Out With the Nü

Switched switches up its lineup and embarks in a new direction.

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Switched frontman Ben Schigel is ready for his band's - next incarnation. - Amy  Weiser
Switched frontman Ben Schigel is ready for his band's next incarnation.
It had all the makings of Rock Star II, sans the codpiece. Three weeks ago, Switched frontman Ben Schigel was asked to join the platinum metal band Drowning Pool, replacing the replacement for former frontman Dave Williams, who died in the summer of 2002 from a heart attack suffered on the Ozzfest tour. Schigel had been working with the Dallas natives in their hometown, doing pre-production for their second album, much of which Schigel will produce. As rapport blossomed between the band and Schigel, the full-time gig was offered; Schigel, somewhat surprisingly, turned it down.

"They were getting along a little better with the dude they had, and I was like 'I'm just gonna do my own thing,'" explains Schigel, who is spending a recent Monday afternoon lounging on a tiger-print sofa in his Strongsville home studio. The TV is set to The Sharon Osbourne Show, which is being co-hosted by Schigel's buddy, Tommy Lee.

If his decision to pass on Drowning Pool has the look of a blown opportunity, it seems less so in light of the recent activity of Schigel's own band. In September, Switched announced that bassist Jason French had been replaced by former Stuck Mojo/Stereomud bassist Corey Lowery. Based in Atlanta, Lowery's already enjoyed a taste of national success (Stereomud's 2001 debut sold more than 100,000 copies). He also brings another strong songwriting presence to the band, which had previously split those duties between Schigel and guitarist Brad Kochmit. And with the switch to Lowery comes a switch in band names: By January, Switched will be known as Sky Fall Down, a reflection on the new direction the band is taking.

"We don't want to be stuck with that 'Oh, they're a nü-metal band' bullshit," Schigel says. "We figured screw it, may as well start fresh, see what happens."

As the nü-metal scene recedes at the pace of Fred Durst's hairline, Switched is wisely moving away from the Korn-influenced crunch of its 2002 debut, Subject to Change, and toward more melodic hard rock. The band completed the break by parting ways with its label, Immortal Records, as well as its manager. As Switched begins working out with its new member and new dynamics, a number of labels have already begun the courting process.

"The hardest thing is just figuring out the personal relationships," says Joe Schigel, Switched's guitarist and Ben's brother. "Corey's used to being in charge of his band -- he was the main dude in Stereomud. Me and [Ben] have been the main dudes in this band, and he comes in and wants to be very active, very involved in all the decisions. Our old bass player would just show up when you told him, he'd do his job, and that was it. Corey comes in and starts getting stuff done, because he wants to. He doesn't have to wait for somebody else to tell him to do something."

Last week, the new lineup hit the road for the first time, playing a trio of dates in North Carolina (Lowery's home state). The band has already generated about five new songs, and it hopes to record an EP to shop to labels in the coming months. Last summer, nearly a full album's worth of new songs had been completed and were slated to make up a second Switched release. Instead, they'll surface for the first time with Sky Fall Down. Full of anthemic choruses and radio-friendly rhythms, the new material is the most promising of the band's career. It showcases a newfound penchant for experimenting with harmonies, with capable second vocalist Lowery helping to achieve a more plush, layered counterpoint to the growling guitars.

"It's more musical, better songwriting in general," Joe Schigel says. "The songs aren't as choppy. A lot of people are like 'You're lighter, you're doing this and that.' If you want to look at it that way, whatever. It's not about being heavy or lighter. It's just about writing good shit."

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