing time making this record. We had fun and that was important.

Tobbe: After putting out records for 20 years now, do you guys put less pressure on each other now in the studio than what you did before and that place is today a very relaxed environment?

Tobin: Yeah, definitely. We didn't make this record in any fancy way at all. We didn't spend a lot of money doing it. You know, we did it in a really small studio in North Hollywood and we just treated it like we were best friends gathering into a room and just being creative and I think it shows. There was no pressure and we really just made it a point not to give a fuck about anything, but just trying to make music that excited us, you know.

Tobbe: So how are you able to not just laying down the bass as a routine job and keep the energy and the excitement up all the time?

Tobin: I mean, the thing is like: we're all very hands-on with the whole entire process, including myself, like I'm involved with the production and I'm involved with, you know, playing different instruments as well on the record. So everybody was hanging out in the studio and investing their time the whole step of the way and it was probably the most collaborative effort for everybody, you know what I mean?

Like, we're there, we're a part of making sure the beat's right, we're a part of making sure that the lyrics and the choruses is as great as it can be, you know. So for me it's not just like laying down the bass, but making sure that the song is as good as it can possibly be, you know.

Tobbe: To come up with new stuff after so many records I reckon must be hard occasionally. So are there times where you struggle and throw a lot of material in the trash can?

Tobin: I mean, not for us. I don't know how we do it, man. We love writing songs, we have fun and I think we just got the knack for it. And when you're surrounding yourselves with the right people, that are helping you and inspiring you, it's just as easy as it's fun.

Tobbe: Do you kind of bounce ideas off of someone outside of the band and the studio sometimes, just to get a different view of stuff?

Tobin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We totally do. We've always been like that. You know, we have a whole community of friends who are songwriters and artists and producers and we always value their opinion. You know, it's cool to get outside perspective, because sometimes it's like we'll be making something and sometimes your art can get a little self-indulgent, so it's nice to ask people who aren't so invested in what you're doing, to get an outside perspective.

And one thing that I noticed when we were making this record is that people were generally like "I know I really like this!", like "This is really good and I wouldn't expect this from you guys, but this is great!" and I think that just gave us the confidence to keep growing.

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