Three Days Grace have just released their seventh studio album Explosions (our review here), a follow-up four years on from 2018’s Outsider. Prior to release, they shared singles ‘So Called Life‘, ‘Neurotic‘ and ‘Lifetime‘. The Canadian alt-rockers have an astounding resume, filled with a collection of immense records, and have continually evolved into the ultimate beast they are today. Whilst Three Days Grace underwent the devastating exit of their long-time frontman Adam Gontier in 2013, they couldn’t have come out the other side with a better recovery.
Matt Walst joined the group during the Transit of Venus album cycle, and since then the band have never looked back. With Three Days Grace still soaring worldwide in the heavy rock scene, it’s imperative to understand where they’ve come from, and what’s contributed to their relevance.
Between featuring in the Hilary Duff movie Raise Your Voice in 2004 and being the kind of band whose poster was always on a teen’s bedroom wall in a Hollywood movie, the Ontario act truly embodied the label of a ‘household name’. This, of course, contributed to by their debut and sophomore records, the pair – self-titled and One-X, thematically relevant for those coming of age.
They’ve grown up now though, and in a big way. Three Days Grace lean on their heavy rock roots but are also proud of their rock ballads, and Explosions is demonstrative of that. We grabbed bassist and backup vocalist Brad Walst to chat about the new album. Walst has been part of the band from day dot and been on the journey of the band’s evolution.
About five shows in their monster U.S. tour, he shares that beforehand the band hadn’t played together since December, 2019 – including recording Explosions (which they’re already playing tracks from). “Right now, we’re doing three or four [songs], and for the summer tour we might add a couple more in just for fun,” he says excitedly.
“We didn’t see each other for the longest time. We recorded nine or ten songs separately, in different studios, and by ourselves, which we’ve never done before,” alluding to the brutality of the pandemic.
Ahead of release day, the bassist shares how the band are feeling, after a big lead-up. “It feels great. It obviously took us a little longer to put this one out. Usually, we do about a three-year cycle between records. This year will be four, but it’s pretty amazing with technology and new applications out there,” to make it all happen virtually. “The final result is really good, and I think our fans are really gonna dig this record.“
In describing the LP, Walst says, “it’s a pretty dynamic. I think compared to our other [records] it has something for everyone – it definitely has some of the heaviest songs we’ve ever written,” he says reflectively, but balances his comments. “It also also songs like ‘Lifetime’, which is just a great ballad, It actually reminds me a lot of the first record in the way that it’s very mid-tempo.”
Of course, ‘Lifetime‘ is the third single that Walst is referring to is one that they most recently dropped, to pay homage to those affected by an awful tornado that ripped through Kentucky and really affected Mayfield High School, where they filmed the music video.
“Barry (Stock), our guitar player moved to Southern Indiana in 2020, which is close to where the tornado site was, and it’s a pretty serious song about loss. He brought up the story about this tornado,” the bassist recollects. “It’s funny, in this day and age, things come and go in the news and you don’t really hear about them for long, but it was devastating it still is and it’s a tragedy.”
Stock shared visceral stories about the tornado that inspired the band to do what they could, to make a difference. “He was telling us stories about how he had family pictures and people’s clothing that would just blow into his backyard from the debris, it was crazy. So, we were like, we should try to bring some light to that situation.”
Walst is honoured by the response from those impacted by the tornado, but is confident they’re not done yet. “It hit really close to home. We went there and we’re going donate one dollar from every ticket sale for the summer tour in the United States to the charities that we supported in the video.”
As Walst claims, Explosions is packed with hard-hitting tracks, and they truly are some of the heavier songs from 3DG’s back catalogue. One of the cuts only to be heard on release day is ‘Champion‘, which will immediately demand your attention.
“That was a cool one to write,” Walst says. “We started with a sombre beat (I think it’s called), and then just built it from there. And, you know, to be honest, that song was written probably within twenty minutes.”
It’s a pump-up jam that deserves to be turned up every time it comes on, and that’s exactly what the band intended. “Maybe you’re walking into a game, or into a ring, or working out, it’s just a good motivational song, it’s definitely one of my favourites, I like that one a lot.”
One of the elements of Explosions that tells you immediately that it’s a Three Days Grace album is the vocals. The interesting part about that of course is that Brad’s brother Matt has so seamlessly entered the band that many would say he actually sounds like former vocalist, Gontier. Fans often refer to Matt as the ‘new’ vocalist, but that term is now getting a bit old.
“It’s crazy, we were talking about this other day. It’s been ten years now and it’s gone by so fast, you know. I think every record Matt just gets a little more confident and he’s a better singer every record.”
Walst is proud of his brother and clearly stoked to be in a band together, especially one of this stature. “On this record his vocals are amazing. He has the same kind of vibe as Adam in a way, and you know, for him to slide into a position like that, says a lot about Matt as a performer and a singer.”
Recently, Neil Sanderson (drums, backing vocals and keyboards), caught up with Gontier after what seemed like many years apart. Judging by the Instagram caption on his post (see below), it seemed like the relationship remains strong.
Brad wasn’t there with Sanderson on this occasion, but has also retained a relationship with Gontier. “I’ve seen him here and there. He lives back in our hometown in Canada now, so we cross paths quite often. He’s doing great, he’s happy and healthy. He’s got a nice family and he’s doing good.”
Gontier is still in the music scene, and you may already be aware of his current outfit Saint Asonia, which includes a few familiar names. “They have a lot of great tunes,” Walst says. “The lineup’s changed a little bit but Mike (Mushok) from Staind, the guitar player’s still in the lineup, and I think they have a new record coming up this year as well.”
When reflecting on the Gontier era of Three Days Grace, it can definitely take a fan back to that angry One-X time period, and a timestamp that forever holds a special place in the hearts of many fans. However, the band has significantly grown, and are now writing and recording about different things, as one would guess.
“You change as a person, and you know, back in those days we were full of piss and vinegar, we had nothing to lose nothing to gain.”
The backing vocalist is assuring that whilst they’re a little different to who they were, they all still remain grounded in who they are, and that shines through the music. “One thing that hasn’t changed is that we’re very humble people. We’re a band that definitely moves forward all the time and just keeps going.”
Cracking a smile, the Canadian rocker says “I think we’re still the same people, just getting a little older. It’s a young man’s game sometimes, but we can still rock with them.”
Many years may have passed since 1997, when the band was formed, but many Aussie fans reading this may be thinking – many years have also passed since Three Days Grace have toured Australia. Some (including me), even wondered if they’ve ever come downunder. Ex-Soundwave boss AJ Maddah often fielded questions on Twitter from festival-goers and claimed to try bring the band down, but it never seemed to come to fruition.
When probing into whether a valid rationale existed on this, Brad shrugged and simply said, “I don’t know what the deal is. We have been there once, we opened up for Nickelback in 2005 maybe,” he asks rhetorically, questioning the timeframe. “I don’t know why we don’t come to Australia.
“We should, we have to come there because it’s beautiful, and I always remember that trip as one of the best tours we’ve done in a long time, just because it’s a special place.”
Were you at that Nickelback Australian tour with Three Days Grace? We’d love to hear from you and share your story to the Wall of Sound Community of Legends Facebook Group!
With the impending success of Explosions, hopefully the dream can come alive. Undoubtedly, fans knew this record was going to be a big one after hearing lead single ‘So Called Life‘ which captured the raw DNA that fully encapsulates this band. They obviously got the memo that fans were digging it, and recently released an Amazon Music exclusive remix of the single that they called the ‘Chainsaw Cut‘.
“It was just kind of a different perspective on So Called Life,” Walst says in reflecting on the remix. “We got approached by Amazon Music to try it. Neil’s pretty thrifty with programming and stuff like that, so he took it on and we all kind of put our ideas in there and we were trying to go for the ‘More Human Than Human’ remix by Rob Zombie, where it was really like electronic.”
The ‘Chainsaw Cut‘ turned out to be a great promotional outlet and an opportunity for fans to hear something a little different. With Sanderson venturing beyond the drums and keyboard, he’s also been dabbling in production with other artists. Sanderson now runs an LA based record label and production team called Judge & Jury, with multi-platinum producer Howard Benson.
“He’s always kept busy, he’s a workaholic and he’s a really smart songwriter, engineer and producer – he does it all,” Walst says. With an interest in genre-crossover, a tweet between Sanderson and Left to Suffer‘s Taylor Barber suggests he might be involved in mixing some deathcore. Could this influence 3DG’s heavier sound? Time will tell.
— Taylor Barber (@taylorsuffers) February 26, 2022
It may not be deathcore, but Walst reckons he can pick his favourite track on Explosions and it’s a heavy number. “It’s a tough one,” he admits. “I really love ‘I Am The Weapon’. I think it’s kind of a different approach for us. It’s a pretty heavy song and it’s a different time signature, so that one for me just really sticks out.”
In closing comments, Brad wanted Aussie fans to know he appreciates them. “Thank you for your support over the years and yeah, it’s been fifteen years since we’ve been to Australia and we talk about it frequently.”
Interview by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90
Explosions is out Friday, 6th May via Sony Music Australia/RCA Records.
Grab it here
Three Days Grace – Explosions tracklisting
1. So Called Life
2. I Am The Weapon
3. Neurotic feat. Lukas Rossi
5. A Scar Is Born
7. No Tomorrow
10. Chain of Abuse
11. Someone To Talk To feat. Apocalyptica
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