Already a decade into their career in the ever-evolving music industry, Sick Puppies established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Since bursting on the rock scene, the band has sold more than 1 million records, including a Gold album certification for their breakout second full-length “Tri-Polar,” which yielded 2 million in single sales including the gold-certified “You’re Going Down” as well as rock smashes “Maybe,” “Riptide” and “Odd One.” Their latest release, 2013’s “Connect,” earned the band its highest Billboard Top 200 debut at #17 and yielded two top 10 singles at rock radio peaking at #2. Along the way, the trio played alongside the world’s biggest bands from Muse, The Killers, Deftones, Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, Papa Roach, Incubus to Tool.
The band experienced its fair share of ups-and-downs along the way, most notably the departure of singer-guitarist Shim Moore in October 2014. Since that time, fans of Sick Puppies anxiously awaited the next chapter in their story. In late December, Sick Puppies offered a video teaser of a studio performance with their new vocalist, but carefully hid his identity. It wouldn’t be long before the band revealed Houston-based singer-guitarist Bryan Scott joined bassist Emma Anzai and drummer Mark Goodwin in the band. Scott previously played with Glass Intrepid and Dev Electric and briefly toured as vocalist for Atlantic Records rock act Emphatic in 2011. Sick Puppies offered up the first taste of this exciting new era with the release of their hard-rockin’ single “Stick to Your Guns.” The single continues to dominate Active Rock radio across America and serves as the lead track from the band’s upcoming fourth studio album “Fury,” which is set for release on May 20th. With scheduled appearances at some of the nation’s biggest festivals, Sick Puppies seems destined to continue their winning streak.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Sick Puppies drummer Mark Goodwin to discuss the arrival of Bryan Scott, the creative impact of their collaboration and what fans can expect from “Fury.”
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did music first come into your life?
I started playing music around 12 or 13 years old. For me, there was always something about the drums that fascinated me. In the beginning, it was just the way they looked. That led to me asking for drums every Christmas! Due to the nature of the instrument, that is one thing parents are leery about in the beginning! [laughs] Eventually, I got a job and bought my own set, so they couldn’t do anything about it! I started from there and ended up playing with some local bands and stuff. After high school, I moved to LA. I grew up in Orange County, which is just an hour south of LA, so it wasn’t too far away. Then I met Sick Puppies in LA about 10 years ago and the rest is history.
Who had a big impact on you musically?
I was influenced by a lot of the ‘90s stuff. I kind of missed the Nirvana boat by a little bit, although I do like them, but I was definitely into Foo Fighters when they got their start. There were also bands like Rage Against The Machine, Green Day and all the other bands that came out in the early ‘90s that had a lot of influence on me and my bandmates.
You have been a part of Sick Puppies for a decade now, as you said. What is your biggest creative milestone?
It is all about the songs. Being able to put out a song that does well on radio and impacts the fans is a big part of it. The fan response has been kind of overwhelming. We really listen to our fans and really try to incorporate their input, suggestions and comments into what we do. At the end of the day, they are the ones who are listening to what we have to say. We definitely turn to them for inspiration!
From the outside looking in, Sick Puppies has gone through quite a bit in the past year-and-a-half with the departure of a band member. Was there a point where you felt the band might not carry on and how important was it for you to keep the momentum going?
There was definitely a time when it was a little bit scary but there was never a moment where me and Emma [Anzai] didn’t want to keep the band going. That is the one thing we both knew we wanted to do. Things can be unfortunate and things do happen but we definitely knew we wanted to carry on. At that point it was just a matter of finding the right person. We definitely found the right person in Bryan! From that moment, we knew we would go on, we did, we are working again and it is going great! We knew it had to be right. We didn’t want to rush anything. Something like that is a big change and we didn’t want to come out with anything mediocre or too soon and miss out on other opportunities. We took our time, found the right guy and wrote a great album with him. Now we are touring! The response from our fans has been kind of overwhelming. The overall feeling is that we haven’t skipped a beat and we picked up right where we left off. Being on this tour now and really seeing it first hand has been pretty awesome!
How did you guys first cross paths with Bryan and what does he bring to the table creatively?
It was a big challenge to replace the lead singer/guitarist. We knew it had to be the right fit but they would also have to bring a new flavor that we think is better. We are little biased being in the band but whatever! [laughs] That was the main goal and it was a challenge for sure, especially in a three-piece band. Bryan reached out to Emma on Facebook. He sent a video of a song and we instantly loved his voice. He is an awesome guitar player as well. We sent over a couple of our songs and he performed those. They were great, so he was on the plane to LA the next day. We started jamming from there! He got the old stuff down amazingly fast. He learned 20 songs in two weeks! We started writing new material from there. It was just what we needed. With our last album, it was called “Connect,” but Emma and I don’t feel we quite connected song-wise. We really struck a chord right away with Bryan when it came to writing, which led to him producing our album as well. Our first single, “Stick To Your Guns,” after we wrote that we knew we had hit the mark. We knew we were writing really good stuff. We knew after we wrote that song that it was the direction we were going. We definitely wanted to make a harder edged, harder rock album, which is what our fans always wanted and we didn’t really deliver on the last one. Like I said, Bryan is an awesome songwriter and brings a lot to the table in that respect. Looking back on it, it has been quite a year! I think we definitely hit the mark with this album and we are stoked for that!
You had the opportunity to live with these new songs for awhile now. Which of them resonates with you the most?
The first single, “Stick To Your Guns,” is one we have been playing live and it goes over really well. It is getting a lot of attention at radio and it is going really well. We play the song “Black and Blue” live. It is the first track on the album and probably the hardest track on the album. It’s been getting a great response and Bryan gets the mosh pit going, so that is always good! [laughs] We have also been playing “Let Me Live,” which could possibly be a single in the future. For me, all of those songs are a lot of fun to play live! We are also playing all the old songs. We are currently on a headlining tour so we are playing longer sets, like an hour-and-a-half, so it is almost 20 songs a night. We are playing all the old ones and a few new ones. It’s going really well!
You spend a lot of time on the road. Is there a secret to surviving that lifestyle?
No! [laughs] With us, a three-piece band, it is a little easier to navigate. We have a really good crew and team of people that we work with, who have been with us for a really long time. You just have to find a balance with each other but it is a very routine, “Groundhog Day,” sort of lifestyle! [laughs] As long as you stay in the groove, it’s not too hard! We are playing music every day, so it is not all that bad!
How have you most evolved since starting?
I think it comes down to playing more consistent shows. You definitely get your chops up when you play every night! With the new songs, the addition of Bryan and the new songs, that has really inspired us. There is definitely a really good vibe moving forward.
What is the best way we can support the band as fans at this point in your career?
It has always been about the live shows. In this day and age, a lot fewer people buy music, so I think the best way to support any band is to see them live. That is what it all comes down to! We are definitely out here saying, “Here we are! We are back and better than ever!” I guess we want our fans to see that! So far, that is exactly what has been happening, so it has been great! Right now, we are really focused on this album, which comes out on May 20th. We are booking shows for the summer and it looks like we will be playing all the big festivals, which we are stoked about. We just got the final cut of the video for “Stick To Your Guns” and that will be out soon as well!
Thanks for your time today! We are stoked for the album and can’t wait to see you guys very soon!
Thank you very much! We appreciate your support! It means a lot!
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.