Interview: Shimon Moore of Sick Puppies Talks New Album, “Telling Lies,” and Free Hugs
Revolver recently interviewed Sick Puppies vocalist-guitarist Shimon Moore about their forthcoming, yet-untitled fourth record, which is due late Spring or early Summer. Moore says the album will sound like a “mashup” of the band’s first and second records and the Polar Opposite EP. Check out our chat below, and look for an in-studio piece with Sick Puppies in the new issue of Revolver, on newsstands today and available online right here.
REVOLVER There’s been some talk online that the album already has a title, namely, Under the Black Sky. Is that the case?
SHIMON MOORE We mentioned that in an interview we were doing online with our fan club. It’s not the confirmed title and it’s probably not going to be the title since we’ve had a lot of ideas then. It’s just kind of funny–it sort of made us aware about how much people were paying attention.
So where have you decided to do this recording?
We’re in L.A. It’s really L.A. to say we’re in L.A. It would be cool if we were like recording in Mississippi because it’s not L.A. But all the people we work with are already set and based here. I’d like to make a record in Australia. But then we’d have to fly people over there and pay for shit and it’d wind up being 10 times more expensive.
How long have you spent writing for the new album?
We wrote for about two months and then we stopped because it started to get kinda stale and we were recycling ideas unconsciously. We came back and wrote for another two or three months and we had about 80 songs by the end of it.
That’s a lot of songs.
Yeah, everyone says that, but if you want to have a good record, you need to write a lot of songs. I mean, you’re going to be playing it for three years so you really need to make sure you pick good songs. I hear about bands that just write 12 songs and record them and I’m like, “If you’re gonna play that shit for years, why not try to make it the best it can be? Take a little bit of extra time?” But we were afforded the opportunity to do that. People don’t really release records much anymore and people don’t really buy records much anymore, so you really need to make it the best it can be.
Can you tell us about the acoustic version of the new song, “Telling Lies,” which you guys “leaked” in November.
We started singing, “Everyone alive is telling lies/Everyone you know is telling lies.” We thought that was an idea for the song so we came up with three scenarios. We were thinking of making them cerebral, poetic, and wordy. It sounded dark, but then if you make the lyrics dark, that isn’t interesting. It’s much more to play contrast. So we made three different stories that are really simple, universal, and conversational. To hear us say, “He lays on the bed and she asks him if I’ve been getting fat.” As a guy, I have had to deal with that fucking question at some point.
That lyric was the one I was thinking of. It struck me as conversational–is that something you carry lyrically throughout the record?
Yeah, I think so. There was much more eccentric and existential stuff on [2009’s] Tri-Polar and some fucked-up shit on [2007's] Dressed Up as Life. But the best songs in general are usually conversational, like “With Or Without You” by U2 or “Drops of Jupiter” by Train–they are very simple. You’re using that soy latte line from “Drops of Jupiter” and everyone goes, What the fuck? Why would you sing that? But you always remember it. So having that sort of simplicity, it winds up being more effective.
My favorite song at the moment is called “Run,” which was a gift because we were sitting there cowriting with a Scott Stevens, who wrote “I Miss the Misery” with Halestorm. I was lying there, like, collapsed in a chair and I played, like, the simplest chord progression. All the sudden, it was the chorus–it just came. So then we said, “OK, what is this song about?” And it’s about anything and everything. When you have something you want to do with your life and you haven’t done it yet. Everyone’s been there or is still there. You could be at any point of your life. It’s just saying, “You’ve got to run.”
So if all of that is easy, what’s the hardest part with this record?
It was hard to write. You write a verse and a chorus. Now if you write a verse and a chorus that means you put in an hour to three hours of time to write that. You decided that’s what you’re doing. That means you have to finish it because if someone puts up their hand and says, “Listen, I’m just not sure this is the right direction.” That basically means that halfway through the day you’re choosing to waste the rest of the day, which you can’t do. So even if you’re not feeling the song is right, you still have to finish it and make it as right as you can. You don’t get it right all the time. You don’t get it right 80 percent of the time because that’s the nature of what you do. So writing the record was really the challenge. Once it was written, fuck, man, we just went in and made it sound like Sick Puppies. We know how to do that because we’ve been doing it for 10 years.
Did anything crazy happen while you were recording?
Probably working with Desmond Child [songwriter and producer] was the craziest thing. The first song took us three days to write this fucking song. It was because he was a perfectionist. If it wasn’t great, it was shit and that was all. End of discussion. So you came up with 20 ideas that were shit. He’d literally say, “That’s crap man…that’s crap.” Every idea you’d throw out there–“That’s crap.” Then about once every five hours, he’d say, “That’s good. We will put that there. Next.” No “thank you” just,“What else ya got?…That’s crap man, that’s crap.” It made me feel like I really didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, which is fair enough because if you’re working with Desmond, and if you think you know what you’re doing, you’re a bit of an asshole.
Looking back, the story of Sick Puppies is tied with the “Free Hugs” video with the song “All the Same”. Do you ever wish you weren’t associated with that?
No, I don’t wish anything was different, not at all. I knew when I made the video, it was effective for what I wanted to do. When it blew up, we were like, “Oh, I guess this is part of our story where we make a thing that’s an overnight success.” But then it kept going and, like, Oprah Winfrey called, all these fucking people called and every record label called. It got out of hand and we thought, Oh god, we’re gonna be the “Free Hugs” band and even if we do great music for the rest of our career, people are only going to remember that song.
But we basically just buckled down and said if we didn’t have this song and video, it would be the same thing: on tour, meeting every guy at every radio station, and doing anything for a fan anywhere. Eventually and hopefully, we will just become synonymous with being that band rather than the “Free Hugs” band. But we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.
When can we hear this next installment in the Sick Puppies story?
I don’t know, but it’s such an amazing fucking record. The problem is we don’t know what to pick for the first, second, third, or fourth single. We could go with anything and we don’t know where to go.
Well, that’s a good problem to have.
Yes, yes, it is.