Cove Reber of Saosin
From the very beginning Saosin had their share of setbacks with the release of their debut self-titled album on Capitol Records, leaving fans foaming at the mouth in anticipation for it. With that kind of pressure, you better hope that you’re going to deliver the goods, and deliver they did. Fans and critics alike were not able to find much not to like about the album from beginning to end.
The main thing that jumps out from song to song is the level of musicianship involved. This is not just a band, this is a band of stand-out musicians who are great at what they do individually, so when they get together the synergy is unparalleled. The amazing dual guitar work of Beau Burchell and Justin Shekoski frame each song with the help of rhythm section of Alex Rodriguez on drums and Chris Sorenson on bass. Frontman Cove Reber has been hard-pressed to prove himself to a tough audience and he welcomes the challenge rocking the stage night after night. With his powerful harmonies and his ability to send songs directly from his lips to your gut, this band is a complete force.
This is not a band destined to talk about the past though, this is a band hungry to pave their future. Hot off the news that they would be joining Projekt Revolution, the biggest rock tour of the summer, lead singer and co-songwriter Cove Reber took some time out of Saosin’s busy touring schedule to catch up with us on his day off in the UK…
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | May 2007
Before signing to Capitol, Saosin had a huge underground following based off of an EP or two and a lot of live shows…. did the band have any fears going into a deal with a major label about anything that you built on your own getting compromised?
At the time we were getting signed to Capitol, I was sitting in those meetings thinking am “I really part of this band?” We signed with Capitol before our second tour, my second tour ever, and there was still nothing online that said Cove Reber is our new lead singer. I sat quiet at the meetings and just appreciated the fact that I was in the Capitol Records building talking to the record label. I let the guys make that call. I was a huge Saosin fan, I was part of that underground following. They knew how to handle it best, they knew what label to pick best. At that point in time it was their band, it wasn’t my band. Us getting signed was still part of a transitional period for me. Of course they asked me how I felt about it and I told them I needed time to sit on the beach and really ponder it, getting signed to a major record label is a big deal, especially now a days. They invest a lot of money that you have to pay back in sales. I made some phone calls to some bands on the label and to my lawyer and a few managers just to talk and find out if Capitol Records was the best home for us to be at. And when the band got together and went over the reasons why Capitol was the best label for us, all the reasons were the same reasons I had come up with on my own. It was unspoken until that meeting when we all came out and said the same things. We know that this is our home. It’s a good choice, unfortunately we’ve lost a lot of people due to Capitol Records and Virgin Records merging but I think the merge of the two labels was a blessing to us in disguise. As sad as it is to lose a huge portion of our supporters at our label, we found a new home with new support. We’re excited to be where we are at right now. We feel on top of the world and at the top of the list at our label which we never thought we’d be because it’s a major label, but we are. We’re really excited.
Howard Benson produced the album. What did he to bring the table for you guys? Did he influence the songs in any way or was he more of a guiding force?
The first thing out of the label’s mouth was Howard Benson. And the first thing out of our mouths was we don’t want to meet with Howard, we want to meet with everyone else first. Then we met with everyone else and they told us everything we didn’t want to hear and we’re like who are we going to have produce our record, how are we going to get this thing out? Then the label came back again and told us that Howard was really anxious to meet with us and to just give him a shot. We looked at each other and figured it couldn’t hurt. You have to understand, Howard’s Blindside- Silence record is on our top five best sounding records of all time. To me, it’s the best sounding record I’ve ever heard. He’s done great work, he knows how to write, he knows how to make bands work together to get the best quality songwriting out of each member. After meeting with him, he said he wasn’t going to work on the music he was going to work with me on the vocals and we were sold, let’s do it. The biggest thing for the band was that musically we didn’t want anyone to touch the music but vocals, we wanted the vocals to be the best sounding they could possibly be and the best lyrical content. Howard really pulled the best emotion and lyrics out of Chris and I and we feel like without his backbone to hold up our frame we wouldn’t have made the record as well as it turned out. We wouldn’t be a whole body without the spine.
When you say he worked with you on vocals, what kinds of things did he do? Was he writing? Or are we talking vocal exercises?
He just pulled out emotions. Before Howard, I wasn’t a performer, I was a singer singing songs. He taught me how to really truly show emotions through singing. He showed me what he meant by great singers; like Darryl Palumbo of Head Automatica, his vocals are crazy good. He showed me little things and techniques that performers do. Not that I do them all now but I know what he meant and learned how to show more emotion thorough him teaching me that. He built my confidence up 100 percent.
And that obviously carries over into your live show..
Yeah, and before the record, our label was like you’re a great performer a great singer but you really just need to shine, and Howard made me shine. There’s no better way to put it, I owe pretty much everything to him. You can take 100 vocal lessons and be a really good singer, but to be a good performer is really hard. I’m not claiming to be a great performer but I know how to show emotion. I’m still learning to this day. The kick start was with Howard. He didn’t touch lyrics at all though. If there was a word or line that he felt wasn’t working he’d ask us to think up a new one. Chris and I were writing the lyrics, if Howard had an idea with a word or anything, he’d run them by us first. He wasn’t writing, he doesn’t have a writing credit on the album.
So he wasn’t re-writing your songs..
No, not at all..which a lot of people think Howard Benson does but he doesn’t. He just gets you to perform and write better music.
You were recently hospitalized after a show there (In the UK) and then a lot of the band and crew got sick as well. I always think that it must be extra scary to get sick like that outside of your own country – were you freaking out or did they take good care of you?
I was just focusing on getting better. I stayed in the hospital for like 16 hours with an IV in my arm the whole time. I had an IV in my arm before I even left the venue. It was crazy, I think I had like nine IV bags in that time, it was like an IV colonic.
You’re being really careful while you’re there now right?
Yeah totally. There’s nothing you can do though. You just have to make sure you’re getting your vitamins and be health conscious. That was the thing I learned from Jared Leto, be health conscious at all times because if you get sick, you’re screwed. There’s just so much involved being in a band and just being healthy. By freak accident I got sick. Luckily I got better in two days. I missed one show, played another show – played thirteen songs after two days of recuperating. It was crazy.
Let’s talk about the song You’re Not Alone, it could be interpreted a lot of different ways depending on what’s going on in a person’s life. Have you heard feedback from fans who the song has affected personally?
I don’t want to write a cheesy pop song with a very blatant meaning. We try to be as ambiguous as possible so the listener has to think. We try to invite the listeners to find their own meaning to each song. You’re not Alone has a very blatant chorus but its quite ambiguous in the verses and there’s a reason for that. We want our listeners to be involved and find their own meanings. I’ve had feedback from many people who have said that the song saved their lives. Music can save peoples lives and that’s something that I feel strongly about. When I was younger I went through a depressing time when my family thought I was going to do something stupid like committing suicide. Not that I was going to but I turned to music and I listened to songs that made me happy. I wanted to do that for this band, I wanted to bring something unique. That song truly sums up who I am as a person. Its really awesome to have someone come up to you and say something like “I use to cut and that song made me stop cutting” or have someone come up to you and say “my friend played me You’re Not Alone a day before I was going to commit suicide and it stopped me from doing so and you are my favorite band now.” To me that feels like a positive power to have, to be able to change peoples lives by writing a simple song. I don’t think we’ll ever stop writing songs like that, to me it’s just so powerful. To have someone come up to me and tell me that and for me to know in twenty years that person is going to look back on our song and say that it saved their life and they wouldn’t be here without it, that’s a huge power. Every time that that kind of thing happens to me it’s reassuring that I have a purpose for being in Saosin and my music is changing peoples lives. To me that’s what music is all about.
And didn’t you guys just shoot a video for the song?
Yes, and it’s quite ambiguous.
Yeah that’s what I was wondering, I was wondering if it tied in a theme or left it out there for people to create on their own..can you give us any kind of preview of what to expect?
Just…one word…it’s Sao-rection…resurrection..honestly that’s the only one word that sums up the video. I’m acting in it for the first time ever. It’s a proper video. We chose the right directors and the right direction.
Now was the concept your own or did the directors come up with it?
It was kind of a mixture. We try to have as much control as we can but when we’re doing a music video, we’re kind of clueless. We do music, we’re not directors but we have ideas, so we put out as many ideas as we can on the table.
So you’re happy with the finished product?
It’s amazing. There’s one other video that people are going to thing we were copying but in all honesty we just wanted the video to look huge and epic, it just so happened that our video may be related to one other video. We didn’t intend to copy them in anyway.
Okay, I’ll take a guess when I see the video..
Oh you’ll know after seeing one of the scenes. It’s just one scene that you may think “oh I can see why people might think this is related to that video.”
So when does that debut?
On FUSE on May 28th. It’s going to be awesome, we’re really happy with it.
The name of the band gets fucked up by lots of people, what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever been called and does it piss you off when people can’t say the name of your band or do you just laugh?
The funniest thing I’ve ever heard the band called is replace the two “S*s with “F”s
(FaoFin for those of you playing at home).
That was on a flyer. It’s like our band with a lisp. We were in Jakarta two days ago and did a press conference and the question about how to pronounce the name kept coming up, but we had never been there so it was understandable. Most people living in the US have access to the internet and can find out our thoughts on our name and how to pronounce it. It doesn’t really bum us out. It just creates another buzz about the band, which is cool. Our name catches people’s eyes. When I first saw it I said Sao-sin right away. But when you dive into it hardcore fans will say Say-Ocean, but we’ve said in interviews, that’s not even correct either, it’s Shao – Shin. That’s how the Chinese people who speak Mandarin pronounce it, which is where it came from originally. It’s just cool that it has a meaning behind it “keep your heart small” and then we have a song called You’re Not Alone which somewhat contradicts our name. We just have a lot of options with the name.
You mentioned being in Jakarta recently, you’re in the UK right now, you’ve recently gone global doing shows in Osaka, Australia..when you go country to country are the fans different or is music really the universal language?
I believe it is the universal language to many people, the problem is, it’s the universal language outside of the U.S. It’s a sad thing that kids in the U.S. are too spoiled. It’s not that they don’t appreciate music, they do, it’s just that if you live in L.A. there’s a show every night. They have everything at their fingertips. Then when you go to a place like Jakarta we played to 5400 people and we headlined and we had 5400 people singing You’re Not Alone. It was an incredible feeling and we played the longest and best set we’ve ever played. We felt like the world was at our fingertips and we can really truly make a difference to fans across the globe. Fans across the globe are so thankful when bands from America come because it costs a lot of money. We sold out a show in Tokyo and it was one of our best shows. The promoter and people from Japan in the industry – their jaws hit the floors. In Jakarta they told us the two best rock bands they had seen that year were Muse and Saosin.
What kind of venue was it in Jakarta? Was it outdoors?
It’s an indoor tennis arena. But for us to be compared to Muse? We’re huge fans of Muse. We respect Muse for being some of the best musicians out there right now. But for our crowd to be one of the best they saw of the year, I’ll never forget that experience.
I know you get asked a lot about the bands line up changes…is there anything specifically you’d like to say to people that constantly ask you about it? Do you get sick of hearing about it considering you’ve been been in the band for so long?
The thing kids need to know is I’ve been in the band longer than Anthony ever was. I don’t get sick of hearing it, he gets asked the same thing – why did you leave Saosin? Anthony’s name gets brought up which helps his band and Saosin gets brought up with him so it helps our band. Any press is good press. At the same time, Anthony is a good dude who makes great music, Circa Survive makes great music. We make the music we want to make and they make the music they want to make. There really has only been one line-up change and that’s with me and Anthony.
Right but it just seems that any time anyone writes about the band, that’s always brought up.
To be honest, it’s going to be something that will be brought up twenty years from now. Look at Metallica and Dave Mustaine. There’s going to be fans who think that Metallica was better with Dave. It’s going to happen to Saosin too, Metallica is much bigger without Dave Mustaine than they were with them.
Yes, that’s a GOOD point..
I look at it the same way, Saosin is a lot bigger with me than they were with Anthony. At the same time, I’m not taking anything away from Anthony by saying that because now he’s got Circa Survive. If you’re a fan of the old Saosin then you get two new bands. If you like Anthony’s music listen to Circa Survive, if you like Saosin music listen to Saosin. We’re happy, he’s happy, who cares. We’re just glad to have this opportunity to tour, make music and be in a band.
So you’re going to be part of what presumably could be the biggest rock tour of the summer – Projekt Revolution; how did you become a part of that? Does Linkin Park pick the bands or is it handled through label and management?
Linkin Park chooses all of the bands. They hand pick them. They had a handful of bands to choose from. There were like twenty bands that we heard were possibilities, but to even be considered for it was a huge honor to us. That tour is amazing. The past Projekt Revolution –well they said it best in their press release, they had KORN go on after Xzibit. That never happens! Only at places like Coachella do you see that and Coachella is a three day festival in one place. You never see this line up go out on a tour together. You never expect HIM to play after Saosin and after HIM you never expect Taking Back Sunday. It’s the most oddly amazing thing I’ve heard in my life but so exciting.
What exactly is the set up, how many stages are there?
Two stages, we play the main support slot for the second stage. It will be the band before us then the main stage will start, then we’ll play then another main stage and then Mindless Self Indulgence will play and then HIM will play…
Rockin’ the Saostache!
So it’s not bands playing simultaneously competing against each other?
No and that’s the beauty of it, it’s not like WARPED tour. I’ve never been to Ozzfest but I heard that Ozzfest is set up in a similar way. There are no bands competing for a crowd. That’s amazing, especially with a festival type tour. You go to WARPED tour and three of your favorite bands are playing at the same time, you’re running from one stage to the next, I remember running from The Ataris to go see The Used play their first year and then running to see The Starting Line play and missing half of everyone’s set.
Who are you most looking forward to playing with on that tour?
That’s a hard one. We’ve toured with Taking Back Sunday on the International Taste of Chaos tour so we’re really excited to hang out with those guys again. That band is a really good group of guys. They pray before each show. Saosin is not really that religious of a band, we don’t have any pre-show rituals but on Taste of Chaos it was fun to pray with Underoath and Taking Back Sunday and it was fun to be a part of that. We toured with My Chemical Romance the first Taste of Chaos ever in America so I’m looking forward to seeing those guys and being able to watch Gerard and learn from him and watch him every night. I think one of the most exciting things for us is now that we were hand chosen by Linkin Park it’s going to be fun to meet them and get to know them. They are such great musicians and songwriters. I’m going to be like a sponge soaking up everything that they have to offer me. It’s going to be fun to watch all the bands!
Any parting messages to your fans?
Just basically thank you. Not only thank you to them but thank you to you for giving me this opportunity to speak my mind and talk a lot. Thank you to everyone who bought the record. To anyone who isn’t a Saosin fan who’s read this entire interview because I know this is probably at the end, check us out. Come to our MySpace, if we’re coming to your town, come check us out. That’s all I can ask, we’d like to meet everybody, we’re always hanging out and trying to experience new things in life and thank you. I can’t say that enough!