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10 Years step back from the wasteland

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10 Years, with From Ashes to New, Iridium A.D., Thursday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m., blacksheeprocks.com. - ELIZABETH WISEMAN
  • Elizabeth Wiseman
  • 10 Years, with From Ashes to New, Iridium A.D., Thursday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m., blacksheeprocks.com.
Two years ago, Brian Vodinh was convinced he’d made his final album with 10 Years, the Knoxville, Tennessee, post-grunge band he co-founded a decade ago.

The group had put out seven studio albums, as well as a string of hits that included “Wasteland,” “Beautiful” and “Shoot It Out.” But after finishing the tellingly titled 2015 album From Birth to Burial, the guitarist/drummer/backing vocalist left 10 Years to focus on family affairs. Singer Jesse Hasek, meanwhile, pushed forward, touring with a lineup that included longtime guitarist Ryan “Tater” Johnson. Vodinh, now out of the band, was unsure what he’d do next as a musician.

“At that time I only had one child — now I have three children — but I always told myself I can’t justify being away from my family and my loved ones if I’m not out here enjoying it and working as hard as I can and believing in what I was doing,” Vodinh explains. “I didn’t think we were playing well, and the relationship among the band members was just so toxic that it wasn’t right for me to be out there. I couldn’t justify it any longer. So when I came home, I didn’t really know what the future was going to hold for me musically.”
As it turned out, that would be the least of the musician’s worries.

“My wife was pregnant with our third child, and she went into labor at 20 weeks and it was extremely early,” says Vodinh. “Long story short, our youngest child, our little girl, was born at 27 weeks and stayed in the hospital, I mean, off and on, for the first year of her life. So music wasn’t even on my radar, especially being on the road. I basically sat in a hospital for about a year, and my little girl — now she is almost 3 — is literally like a total badass. She’s totally healthy now and everything is all good.”

But the same could not be said for Hasek and Johnson’s version of 10 Years. Touring did not help the latest lineup mesh. Right around the time when Vodinh’s youngest daughter was getting healthy, Hasek reached out to Vodinh proposing a new start for 10 Years.

“I got the call from him, and we discussed how there would really be no way to move forward with the band if it were to remain in its current state,” Vodinh says. Hasek was on the same page, and in short order, guitarist Johnson and bassist Ryan Collier were dismissed. A new drummer, Kyle Mayer, was brought on board, while touring guitarist Chad Huff shifted to bass. Most importantly, guitarist Matt Wantland, an original member who had recently reconnected with Hasek and done an acoustic tour with 10 Years, was brought back after a seven-year absence.
The band’s most recent release, (How to Live) as Ghosts, is a major departure from 10 Years’ previous modus operandi. For the first time, the group devoted itself to writing together as a band, and then brought fellow Knoxville native Nick Raskulinecz in to produce. During the pre-production phase, Raskulinecz reworked the songs, ditched some of the parts the band had demoed, and stripped the music down to the essentials, a process that initially made the band uncomfortable.

“It was difficult for us at first to envision,” says Vodinh of the leaner 10 Years sound. “We all were leaving his studio at the end of each day going, ‘I don’t know what the hell is going on.’ He was pushing us to try things we would never try, but I couldn’t be more thankful and appreciative of that process, because we learned a lot and the record benefited from it greatly.”

Track’s like “Novacaine” (the album’s first single), “Burnout” and “Blood Red Sky” do, in fact, get straight to the point, with lyrics that are unusually direct and some of the biggest guitar and vocal hooks the band has ever built into its songs. Vodinh, who now plays guitar full-time on tour, is no less thrilled about the band’s live sound.

“While we’re onstage, you can feel how tight we are and how much solidarity there is,” he raves. “Because we’re playing now as a unit, as opposed to five guys onstage doing their own thing.”

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