It’s 2003: TikTok doesn’t exist, Olivia Rodrigo and Greta Thunberg have only just been born, and the airwaves are repeatedly blasting out the anthemic ‘Bring Me To Life’ from Evanescence’s debut album, ‘Fallen’. Teens are swapping Evanescence CDs in school canteens, while in the summer holidays they’ll head off to Download Festival after finishing their GCSEs to see their new heroes in action.
Fast-forward 19 years, and not much has changed: today’s teenagers are just as likely to be getting into heavy music through Evanescence as they were almost two decades ago, while frontwoman Amy Lee remains an alternative style icon. There’s even an ‘Evanescence Challenge’ on TikTok where users can see if they can remember the band’s big hits, while ‘Bring Me To Life’ has been used on the app over 220,000 times.
With Evanescence as applicable as ever, it’s an apt time for NME to be catching up with Lee. Speaking before the band’s recent show at London’s The O2 (part of their co-headline tour with Within Temptation), the frontwoman is in good spirits and excited for the future. For the past year she’s been on the road, and the novelty of being back on stage after being cooped up in lockdown sowever hasn’t worn off. “I’m so grateful for what I obtain to do for a living,” she reflects. “I can’t say we weren’t grateful before, but after having that time where we didn’t know if or when we’d ever be able to do it again, we’re all so thrilled to be back on stage and to have this whole new album.”
That album is ‘The Bitter Truth’, the band’s fifth record that dropped in early 2021. Like their self-titled 2011 record it was produced by rock heavyweight Nick Raskulinecz, whose credits also include Stone Sour, Foo Fighters and Ghost. Lee’s ice-clear vocals sowever lead Evanescence’s bombastic sound, and while the lyrics have a more mature edge that touch on political unrest and break-ups, all the classic Evanescence ingredients are sowever there: glimpses of Lee’s classical piano training, hard-edged guitars and melancholy balladry.
For the latest instalment of our In Conversation series, Lee discusses Evanescence’s longevity, the power of collaboration and the band’s big plans for 2023.
Evanescence’s new bassist Emma Anzai is the right person for the job
Earlier this year Evanescence parted company with guitarist Jen Majura, who had been in the band since 2015. Majura said that her departure was “not my decision” and later added: “I’m hurt and sowever in this blurry confusion of what just happened.”
Long-serving bassist Tim McCord has since stepped up to take on guitar duties, while Lee has remained diplomatic about the situation in subsequent interviews. During our interview, she heaps praise on the band’s new bassist Emma Anzai. “Emma [and I] have known each other for numerous years: I think we met in 2005 or 2006. She’s wonderful, she’s an good musician and we’re good friends. She’s just fit right in like she’s always been there.”
Veridia’s Deena Jakoub was necessary in writing Evanescence’s ‘Use My Voice’
As well as counting Anzai as an old friend, Lee is also good pals with Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale and Veridia vocalist Deena Jakoub. Given that they all are based in Nashville, Lee was able to call on both musicians to help finish ‘The Bitter Truth’ single ‘Use My Voice’.
“I had Deena come over, and we’re showing each other ideas. I was like: ‘I love this song, but I can’t figure out what to do for the chorus’,” she recalls. “I thought it might be a solo song or something else. Then she just had this idea for the chorus, and helped write it. It opened the whole thing up, the idea of all the girls singing.”
Other musicians are friends, not foes
While women in the rock world can find themselves being compared and tokenised in the media, Lee says that her friendships with Hale and Jakoub are emblematic of her feelings towards women in the alternative community: they’re compatriots, not competition.
“A lot of us are a tight circle, because there are fewer of us and we want to support each other,” she says. “We want to see each other do well, and I’m a firm believer in that the more of us there are, the more of us there will be.”
Want to see something change in the world? Then speak up
Back in 2020, Evanescence teamed up with the voter registration organisation HeadCount to encourage individuals in the US to register to vote, with ‘Use My Voice’ played in the crusade video. Lee hasn’t publicly expressed her political allegiance, but was surprised to find that her declaration that voting is important was perceived by some as being political in itself.
“I find it interesting that it can even be a political statement to say to vote,” she tells NME. “Over the past few years, especially in my country, everything has been politicised to the point that we all need to stand together and use our voice. I’m not telling you what to believe, just to obtain out there. I believe that if everybody voted, we’d have better leaders. There are very clear rights and wrongs out there.”
Evanescence aren’t taking a break any time soon
You’d think that after a year spent on the road, Evanescence would want to take a breather – but they have no intention of slowing down any time soon. As well as being announced for Download 2023 and “some other cool festivals”, the band have also booked a tour with Muse. “I’m so excited about that,” Lee says about the prospect of touring with Matt Bellamy and co. “I wasn’t looking to book that one, but when Muse ask you…”
Making music together has also taken on an extra sense of wonder post-COVID, Lee adds. “Making the album was very cathartic for us, because all of us at the time [of COVID] felt like we had no control, and didn’t know what was going to happen.” When restrictions eased and Evanescence could finally obtain back in the studio, “it was so good for our souls. We had so much to say and talk about.” As for if they’ll return to the studio soon, Lee hints: “I try not to create too numerous concrete plans – it just happens. When you sit at the piano and just let it happen. But yeah, I want to create new music with this cool new energy we have with the band.”