Sometimes, a call from an old friend can change everything. Such is the case with Adam Gontier and Saint Asonia. This awesome ensemble’s origins stem back to 2014 when Gontier, fresh from parting ways with Three Days Grace, received a call out of the blue from Staind lead guitarist Mike Mushok about writing some songs. The two previously shared the stage on multiple tours together, but a mutual passion united them on this front. Eschewing the proverbial trappings of the industry and social media machines and barely telling a soul, they aimed to break the mold in a new outfit with a vision fueled by nothing more than diligence, dedication and love of music.
Tapping the talents of mutual friends, drummer Rich Beddoe [ex-Finger Eleven] and bassist/background vocalist Corey Lowery [Dark New Day, Stereomud, Eye Empire], the lineup formally solidified. By the beginning of 2015, their initial three-song experiment quickly turned into a full-blown studio session with producer, engineer, and mixer Johnny K [Sevendust, Disturbed, Megadeth] at his Groovemaster Studios in Chicago, IL. What happened next happened quickly once a few prominent industry executives heard the music they’d created, leading to a world-wide signing at RCA Records.
Saint Asonia set out on this new course together, challenging each other in the studio. Instead of opting for a polished and shiny aesthetic often associated with modern rock, they went in the opposite direction. They passionately tackled takes without editing or overdubs. Gontier matched the groundswell of infectious intensity within Mushok’s signature heavy guitar playing as they tapped into something fresh. As a result, their self-titled full-length album [RCA Records] stands out as an unbridled, uncaged, and undeniable collection.
The band’s first single “Better Place” ignites a calculated guitar intro before converging on a towering refrain from Gontier. Mushok unleashes a torrential solo that’s as focused as it is fiery, properly introducing their sound. Elsewhere on the record, the distorted chug of “Blow Me Wide Open” entwines with Gontier’s harmonies before snapping into a haunting clean bridge punctuated by Mushok’s fretwork. “Trying to Catch Up With the World” strips everything down to an acoustic guitar and vocal, emanating palpable and poetic emotion. The album seesaws between the visceral fuck you of “Fairytale” and the heartfelt dedication to Gontier’s wife “Dying Slowly.” These dynamics converge on the stomping groove of “Let Me Live My Life.” In short, Saint Asonia offer up a deeply powerful and dynamic album with a sound unlike anything else on the current scene.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with frontman Adam Gontier to discuss the formation of the band, the challenges they face in bringing their debut to life and what the future holds for this band on the rise.
The latest chapter in your career is Saint Asonia. The band popped up on the radar earlier this year and has made a big impact. How did the whole thing get started and was there a sense of secrecy surrounding the project?
For sure. When I initially left Three Days Grace, Mike Mushok was the first guy to reach out to me. He asked me if I wanted to do some writing. I have always been a fan of Staind and we had toured together quite a bit. I was in for sure! We sat down and ended up writing a whole bunch of songs together, very seamlessly. We work very well together. The next step was to get in the studio together and make a record. We definitely didn’t try to keep anything a secret, however I don’t think we really told anyone while we were working and it all happened pretty quickly. It wasn’t something we thought about at all really. The process was great and I think it was very freeing for myself creatively. Here we are with a new band with a record coming out soon and we couldn’t be more stoked! We are all really proud of the record.
For people who are familiar with your previous work who may just be discovering Saint Asonia, how does it compare and contrast to your past work?
I think more so than any other record I have made, this album is more raw, real and straight from the heart. The lyrics on the record are not overthought and didn’t go through a filter of a bunch of other people before working them in as part of the songs. Simply put, it is a lot more raw and real than anything I have done in the past. It all comes straight from the heart and we are not overthinking anything, we are just doing what we love to do. It is an amazing opportunity to be able to do that.
In addition to yourself, there is a great group of talented musicians in this group. What has it been like working with them and what do they bring to the table?
I had been friends with Rich Beddoe from our earlier bands, when he was in Finger Eleven. I have always been a fan of his work. Rich was always sort of a part of anything I was doing. When I had initially left Three Days Grace, anything I would do, he would be a part of the process. Corey Lowery is a monster on bass and a great guy. We actually got Corey to jump on board after we made the record. He wasn’t doing anything at the time, so it seemed like a perfect fit. It is a group of extremely talented guys and we are really looking forward to hitting the road and bringing it all to the stage.
Did you have goals or aspirations for this album in mind when you started moving the project forward?
I don’t think there was anything we were particularly shooting for. I just wanted to make sure we were making a very organic sounding record. I think we definitely accomplished that. Mike had a lot of great music and I had a lot of songs, lyrics and melodies. We just wanted to make it very raw and real. I think in doing that, it really stands out. There are a lot of records from bands out there that focus on overproduction. That is something we did not want to do. We definitely succeeded in that.
What can you tell us about your songwriting process there days?
The last couple years of my life have been pretty crazy. There has been a whirlwind of amazing things that have happened to me. I am in a great place now — the best place I could ever ask for and the best place I have ever been. The songwriting process now is me writing without too many outside opinions and that sort of thing. It feels good. I just write what comes from the heart. That is something I have always done but even more so with this project.
Leaving Three Days Grace was a big step for you and you pursued solo work following that departure. Did you ever have reservations about getting back into the group setting?
No. I did start to do a solo project, a stripped down more acoustic thing. That is something I have always done. I grew up playing guitar around a campfire and that sort of thing, so I was doing that. However, when the opportunity came to work with Mike and then make a record together, it was a no-brainer, for sure!
While you all have your own musical histories, with Saint Asonia, you are starting from scratch. What are your thoughts there?
I think it is something we are not going to overthink. This is definitely a new band and we are not going to rely on our past projects or previous success as a crutch. We are treating it as a new project and a new band. We want to put out as many records as we can and tour as long as we can. We are ready to work and work hard. We are headed out soon to play clubs and a few festivals. We plan on starting from the bottom and working our way up. We don’t take any of it for granted.
You had a chance to live with these songs for a while now. What songs resonate with you the most at this point in time?
There are a couple that really resonate with me right now. “Let Me Live My Life” definitely stands out as one of my favorites. That is a song about people dragging me down and me asking them to let me go. It definitely hits home for me. Another track, “Leaving Minnesota,” is a song I wrote a long time ago. I am really proud of that song and the way it turned out. The record as a whole, I truly believe, is the best record I have ever made.
You spent a large portion of your life in the music industry. What excites you about everything that is happening today?
Honestly, the thing I love the most is playing live shows. I love going out and performing for fans who know the music and love the songs. That is why I do this. I am lucky to be able to do what I love for a living, so getting out and playing shows is so important to me. With the live show, we may pull out some Staind songs and maybe a few Three Days Grace songs but we will definitely be focusing on the songs we recorded for this record. There are a few songs that we recorded that are not on the record, so we may play a few of those as well.
What is your biggest evolution as an artist up to this point?
I do have to say that this new band, Saint Asonia, is a milestone for me. It is a new thing and something I am very, very involved with creatively. Over the years, I have been through a lot of stuff, fought some demons and overcome some obstacles. Now I am in the best place I could be creatively. We are always writing and will definitely be writing while on tour. The plan is to put out several records while continuing to tour. I am never going to stop writing music and neither is Mike, so as long as people want to keep hearing us, we will keep writing and performing!
What is the best lesson we can take away from the story of Adam Gontier so far?
Honestly, the biggest lesson is to never take things for granted. Success can come and go pretty quickly. You have to stay grounded and appreciate the opportunities that come your way because as quickly as you can taste success, it can go away. My advice is to stay humble and enjoy what you are doing!
Well said. Thanks for your time today, Adam! We wish you continued success.
Thank you, Jason, We appreciate your support!
Saint Asonia will release their self-titled debut album on July 31 via RCA Records, with pre-orders available here.
SEE SAINT ASONIA LIVE:
8/14/15 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Zooo Amphitheater KATTfest
8/15/15 – St. Louis, MO @ Pop’s
8/16/15 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre
8/18/15 – Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
8/19/15 – Springfield, IL @ Boondock’s
8/21/15 – Flint, MI @ The Machine Shop
8/22/15 – Franksville, WI @ WIIL Rock Fest Fransville Memorial Park
8/24/15 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s
8/25/15 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
8/26/15 – Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
8/28/15 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
8/29/15 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
8/30/15 – Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.