The band, who have sold 8 million albums in the U.S. and took home the 2004 Best New Artist Grammy, has been largely absent from the mainstream rock scene for the majority of this decade. After releasing 2011’s self-titled album, the band’s lineup continued to shift as it has since co-founder Ben Moody departed in 2003, while Lee took some time off to start a family and raise her now five-year-old son. The band returned another new lineup — two women and three men — in 2017 for “Synthesis,” an electro-orchestral re-recording of mostly previous material that was warmly received by fans but still a stylistic departure from the band’s rock radio heyday.
So when Microsoft Xbox debuted the trailer for its highly anticipated “Gears 5” from its hit “Gears of War” series in September, fans both old and new got a chance to reacquaint themselves with Lee’s haunting soprano on a string-soaked rock cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Originally conceived as a solo cut for Lee to sing against the game’s score, Evanescence went into the studio to record a full-length version of the single that was released in late November.
The trailer helped tee up Microsoft’s biggest first-week performance for a new title since 2012’s “Halo 4.” It also doubled as a fittingly blockbuster announcement for the proper return of Evanescence, which includes the band’s first all-new album in nearly a decade, tentatively set for release next year.
“It’s been so long since we’ve put out a full new Evanescence album that I think it’s important to re-find our new center and embrace what the band is,” Lee says. “I don’t want it to be a huge departure. I want us to come back to the roots of the core of the band’s sound, but at the same time it’s gonna be rock.”
Songs for Screens caught up with Lee about recording the Fleetwood Mac cover (and the uncanny parallels with her own band), writing new music and how motherhood has re-shaped her perspectives.
How did the cover of “The Chain” come about?
It started with “Gears.” They approached me about just singing the music that you hear in the new “Gears of War” trailer, and there was a programmer and producer named Bobby who played me the [instrumental of the] song. I loved the whole idea of the song, but I really wanted the rock to come in and make it into an Evanescence cover. So I said yes, on the condition that my band needs to do this, let us take the rest of the way and make a full version of the song. So I got the band on it, and we were all just really excited about the opportunity to do something new and fresh. It was really fun be with Bobby, the producer who started that preliminary take, and Evanescence-ify it.
Did you identify with the gaming aspect, or the lead character in “Gears 5” in particular?
I am a gamer. I can’t say I’ve had a special connection to “Gears” in the past, but I’m getting into it now. I’m a total noob. I am obsessed with “The Legend of Zelda,” the entire franchise — I only have one tattoo on my entire body, and it’s three life hearts. I still play video games to go to sleep at night, instead of reading books like a smart person would.
So the gaming part appealed to me, but also the film and score. I love when I can get these rare opportunities to be a part of a project that is bigger than myself and both visual and musical. From a really young age, what I thought I wanted to do was make movie music. The emotion that’s coming across that trailer and all the anticipation, that gets me really excited to be able to be a part of that voice and the internal monologue of the viewer.
In covering “The Chain,” did you see the parallels between your band and Fleetwood Mac, who has also had several high-profile lineup changes over the years? Particularly with a song specifically about some of that inter-band turmoil?
We all love Fleetwood Mac and there are places as individuals where our tastes are different. But this was something we all agreed on, and have loved all our lives. So that in itself was really cool. I loved the original, but this is definitely very different from that song. It has a new feeling to me, it’s like we’re up against something trying to tear us apart and standing and trying our hardest to hold on through that. That’s something I super relate to, having been in a band for maybe 25 years, and at this point it’s been a big part of my life to hold a band together. Sometimes it’s easier than others.
[Guitarist] Jen [Majura]’s the newbie. She’s been with us since 2015, and the other guys have been with me for over a decade now. We’ve seen a lot together, from manager and label drama to just surviving. And thriving, too – we’re a weird little family. It was definitely something that spoke to me on a lyrical level, and I wanted to make that song ours all the way. And one of the ways to do that was to make everybody sing. So at the end of the song I put everybody on it and gave them a part to sing. And I also that it was super cool, as a random side note, that Fleetwood Mac is three guys and two girls, and we are too, which is kind of a rare combination.
You’re also working on your first album of original material as a band with this latest lineup configuration, and the first new Evanescence album in nine years. How’s that taking shape?
The writing process has been really fun so far. We’ve been working just here and there, doing our little band camp wherever it makes sense. Whether it’s at my house, which we’ve done a couple times, or we went out in the woods in Canada at a ski resort in the off-season doing our own engineering. Having different spaces is really important for us to keep everything fresh and not feel stuck like this is a job or it’s work. It is work, but it has to be something that you want. We are really craving making this new music. We’ve loved being on tour so much.
You’ve also become a mother since the last proper Evanescence album, with your five-year-old son. How has he shaped your overall creative process?
It’s definitely shaped our whole work ethic. Right now, we’ll go on tour, come home, have some family time, go into the studio, so we’re constantly flexing different muscles. I’m historically hyper-focused, and I can’t do anything else until I finish the one thing in front of me. And sometimes that takes a really long time. Since having [my son], you have to learn to focus on more than one thing and multitask.
Do you have a timeline for the new music yet?
I don’t. The reason I can’t share one is, first of all it’s not done. We’re thinking about releasing it in a different way this time. It may not be as long as you think. We’re toying with the idea of how to think differently and not release it all at the same time. It might be cool to bring everybody along the way with us while it starts coming out.