How a Taproot Album 10 Years in the Making Is Finally Coming Out
Taproot frontman Stephen Richards was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, chatting about the band's reactivated state with a Best of Besides compilation out now, a new album SCSSRS on the horizon as well as a slate of comeback shows.
The record is a decade in the making, originally planned to be released under the Taproot name before Richards decided to pursue it as a solo effort. Then his bandmate convinced him to put it out under the Taproot name, rejuvenating their career as they prepare to reunite for their first show back at the Blue Ridge Festival.
Below, Richards chats about all the exciting events coming up and how this album is finally going to be released.
SCSSRS started as a Taproot album, was repurposed as a solo album, then reverted back to the band. How does context change these songs?
I wrote most of the record to be the next Taproot record a long time ago before we took our hiatus. Contextually, not much has changed. A few of the songs that I did write for this record were more around personal things, such as my mother's passing. It's why I ended up rekindling the recording process. I did it all on my own — all the performance and tracking, which is why it's probably going to sound pretty "poopy" once it's mastered.
It was written for Taproot and Phil already knew the songs for the last decade. He thought that was not really fair to the name Taproot to let it slip out of my butt as this little solo small thing to my 2,000 Instagram fans. So, he got behind it and wanted it to be a full Taproot release and then we started getting some shows. We brought Thom on board to help manage some stuff. It's a half-way go — we're doing the weekend warrior thing to promote it.
Taproot, "VIP - VCTM PLAY"
Most of SCSSRS was written 10 years ago. What challenges have you faced since that delayed release?
The ironic thing is when I wrote most of the record 10 years ago, there were a lot of bands that were on hiatus.
There's a certain style of writing that I've always incorporated into the Taproot sound. A lot of people don't realize that a lot of the guitar riffs are my doing.
During that time period, bands such as Tool, System of A Down, Deftones, Slipknot, all those types of bands were kind of not doing much at that point in time [editor's note: Deftones were the most active of that bunch in 2013, supporting a 2012 album with 86 shows that year].
I thought it would be kind of cool to write similar types of missing things to try to appeal to their fans. Of course, [things came] full circle and they've all been doing stuff since. So I'm picking up where I left off.
The landscape of heavy music has changed since Taproot was last in full force. What makes the band and this new record relatable to current audiences?
I'm not exactly sure how relevant it would be except for the people that get a chance to hear it. Our normal fan base [gravitates] to my lyrics. I think the heavy riffs and all that stuff are still there.
By no means do I consider the material completely commercial.
There is one song that I expect to be very, very important and it's ironic that I think everyone in the world will relate to the song — the lyrics are about not knowing the lyrics to your favorite song, but still you sing along. That's my go-to song on this one.
There's heavier stuff, but as far as relevance, I'm kind of out of the game. I personally haven't listened to music aside from my own stuff for a couple years. I've been working on this for six years because I can only do it for three to four hours a week. I've been focused on trying to get this to sound the best it can. I hope it appeals to anyone that hears it and, if not, at least I did it and our fans will appreciate it.
The Taproot set at Blue Ridge Rock Festival is going to be your first gig in a few years. How does time away reinvigorate songs that you normally get tired of performing night after night, year after year?
We've only played maybe four shows in the last 10 years. We did an anniversary reunion and random shows like that. It's weird — I still have to like relearn [songs]. Obviously, in the back of my head they're all still there, but we're going to be learning like 30 songs so we don't play the same set every night for people who are coming for multiple shows.
I'm just getting back into the memories of what the songs meant to me at the time as well as, "What the heck was I thinking," at the same time too. As a band it's going to be cool.
Jared, the original drummer, is going to be playing a lot of the shows with us, which will be really nice. Phil is still on board and we have a new guitarist Taylor. He's an amazing dude and I have yet to jam with him or make sure he's playing the right parts as opposed to what I'm playing. But he's in a killer band called Riding With Killers. He's joining the crew and we'll just have to get together for a couple days and laugh at how terrible we are and try to make sure it works out live.
Audrey Ray, a Detroit based country singer, performs on the new Taproot record. Why do her country aesthetics work well with Taproot music?
It was a surprise to me and that's another really important song called "Love Without You."
I wrote that one like way back in 2007 or something like that. We never put it out for some reason, but it's important to me since I did it on my own. It wasn't meant to be a duet by any means, but Tim Patalan, the guy that produced our last couple records and the guy that let me use his studio for six years on and off, he's working with Audrey to help promote and get her [career] kickstarted. It was kind of a, "You know what? Maybe some female harmonies would sound really cool."
On Our Long Road Home, there was a song called "It's Natural," where I sang alongside a female. It always appealed to me and it was really cool.
I asked Audrey to just lay down some ideas and Tim did some rough scratch tracks and they ended up being perfect and it's really cool the different style, like you said. I mean it is a, it is an acoustic song that I wrote to begin with, but it's not country per se, but the vocal elements and the way that she sings is very different and blends together really cool. It's hard to explain, but she does shorter breathy things and has a little bit of twang and then I just have my normal whiny voice. But they, they go good together.
The Best of Besides (great name, I'm surprised that nobody has done that) is out now and the seventh studio album SCSSRS is coming out on September 29. Is there anything else you can tell us about upcoming plans for the year for you guys?
Thank you. That [title] was one of my many dumb ideas, but I like it.
We're doing the weekend warrior stuff. We still have our normal lives. I've got two kids and a wife and a full-time job, so hopefully I can keep my job and work two days a week for a couple months.
We went from just having the Blue Ridge show to doing the record release shows in Flint, Michigan and now I think we've got 18 shows for the rest of the year just on weekends and stuff.
A lot of people are really excited and we are excited to get back out there. We'll recognize a lot of fans and talk and get to catch up. The most important part, to me, is just getting to connect with the people that understand where I'm coming from and can relate. I'm a dude who doesn't really have many friends and I'm kind of reclusive, which is just my nature. To actually get to connect with people again is always fun. That's what I look forward to.
Thanks to Stephen Richards for the interview. Pre-order your copy of 'SCSSRS' here and follow Taproot on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
How 15 Nu-Metal Musicians Felt About Being Called 'Nu Metal'
PLAYLIST: Nu-Metal Deep Cuts
Over 150 songs! Check it out here.