Finger Eleven Take Changes In Stride

Dustin Rabin Photography
Dustin Rabin Photography

Even a blown amplifier can’t dampen the enthusiasm of Finger Eleven guitarist Rick Jackett for being back on tour in support of the group’s newly released record, Five Crooked Lines.

“My favorite amp just died,” Jackett says from an undisclosed American city, in advance of the group’s show at Casino New Brunswick on Monday evening.

He holds a power surge responsible for rendering the amplifier’s circuit board useless. The larger problem at hand, however, is the fact that this is no ordinary amplifier.

“This amp is all about sentimentality as it was one of the first amps I used with the Rainbow Butt Monkeys,” he says, citing the pre-Finger Eleven incarnation of the band. “I had the amp stored in the back of my shed for years and just happened to dig it out one day. I always loved its sound and so I brought it out onto the road with us. It never fails though; there is an ongoing joke among us in the band that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. It’s not really a huge deal in the bigger picture. I’ll get it fixed and we’ll power through our shows with me using some backup equipment.”

Being in a position of mounting a North American tour in support of a new record – the recently released Five Crooked Lines – is, frankly, something that Jackett isn’t taking for granted.

He shares that the past few years have not been particularly easy for the group, attributing the five-year delay between studio albums to a number of factors beyond the band’s control.

“We have always been a band that takes our time between records, but this is the longest span between albums in our career. We spent almost two years promoting [2010’s] Life Turns Electric, but when it was all said and done, we had a lot of house-cleaning, internal and business issues that we had to deal with.

“We knew in our hearts that if we were going to make another record, we had to seriously ask ourselves if it was worth the effort or if we should just retire the band while we were in a good place. It wasn’t just a matter of putting out a collection of any 12 songs and then going on tour to support it. We wanted to create something that exceeded our expectations.”

In addition to having parted ways with Wind-Up Records, the label with which the band had spent the better part of a decade, selling more than one million records thanks to hits like “One Thing” and “Paralyzer,” the group also parted ways with longtime drummer Rich Beddoe.

Jackett delicately addresses Beddoe’s departure, choosing his words carefully:

“When it came to Rich, it was a relationship that had to end,” he says quietly, but confidently. “As simple and as cliché as it is for bands to chalk up departing members to ‘musical differences,’ that is exactly what it was.”

He acknowledges that Beddoe’s departure from the group while in the middle of writing for Five Crooked Lines could have set the songwriting process back by months. Instead, the group used the changed inter-band dynamic to its benefit:

“All of a sudden, we weren’t a working band anymore. We were just four guys writing songs together.”

Jackett says the group took a unique approach to filling the drum void left by Beddoe, the benefits of which ended up spilling over to other aspects of their songwriting.

“We would make loops of drum beats, where all you were hearing was the drums. We used everyone from John Bonham [Led Zeppelin] to Black Sabbath and Bob Seger, but because we weren’t necessarily all that concerned with what the drums were doing, it cast a greater focus on the riffs, lyrics and vocals. It resulted in us writing what I feel is our strongest batch of songs to date,” Jackett says.

Recorded in less than two weeks in Nashville, Five Crooked Lines follows Finger Eleven’s tradition of deftly defying expectations of other on what exactly constitutes their sound.

As tempting as it could be to simply replicate their biggest songs with every new release, Jackett says the group has never set out to make the same record twice. He looks back on their catalogue, proud of each of their records, believing that every album is a snapshot of where the band was at during that particular juncture.

“Without ever having spoken about it amongst us, I know it’s a common goal to push the boundaries with every new record. Otherwise, you’re just wasting the opportunity. I grew up listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. When you look at their respective catalogues as a whole, you realize they didn’t repeat themselves. They worked hard to make a statement with every album.

“I’m not comparing what we do to any of those bands. I do feel though that each of our albums is an entity of its own and that they are all very different from one another.”

Jackett says the band learned long ago the permanence of the music business and that what they release will, for better or worse, follow them throughout the rest of their career. He says that realization puts an even greater emphasis on ensuring they are constantly putting their best foot forward.

“It definitely plays into why we take our time making records,” he says. “We want everyone in the band to be 100% behind everything we release because we know it is going to follow us for the rest of our lives.”

What: Finger Eleven
When: Monday Aug. 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $24.50, plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca