It would be difficult to pick one song by which you could define the sound of New Medicine. Favoring hook-laden choruses and downright guitar nastiness over flashiness, New Medicine’s direct approach doesn’t prevent them from breaking out of the mold — the four-piece delve into fresh topics on each song, but they do so while still kicking it into full gear. Their debut album, ‘Race You to the Bottom,’ debuted at #2 on the Billboard New Artist chart, and it features the same level of energy that dominates their live shows. New Medicine are currently on tour with Adelitas Way, Art of Dying, and Emphatic, and have been kick-starting each show with their trademark punch and enthusiasm.
Rock Edition recently had the chance to catch up with New Medicine’s lead singer and co-guitarist, Jake Scherer, as the band was arriving at their Texas A&M tour stop. Read on to learn how Jake approaches singing, songwriting, New Medicine’s live set, and more.
How’s the tour treating you so far?
It’s been awesome so far. We haven’t left the state of Texas but it’s been really, really fun.
That’s great! Is Texas treating you well?
Yeah, definitely. It’s been nice. It’s been warmer than Minnesota, so we’re happy to be down here. It’s 81 [degrees] today. We’re playing the college down here at Texas A&M tonight, so that’s pretty cool. And we’re just about to get to the venue now and get started on another night.
Sounds fantastic. 81 degrees is pretty nice for November. So you’re playing the college [Texas A&M] now — are there any particular gigs or venues you’re looking forward to on this leg of the tour?
Lancaster, PA — we’ve played there at The Chameleon, and that’s where we’re going to be playing again. I always look forward to that place; we’ve played there a bunch of times and have a lot of friends and family that come out, so it’s just a fun one to play. I’m also looking forward to playing Madison because it’s always a good time, and we’re from Minnesota, so it’s not too far from home. And Des Moines — the Midwest ones we definitely love because that’s close to where we’re from. And then obviously we love going out into Florida because the weather is great. So there are a lot of stops we’re looking forward to, and we’re super excited for the whole thing.
That’s great that you get to go to all of these places that you really want to go to. How have the crowds been so far at your past few shows? I’ve noticed that in all of your live videos the audience is really having an awesome time, and even in the comments [on YouTube] your fans are like, “Yeah dude, I had the best time at that show!” Has it kept that energy up?
Yeah, the shows have been surprisingly — actually, overwhelmingly — good. We weren’t sure what to expect. Adelitas Way just had a #1 single, and everybody’s had some success on radio, but in the end, all four bands are new on the scene. The pre-sales sometimes might be low, but then the walk-up has been huge, so it’s been really just pleasantly surprising to see how many people come out, and all the shows are packed. We just played Odessa the other night and saw a ton of people there that came back. We’ve played there a few times with Halestorm and Hollywood Undead, and to see the amount of people that came back and the support we had there, was just great.
That’s fantastic! I’m really happy to hear it. Where are you in the schedule for each night: do you play early on, or toward the end?
We’re on first, actually, on this tour. And you know what? We’ve had that spot before, and we’re good at it. We know how to get everybody going. And yeah, we don’t care when we play, we just love to play, and we’re happy to be out there.
That’s great. About your singing — you really seem to be going all out whenever you sing, how does your voice fare over individual shows and over a tour this long? Do you need to take any particular precautions?
Sleep is the number one thing — getting a lot of sleep, and also drinking a lot of water. And just taking care of it and making sure I don’t scream it out. Some nights when I’m really excited, it’s hard not to. Sometimes you just give it so hard that you’re rough on the voice, but I’ve been doing this long enough that usually every show my voice just gets stronger, and by the end of the tour I can just go all the way. I also work out a lot, so that helps me. I run every day to make sure I have the wind to keep singing.
Nice. I’ve noticed you really put everything into it when you’re working the crowd, so that’s fantastic that, like you said, your voice gets stronger throughout the tour.
Yeah, definitely. I guess I’m just lucky for that. It’s something I’ve had to learn on the first tours I did. I used to just stay up all night and not take care of my voice, and I’d pay for it and struggle through a show. In the last couple years, I’ve just dialed it in to where I know what to do and what not to do, so that my voice is always one hundred percent. And I’ve been singing since I can remember, so it comes natural to me, you know?
I saw a video snippet of a New Medicine rehearsal — it was on your band’s page…
It was the Halloween update where you had said that you were really stoked about practicing in the garage again and being a garage band. What was that like, having that feeling again? Did it help you get pumped for the tour?
Yeah, it did. We were on tour in August, but we’ve had off for almost all of September and October. We’ve been working on new stuff and had a bunch of stuff going on at home, but we haven’t been out on the road on a serious tour, and it was the first break we’ve really had. To get back out was awesome, and it’s a great feeling. It’s one thing to play guitar by yourself in a room, but it’s better when everything comes together and you just feel that power of all four of us going together. Being back in the garage reminded me of when we started, which was cool. So it was really fun.
That’s awesome. So you guys have been writing new material — do you also write when you’re on the road?
Yeah, definitely. Sometimes it’s harder to, because we have so much stuff going on every day, and when you get a day off, you just want to go watch a movie and just chill or something, but sometimes you get an idea or someone says something that pops into your head and you think, “That would be a good song.” On stage, while soundchecking, we write our sweet riffs and remember them and finish them when we get home.
Do you just throw it down on a quick recording device and then flesh it out once you have a breather?
Yeah, exactly. A lot of times I just put it on my phone, actually. I’ll just do a little voice note and remember it. But sometimes, we have a Pro Tools rig out here, too. I’ll just mess around on that sometimes, but we’re in a van still, so it’s a little bit tight, and it’s hard to bring a lot of extra gear like that, but we have enough ways to get it down in GarageBand or on the phones or something. Then, when we get home, we can flesh the ideas out, like you said.
When you’re writing, do you tend to write on guitar, or do you maybe come up with a vocal melody in your head, or some lyrics? What’s the impetus when, say, you’re writing on your own, or when the band’s writing together?
It depends. Sometimes just a lyric will come to mind, you know? Like, “Oh, that would be a good title for a song.” Sometimes I’ll come up with just a melody and a guitar riff. It depends on where it comes from. I try to do stuff that comes as naturally as possible, so it kind of comes from all over the place. I like writing with an acoustic guitar and my voice because that just gives me the most bare-bones way to write a song and get the melody and the lyrics, which is the most important part.
And in particular, I wanted to mention that your choruses are really hook-y. How do you know when you’ve written a vocal line that’s really easy to latch onto and that people are going to want to belt out with you?
Sometimes when you’re writing a song — right when you write it — you might think it’s the best song ever. I think it’s natural to think that. But then, usually a couple days later, I’ll just go back and listen to it and get a demo recorded of it, and once you’ve fleshed it out with the whole band playing it, it just makes sense and that melody shines through and right on the spot you just know it. It just depends, but not every song you’re going to write is going to be great. If you just write enough of them and you keep working hard, then you can get there. And that’s what we’ve always done — we made sure to just keep writing and always outdo ourselves.
That’s a great way of going about things. For your album, ‘Race You to the Bottom,’ was there a lot of that? Did you write a lot more songs than went on the record and thought, “Okay, these are the best of what we have”?
Yeah, definitely. We probably had 25 songs picked out for that record, and we picked 11 or 12. It’s definitely a process, and you wanna put the best of the best on there and give fans and everybody in the world the best you’ve got. Not every song you write is the best song ever, and they need to all flow together. Songs are definitely the most important part — that’s why we’re out here. The most important thing that there is is having great music. I mean, anybody can play guitar, anybody can sing — well not anybody, but you know what I mean.
Yeah, I know what you mean.
You’ve gotta have something to say, or your song has to mean something.
Absolutely. Do you feel that when you write songs, you write them more for being played live or more for recording and having on an album? I tend to get the feeling that the focus is on the live performance.
Well, yeah. I’ve always played in bands, so that’s always a factor for me. You’ve gotta be able to play it live, and it’s gotta sound sweet live, and it’s gotta have energy, and it’s gotta be right. A great song is a great song, and if it’s a great song, people are going to want to sing those words live, and if it’s got a great feel to it, that’s what we always go for. We want something that once we play live is going to connect with people.
More about ‘Race You to the Bottom’ -– it really captures the energy of a live show, so what went into really nailing that feel?
On the album?
Yeah, on the album.
A lot of it is just when you go into it — it’s like taking one song at a time and making sure every part on it has energy — every single vocal line has to be perfect and have that energy in it, and if it doesn’t have the energy, we’ll do it over until we get right. And then, as for translating that live, we just go out there and try to give it one hundred and ten percent. Also, we don’t want to play the same setlist every tour, so on this tour we have a completely different setlist, and I’ve already had people come up to me so far and be like, “Whoa, I saw you guys a couple months ago and this was a way different set — I haven’t heard that song.” We’re playing a new song on this tour and that’s cool, and so, yeah.
I’ve noticed that the pacing of ‘Race You to the Bottom’ is pretty interesting. There are really heavy songs followed by sort of mellower songs, but still, again, very energetic [overall]. I was going to ask how you used to approach that and how you’re approaching that now with this new setlist.
We try to keep it interesting. It always seems boring to me to have every song sound the same when you listen to an album. I think people pigeonhole themselves into doing one thing, and I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. We can do a bunch of different things, and so we try to do that on the album, as well as live. We want to take you on a journey. No matter if it’s on the album or it’s live, we want you to follow us, and by the end of our set, we want you to know us and feel like you can hang out with us — and when we get off stage, you can come say “Hi,” and you’ve learned something about us and you just feel that energy that we put off.
Yeah, definitely. You guys certainly seem like an approachable bunch — again, back to your website, I recently saw the “Meet Dan” video. I thought it was a very “intimate” setting.
I was wondering, do you have anything in mind right now for your “Meet Jake” video? Are you going to be doing that soon?
I think I might be last, but I’m thinking of it. We’re gonna see how Dan’s goes and see where that takes us, but it’s going to be interesting. We’re gonna do one for each person in the band. Dan’s up first, and he’s already got a lot of interesting questions.
What kind of questions has he received so far?
Oh, I don’t even know. He’s really bad with names, but a lot of people will ask him, “Do you ever remember fans names? Blah blah blah blah blah… I’ve met you three times blah blah blah blah blah…,” and he doesn’t. He doesn’t mean to do it, but he sometimes forgets names, and we meet a lot of people. I don’t know what else. Something about his hair? I don’t know. There’s tons of stuff that people are asking. It’s all on our Facebook and our Formspring and it’s been really cool because it’s a way that fans can ask what they want to ask.
Are you really looking forward to getting questions?
I guess so. We’ll see how it goes. I hope I get good questions. [laughs] I hope it goes well for me.
I’m sure it will. Jumping back again to ‘Race You to the Bottom’ and about pacing, you said how you like to keep things interesting and you like to mix things up. One particular track order that really stood out to me was going from “Rich Kids” to “Little Sister.”
Just the jump in feel and lyrical content is definitely there. What went into making the decision of having those two tracks next to each other, and do you do that live, and I guess you’ve already said this, but what does this say about you as a band?
Well, I guess it just shows you that I’ve seen too many bands write about the same thing about a chick. They’re always like, “Oh, my heart’s broken blah blah blah,” or “I’m pissed off,” “you cheated on me, I cheated on you,” or whatever it is. It’s just the same old story, and every song we have on our album is something that is real to us that we think people can relate to. “Rich Kids” is a song I wrote because that’s how I grew up — I grew up in a town with a lot of rich kids who didn’t really have to earn things in life, and a lot of things were handed to them but they weren’t to me, and maybe it was jealousy or whatever, but a fire lit under me and I had to write that song. And “Little Sister” is about my sister that passed away. I think a lot of people can relate to that, and it’s just one of those things, like, I’m going to take you on a journey and I’m not gonna just write about the same thing. I want people to go “Whoa!”
Yeah, absolutely, and it really shows that your band has a diverse feel, and it shows just how much you’ve gone through, and like you said, people can really relate to what you’re singing about.
Yeah, and it just shows that we’re not afraid to step out of the boundaries. There are no rules to music: the same band played both of those songs, and they’re right next to each other on the album, but they’re all us and they’re all real.
Again, about songs having different feels, the piano part in “It’s a War” really stood out to me.
Yeah, because it really lends a different feel there. Do you try to get that part in there live? And whose idea was it? Do one of you guys play piano?
I can dabble on piano, but Brady is a good piano player. We were just like, “God, it would be awesome to have a cool piano part in the bridge,” and he just came up with that part, and it’s just so great for the recording. We don’t actually do it live. Brady has to play bass and he can’t play piano and bass, and we don’t have a piano player, but on the record it’s on there and it’s great and it’s one of my favorite bridges in any song we’ve ever written, and the lyrics and just the feel of it is really cool, and we love that. We’re super proud of that song; we love that song.
Another sonic thing that stood out to me was the guitar solo in “Race You to the Bottom.” The solo has this cool old school fuzz. It sounded like an Octavia pedal or something.
Yeah, it is an octave pedal.
Oh wow, okay, I’m proud of myself now for recognizing that.
Nice! Awesome.[laughs] Are you big into guitar gear? Do you and Dan play with each others’ gear?
Yeah, I’m always all about weird and old [gear]. We’ve recorded a lot of stuff on an old Sears amp, like a Silvertone, and we love getting weird stuff and putting whatever pedals together to make something different and cool. And it was just like the “anti solos,” how like, instead of trying to rip off some fast, arpeggiated solo or some scale-y thing, let’s just do an old school, nasty solo, and that’s great, and live it’s always really fun. Dan loves playing that solo — it’s awesome. I love the sound of it on the record and live; it’s just dirty and nasty and I love that.
Yeah, that tone really stands out for me. And your tone throughout the album is really great. So I noticed you have Orange amps; I saw them in your backline and in that snippet of rehearsal. Are you still using Orange amps? What draws you to them?
Yeah, I use an Orange Rockerverb 50 with an Orange cab. And Dan actually uses Bogner amps. He has the Shiva and he uses a Bogner cab. And Brady uses a classic Ampeg and cabinet.
Yeah, the SVT classic. Yep.
Awesome. Yeah, again, your tones are really great.
Yeah, those Orange amps are great.
Which guitars have you brought out with you on the road?
I bring four guitars. I have one tuned to standard E, and then I have two in drop D, and then I have one in drop C, which is a full step down with the top string down as well. I have an American Deluxe Telecaster that I use for the songs in C. The guitar is nasty and holds up really well in that tuning. It’s just really dirty and sounds super crunchy — I love the sound it gets. I’ve taken that guitar on every tour we’ve ever been on, I think. And then I have a Les Paul, which I use on “The Takeover” and “Rich Kids.” And I have my SG, which I love. I just got the SG like eight months ago, and it’s super hot. I use that one on songs like “American Wasted” and “Laid” and some other songs. I also have an Epiphone Sheraton which I only keep in standard E, and I play that on “Race You to the Bottom.” It’s just old school and big and I love it, and it’s the perfect song to play it for.
That’s awesome. I’m surprised to hear that the Telecaster does that well in drop C. You don’t usually expect that in a Tele.
Yeah, I play really big strings, but the intonation on it just stays really well, and even tuning it down that low feels great. The action’s also great on it that low, and it just rips in that tuning, so I love it.
That’s super cool, man. I really like the album art on ‘Race You to the Bottom,’ but who’s in that mascot suit?
Who is it or…?
Was it one of the dudes in the band wearing it, or was it photoshopped in there?
One of the photographers was actually in the suit. It’s actually a shot from Coney Island in New York, and one of the photographers that took a bunch of pictures for the album art was actually in the suit. We got that suit somewhere online. We were looking for some weird, ominous, Donnie Darko thing, and we just wanted to put that in front of something, like an amusement park. We love it.
Yeah, it is really cool. It definitely stands out.
It goes along with everything else, man. We wanted to be a little different, you know?
Absolutely. And you have that same approach with your music videos, I’ve noticed. They have very defined stories. “Resolve to Fight” in particular stands out to me. How involved are you in the making of your music videos?
That was actually a friend of ours that did that video — well, a friend of mine that I met in high school. I wrote the song with him, and he was like, “Dude, my friend John is a director, and he loves that song, and he has a great concept for you.” So he came to the table and he had this whole storyboard written out and these pictures drawn of what he wanted it to look like, and we kind of let him run with it. We weren’t sure what he was actually capable of, and he had these big ideas like, “We’re gonna have a ray gun” and “He’s gonna go take out the guys,” and we’re just like, “How are you gonna do all of this stuff? But all right, let’s see what you’ve got.” We showed up the first day to shoot our scenes and it was apparent right from then [that the video was going to be good]. We got through the first shots and we went back and looked in the camera and he was like, “Check this out — what do you guys think?” We were just like, “Holy shit, we love it!” It was just amazing. He did a fantastic job. Also, he did a lot of it himself, as we weren’t even able to be there for a lot of it because he shot most of it in Austin while we were on tour. We’re definitely involved, though. We did another video, for “Baby’s Gone,” which hasn’t come out yet, but we actually wrote the treatment for that video, so we’re very involved. So that one will be coming out sometime this year, or maybe early in 2012. But for this one [Resolve to Fight], John had this great idea, we loved it, and we let him run with the ball on it, and it just turned out great.
Yeah, it absolutely did. I think it says a lot about really featuring the video and the story behind the video, because you have that introduction in the beginning, you break in the middle, and you have the part at the end. Very well done on that.
Yeah, it’s a really cool story.
How does it feel to be watching that? How do you feel about the song with that break in the middle there?
I think it’s cool, because it’s like a real story. It’s like a movie almost, where it’s got an intro, there’s no music, and it starts, it stops in the middle to let it all sink in, and it’s like the moment of truth where he confronts everybody and he’s like, “Screw you guys.” And then he does it and it comes back in to finish it off. We love it. I think it’s great, and it lets the whole story sink in. And at the end as well, when all of the people come up and they have the “Now Hiring” [sign], it’s just kind of ironic and lets it sink in — I like that.
Definitely. So I think I’m fresh out of questions, but I wanted to ask, you’ve mentioned that you’ve been doing some writing and might write on the road — do you know when you’ll head back into the studio?
I’d say next year at some point. There’s no defined date; we have a brand new single out right now, “Race You to the Bottom,” and it’s doing really well. It just started on radio, and we’re going to definitely be pushing that. We have a new video for “Baby’s Gone” as well that we want to get out. We’ve definitely been writing, and we want to have plenty of extra songs so that we can do the same thing on the next album and make sure it’s great. I’m really excited for our sophomore album. We’re always trying to outdo ourselves, and I think we will; I think it’s gonna be a big moment for us. So, we’re very excited, and we’re just not sure when it’ll be out, but it’ll definitely be out sometime next year.
Pick up New Medicine’s debut album, Race You to the Bottom.
For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.