This year marks two decades of record-making for Buckcherry, and the group is pushing forward with a new album, “Warpaint,” a revamped band lineup and the kind of rowdy guitar rock sound that has always defined the group — even though guitar rock is almost entirely absent in today’s mainstream pop.
According to Buckcherry frontman Josh Todd, the group just keeps doing what it always has, creating honest music they love and trying to get in front of existing fans and newcomers who might like the band’s music.
“I’m just grateful to be in the game for 20 years. It’s really hard to do,” Todd said in a recent phone interview. “And to have eight records and 20 years in the game, I mean, the first record we had was in 1999, and we’ve never been mainstream since we started. When we dropped our first record, it was rap-rock and what I call nerd rock, the shoe-gazing bands that were around — wearing Buddy Holly glasses and looking down at their shoes. So that’s what was out when we came out.
“So we’ve kind of been on our own little island for 20 years. So that I’m really proud of because it’s pretty hard to maintain.”
Yes, Buckcherry has persevered, pulling through at a couple of points where it appeared the group could have been done.
The first crossroads came not long after the original edition of Buckcherry made a quick impact when its 1999 self-titled debut album went gold and generated three hits, “Lit Up,” “Check Your Head” and “For the Movies.” But the 2001 follow-up, “Time Bomb,” stiffed, and with internal issues worsening, Buckcherry broke up in 2002.
Vocalist Josh Todd went on to attempt a solo career before he and guitarist Keith Nelson reunited in 2005 and brought in three new musicians — guitarist Steve “Stevie D” Dacanay, bassist Jimmy Ashhurst and drummer Xavier Muriel — to form the second edition of Buckcherry.
This lineup made an emphatic debut with the 2006 album, “15.” It featured the hit single “Crazy Bitch,” which landed a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. Another single, “Sorry,” then became Buckcherry’s first Top 10 hit on “Billboard” magazine’s all-genre Hot 100 chart.
This lineup released four more albums before running out of juice after the 2015 album, “Rock & Roll.”
“We just weren’t collectively united. It wasn’t a real band or gang anymore,” Todd said. “Changes needed to happen in order for it to carry on.”
Once again, Todd, took a musical detour before refocusing on Buckcherry. He formed a new side group, Josh Todd & the Conflict and released a debut album, “Year of the Tiger,” in fall 2017.
It was shortly Todd’s album was released that Buckcherry parted ways with drummer Muriel and perhaps more significantly, guitarist Nelson — considering he was an original band member and Todd’s main songwriting collaborator. Todd took the latest transition for Buckcherry in stride, tapping guitarist Kevin Roentgen and drummer Francis Ruiz as replacements and sounding like the lineup change was little more than a bump in the road.
“We moved on, and we’re feeling great as a band again. We made a great record (‘Warpaint’). It was fun making records again. It was a lot of growth, and with growth comes pain and breakthroughs and all that kind of stuff,” Todd said. “It’s funny because the songwriting for ‘Warpaint’ and all the things that happened are so reminiscent of the exact same kind of transition we went through prior to making the record ‘15.’ We’d already been through this kind of stuff, so it was actually refreshing and great.”
Todd is justifiably pleased with the new album. The song “Warpaint” kicks things off with raw guitar riffs and a catchy chorus that takes the song to another level. Subsequent songs like “Right Now,” “Bent” and “No Regrets” carry forward the gritty, hooky and high intensity sound.
Meanwhile, a couple of fine songs, the poppy midtempo “Radio Song” and the country-inflected ballad “The Hunger,” add welcome variety to the “Warpaint” album, and the icing on the cake is a cover of the Nine Inch Nails hit “Head Like A Hole,” which sticks to the original’s arrangement, only with a more stripped-back, hard-hitting rock sound.
The new songs should translate well to the live stage. The only problem is with the deep catalog of Buckcherry songs, Todd will only have room for perhaps five “Warpaint” songs in the set.
“It’s really hard because this is our eighth record,” he said about coming up with a set list. “There are so many songs that we haven’t even played live ever in our whole career. You’ve always got to play the usual suspects like ‘Sorry,’ ‘Crazy Bitch’ and ‘Lit Up’ and those types of songs. And now this new record, it’s just so good I want to play all of the songs.”