As he begins 2016, Christofer Drew, the main man behind the rock band Never Shout Never, sounds decidedly more settled both with his music and with his life.
Like a lot of people reaching age 24, the Joplin, Mo., native has done his share of experimenting and exploring in recent years, trying to discover his limits and understand himself as a person and an artist.
There were reports of misbehavior and hard drug use, and on June 3, 2012, Drew was arrested for marijuana possession. Another incident just nine days later especially set off alarm bells. During an interview for the “BryanStars Interviews” YouTube show, Drew grew testy, calling the show “a joke” and ranting that the questions of host Bryan Odell (aka BryanStars) were bogus. Later that day, Drew explained he had taken a hit of acid before speaking with Odell. In several subsequent interviews, he acknowledged he had taken hard drugs for a period of time but had stopped using them.
In this mid-January phone interview, Drew said he’s now at a place where he feels comfortable and content with both his life and his music.
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“I was just really young and full of, like, adventure,” Drew said, looking back on the last several years. “I wanted to try everything and do everything and give it all. So I just kind of did. … I definitely had a good time, but I’ve been taking a more just chill approach to life. I’ve gotten really into, like, Eastern philosophy. Like Taoism is the main philosophy I live by. I read the Tao Te Ching almost on a daily basis, and it just kind of teaches you to be desireless, to be detached and be relaxed and not so worried about anything.”
The more relaxed, go-with-the-flow attitude that defines Drew’s outlook seems to fit with the way the current Never Shout Never album, the melodic, radio-friendly “Black Cat,” came together.
Leading up to the new album, Drew had an interesting tenure on his label, Warner Bros. He was signed in 2009 after making a major splash on the Internet with three self-released EPs. Drew got off to a good start with a pair of Never Shout Never releases – a 2010 EP, “What Is Love?” produced by Butch Walker, and the full-length “Harmony,” produced by Butch Vig of Garbage. Drew then decided to take control of his music.
“I was being a little stubborn for a couple of years,” he said. “I was just kind of really just wanting to produce our own stuff. So we did like three records where we self-produced, and the first one (2011’s “Time Travel”) was great. It went over well and Warner dug it. It was like psychedelic, though, so it kind of threw them off. Then we did two on our own (2012’s “Indigo” and 2013’s “Sunflower”) where we just went in for like two weeks and just recorded like it wasn’t a big deal at all and we weren’t serious and just did it. We never told them about it and we just kind of sent it to them and said, ‘OK, we’re putting this out.’ ”
But heading into “Black Cat,” he wanted to reconnect with the label. Drew agreed to work with producer Dennis Herring and even sent the batch of songs he had written for the album to Warner Bros. for input.
“I had demoed out probably 25 or 30 songs,” he said. “I had like a huge batch, and I sent all of those to Warner and they liked a good handful of them. But they just asked if I was open to writing with Dennis.”
Drew decided not only to work with Herring on songs, but to invite contributions from his band members: drummer Hayden Kaiser, bassist Taylor Macfee and guitarist Ian Crawford (who left Never Shout Never after “Black Cat” was completed).
Over many months, songs were reworked and refined. And while Drew said Warner Bros. nixed a few songs he wanted for “Black Cat,” he’s happy with the energetic, catchy and lyrically upbeat album. He also feels he and his bandmates are hitting a good stride creatively.
In fact, the next Never Shout Never album is already in progress. Drew said he’s self-producing the album, which is shaping up as an ambitious effort.
“It’s going to be more like a conceptual piece where we’re like telling a story, kind of a big journey with this main character,” Drew said. “And our plans right now are to actually do an animated film that goes along with the album.”
But before work resumes on the next album, Never Shout Never is on tour through the end of February. The show, Drew said, leans toward back-catalog material, with only two or three “Black Cat” songs likely to be in the set.
“We try to keep it pretty balanced among the different releases and try to hit our older songs and our newest ones, and even throw in a couple of cover songs, too,” he said. “So yeah, we’re definitely throwing in some crowd favorites that everybody has some fun with.”
Never Shout Never
With Julie Vera and Waterparks
When: 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 23
Where: Ace of Spades, 1417 R St.,Sacramento
Cost: Advance tickets $20; tickets day of show $22