Not that the band (singer Coby Dick, drummer Dave Buckner, bassist Tobin Esperance, and guitarist Jerry Horton) is necessarily gloating about proving naysayers wrong, but it's always nice to be recognized for a job well done. "The (Spin reviewer) didn't know where we were coming from and must have written us off as another rap-rock band that brings nothing new to the table," Buckner says, "but I guess he was wrong."
The writer's skepticism was understandable, as so many interchangeable, insincere loud rock bands dilute the scene that it's difficult to greet new entries with anything more than jaded cynicism. And Infest, which offers no radical guitar wizardry or innovative genre-melding, is hardly groundbreaking. Even Buckner allows that Papa Roach doesn't bring anything radically different to the party, but he says critics who underestimate the band overlook some of its key ingredients. "We bring heart, soul, and passion," he explains. "We really play rock for the sake of rock itself. We love music."
It's an easy enough party line to spout, but Infest backs up Buckner's words. The album's unrelenting sincerity might be annoying to hipsters, but then hipsters don't buy records, the people do. Infest gives the metal masses what they want, and in a form purer than most. The riffs are fierce, and the rhythm section grooves without trying to be funky. And while Dick's MC efforts don't do much to redeem the "rapping rock-band frontman" position, his eardrum-bursting screams leave little doubt that this is a band that means it.
Plus, to his credit, his lyrics steer clear of unconvincing hate-for-hate's-sake and ugly misogyny. Papa Roach's songs aim for the troubled, and the troubled are responding.
"The lyrics are so personal that so many people could relate," Buckner says. "(The lyrics) could kind of cross over." Infest covers topics ranging from greed to childhood abandonment in a direct, gritty manner, but Buckner says Papa Roach's feel-bad hit of the summer, "Last Resort," has been misinterpreted as a pro-suicide anthem.
"There's a lyric about suicide, and it's about contemplating suicide," he admits. "But it's about feeling alone and trying to work it out. It's about a friend of ours who went through the experience, and he's still alive today."
It's not all doom and gloom with Papa Roach, as its members are becoming notorious for their backstage food fights. A few weeks ago, the bandmates helped Esperance celebrate his birthday by ambushing him with cream pies. Months earlier, members of Korn and Papa Roach splattered Dick with pies seconds after he left the stage as part of another birthday-themed surprise attack. "Korn taught us a lot about touring," Buckner says, hinting at the source of the group's dessert-tossing exploits. "They said we remind them of them."
While some writers and metal fans have cited the similarities between Korn and Papa Roach in a much less flattering fashion, it becomes obvious, upon closer inspection, that Buckner and company draw upon a wide range of influences, from funk-masters Red Hot Chili Peppers to Swedish techno-punks Refused. Buckner, who learned to drum by playing along to Led Zeppelin records, says of Korn: "They're not so much our heroes as they are our big brothers. They nicknamed us 'Grasshopper.'"
Just a few years ago, Korn played Grasshopper to Faith No More's Kung-Fu Master, and now the process has come full circle, as former FNM member Mike Bordin spent months behind the kit filling in for Korn's injured drummer. At Bordin's insistence, Papa Roach will contribute a cover of the FNM song "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" to an upcoming CD in honor of the trailblazing group. That's not the only project fans can look forward to, as the band has firm plans for the next year.
"Tour, tour, tour, after that, more touring, and after that we'll tour some more," Buckner says. "We'll probably be touring on the record until the middle of next year." Area fans are well aware of the group's tireless travel itinerary -- Papa Roach has hit the area a half-dozen times in 2000 -- and it's this work ethic that's taken it from a Southern California garage to large arenas. While stopped at a gas station during one of these cross-country jaunts, Papa Roach drew fashion inspiration from another famed road warrior.
"We picked up a Johnny Cash greatest hits CD, and we listened to the song 'Man in Black,' and all the reasons he chooses to wear black," Buckner says. "It just kind of clicked, and we started wearing black."
Not that this black-clad crew is moping about its current lot in life. Buckner, a former furniture mover, says with a laugh that he could finally afford some of the high-priced items he'd spent his days lugging into well-to-do homes. Still, he won't be piecing together a new dining-room set anytime soon, as Papa Roach is staying hungry. There are still more critics to prove wrong, stages to rock, cream pies to throw around, and minds to infest.