Amy Lee is laughing to herself. She’s come to a realisation of sorts, the irony of her situation not lost on her. “It’s so funny that we named this band Evanescence when we started out,” she says of the platinum-selling goth-rock band of which she is the lead vocalist, pianist and the sole founding member remaining in the fold.
“When we named it that, we were just looking through the dictionary. We were kids, y’know? We didn’t have some big plan, or any real reason why it made sense to call the band that. I didn’t realise how much it would ring true for this band, and how it all moves in cycles.”
For those unaware, the word stems from the Latin phrase evanescere, which translates as “to disappear” or “to vanish.” Lee is considering the nature of the word in relation to Evanescence itself – which, despite having been around for 22 years at this point, has spent more time out of the spotlight than in it. After a world tour in support of 2006’s The Open Door, the band underwent massive internal changes and re-emerged after five years with a brand-new self-titled album in 2011. By the end of the next year, however, they were gone again.
Indeed, every re-emergence of the band leaves many casual observers bewildered – “they still exist?” is the most common response. What, then, becomes of Lee herself when she’s not immersed in the world of recording or touring? The 36-year- old, speaking to Music Feeds from her Brooklyn home, is empathic that despite her public profile and a cult following, she lives her life just like anyone else in Evanescence’s downtime. “I always need time out of the spotlight,” she says.
“I need to live my own life. I had a baby [Jack, now three]. I did some more low-key projects, working on soundtracks and doing some solo recordings that are more indie. I have to go through some normal life – be with my family, go to weddings, go to funerals. I’ve always just really needed music to be a place where I’m completely myself – and I can’t do that if all I’m doing is Evanescence all the time.” Needless to say, each Evanescence album cycle is a considerable undertaking – it comes with huge commitments and with watchful eyes taking note from all over the globe. It brings up conflicting emotions in Lee from a personal standpoint, which explains why the time away from the name and the music itself is required.
“There’s so much passion, energy and emotion involved in what it takes to make new Evanescence music,” she says. “I love it. I always come back to it, in a natural way. Every time we finish a tour, a part of me always wonders, y’know – ‘Maybe I’m done. Maybe I’ll never do that again.’ Not long after that, though, I start craving it. I’m so proud that the name has lasted all this time. We’ve been able to stand up to all the challenges, and I’ve overcome so many different things. I’ve learned how to handle the craziness around it a lot better.”
It would take another three years for the band to surface in present-tense discussion again following their 2012 hiatus, and a further two for new material to emerge – enter Synthesis, an orchestral reworking of the band’s most beloved songs as well as two brand-new songs. Lee says that the project – created in collaboration with her bandmates as well as orchestral conductor and composer David Campbell – has allowed her to appreciate the band’s body of work in a completely different light. By rearranging and deconstructing the songs selected for Synthesis, Lee found herself able to re-affirm her relationship with the songs, as well as appreciate them from an outside perspective.
“It’s really satisfying,” she says. “The older songs are all frozen in time in regards to their original recordings. That’s what we wanted at that exact moment for what was going on. Think about a song like ‘Bring Me to Life,’ for example – it was our first real-deal single. There were so many things we needed it to be. It was our first song recorded in a professional studio. It had a lot of requirements – it could only be so long, it had to be a certain tempo, it had to have that certain punchiness to it. We did what we could to bend the rules, of course, but there was still all this pressure on us. This was going to be the song that we sent around the world – where we tried to make a real go of it.”
‘Bring Me to Life’ was released in April of 2003 – and the rest, as they say, is history. The song went top-five in no less than 16 countries, gaining platinum certification in four of them – including Australia. Still regarded as Evanescence’s signature song, Lee affirms: “We’re incredibly proud of that song and what we were able to achieve with it.” With the re-recorded version for Synthesis, however, Lee feels as though the band are able to explore other elements of the song from a compositional and songwriting perspective. “We came back to the song knowing everything that we know about it now that we didn’t know when we were recording it,” she says. “The perspective has changed. It, and all the other songs on this record, have come to mean so much more. They’ve grown and changed with us as we’ve been performing them over the years. I appreciate that these songs are bigger than myself. What’s more is that the band has changed – we’re different people now. I feel like I’m even more skilled now as a musician and as a singer than I was 15 years ago. I’m more experienced – I’m performing in a way that I couldn’t do, mentally or physically, at the beginning of our career. This record is about finding the heart of this music – the emotion, the meaning. We experimented – we wanted to let these songs be completely fluid. We wanted to put a spotlight on a piece of our sound.”
The Synthesis tour began its North American leg in mid-October, and wrapped up a matter of days ago in Portland. Lee is overwhelmed by the fan response to the tour, which is unlike anything the band has ever undertaken insofar as its structure and its performance style. “It’s been really cool – amazing, actually,” she says. “I can’t compare it to anything I’ve ever done. I’ve never performed with an orchestra for more than, say, two or three songs. To do an entire show with one is an incredible new thing for us. We’ve been playing with the symphony orchestras of each city that we’re in – every day means a whole new group of people, which is equal parts terrifying and exciting.”
This will follow into the next leg of the tour, which will see the band performing in Australia for four shows on the east coast in February. It marks the band’s first time playing here in six years, as well as their debut in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House – on Valentine’s Day, no less. “Can you believe it?” Lee says excitedly. “Oh my God, I can’t tell you how much I’ve been bragging about it!”
Evanescence will bring the ‘Synthesis’ tour to Australia in February 2018. Head here for dates and details.