Evanescence: Brought back to life
“I’m not as scared as I used to be,” admits Amy Lee. “I used to be a lot more insecure and protective, and scared to trust people.”
Since the formation of Evanescence in 1995, drama and tumultuous testing was a given. Lineup changes, romanticism-turned-narcissism and secret liaisons with depression were the norm for vocalist Lee. But 17 years on, the now 30-year-old is lighting up a Sydney city hotel room with wide-eyed rapture and animated gestures as she revels in the new Evanescence.
In true Evanescence fashion, the lead-up to a five-year hiatus was as publicised as it was painful. The firing of guitarist John LeCompt and the departure of drummer Rocky Gray in 2007 steered the pair toward former member and namesake undertaker Ben Moody to form We Are The Fallen.
“It was both of their choices to leave,” she says, before correcting herself. “Well that’s not quite true, it was definitely Rocky’s choice. They were both planning to leave, they just didn’t know that I knew.
“It was a weird moment but you know, it was definitely what needed to happen... You don’t want to force yourself to do something that you’re not really inspired to do, because that brings the whole thing down.”
Yet, the same year that marked the end of an era for the band, sparked the beginning of another, albeit a completely unrelated chapter for Lee. Her marriage to Josh Hartzler - a therapist currently involved with non-profit, sex-trafficking-aftercare organisation, Restore – and the disintegration of the band gave her a green light into Normal Street.
“At first I wanted to just not work,” Lee says defiantly, clapping her hands down on her thighs. “I’d been completely working my whole adult life and totally obsessing over and focusing on and fighting for Evanescence. I needed to just be a normal person and live in a house and go and do my own grocery shopping.”
Lee living as a housewife couldn’t be a further envisage from the corset- courting, panda-eyed, Pied Piper her zealots idolise, and even Lee couldn’t stay away from her home studio for long. From 2009 onward she experimented with new music styles and instruments (Lee even took up the harp), but no matter how much La Roux or MGMT she ingested, the output was always quintessential Evanescence.
“It was a cool thing because it made me realise that’s me, that’s who I am,” she shrugs. “I don’t have to change everything to be honest to myself at this point in time just because I’ve grown a whole lot.” Ironically, one of the biggest gripes vocally broadcast by previous members was one of the first things to change with new members Will Hunt and Troy McLawhorn.
The eponymous third album is the only Evanescence record where every member played a hand in penning its contents. “We were all able to go ‘Okay let’s try this, lets sit at our instruments and just jam’.” A new approach after finding global success in the writing of albums one and two - both of which peaked at #1 on the Billboard and ARIA Charts - left Lee understandably but ultimately unnecessarily nervous about releasing a third.
“We were thinking ‘Hey, it’s been forever, music’s changed, the industry’s changed.’ We were definitely not anticipating being #1 in the US like we were,” she beams. “I remember when it happened I just had this cool feeling come over me, I was like ‘Oooh yeah’,” Lee sinks back into the couch, almost reliving the moment. And relive and revel she should; Evanescence has proven time and time again that despite consumer leanings toward bubblegum-pop and impossible idols, music which muses about the darker sides to life and its contrary are still relevant. Lee pre-empted the comeback herself in the record’s lead single What You Want where she sings, ‘Hello, hello remember me. I’m everything you can’t control.’
“We’ve always been different to a lot of the mainstream stuff out there,” says Lee. “I remember when we were first coming out it was all about Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, I don’t feel that it’s completely different at this point. I guess there’s a lot of music that we just don’t get into... Because there’s so much music out there that sucks.
“There’s still elements of [death] on this one. Death is always a theme, it’s not in a goth, drama way that some people interpret what I’m inspired by,” she laughs. “I like the idea that life is so much bigger than just this chapter on Earth. I totally believe in life after death and I totally believe in God and that we are small.”
Long-time fans dubious at the thought of an all-new Evanescence have been calmed, the Katy Perrys of this decade have been silenced, however briefly, and even Amy Lee herself has let her art grow whilst still standing vigil to the sound that once held no expectation.
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Online since October 27th 2011
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