By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BUCKLEY — The last time Drowning Pool played in northern Michigan, Ryan McCombs was belting out the group’s hard rock.
This time around, things will be different.
McCombs left the band in November 2011 to rejoin his old band, Soil, and now the outfit has Jasen Moreno on lead vocals.
“As far as the dynamic within the band, it’s been a little easier,” said bassist and founding Drowning Pool member Stevie Benton. “The last year or so with Ryan (McCombs), there was a lot of head-butting going on. A lot of personality conflicts happening. It was difficult at times to be on the road together.
“But so far with Jasen, we all get along really well. He’s a pretty laid-back guy, with not too many vices going on. He’s a little easier to get along with on a day-to-day basis. It’s been a nice change.”
The band — perhaps best known for its hit “Bodies” — plays June 28 at the Southside Festival Grounds in Buckley. The opening acts are Eye Empire, Even the Dead Love a Parade and Six Foot Soul.
The Southside locale is one of several on this tour that are outdoors, which Benton said are a welcome change of pace.
“This tour we’ve been on the past few weeks has been a mix,” he said. “A few outdoor shows and a lot of dark, smoky club shows as well. Something new every day.
“Dialing up your sound, whether it be inside or out, is a lot different. Honestly, I love it when it’s like this. If there’s one downside to being on the road, it’s that everything gets a little monotonous. So to just change it up a little every day, it kinds of keep you on your toes and keeps you from getting bored,” Benton said.
Original lead singer Dave Williams saw “Bodies” reach No. 6 on the charts, as well as two other hits — “Sinner” and “Tear Away” — before he died of cardiomyopathy in August 2002.
“We started off with Dave, and he was definitely one of a kind,” Benton said. “There’s never going to be any replacing him. There’s been some bumps in the road along the way. I certainly never would have foreseen our career path working out like this. But once it happened, once Dave passed, it’s been a struggle to recapture that chemistry we started with. So rather than just stick with the status quo — if it wasn’t working — even if it was more difficult, we’d rather just cut ties and try it with someone else. Grasp for the straw, if you will.”
Jason Jones was the first of Williams’ replacements. The band’s only album with Jones at the helm, “Desensitized,” produced the hit “Step Up” (No. 7) and minor hits “Lova and War” and “Killin’ Me” before Jones departed after just one year, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
McCombs was brought on from 2006-11, although that relationship fell apart at the end as well. McCombs’ tenure was marked by two albums that produced six hits, including two which charted higher than “Bodies”: “37 Stitches” (No. 5) and “Feel Like I Do” (No. 4).
“I don’t know that there’s a lot of bands that have had the same career path as us,” Benton said. “We’re blazing new trails, I guess.”
Hailing from the same town — New Orleans — as the rest of the band, Moreno’s first album with Drowning Pool came out last year and has issued two hits in “Saturday Night” and “One Finger and a Fist.”
“Jasen, we’ve known him for a long time,” Benton said. “He grew up in the same hometown as us and came from the same music scene, so we’ve kind of come back a little more to where we started. Tone-wise, his voice is a little closer to what Dave’s was. Because he’s from the same area, he’s got the same kind of vibe. It feels a little more natural for us. Hopefully that will grow and continue on to something.
“He’s not a big ego, ‘It has to be my way’ type of guy. It’s give and take. We’ve always tried to run the band as democratically as we could and he’s cool with that. There’s way less headache and hassle with making this record, which was a nice change.”
Benton says the band is working on new material while on the road and aims to record a new album when touring allows it.
“Hopefully soon, because it’d be nice to get past this ‘Jasen’s the new guy’ stigma that always happens when we switch singers,” Benton said. “If we can get on to the next record as soon as possible, so that’s not part of the equation anymore, I’d be happy about that.”
Tickets are $20 in advance and $35 for VIP, and go up $5 on the day of the show. They’re available at startickets.com or in person at RPM Records in Traverse City or the Southside Hideout in Buckley.