According to singer Shimon Moore, the Australian-born hard rock triangle Sick Puppies got their name when a dog “puked on our equipment during rehearsal and walked out like dogs do” prompting a friend to pronounce “that’s one sick puppy.” If you’ve been on the bandwagon from the beginning, that story isn’t exactly news to you, but, if you’re still unfamiliar with this fast-rising trio and their place within the scene, I thought that little anecdote would be an apt place to begin.
They’ve toured with the likes of Nickelback and Breaking Benjamin, written music for the Street Fighter video game franchise, and just released an all-acoustic studio album called “Polar Opposite” on March 1 featuring reworked versions of hits such as “Riptide” and “You’re Going Down.”
In anticipation of their upcoming show on March 15 at Buffalo’s Town Ballroom, I had the opportunity to speak with bassist Emma Anzai about the success of their breakthrough 2009 release “Tri-Polar” and how she envisions the band capitalizing on that good fortune down the road. I found her cordiality and overall passion for the craft most endearing, and hope that much of that charm shines through for the reader.
MNOD: How did growing up in Sydney influence your musical direction?
Anzai: Well, we were sort of exposed to whoever was big enough to break out across the world. Shim and I were both obsessed with Silverchair and wanted to be just like them. They had a tremendous influence on us at the time and ‘Frogstomp’ was the first cd I ever purchased, so I’d have to say that Silverchair impacted us more than any other band. We also listened to Rage Against the Machine a lot as well.
MNOD: What were your expectations for the band when you first started out?
Anzai: Shim and I were both outcasts as kids, so the network for support was limited. We didn’t have a lot of friends or family to inspire us to make it big, but we knew we wanted to go as far as we could. The goal was always to get bigger and bigger in addition to becoming better players along the way, which I’d like to think we’ve achieved to some degree.
MNOD: The latest album “Tri-Polar” represents a heavier sound than your past work. What brought that transition about?
Anzai: While touring with bands like Seether and Evanescence, we saw how audiences reacted to the heavier material and decided to delve further into that area. I think being able to watch those bands on stage every night has made all of us better musicians and a tighter band overall, because we picked up on certain techniques and stage quirks that have been incorporated into our own style. The crowds are really inspired by aggressive songs and we responded to that.
MNOD: I really like the song “White Balloons.” How did that come about?
Anzai: I’m glad you enjoy it. Actually, it almost didn’t make the record, because we weren’t sure how fans would react to that type of ballad. Shim and I engage in a call and response format for the song, which we had never done before. Our underground fan base and world crew ended up loving the song, so it worked out.
MNOD: I think you have a beautiful voice. Do you plan on singing more in the future?
Anzai: Thanks, that’s flattering. I’m not sure yet. We did a mini acoustic album on which I sang, but I don’t have any immediate plans for that yet. I don’t mind doing it.
MNOD: What’s your favorite song from the album?
Anzai: I’d have to say “Odd One,” because a lot of people can relate to being an outcast or loner in high school and we wanted to write a song telling them that there’s nothing wrong with the way they are. Just because you’re not like everyone else doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy everything life has to offer, so Shim and I really felt strongly about that song.
MNOD: “Maybe” has become a hit for you guys as of late. Did you think that it would be as big as is?
Anzai: You never really know, because you’re too close to the song to look at it from an outside perspective. Some songs do well and some not so much. We had a melody that management liked, so we ran with it.
MNOD: How did you feel the first time you were referred to as “The Female Flea?”
Anzai: It was actually an Australian TV station that started that and I was quite flattered when I heard about it. He’s always been a hero of mine and I was thrilled to be mentioned in the same company. I’ve never actually met him, but I’d love to one day.
MNOD: How did you feel when WWE adopted “You’re Going Down” for its commercials?
Anzai: I thought it was pretty cool. We were in the process of writing a lot of fight songs at the time and we had just been asked to write the song “War” for Street Fighter. Wrestling has such an amazing audience that we thought it was a great opportunity to get our music out there. We got to attend a few of the shows and really enjoyed the experience.
MNOD: What did you think when you first saw the “Free Hugs” video?
Anzai: Shim actually made the video using footing from his part-time job holding a sandwich board and the overwhelming response on YouTube was incredible. Our song “All the Same” was featured in the video along with footage of Juan Mann hugging anyone he saw, so I thought it was great. The entire campaign was pretty amazing to watch.
MNOD: How do you see the band evolving in the future?
Anzai: I’m not sure. We just want to keep recording and playing live to hopefully reach a level of success we can be happy with. Our focus has always been on the music and we want to keep getting better in all phases.