On <i>Breaking The Model</i>, New Medicine is 'bringin' you the rock'
On a laid-back, overcast Saturday afternoon in early October, New Medicine’s charismatic lead singer Jake Scherer is sitting in the living room of the house in East Nashville he shares with his bandmates. He’s chilling with two of them — lead guitarist Dan Garland and bassist Kyle LeBlanc — and talking about the band’s current release, Breaking the Model, which dropped at the end of August.
On this fall afternoon, the band is enjoying a short break during a series of tour dates in support of the album which will run until the end of the year. Thus far, they’re happy with the response to the record. The lead single, “One Too Many,” a cautionary tale of excess cowritten by Scherer, Garland and Karl Gronwall, hit the Top 40 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and is knocking on the door of the Top 40 on Mediabase’s Active Rock chart.
Breaking The Model is the band’s second album, their first for the Washington D.C.-based indie label Imagen Records. It was produced and engineered by Kevin Kadish, who is currently in the spotlight as the producer and cowriter of Meghan Trainor’s No. 1 smash pop hit, “All About That Bass.” Kadish helped the band expand the scope of their sound. The record’s 11 tracks range from wrenching rock ballads to balls-to-the-walls headbangers, and include “Like A Rose,” a song cowritten by Scherer and Kadish that was first released by Meatloaf on his 2010 album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. New Medicine’s arrangement of the song is much harder hitting. A line in the album’s title track speaks volumes about the band’s music and their defiant attitude: “My music isn’t made for the three-piece suit/ It’s for angry kids up in the mosh pit, dude.”
“We’re rebelling against the norms of society,” says Scherer, who cofounded New Medicine with Garland in 2009. “You don’t have to go to college, and go work in a cubicle, and do the normal thing. You can be in a band, and be punk rock, and live in the moment. It’s not so much about getting fucked up, as it is about living in the moment and having fun. You’re only young once and you don’t want to waste it.”
The band comes by its rebellious attitude honestly. Garland and Scherer grew up with chips on their shoulders as relatively poor kids in the ultra-affluent Minneapolis suburb of Orono, a community Scherer calls “privileged isolation.”
Continuing, he says, “There’s definitely a frustration when you show up and get dropped off in front of the school and your dad is driving an old, beat-up, piece-of-shit truck, and everybody else’s parents are driving brand new Escalades and Suburbans.”
“16-year-old kids would show up on their birthdays with Hummers,” Garland adds. “Or even things like the clothes, the backpacks, or the shoes. You just felt a little bit separated, even though we grew up in the community and we would rub shoulders and be friends with people that were more privileged. I’d be like, ‘Everyone’s wearing these shoes, I want a pair of those.’ And Dad would be like, ‘Well, fuck, I can’t buy you a $200 pair of shoes right now.’”
“You feel like you aren’t part of the club,” Scherer concludes.
But music gave them an outlet that other kids in similar circumstances didn’t have. “We found a community of other kids like us,” Scherer says. “It wasn’t like every single person was loaded. There was a community of skateboarders and the guys who played guitars in bands in garages. We were part of the counterculture of the school.”
Living just outside Minneapolis, Garland and Scherer had access to the city’s historic and still-vibrant music scene, and if you listen closely, you can hear the influence of the city’s music on New Medicine. The band features the basic rock ’n’ roll lineup of two guitars, bass and drums and their heavy brand of Heartland rock is flavored with Minneapolis influences, most notably Prince-style funk, punk rock and hip hop.
“I think a big part of growing up in Minneapolis and being so involved in the scene — both Jake and I would go to shows all the time — there’s such a wide variety of music you are exposed to, from obviously Prince, and The Replacements and all the punk rock legends,” Garland says. “So we were always listening to all kinds of music.
“There is still a great punk rock scene there,” he continues. “A place called The Triple Rock is run by a punk rock band and all these great bands come in. And First Avenue . . . ”
“You get everybody at First Avenue,” Scherer interjects. First Avenue is the famous Minneapolis club featured in the Prince film Purple Rain, and which served as the launching pad for a host of the city’s best-known acts, including The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum, Semisonic and The Jayhawks.
“There’s a huge hip-hop scene up there, too, with Atmosphere, and a lot of that,” Garland adds. “There wasn’t really a lot of rock, but punk rock, hip hop, funk, and then national acts. I think that’s why we appreciate so many different forms of music.”
Garland and Scherer first met when they were in middle school. “We went to school together,” Garland says. “He was one grade younger than me. I remember actually seeing him perform — he must have been in the sixth grade, I was in the seventh grade. I would always see him singing with bands — he had a band in high school that was really cool.
“I played guitar and always wanted to be in a band, but I never really had one,” continues the guitarist, who won his first axe, a Fender Squire, in a raffle at the local music store. “Then my senior year, his bandmates were all older and had gone to college. We had a class together, it was first period in the morning — and I’m not good in the morning. I would show up 30 minutes late and would just sleep. I would be drooling on the desk, and Jake would be poking me, ‘Dude, wake up, let’s start a band.’ So I was a senior in high school before I ever actually played in a band. We started playing together and writing songs together my senior year and his junior year.”
That was the fall of 2005 and the band they formed was called A Verse Unsung. Within a couple of years, they had attracted the attention of Atlantic Records. Around that same time, Scherer, who is the band’s principal songwriter, began making periodic visits to Nashville. He signed with SESAC as a writer and they set up writing sessions for him with other local rock writers. One of the first people he connected with was songwriter-guitarist Elisha Hoffman, and over the next few years, he returned often to write with Hoffman, and with his wife, singer-songwriter Rebecca Lynn Howard.
Despite having an offer on the table from Atlantic-affiliated label Photo Finish Records, A Verse Unsung disbanded over creative differences. But Scherer and Garland wanted to continue pursuing music professionally, so they went to work putting together a new band. They added bassist Matt Brady and drummer Ryan Guanzon, and became New Medicine.
“The whole idea is that music is medicine,” Scherer says of the origin of the band’s name. “Music has always been medicine, a healer. When you’re a kid and you’re mad at your parents, you go put Nirvana on in your room. Or if you’re with your friends and you’re partying, you throw on the Beastie Boys and you’re rocking out and singing all the words. Sometimes when you’re sad, you listen to a sad love song and it heals you. So it’s always been healing.”
He pauses, then adds, “Music is kind of the ultimate healer.”
Photo Finish/Atlantic was still interested in Scherer and Garland, so New Medicine was able to secure a deal with the label which resulted in the 2010 release Race You To The Bottom. It was during the making of that record in 2009 that Scherer first met Kadish.
“When we first signed with Atlantic, they said this is a producer we think you would be good with,” the lead singer recalls. “Kevin and I clicked right away. The first day we wrote together we ended up writing ‘Like A Rose.’”
Another song they cowrote at that time was called “Rich Kids,” a pointed commentary on the affluent friends they grew up with in Orono. The band recorded a version of the song with producer Bill Stevenson, but decided they liked the demo of “Rich Kids” they recorded with Kadish better. “We really liked the way we had the song ‘Rich Kids’ with Kevin, so we went and finished out the version he did,” Scherer says. “And that’s the one that’s on the record.”
The title track from Race You To The Bottom was released as a single and climbed to No. 19 on the Mainstream Rock chart. “Rich Kids” was released as a follow-up single and made it to No. 31 on the same chart. The album also featured six songs Scherer cowrote with Hoffman, four of which included Howard as a cowriter.
On the strength of Race You To The Bottom, New Medicine had the opportunity to perform at venues and festivals across the globe. But near the end of 2012, they got word Atlantic was not going to pick up the option for a second record. Prior to that, Brady and Guanzon had been thinking about leaving the band to pursue other interests and that news prompted them to go ahead and make their move. But Scherer and Garland remained undeterred.
“We decided we wanted to do something new, so we moved here early in 2013,” Scherer says. “I’ve always been inspired creatively down here. It was a creative escape for me. Back in Minneapolis, there are so many distractions around family and friends, a lot of distractions mentally. Down here, the only people I knew just did music. And Dan had been down here a couple of times with me and really liked it.”
“Like he was saying, it was an escape for us,” Garland adds. “Where we grew up, being a musician for a living is still not really acceptable, but you move to a city like Nashville and everybody gets it.”
It didn’t take the pair long to add bassist LeBlanc and drummer Dylan Wood to the lineup. “Dylan was obvious,” Scherer says. “We knew we wanted him. We had seen him play opening up for us on tour, and we were like, ‘Wow, that drummer is awesome.’ We called him and he was down right away. And also Dan had been in contact with Kyle through a mutual friend in Houston.”
“New Medicine, no shit,” LeBlanc recalls saying when he heard about the opening from the mutual friend. “Big fan of the band, had seen them a couple of times, so that’s when I got in contact with Dan.”
With the new lineup in place, the band set about finding a new label to work with, and ultimately accepted an offer from Bob Winegard’s Imagen Records. They enlisted Kadish as producer, and went into his studio in Nolensville last November to begin recording what would become Breaking The Model. With only a break for the holidays, they worked on the record for four months and wrapped up production in February.
The majority of the material on the album was written by Scherer and Kadish, but it also includes two Scherer-Hoffman-Howard cowrites, the ballad “All About Me” and the in-your-face rocker “World Class Fuck Up,” on which Scherer declares, “Ain’t gonna stop ’til I drop/ And I’m bringing you the rock.”
Scherer credits Winegard for giving the band the freedom to make Breaking The Model. “He gave us complete creative control, so we got to make a record we love.”