As an album title, Lost in Transition seems apt. For Sixpence None the Richer, it’s a reminder of the struggles and uncertainty the band endured over the past few years, before ultimately finding their way again.
“The title definitely has a double meaning,” says Sixpence guitarist/co-founder Matt Slocum. “It’s about things that have happened in our lives recently, really big events on a personal and musical level that we had to transition through. And now we have.”
Since forming in 1993, the Nashville-based band (started by Slocum and singer Leigh Nash), has released four albums, scored several hit singles ( “Kiss Me,” “There She Goes,” “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Breathe Your Name”), appeared on seemingly a million soundtracks, landed a platinum record and even earned a few Grammy nominations. But the band amicably parted ways in 2004, shortly after releasing their last full-length record, Divine Discontent.
The “transition” had begun. After a few outside ventures and solo albums, the band reunited five years ago (with Rob Mitchell and Justin Cary). “When we parted it didn’t take me long to miss the band,” Nash admits. “The music Matt and I make together makes me really happy. So it was great to get back together.”
The group started slowly, releasing an EP and a Christmas album while touring a bit here and there. But putting together a new, original full-length record was never necessarily in the cards. For one, the band had to wade through various label and business issues; fortunately, they were able to find a newfound musical freedom by partnering with the independent music distributor The Orchard. “I kind of wished we had done this all along,” admits Nash. “It gives a lot of independence. I really respect bands like Over the Rhine that release records, tour and find an audience pretty much doing everything on their own.”
Long in the making, Lost in Transition finds Slocum and Nash sharing the songwriting duties (along with musician Stephen Wilson, Nash’s husband). “It’s been great to see Leigh grow as a songwriter—her writing is now on par with her singing, which is saying a lot,” says Slocum. Transition also features a stripped down sound; the end result is a gorgeous mix of pop hooks, piano, acoustic guitars, a bit of country and a newfound and beautiful simplicity to the songs.
“We really just wanted to feature the song and the voice, and let things breathe a little more,” says Slocum. “We’re not mucking it by the throwing the kitchen sink at it and putting in a million instruments because we could.” [One exception: the horn-fueled, undeniably funky album opener “My Dear Machine,” which also acts as somewhat of a lyrical left turn. It’s one man’s ode to his old car.] Both Slocum and Nash credit producer Jim Scott (Wilco, Crowded House) for the “less is more” attitude.
“He’s my hero,” says Nash. “We were almost intimidated because he had worked so many great bands, but he led us to a great space to make this record. He really embraced our music and our vision for it.”
Lyrically, Sixpence explores new, sometimes darker areas on Transition. “Failure,” for example, finds the band awash in “dread and the underlying fear of something bad happening,” as Slocum suggests. Meanwhile, the gorgeous melody in “Sooner Than Later” masks the song’s difficult subject matter: the passing of Nash’s father. “I credit [my husband] Stephen for helping to get that one started,” she says. “He really initiated that song. I had holed up a bit before we did this record. There had been a lot of upheaval in my life, from my dad’s passing to a divorce. When we started recording, I just had this overflow of emotion.”
To coincide with the album’s release, the band will hit Turkey and Europe this spring, then embark on a tour of the U.S. later in the year. “We’ve already tested out a lot of these songs live, and they’ve gone over really well,” says Slocum.
Although the album started with a lot of uncertainty, Nash is ultimately thankful for the band’s return. “Matt and I are like brother and sister,” she says. “I met him in my teens, and we’ve had this wonderful partnership for more than half my life. I really treasure the time we put into this band and making records and working together. It’s a special bond that I hope continues.”