When you’ve spent most of your life on the road, sitting around at home for long periods of time is definitely not an appealing proposition. Josh Rand has been a member of Stone Sour since the band first formed in 1992, but in 2019 he suddenly found himself facing a lengthy period of inactivity when bandmate Corey Taylor returned from touring with Slipknot to announce his plans to make a solo record (last year’s CMFT), effectively putting Stone Sour on hold.
“What you have to realise is that Stone Sour is my whole life,” Josh tells Hammer. “It’s all I know. So with Corey doing a solo record in the time when we’d normally do a Stone Sour record, in between Slipknot tours, it could’ve been five or six years before we did anything again. That got me thinking. I’d always written a ton of music that didn’t make it into Stone Sour, for one reason or another, so this was obviously the golden opportunity to do it. It felt like a chance to seize the day, and that’s turned into The L.I.F.E. Project.”
As showcased on the band’s self-titled debut EP, Josh’s first creative efforts away from his erstwhile day job have taken him some distance away from Stone Sour’s versatile but straight-ahead hard rock approach. Fronted by powerhouse vocalist Casandra Carson, whose bluesy wail was recommended to the guitarist by mutual friends, the new songs have a gnarly, groove-driven edge and large amount of balls-out, alt-metal oomph. Shrewdly, Josh was eager to draw a strong line between projects old and new, and his choice of vocalist reflects that.
“I absolutely knew that I wanted a female singer, at least for some of the songs I’d written,” he explains. “In the end it made total sense. That’s the curse of being in a band with someone like Corey. He’s the most versatile guy out there, and people really fucking love what he does. But any male singer that I work with is instantly going to be compared to him, and that’s not fair on anybody. No one’s going to match up. But with a female singer, and particularly with Casandra because she’s a badass, I can explore this stuff from a fresh perspective.”
As far as Casandra herself is concerned, The L.I.F.E. Project represents a phenomenal opportunity to work with a bona fide rock star and songwriting genius, albeit one of the most humble and self-effacing around.
“To be honest, there are moments when I still can’t believe this is happening,” she grins. “So far we work great together. You know, I’m totally aware of the scale of this opportunity, and I’m incredibly thankful for it. I’m really proud of what we’ve created. It’s a whole new ball game for me, because my band, Paralandra, is more in the classic hard rock mould, and I’ve never really sung in a metal context before. It’s enabled me to discover things about my voice, for sure. It’s all been super-inspiring, and Josh is such a cool guy.”
As chief lyricist on The L.I.F.E. Project’s first batch of material, Casandra has conjured some dark and ominous lyrical conceits for the likes of Purgatory, The Nothingness and A World On Fire. When welded to the kind of giant melodies that you might expect from Josh Rand, the emotional impact is genuinely startling and very obviously from the heart.
“A lot of the lyrics relate to things I’ve experienced, and bad times that I’ve lived through or that my family have been through,” says Casandra. “Most of it was written before we understood the full extent of the pandemic, but of course there are parts that hit a little harder right now. There is a little synchronicity there, I guess.”
With a new band to focus on, Josh sounds genuinely excited about what the next year or two will bring. Lockdown enabled him to fully concentrate on completing The L.I.F.E. Project’s first batch of material, but he admits that his creative streak has continued unabated ever since, and fans of the first EP won’t have to wait long to hear more from him and Casandra.
“We recorded 12 songs so far, and we did a bunch of cover versions when we first started collaborating – we’ll put those online soon, I think,” Josh notes. “But I just wanted to get some of this music out there, and the five songs on this first EP were completely finished. We will either release the other songs as an EP further down the line, or record more songs and make a full album. Right now I don’t exactly know, but I can tell you that we’re only just getting started.”
For Josh, the only potential downside to starting a new band is that, for the first time ever, he finds himself the centre of attention, or at least 50% of it. Fortunately, he is also so thrilled by The L.I.F.E. Project that Stone Sour’s least gobby member is more than happy to step up.
“I guess it does feel kind of weird being the focus. I’m quite happy doing interviews but obviously I’m in a band with a guy who’s a natural at that!
With The L.I.F.E. Project, it’s very much me and Casandra, and it feels like a band to us already.”
The LIFE Project is out now via Bloodblast Distribution