Lifehouse is about to take the stage at Manila’s Araneta Coliseum in the Philippines. With nearly 25,000 seats, the Araneta is the largest music venue in Southeast Asia.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” says Bryce Soderberg, the group’s bassist.
They ended up selling out the arena.
“Everyone there knew our songs and screamed like we were in the freakin’ Beatles,” says Soderberg. “We could barely hear our instruments. At that point I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I have this life.’”
Since No Name Face, the band’s multi-platinum debut album from 2000, Lifehouse has climbed its way into the upper echelons of mainstream rock, garnering Top 40 radio play and gathering a vast following thanks to hits like “First Time,” “You and Me” and “Hanging By A Moment” (the single from No Name Face). Originally the brainchild of lead singer Jason Wade and drummer Ricky Woolstenhulme, Jr., the trio-turned-four-piece (with the addition of guitarist Ben Carey in 2005) is out with a fifth studio album, Smoke and Mirrors, released back on March 2. While the album features its share of pop-rock songs—with that upbeat, “four on the floor” flavor Lifehouse has perfected during its decade-long career—tracks like “Nerve Damage” illustrate the group’s versatility and ability to mesh sounds together to create a harder rock feel.
“Basically, we wanted to capture the essence of what we’d been doing on the road for the last two and a half years,” says 30-year-old Soderberg, who joined Lifehouse in 2004. “The live side of what we do is really important to the studio side of it. So there’s those two sides to Lifehouse that show on this record, and that’s where [the title] Smoke and Mirrors kind of ambiguously ties in to that.”
Indeed, Lifehouse is more a touring band, with a booming sound complemented by driving melodies that easily washes over crowds at large venues. They first cut their teeth as a touring force after their sophomore record Stanley Climbfall was released in 2002.
“You grow together as a band when you’re on the road,” says Soderberg. “It’s like summer camp: you do all your bonding, you figure out what pisses each other off and how you can get along . . . and as you tour on the road, on stage you bond and you lock and you get tighter.”
As the group set out to record Smoke and Mirrors, plenty of that live, driving sound infused itself into the initial cuts. Soderberg notes that this latest release had its beginnings in “a bunch of live, organic rock tracks” that weren’t pre-rehearsed.
“We did a bunch that were kind of classic rock influenced,” says Soderberg.
But if the harder, classic-rock feel of Lifehouse is the smoke, midway through recording the guys began wondering where the pop-rock, mainstream, radio-friendly side to Lifehouse had gone.
“We kinda realized we had to appeal to both sides,” says Soderberg.
To tap back into that quintessential Lifehouse sound, the guys enlisted the help of Kevin Rudolph, who helped co-write “All In,” “It Is What It Is” and “Halfway Gone,” the single off of Smoke and Mirrors.
“Kevin has this kind of pop, rock and hip-hop side to him, an element we never really dove into,” notes Soderberg. “And co-writing with him fused together the live and the pop side.”
Chris Daughtry, a friend of the band for the past few years, also joined Lifehouse in the studio, helping to co-write “Had Enough” along with Lifehouse lead singer Jason Wade and singer-songwriter Richard Marx.
“When we finished the song we were like, ‘Man, this is really good.’ So we invited him [Daughtry] into the studio and he sang the harmonies on it,” says Soderberg. Daughtry and his band are currently on tour with Lifehouse, exciting for both bands since play a similar style of rock, but also because “we’re sharing fans,” says Soderberg. “That’s what music’s about—sharing and collaborating.”
When the Los Angeles-based foursome isn’t on the road, they enjoy spending their down time with each other, often getting together at Woolstenhulme’s home to barbecue. “That’s a cool thing about us,” says Soderberg. “Since we’re so close, we even hang out when we get home.” And when they are on the road, they go against the stereotypical rock music lifestyle.
“We all have matured and we all know how to do this business professionally, and we stay clean. We don’t do drugs, we don’t party too crazy. We show up on time. We have a great lifestyle,” says Soderberg.
For now, Lifehouse is looking to continue that “great lifestyle.” According to Soderberg, they plan to be on tour for the next couple years promoting Smoke and Mirrors.
“There’s so many bands out there that don’t get the chance to even release a record, let alone release a follow-up,” says Soderberg. “We have a fifth album and all of them have been moderately successful and we’re grateful. And having that sort of mentality is what gets you to go further. If you’re trying to reach for the stars all the time, be the biggest band in the world, then you’re going to be ungrateful for what you do get. We have fun, [and] we keep a good head on our shoulders. We’re thankful for everything that we have.”