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“Complacency is such a disease when you’re in a band,” says Tyler Connolly, singer and guitarist for Theory. “People are so afraid to progress, but you have to change—you can’t just write the same song over and over. So when I saw where this record was going, I said to the other guys, ‘We’re in a car and it’s going off a cliff. Do you want to jump out or ride it to the bottom?’
“With their sixth studio album, Wake Up Call, Theory hit the reset button, diving into a new sound, a new approach, even a new location. The more melodic, intimate style that defines the project is a bold move for one of the leading rock bands in the world. Since forming in British Columbia in 2001, Theory of a Deadman—Connolly, guitarist Dave Brenner, bassist Dean Back, and drummer Joey Dandeneau—have placed nine songs in the Top 10 on the rock charts, including the Number One hits “Bad Girlfriend,”“Lowlife,”“So Happy,”and “Angel.”
Following the success of 2014’s Savages album (which reached the Top Ten on the Hot 100 albums chart, and topped both the Alternative and Hard Rock charts), Connolly began writing again, but he was frustrated by what he was hearing. “The songs all felt like they were in the same place as the last record,”he says, “and I wasn’t happy, I just didn’t like what we were doing.”
He bought a piano for himself, an instrument he had never played, and he soon discovered that it was unlocking something new. “I started writing songs that felt musically different,” he says. “It opened my mind to different ideas, and I think that was the catapult for where this album went.”
But maybe this story starts much further back. Connolly’s father was a piano player, and he grew up surrounded by the sound of the keyboard. “As soon as I started noodling, thirty years of hearing my dad play opened up this whole thing that didn’t exist before,” he says. “There were sounds I heard my whole life but ignored, ingrained inside me.
“It was crazy how fast stuff came out of me,” he continues. “Every time I sat down at the piano, I would write a song. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt such freedom—I could write anything, I felt no fear about upsetting people or pressure to write any specific kind of song.”
Connolly noticed a shift not only in the melodies he was coming up with, but in the words as well. “When I finished the lyrics to ‘RX’ [the first single from Wake Up Call], I felt like I had something to say. I really wanted to write great lyrics, not just throw stuff on there or give the fans something to crank up in the car.”