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The ground beneath their feet 

A newly aggressive Saosin steps outside the comfort zone to find a way forward

Southern California's Saosin is taking a more aggressively determined — and possibly riskier — approach to its career as the band tours to promote its recently released sophomore album, In Search of Solid Ground.

On the touring front, the group has been playing on some unusually diverse bills of late. In the fall, Saosin paired its accessible brand of hard rock with hip-hop artist P.O.S. and electronicists Innerpartysystem. This winter, Saosin has been logging time on the road with screamo punk rockers Scary Kids Scaring Kids and the Southern metal band Maylene and the Sons of Disaster.

Saosin has also gone out on a limb by investing heavily in its live show, stepping up visual production values in the process.

"We're kind of going for broke," says bassist Chris Sorenson, noting that with record sales so uncertain in today's downloading era, bands need to nurture the touring component to have any shot at a viable career. "We figured if this [touring] is what we're doing, if this is our 24-hour job, let's make the most of it and kind of go for broke in all literal senses of the term."

And when it comes to the music itself, Saosin hasn't been playing it that safe lately, either.

The band's 2006 self-titled debut featured an energetic but decidedly straightforward style of hard rock. That basic musical blueprint is still at the core of In Search, but Saosin uses that framework to explore more adventurous musical tangents.

Songs like "Is This Real" and "I Keep My Secrets Safe" actually don't play it safe, instead pushing the band into more nervy and noisy territory. A more atmospheric dimension emerges on other songs, including "The Alarming Sound of a Still Small Voice' and "Fireflies (Light Messengers)," the epic eight-minute-plus track that closes the collection.

The album itself wasn't a particularly smooth ride this time out. The band had to ditch plans to work with producer Howard Benson after disagreements surfaced about how much control and input the group would retain.

After Benson fell out of the picture, Saosin hired Butch Walker for a three-week recording session. But in that time, Walker and the group were only able to complete five songs, and the band wasn't entirely satisfied with the session. So they decided to head home to their own Orange County studio and work up another batch of songs on their own.

"We ended up coming out with five tracks that we self-produced," Sorenson says. "But then in the world of major label music, they need a first single. Nobody could unanimously agree that we had a first single. So instead of bickering for months on end about what song it was going to be, we just decided to keep writing."

Four songs later — three of them recorded with John Feldmann and one with Logan Mader — the band had its single, "Changing," and was ready to move forward.

"During the process, everything sucked," Sorenson says bluntly. "But at the end of the day, everybody agrees that whatever we went through — all the good times, all the bad times — the record's done and the record's good. And that's all that matters."

scene@csindy.com

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