Puddle of Mudd
Ask Puddle of Mudd frontman Wes Scantlin about the writing and recording of new album Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love & Hate, and he responds with the same spirit of carefree wanderlust that defines his band: “It’s all easy peezy, dude, no big deal at all...”
Not to him, maybe. Wes Scantlin is custom-made for the new millennium, a rock star without the pretense, and a frontman whose spontaneity propels his offstage personality as much as it does his onstage delivery. “Wes is constantly adjusting to the vibe in the room, throwing his flavor in there and constantly trying to make people laugh,” explains bassist Doug Ardito. “He doesn’t do the David Lee Roth thing, where he delivers the same lines every night, he’s completely off-the-cuff.”
On Volume 4, Scantlin does deliver the same savvy lyrics that fans have come to expect since the band’s multi-platinum debut, Come Clean, weaving subtle innuendo and not-so-subtle lyrical wordplay around vocal hooks so thick, they even seem to make life’s more sour realities easier to swallow. Case in point, “Psycho,” the smash single from the band’s 2007 release Famous that rationalizes a relationship with, ‘maybe I’m the one, who is, a schizophrenic psycho…’
Famous, like both albums before it, was certified Gold after selling more than 500,000 copies in America alone. Propelled by “Psycho,” the album cemented Puddle of Mudd’s status as bona-fide hit makers, and earned them industry accolades including Billboard’s No. 1 Mainstream Rock Song of 2008 and No. 2 Rock Band of the Year, where they finished second only to the Foo Fighters. Keeping in that tradition, the new album goes down like the smoothest shot you’ll ever take. No chaser required - unless, like Scantlin and guitarist Paul Phillips, you opt for a cold, frosty one.
Volume 4 is a homecoming for Phillips, who left the band shortly into the recording process for Famous. Despite the success of “Psycho,” something was missing, and when Phillips and Scantlin reconnected earlier this year, all the prior tension had melted away and their chemistry was rediscovered.
“This was probably the easiest and most collaborative record we’ve ever made,” said Phillips, who described the process as, “a piece of cake, man” - on the sliding scale of Puddle of Mudd-speak, a description that’s right up there with “easy peezy.” “I stayed at Wes’ house, and we had a lot of late-night writing sessions over a bottle of Kettle One and a bottle of Southern Comfort. Just the two of us on his couch with acoustic guitars, and I’d record shit on this little hand-held recorder, play it back the next day, and not remember any of it!”
Even if they are exaggerating just a little, it still speaks volumes to the innate chemistry within the band, a chemistry that resonates throughout Volume 4. Lead single “Spaceship” blasts off into the Puddle of Mudd stratosphere of mixed metaphors and sexually-charged sing-alongs. Let’s just say that the spaceship isn’t the only thing blasting off…
Given the band’s radio success - “Blurry” was the most-played song across all rock formats in 2001, delivered on the heels of their breakthrough single “Control, “ aka “the smack my ass song” – it might seem a stretch to call Puddle of Mudd underrated, but they really are. Some judged the band by Scantlin’s grunge-meets-surfer shoulder-length hair, while others chose to write them off as little more than a radio band. But those critics have been proven wrong on all accounts. Puddle of Mudd are who they are, and they are not trying to be anything else. What you see is what you get, even if what you see may be, at times, a little blurry.
“We just keep writing hooky and catchy stuff, because that’s how we write,” offers Wes, again, not exactly shining a bright light on the creative process, but speaking with a candor as engaging as the band’s music. “Being underrated is kind of cool sometimes, because you’re the underdog… Kind of like Cuba Gooding, Jr. in ‘Jerry Maguire,’ talking about all the love he doesn’t get. Play with your heart and you’ll get the love. We’re playing with our hearts, and we don’t bitch about what we’re not getting, we just keep writing hit songs… But at the end of the day, I am from Missouri - the Show Me State - so there’s still a little bit of that ‘show me the money’ attitude!
It’s that ‘show me the money’ spark that fuels Scantlin’s lyrics, and it’s a spark he doesn’t see going out any time soon. “We’ve all got people who are trying to take us for everything, but I consider all that drama in my life a gift from God – ‘This guy needs the drama so that he can keep writing endearing lyrics!’ The lyrics come out of frustration, love, aggression, I write about all kinds of emotions. I’ll tell you what, if I was happy all the time, these records would suck!”
So here’s to a healthy dose of cynicism and a cup overflowing with snarky indifference, especially when the end result is as undeniable as Volume 4: Songs of Love & Hate. From the smoky guitar haze of “Stoned” to the supple resolve of the ballad “Keep it Together” - two songs at opposite ends of the coping spectrum – Volume 4 finds a familiar place between the two extremes. Scantlin keeps the inspiration closer to home in the marital blitz of “Pitchin’ a Fit” and on “Better Place,” a heartfelt tribute to a cousin who overdosed that speaks to anyone who’s lost anyone they love. If punching the lunch lady is more your speed, check out “Hooky,” where Scantlin’s 12-year-old son even gets a writing credit.
Laying the foundation through it all is drummer Ryan Yerdon, who joined Puddle of Mudd in time to support Famous, and is now making his recorded debut with the band. “My approach to drumming is the same as my approach to music,” he says, “I’m all about conviction and attitude, and they will always supersede fancy play with me. I’d rather listen to the Ramones than Rush, you know what I mean?”
Yes, we do – which is exactly why Yerdon’s found the perfect fit with Puddle of Mudd. They’ve got conviction and attitude to spare, a bevy of hits to back their claim, and a lifetime of therapy packed into each and every release.
In the end, it may be Paul Phillips that described Volume 4: Songs of Love & Hate best: “It sounds like a Puddle of Mudd record!”
It doesn’t get any more “easy peezy” than that!