Interview with Evanescence: Going Under The Influence

Amy LeeI don’t think it’s too much of a litcrime to suggest, if Edgar Allan Poe were still lurking in the shadows, he’d be an Evanescence fan. Oh, maybe you’re thinking: “How dare she compare Poe with a 21st century band? Blasphemy!” Shh. It’s okay. I’m not out to offend your gothic, literary sensibilities; I’m merely drawing a (shaky) parallel between the haunting of a Poe tale and Evanescence’s dark lyrics and lingering melodies.

Both stare at life’s complicated emotions and dare to mouth off: one on paper, the other on The Open Door, an album barely eclipsed by their Grammy-winning debut, Fallen. Fans of the band should be thankful there’s still enough angst for frontwoman Amy Lee to sing about and, ultimately, to triumph over. (Also, fans who haven’t done so should read some damn Poe.)

I’m not stating anything other than the obvious when I say female vocalists, at some point in their career, are expected to be 80 percent sexuality and 20 percent talent. How do you navigate away from this industry trend?

I just can’t even imagine it becoming a temptation for me. It’s not that I don’t have sensuality. It’s just never been something that I want to solicit; I feel like it’s really distracting. But it’s true, even with the ones that you respect; it seems it’s something they resort to in the end when sales start slipping.

I think it’s as simple as everything fades in time except for, maybe, a couple of amazing bands throughout time [that] last more than a decade. When you get to the point where it’s okay, it’s over and it’s time to hang up the towel and do something else, you know, have a life, there’s this last resort that I think women, more than men, have. Because it’s this last resort we all have, for everything, to get your way [you] just take your clothes off. I think it’s really depressing but it’s really kind of cavemen mentality: ‘If nobody likes my music and nobody’s going to pay attention to me I can always whip out the last resort, the secret weapon.’

I feel like, if you really have self-respect, you just don’t go to that place. So I don’t really see it as something I’m worried about, myself. I was ready to sell a lot less records the second time around just by doing even more of what I wanted to and giving people even less of what they wanted, so I don’t see it as a temptation for me, ever. But I think I definitely understand where those women were coming from. They just don’t have enough self-respect to skip that and say, ‘Okay, I’m done.’

I agree completely. There comes a time when you really do have to call on your self-respect and know it’s okay to move on.

Especially when it’s time to not be on top of the world anymore. I think there’s a lot of obscure, cool art out there and that could be really fun. You have one big album or two or three and then you think, ‘Cool. I’m obviously not number one in this genre anymore but I’ll go start a jam band with other artists that inspire me and make me happy.’

That reminds me, I wanted to ask about the band. Musically, with your vocals, it seems to all work so well together and I’m wondering if you can tell me a little bit about Evanescence, as a complete band.

Okay. For the new album Terry and I did all the writing together. I’ve always found it really complicated and difficult, almost impossible, to write with more than one other person because everybody has a little bit of a different idea of what they want in the end. You start working and heading in so many different directions, and you just end up fighting and imploding. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a mean fight, but you become aggressive about something you love and want to work for.

So, when Terry joined the band in 2003, we hired him because he was a great player. Our old guitar player had left and we were looking for someone to fill a slot so we could get through before the tour ended. But my secret hope was always that he would be as great of a creative writer that I suspected he was, just from things he’d done with Cold and Limp Bizkit. When we got into the studio I was hoping it would work. I tried writing with everybody in the band, but the one-on-one time when I experimented with him was golden. It was like every time we would spend together I would have a new idea in my head, a new image, of a completely new sound. It sounded like a song I had never heard before, ours or anybody else’s. It was like we were creating something completely new; it’s hard to explain. It was just an exciting, awesome, inspirational experience.

What everyone else was really doing was just fighting to get the song to come through. So I just said, ‘Okay guys, I’m going to do the writing with Terry,’ which of course ended up being a little hard for our band, but I know I made the right decision. We wrote the whole record, and the synergy is there. You hear the vocal part and the guitar part, and they were written together, in the same room, with us enjoying each other’s company, and they’re harmonizing with each other.