Utah rock outfit The Used has established its presence in the rock world since its formation in 2001. From releasing basement demos to achieving gold and platinum record statuses, The Used decided to make some major changes with its newest release, Artwork, including a new producer, a change in management and an entirely different approach to making music.
Artwork is the band's first album without John Feldmann as producer. Panic! At The Disco's Matt Squire produced the record.
"We wanted a producer that was just going to sit back more," bassist Jeph Howard said.
The band was also pursuing a different direction than with past albums and wanted a different take on its music.
"We knew how John felt about our band, and it was time for a new vision," Howard said.
Artwork, released in August, rejects the idea of perfection and embraces simplicity.
"We wanted less," Howard said. "Less production, less everything. We wanted the noise. We wanted the mistakes. We wanted the messiness to come out a little bit more. If you look at life, there are mistakes in everything."
Keeping small flaws and mistakes in Artwork created an essential authenticity that would otherwise be absent.
"When you listen to music and all the mistakes are taken out, it sounds weird because it's perfect,” Howard said. “Perfect is wrong. Perfect is pathetic because it's not real. We wanted to make sure there was air in the backgrounds of songs, let the mistakes breath more. Mistakes are beautiful."
Making the album was easier than in the past because of the simplistic take on Artwork, Howard said.
"I think this one was actually easier than the last couple,” Howard said. “The hardest part is always not overdoing it and not doing too much and sitting back a little more. We definitely let things happen more and didn't over-think stuff. Over-thinking is kind of killing it." The writing process is different for each record, including Artwork, which began in 2008. "A lot of things start with the guitar riff we jam into the song or a melody,” Howard said. “We can just take whatever and then jam it out. (Lead singer) Bert (McCracken) does all the lyrics and melodies. It's a lot of life experiences from him."
The Used has always maintained a strong relationship with fans, and with Artwork, it was no different. Prior to the album's release, the band released guitar tabs and encouraged fans to post videos of themselves playing the songs to keep up interest and excitement.
"It's nice to have mystery and have people wondering and guessing, but at the same time I keep up on Twitter, and I like to write and tell people and tell them what's going on, just to get people inside what we're doing day to day,” Howard said. “It's kind of fun to follow your band and have them talk to you and ask questions. It's fun to read what other people think."
No strangers to touring 11 months out of the year and living in vans and buses, Howard has living peacefully down to a science, though it's not always easy.
"You put animals in a cage together, they're going to fight," Howard said. "You put 12 people on a small bus, and they're going to fight. After all these years, you learn how to not piss people off and make them angry. You really learn a lot about people and their personalities."
The band plans to start writing new material within the next couple of months, continuing to push its music in a different direction.
"We're going to use this record as a push to a different area," Howard said. "So the next record is actually going to be more of what this record was or was supposed to be."