Any artist must take risks. It’s all too easy to follow the status quo and succumb to the powers-that-be, especially in the music industry. However, if you’re willing to raise that proverbial middle finger and blaze your own trail, you can really make a mark. That’s what New Medicine singer and guitarist Jake Scherer realized as he began composing his band’s second full-length album, ‘Breaking The Model’ [Imagen Records].
In 2013, the Minneapolis-based group officially parted ways with its original label Atlantic Records/Photo Finish Records and amicably split with members Ryan Guanzon and Matt Brady. It was a transitional period, to say the least. So, Jake dove headfirst into songwriting in “Music City”, Nashville, TN. While in the legendary musical city, Jake hit an immense creative stride. He wrote songs for the likes of Charm City Devils and even received a placement for Colt Ford and Keith Urban. Simultaneously, he teamed up with Grammy Award-nominated producer and songwriter Kevin Kadish [Miley Cyrus, Jason Mraz, Skillet]. Kadish pushed him to embrace all of his influences like never before.
As a result, New Medicine cooks up a 21st century rock style like no other. The first single “One Too Many” swings from a sly sample into a swaggering guitar bounce punctuated by an industrial pop and Jake’s anthemic chant. “When we made this record, it seemed like there was a model in rock music everybody was trying to follow,” he sighs. “I kept getting in that same disagreement with people because I wasn’t interested in adhering to that. I wanted to do what inspired me. This is our mission statement. There’s no mold to fit anymore.”
The band is no stranger to breaking the model and exploring their musical boundaries. Their 2010 debut ‘Race You To The Bottom’ surpassed sales of 30,000 and the group churned out a Top 15 media base Active Rock single with the title track. Building up a sizable following, they’ve toured with everybody from Avenged Sevenfold, Hollywood Undead and Stone Sour to Shinedown and Halestorm, lighting up crowds everywhere. Signing to Imagen Records in 2014, their next phase is going to be the biggest yet.
Ultimately, ‘Breaking The Model’ is everything New Medicine was always meant to be though. “I hope people appreciate that we pushed the envelope and didn’t make the same record twice,” he concludes. “We tried some new things, but we never lost our attitude or lost sight of where we came from. We want to make rock ‘n’ roll cool, young, dangerous, and exciting again.”
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jake Scherer to discuss the history of the band, their creative evolution, the process of creating their powerful new album, ‘Breaking The Model,’ and what the future might hold for them!
We like to start with a look back at your early years. What are some of your first memories of music?
My father actually plays in a band. When I was little, he used to play five nights a week. That is just what he did being part of a cover band. They had some original stuff too. He would play at the bar and the clubs on the weekend, five nights a week. I remember going on stage with him when I was a little kid. There are pictures of me as a little kid playing! When I was around 3 or 4 years old, I got the Mickey Mouse drum set. I used to set that up with some buckets and play along with them! [laughs] I would drive around with my dad and we would always listen to the radio in his truck. I was a big fan of rock music. Those are my earliest memories, my dad’s, watching him play and hanging out with him.
Who were some of your early musical influences?
Like I said, I would listen to a lot of music when I was driving around with my dad but, when I was 12 or 13, I discovered Nirvana. That is when everything kind of changed for me. I was like, “OK. I need to be in a band. This is what I have to do. It is the coolest thing ever!” They really shaped me as an artist and what I wanted to be. I wanted to be original. They were so different and had so much energy. I loved the energy they brought that makes you want to go bananas! That always inspired me and is where I really started from. There are so many influences along the way but that is one that really sticks out for me.
Was there a particular point in your life when you felt music was your only path?
I never have really questioned it. It is just what I have to do. I feel like I was born to do it. In school, people would always ask, “What are you going to be? What do you want to do?” The answer was always, “I’m going to be in a band!” It is what I have always wanted to do. My dad did it and he had mild success but I wanted to take it to the next level. All I have ever wanted to do is make music. For me, it doesn’t really matter if I make millions or I don’t, it is about the love of music. My dad always said to me, “Be happy in whatever you do.” Music has always made me happy, so I never really questioned it.
For people just discovering the band, what can you tell us about how you formed?
We went to middle school and high school together and, at some point, we decided to put a band together. The band was called A Verse Unsung. We did shows and built it up. We had a pretty good following. Eventually, we started writing new material and split with a few members of the old band. We wanted to try something new and different. We had written some new stuff and it felt like we were headed in a new direction, so we started New Medicine. We found a couple other players from Minneapolis that we thought were killer in their bands, so we said, “Hey! You should come play in our band!” That is how it all started. The rest is history! It wasn’t long before we had a bunch of new songs, a couple recordings and a bunch of label interest. Not long after that, we went out on tour and got a record. Before we knew it, we were making a record. It was kind of a surreal process but it was really cool. This fall will mark nine years since we started making music as juniors in high school. It is kind of cool!
As you mentioned, the band evolved a bit sonically through the years. What can we expect to hear these days?
On this album, we brought in some brand new stuff. One of the biggest changes is our new drummer, Dylan Wood, who is an animal. I always say that there was Nirvana and Nirvana once Dave Grohl joined the band. Much like that situation, Dylan has brought a whole new life to the situation. It’s kind of a mashup of all these different things I love to listen to. It has a really dark and heavy vibe with some really cool beats.
What were your goals or expectations for this album going into the process?
The biggest thing for me was having great songs. It’s kind of like your first record is every song you have ever written and you have had your whole life to write it. Your second record comes around and you have six months to write it! [laughs] The goal for us was to have another record we felt every song on it was great, there were no lulls and it was interesting. We wanted to go for a new sound. Some people had been trying to convince us to go work with some producers but we just felt like that was what everybody was doing. Everybody seems to be working with the same producers and plugging themselves into that formula. We were like, “We don’t want to do that. We want to do it our own way and make our own record.” That was a huge goal for us. To come out the other side with the record we did made us so happy because we really succeeded.
I know you spent some time in Nashville diving deeper into songwriting. How did your time there affect you as an artist?
It was so cool because there are some many different types of artists and musicians in this town. You get to absorb all the influences of people around you. The cool thing about Nashville is that you are constantly surrounded by greatness! You go out to see a free show here or another show there and, no matter where you go, you see amazing musicians. They are everywhere you turn. When you surround yourself with greatness it rubs off on you. Spending time in Nashville and all those talented people really makes you step up your game.
What can you tell us about your typical songwriting process? Is there a particular way you go about it or is it ever-changing?
There is no specific process. I just like to pick up the guitar and see if I am inspired. If I get the feeling I have an idea, I pick up the guitar and see where it takes me. I try to let it take me on a ride and start singing. My voice starts coming out and expressing what I am feeling. That is where my songs start and it goes from there to refining lyrics and melodies. I like it from the place of purest inspiration. I am lucky to have the gift. Things just come to me or channel through me sometimes. I try to channel it when it is coming and get it all down.
You ended up working with producer Kevin Kadish on this album. What did he bring to the table for this album?
Kevin is a songwriter as well and we wrote a lot of the songs together. Sometimes that can be dangerous because if you get too close to things you might want to married to the original form of the songs or get demo-itis or something! [laughs] However, working with Kevin had huge benefits. He was so invested in the songs and making them great. A huge thing I learned from my time working with him is that he isn’t afraid of anything. I could say anything and he was open to it. For example, we might be working on a song for four hours and I would suggest trashing it and trying it a different way. He would say, “Alright! Let’s do it! Hook it up! Why not? Let’s see what happens.” He was fearless and so were we, so it was just a killer combination. On top of that, he is such a creative guy. He is a great songwriter and producer who thinks of things no one else can. He brings those elements into the process and it is awesome for us and takes everything to the next level.
Looking back on the process of bringing the album to life, what are some of the biggest challenges you faced?
We had some songs we had written and made demos for. People get used to them being sung a certain way. Our whole challenge throughout the process was saying, “Yeah. These songs are good the way they are and everybody likes them but is it possible to make them better? How do we improve upon them?” On a few of these songs, if you heard the demo and the finished song, you wouldn’t recognize they are even the same song. They are in different keys and so much is different because we changed it up. A couple of times the band came in the room when Kevin and I had been working on a new arrangement on a few songs and said, “Wait. What happened to the song?” [laughs] We said, “Just hold on! We had an idea. Let’s just go down this road and see what happens.” That was a huge challenge. We just wanted to make sure that everything felt right and the record sounded the way we wanted it. There was no compromising anything. It was a huge challenge but a huge reward in the end!
What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself as an artist as a result of the process?
A huge thing I learned about myself with this record was that it is OK to diversify. I am diverse in the way I write and I don’t write the same song over and over again and use it as a crutch. It is OK to be different and not to make a record to fit into a formula, a format or just to get played on the radio. You have to make the music you want to make. That was a huge lesson I learned doing this record.
You had a chance to live with these new songs from “Breaking The Model” for a little while now. Which ones resonate with you the most?
I love quite a few of the songs on the record. I love “Breaking The Model.” That is where we got the name of the record and the mission statement for the record. It is all about being a little different and getting out there to do our own thing. It is such a fun song to play live because it has such an attitude to it. It is so weird because when it first comes in it really hits you in the face. I love that feeling of doing that. I can’t wait for people to open the CD up, pop it in, press play and 30 seconds later say, “Wow! What was that?” That is what I love about that song. I also love the second track, “Desire Into Gold.” It is such a heavy song and is one of the heaviest things we have ever done. It is so in your face and the lyrics are so meaningful to us. It is all about getting knocked down but getting back up. It means a lot to us and that is what we stand for. It is also fun to play live. We have done a few shows and it goes really well. Honestly, I can’t wait to get out there and play them all live!
You can serve as a great inspiration to young musicians. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to young artists looking to make music their path?
I think there is a lot to look forward to in the music business nowadays. It is easier than ever to be an independent artist. To me, one of the most appealing things about it is that you can make a record at your house and its online the next day via iTunes or Spotify. There are no more rules about it. You don’t need to worry about being signed to a major record label to make it today. It is all about doing what you love, winning fans over and turning fans on to your music. It is so freeing to be independent these days. I really think it is inspiring and a great benefit for young musicians. I think the biggest thing for me is that you can’t get discouraged or quit. You have to continue to push forward to make your dream happen.
You have a lot of things happening in the next few months with the release of “Breaking The Model.” What can we expect from you in the short term?
We just shot a video for our single, “One Too Many,” out in Los Angeles. It was a killer shoot and we had a blast doing it. That video will probably be out in the next month or so. It is a really cool concept for a video and I think our fans are really going to enjoy it. Then we are heading out on the West Coast dates of the Uproar Tour with Godsmack, Seether, Buckcherry, Pop Evil and a bunch of other great bands. That will be super cool! We did the very first Uproar Tour, so it is cool to go back and do this one. After that, we are doing a bunch of radio shows in October. We are really excited to get out there and play this thing! There will be a bunch more videos and we are really upping our game when it comes to the live show. We are trying to take everything to the next level! It’s definitely an exciting time for us!
That is terrific to hear, Jake! We can’t wait to spread the word and catch you on tour soon!
Thanks for all your support, Jason! Talk to you soon!
New Medicine’s ‘Breaking The Model’ will be released on August 25th, 2014. For all the latest news and tour dates for the band, visit their official website at www.newmedicinerock.com.