If Barry Kerch had his way, Shinedown, the band he has co-piloted for 12 years, would be in the same league as U2 and the Rolling Stones.
OK, so he not the first rock drummer to dream big. But Kerch isn't necessarily referring to megastardom with such a desire. His admiration sits primarily with the longevity of those bands.
"We want to be one of those bands where we can do this for a lifetime. That's the Holy Grail, really: to be able to do this for life. That's what we're striving for."
The next step in that quest comes Saturday, when Shinedown plays Rupp Arena with a hard rock bill that includes Three Days Grace and P.O.D. Will the show take the Florida-bred band a step closer to a life sentence in rock 'n' roll? Quite possibly. The band's album Amaryllis entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at No. 4 less than a year ago and shot a trio of guitar-saturated singles — Enemies, Bully and Unity — onto rock radio.
Shinedown's touring visibility got a lift, too.
"We're known as a touring band," Kerch, 36, said. "We tour a record for two or three years. That's really what you have to do as a rock band these days. You have to get out on the road, you have to get in front of your fans, you have to get in front of the radio stations and the newspapers, and really put your feet to the ground and work. It's hard work out here, but we love it. We've been doing it for 12 years now, and I wouldn't change it for the life of me. But that's just how we do things."
In some ways, one senses a flirtation with the mainstream on Amaryllis. The music is all tough-knuckled guitar rock that favors a trace of pop sensibility, especially in the often-anthemic singing of group founder Brent Smith, over the usual metalcore static that seems standard equipment with many modern rock troupes.
Then again, maybe the difference is attitude.
The first step in a lifelong career is cleaning up your act. That was especially true for Smith, who has battled addictions with cocaine, painkillers and alcohol. Hitch that to the stormy relations within the group that began to sprout after the release of Shinedown's platinum-selling debut album, 2003's Leave a Whisper, and you had the beginnings of a split that today leaves Smith and Kerch as the only original members.
"We simply were not in the right head space back then," Kerch said of the two-year gap between Leave a Whisper and its follow-up, Us and Them. "We weren't getting along. There was a divide in the band that led up to the whole lineup change. At the same time, we were rushed by the label because it had been so long since we put out our first record. They gave us six months to make the second.
"That record (Us and Them) just left a bad taste in our mouths, which is part of the reason we don't play a lot of those songs. A lot of fans are in love with that record, so we try and be fair to them. But it was a bad time for us given what we were going through internally. We have better songs now, anyway. Why not play those?"
Shinedown's third album, 2008's The Sound of Madness, as dark as the title implied, heightened the band's popularity. But as the band was making the late-night TV rounds with Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno, there still were old demons and new family members to contend with. Smith got clean as work began on Amaryllis. By then, though, the heat was on to capitalize on the success of Madness.
"There was a lot of pressure on us following The Sound of Madness," Kerch said. "But as far as head space, I think we were in a much happier place going into this record. During The Sound of Madness we were going through more lineup changes, Brent had just had his son and had just quit doing drugs but was still drinking a lot. There was just a lot of anger in The Sound of Madness. You can hear that on the record.
"For Amaryllis, I just had my daughter, and Brent had reconnected with his son. I mean, he even bought a house. In the 12 years we've been touring, he never lived in a home. It was always a hotel. So he grew up a little bit. You can hear the maturity in the record. He hasn't had a drop of alcohol in well over a year and doesn't have any addictions other than working out. It's a more peaceful time now."
IF YOU GO
Shinedown, Three Days Grace, P.O.D.
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 16
Where: Rupp Arena, 430 W. Vine St.
Tickets: $25, $40.50; available at Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.