It might have been pressure to compete with all the new bands on the horizon that led alt-rockers Papa Roach to take such a wide turn away from its roots.
That started to change in 2017 when they hooked up with new producers Nicholas “Ras” Furlong and Colin Brittain on “Crooked Teeth.”
The longtime California band reconnected with the pair on their latest album, the months-old “Who Do You Trust?” a record that returns them to their rock-emo-punk-rap roots that propelled them to the top of the charts in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“I think for this record, instead of taking our influences and melding them in with our sound, it was kind of let’s take our sound and meld it into our influences,” founding guitarist Jerry Horton said last week from a concert stop in Lincoln, Nebraska. “So there’s a punk-rock song in there, there’s a song that’s maybe a little more mellow with kind of acoustic guitar. There’s a song, called ‘Not the Only One,’ that’s a little bit of an homage to (1980s Brit rock band) Blur. It’s kind of all over the place and it sort of feels like a playlist someone would put together that just happens to be all of our songs.”
The band will bring the “Who Do You Trust?” tour to Tucson on Saturday, March 23, as part of KFMA Day at Kino Sports Complex. It will be a chance for Horton and the band — Horton, frontman Jacoby Shaddix, bass player Tobin Esperance and drummer Tony Palermo — to see if Tucson responds as positively as audiences across the country have to the band’s reinvention of sorts.
Papa Roach, which got its start in the early 1990s with a sound that borrowed from nü and heavy metal, rap and even a bit of emo, found itself in something of a rut a few years back. Rather than continue to grow artistically, experiment with new directions, their longtime producers wanted to tow the old line. If it worked in the past, why not?
“Don’t get me wrong, they are great rock producers; they have seen and done it all. But they are in a point in their lives and careers where they don’t want to try something new,” Horton said. “They want to do what works. And that’s great if you are a producer and your goal is to just turn out as many radio hits as you can. But for a band that has a certain sound and has a very eclectic taste in music and trying to let all those things shine through, it kind of gets old after a while.”
That’s when Furlong and Brittain entered the picture.
“With these guys we went initially to co-write with them for a song, and we loved how they worked so much that we wanted to continue writing music with them,” Horton said. “We took most of the style back to classic Papa Roach, but we let the modern approach be the production of the record.”
The young producers also reminded the band, all of whom are in their early 40s, of what it’s like to be young and want to take chances.
“They grew up listening to our music and they are super energetic and we gel together,” Horton said. “Their energy reminds us of how we were when we were starting out, just experimenting with music and just trying things even if we know it might not work. ...
“We just went in and wrote a bunch of music and had a great time,” he added. “That’s something that we haven’t had in a while.”
Horton said they will mix songs from “Who Do You Trust?” into their setlist, which also will draw from their earlier hits, including “Last Resort,” “She Loves Me Not,” “Gravity” and “American Dreams.”