“I think it was probably one of the best-sounding songs we’ve ever created, considering the circumstances,” recalls Chiodos keyboardist Bradley Bell of the much-debated, much-loved “missing” Chiodos song, “Thermacare.” “We just did a demo of it that wasn’t produced by any means,” he says. “It wasn’t perfect and the structure of it was a complete mess.”
During the summer of 2009, the post-hardcore band were headlining Warped Tour and had begun writing material for the follow-up to their hit record, Bone Palace Ballet. Creative sessions among the band members were frustratingly slow due to internal strife, burnout from over-touring and ongoing conflicts with their lead singer, Craig Owens. (See this month’s Chiodos cover story on stands now [Issue #290/September 2012]).
Owens remembers that despite many of the band members' intentions, they weren’t able to get all the writing done before Warped had ended. “We only got one song done,” he says. “[The writing of the record] was still in the beginning stages. We were all writing, and I was so unhappy with myself and with where everything had gone. I just wouldn’t even show up [to write]. I wasn’t happy and I felt like we had a lot to discuss and work on, but communication between us was just done at that point. Nobody was talking to anybody and I felt like we couldn’t get anything done.”
One demo that did come to fruition was “Thermacare.” Those who heard it during the final few weeks of Warped 2009 ascribed to one opinion: This was the song that was going to take Chiodos forward and upward. Many point to the work of Goldfinger frontman/producer John Feldmann, who had started writing with Owens months before Warped Tour began and was in consideration to be the producer of Chiodos’ next record. Feldmann met Owens for the first time on a day off while performing in Australia at the Soundwave Festival with Goldfinger. “[Goldfinger] really don’t hang out on days off anymore after all these years, so I was just kinda doing my own thing,” he recalls. “I was just walking across this crosswalk and Craig Owens was coming the other way and I had actually seen him on the cover of AP—that’s how I knew who he was. It was a total coincidence because out of the 80 or so bands on Soundwave, out of the three people that I met, Craig Owens was one of them.”
Feldmann hadn’t heard Chiodos’ music yet, but knew from his own discussions with Anthony Green (who had appeared with Owens in Rich Balling’s ad hoc project the Sound Of Animals Fighting) that it was a group he should be aware of. Feldmann gave Owens his number and told him to give him a ring to see what they could do together. “When we got back to the States, he and [manager] Dave Taylor came over to my house at 8 a.m., which I was super-stoked about because both Craig and I are early-morning guys,” Feldmann says. “We went out to breakfast and talked about his vision for the new Chiodos record.” Feldmann put it all on the table, telling Owens he wasn’t like their previous producers, that he was very much a hands-on type behind the board, more along the style of the Beatles’ infamous producer George Martin.
Backyard songwriting sessions with Feldmann are pretty much a staple if you’re going to work with him on your record. It was during one of these sessions that “Thermacare” began. “We set up a writing session and the first thing he played me was ‘Thermacare,’ which they had music to and Craig had some melodies and some lyrics to, already. We just sat down with the laptop and a guitar in my backyard and just went through the concepts: What are we talking about? Who’s this about? We talked in detail about his life—his ex-girlfriend and everything that was going down at the time. All I really did was help him with some melodies and tied some lyrics cohesively together. It wasn’t a true co-write, though.”