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While 2011 proved one of the most turbulent years in recent history, Nickelback has emerged rock-steady with an album that both shakes rock and roll to its core while offering a true sense of escapism to their millions of fans across the globe. If ever the world needed to feel good again, that time is ... Here and Now.
Traversing the sonic spectrum with a pulsating energy and enthusiasm reflected in the musical diversity, Here and Now is the much-loved Nickelback experience propelled to new levels as the band continues to lure listeners into their trademark party brew of fast-lane indulgences; some tunes tamed by somber reflection while others wickedly embraced with a devilish wink and a smile. With almost 45 million sold worldwide, music fans remain thirsty for the vicarious thrills of Nickelback's newest intoxicating elixir.
"I think we're very lucky because from the beginning, we never painted ourselves into a corner of saying we're only going to make one kind of music," explains Chad Kroeger, during the final days of recording Here and Now at his Mountain View Studios outside Vancouver. "As a result, we're kind of all over the map with the songs that get accepted by our fans. And that's fantastic, because that means there's always going to be a ton of diversity on all our records."
It's a conviction shared by Ryan Peake, who recounts the band's early days of bucking trends as key to Nickelback's longevity. "When you fashion yourself after musical fads, you'll find out you're yesterday's news in a couple years. Suddenly, you wake up one day and find out you've completely pigeon-holed yourself. But when you're honest in what you do and concentrate on the songwriting, people will follow you. Fortunately, we have such a well-rounded fan base. And in these days of extreme ups and downs and cyclical musical movements, our fans have always stuck by us.”
"Because at the end of the day," adds Peake, "people just really like hearing good songs, plain and simple. They like to feel good; whether they're singing along or just listening to it. It's something innate in all of us."
So what better way to uncork Here and Now than a double-shot of kickoff singles that toasts the band's enduring potency: "Bottoms Up," a blazing paean to unlimited libations crafted with unmistakable Nickelback hooks and epic chorus, fueled even further by Peake's blistering guitar, Daniel Adair's thunderous drumming and Kroeger's gritty and commanding vocals as the song's raucous ringleader. Guaranteed to become a party staple, "Bottoms Up" will assuredly earn a place in the pantheon of fist-pumping rock classics. Serving as an equally vibrant mixer is Nickelback's other lead single "When We Stand Together," a decidedly up-tempo anthem that underscores the social conscience still beating in the hearts of those small-town boys from Hanna, Alberta. The highly melodic, foot-stomping anthem belies the more serious underpinnings of lyrics challenging societal apathy as Kroeger sings: "One more depending on a prayer / And we all look away / People pretending everywhere / It's just another day / There's bullets flying through the air / And they still carry on / We watch it happen over there / And then just turn it off."
It's a recurring theme that surfaces over the many Nickelback albums - from previous hits like "If Everyone Cared" to "If Today Was Your Last Day" - that Kroeger sees as a way of raising public consciousness, even if in small doses. Not one to commandeer a soapbox, Kroeger is earnest when he explains the genesis of "When We Stand Together" that "we can bring awareness to the fact that we can make the world a better place if we actually just stood together and acted as one world, instead of acting as so many different countries with their own agendas."
"It's just so easy for us to see things unfold on TV and then just change the channel," Kroeger continues. "I wanted to draw attention to a couple things in a general sense that might hopefully resonate. And regardless of how 'pop' sounding it may be, I felt the lyrics of 'When We Stand Together' just carried such weight that I needed to offset it with a lighter musical sound. And I think it turned into this really cool balance."
Indeed. Both singles are making a huge impact on the rock and pop charts - further testament to Nickelback's wide appeal in an increasingly fractured music scene. But Nickelback has always defied conventional norms; they've pushed boundaries and marched to the beat of their own drum. Call it wisdom or stubbornness, but the band's tenacity has paid off in droves. Billboard magazine named Nickelback "Group of the Decade" and their 2001 breakthrough hit "How You Remind Me" as "Top Rock Song" of the decade. They've achieved a remarkable five Grammy Award nominations, three American Music Awards, a World Music Award, a People's Choice Award, and 12 Juno Awards. Their 2005 album All The Right Reasons remained in the Billboard Top 30 for over two years, was certified 8-times platinum in the U.S. and sold a staggering 11 million copies worldwide, spawning five Top 20 singles "Savin' Me,” "Rockstar," "Photograph,” “Fall Away” and “If Everyone Cared.”
Nickelback's phenomenal success quickly attracted the attention of veteran producer Mutt Lange, famed hit-maker, who signed on as producer of 2008's Dark Horse. The band's aptly-titled album showcased their unwavering resolve, approaching almost eight million digital single sales of hits like "Gotta Be Somebody," "Burn It To The Ground,” "If Today Was Your Last Day," and "This Afternoon” plus more than 61 million video plays over the course of the album's campaign. Dark Horse also fueled a record-breaking two year world tour for Nickelback, who so far have played to well over five million fans across the globe. With 15 radio hits charting at #1 since 2000, Nickelback has earned the unique distinction of being the second best-selling foreign act in America - right beside the Beatles.
Not bad for a group of guys who as teens simply dreamed of one day performing "to more than just the steering wheel” as Kroeger so famously sang in his nostalgic confessional "Photograph.” "Geez, I remember playing every night in a cover band in these small clubs and maybe making $300 a week and thinking to myself, 'This is so awesome! What am I going to do with all this money?'" chuckles Kroeger, reflecting on his humble beginnings as a musician. His brother, bassist Mike Kroeger, remembers those early days well. "We would always think, 'God, wouldn't it be cool to play our songs for someone other than just our roommates or family - somewhere where people actually showed up to watch music?' But believe me, none of us as kids were learning how to play the pentatonic scale going, 'Yup, Wembley Arena here we come!" says Kroeger with a huge laugh.
"It really wasn't until we got a record deal and then once Silver Side Up did what it did that all of a sudden we were like, 'Okay, we need to start behaving like a world class act and we've got to put together a show that can really entertain people in an arena,’" adds Chad Kroeger, who likens himself to the Master of Ceremonies of a wild private party for over 20,000 of his closest friends every night. "When I'm on stage, I'm definitely in über party mode. I mean, we put on this huge rock and roll show entertaining people, but everyone always says it goes beyond that - it's like this enormous celebration where all these Nickelback fans can get together and really let loose."
Which brings us full circle to Here and Now, the band's seventh album and quite possibly their most creatively liberating. "The dynamic in the studio was much more fun again," notes Adair. "This time I felt like, 'Okay, it's just the four of us again, we're self-produced, lets just do our thing.' And it flowed extremely well.”
"I mean, we actually had weekends off, which we didn't on the Dark Horse sessions," continues Adair. "When you're working 14 hour days, 64 days straight, it's just not healthy. It's actually counter-productive. Because in the big picture, you can actually get more accomplished in the same amount of time with a more normal schedule."
As the band convened from April through early October, Here and Now's 11 tracks grew organically, according to Peake. "It wasn't calculated at all," he says. "That's why this album is really across the board - from heavy rock and pop-sounding songs, to lighter, more middle-of-the-road songs. We brought a lot of ideas to the table and sussed them out until we were all happy."
The challenge, admits Mike Kroeger, "is that the more records we make, the more we feel like we have to dig deeper and do stuff that we haven't done yet, but also expand and go even further on the type of songs our fans love. There's a lot of 'No, that's not good enough' and we’ve gotta tear it all down and start again or completely re-tool.”
"Because we know very consciously what we've done in the past and where the bar has been set," adds Kroeger, "and you can phone it in - that's very easy to do - but our fans will know that immediately. So every time we go into the studio, it's about making our fans happy and hearing them say that it's not only a record they love, but that it's a Nickelback record that they love amongst all the other Nickelback records. That's what we strive for every single time."
Nickelback strikes all the right chords as they once again prove their uncanny knack for crafting catchy songs with unforgettable hooks and indelible lyrical wordplay. Whether it's melodic ballads like "Lullaby,” "Trying Not To Love You" and "Don't Ever Let It End" (an acoustic gem about lovers caught in the “friend zone” that Chad Kroeger calls "very special"), to the metallic roar of "This Means War" and the reckless abandon of grinding rockers like "Gotta Get Me Some" and "Midnight Queen,” the band undeniably has hit a home run with Here and Now.
"So as long as people want to hear us play, then we'll just keep going," Kroeger states. "And until that day comes, this is the absolute best gig in the world and we'll just keep rolling with the punches."