Papa Roach’s latest album is Crooked Teeth. It has already spawned the number one single “Help.” The band wsorked with production team Nicholas “Ras” Furlong and Colin Brittain. Papa Roach recently played the Carolina Rebellion festival, and that’s where I sat down with drummer Tony Palermo for a conversation about the new record, touring and other topics.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Crooked Teeth compared to your previous albums?
Tony Palermo: I would say the uniqueness was the fact that we worked with a couple new producers. These guys, they’re younger guys. It wasn’t the typical rock producer element. Not to put the rock producers down, because they’re great as well. We’ve collaborated on some amazing material with those guys. We felt it was time to try and take it a little step younger and get some younger influences. Some guys that were fans of the band at an earlier age, but then also have started to make a name for themselves.
This was actually the first full length record that they’ve ever done. There was a lot of trust and hope. We’re like, “We hope these guys can do it, but we trust that they can do it”. We went in and did a song, the first song with them, just to see before we even hired them, a little test run.
That song actually made the record. It’s called “My Medication.” That was the first song that we collaborated with them on. From that moment on we were just like, “These are the guys.” They know what’s up now, but they also know what was up with us from the Infest days, the first record. They brought it all together for us, and made us venture out and be a little more adventurous, and not be so confined.
Is that what led you to collaborate with Machine Gun Kelly on a track?
Yeah. We’re fans first and foremost. We ended up doing an AP award performance, where we collaborated with three different artists. We were talking to MGK that day about, “It would be great to get you on a track on the record.” It just so happened we had a track that was written already that was his vibe. A little hip hoppy, rappy. Not a big electric guitar song.
We gave him the track (“Sunrise Trailer Park”). He’s like, “I love it. Let me do my thing”. He did his thing and sent it in, and we were like, “It’s great.” Again, trying to work with some younger cats that were fans. Just trying to get some new inspiration, really. That’s all it really comes down to.
Nine albums in and with how much the industry is changing, how do you even go about setting expectations for an album?
That’s a good question. The new thing with all the streaming and everything, we’re learning and our management is learning real quick. They come at us with analytics. It’s literally a numbers game right now. We’re like, “Man, we just try and write the best music we can,” and it’s turning mathematical now on that side of it. At first we were like, “What? This doesn’t make sense. We’re trying to make music.” But it’s all unfolding in front of us now. We’re trying to adapt.
It used to be, a little bit before a record was released, one single came out. Now sometimes it starts up to a year in advance. If the first single doesn’t do well, you’re in deep trouble. But you guys went to number one, so you’re okay.
Yeah, thankfully. But even before that in December of last year, we put out, they call them “grat tracks” now. They’re not necessarily singles, but they’re tracks that you release and get people hyped. That’s all confusing to us, too. We’re like, “If we release it, isn’t that a single? Is that considered a single?” But it’s not worked to radio. Just throw it out on the internet and get people hyped up. Here’s some new Papa Roach. We’re trying to adapt and understand how this is happening now.
In a festival situation like this basically you just play the hits. But when you’re headlining, how difficult is it to come up with a set list with the amount of material you have now?
It’s pretty difficult. We have our core songs that we have to play. Then it’s always great when you have new music, because for the band, I’m sure any band is the same, they get more excited to play the newer stuff because it’s new. We’ve played the older stuff for years. But headlining stuff, we try and create dynamics in the set. It’s not all just slamming people’s faces off.
When we have more time you can elongate it, take them down and bring them back up. That’s fun. We’ve revamped our festival set. I think we’ve managed to do that same style, more dynamics in a shorter set. We’re really excited about it. It’s cool. It’s taking some of our old stuff and really revamping it.
When it comes to setting up a tour plan for an album in terms of deciding on festivals, headlining versus opening, overseas, etc. how does that come together?
Usually we look at an 18 month cycle. Depending on when the record is coming out and all of that, it dictates whether or not we will do these festivals. Right now, we probably could have waited another year and do them next year, because our record’s not out yet. But we had a tour fall through that wasn’t on sale yet. We didn’t know the single was going to be a number one at the time. It’s great. Now we’re able to come out and play the single, and some newer songs, and get people hyped on the release.
Management and us, we collaborate a lot. A lot of conference calls. “Where do we want to go? When do we want to go there?”. Because there’s the summer festivals in Europe. There’s a cycle every year that happens. It’s the same cycle, really. We just have to fit in different spots if we want to do the festivals.
What is your level of awareness and popularity overseas compared to the US?
Some places it’s better. Germany it’s great. The UK is really starting to pick up for us. We’ve made a conscious effort to go back and really target places like that, like the UK, and do our own UK tours without adding Europe into it. But also hitting Europe at a different time.
Russia has been growing steadily. That’s a crazy market out there. Kids, they’re hungry. They haven’t had a lot of music for a long time. But now a lot of bands are starting to go there, so the market’s really opening up there. We’re trying to branch out. We did South America late last year.
Are the fans as passionate as they say?
Yes! I’m like, “We have to film a DVD in South America.” They sing. The guitar melodies are going, and they’re singing that. It’s incredible. You’re just like, “Wow!” It blows you away.
Anything else you need to mention?
Thanks to all the fans. We have the number one single in America, the number one single in Canada right now. It’s pretty incredible. We’re very thankful and appreciative. Crooked Teeth comes out May 19th. We’re all pretty active on our socials, so come visit.
(interview published May 19, 2017)