For the past few years the music world has seen crippling changes, the likes of which have not been heard of before in the history of rock n’ roll, and the world has been in a virtual state. As the COVID-19 virus spread across every continent, and musicians were forced to cancel shows, uncertainty was an understatement for many – specifically people in the music world whose careers depended on human contact and interaction. For one of the hardest working bands in the world Styx, 

The band’s new album “Crash of the Crown”, released at the end of 2021, has been referred to by many fans as the band’s best album in years. “We’ve been hearing that. It’s in (fan’s) top 5 Styx albums of all time. We’re really pleased with that, and it’s an honor for a band that’s been around for half a century.” 

Crash of the Crown (COTC) came to fruition after the release of the band’s prior record, “The Mission” as the band had a large surge of creativity. After re-signing with Universal Music, who had the whole Styx music catalog, the incentive was there to create something great. “(We wanted to) connect our new ideas with the classic rock era that the band emerged from.” 

After writing new songs and recording some demos that would end up on the new album, Styx had a touring schedule carved out for 2020. “And then I don’t know if you heard about this, but this pandemic hit. Let me tell you! There was this really wacky thing that happened” Gowan laughed. “First I heard the NBA canceled their season, and I go ‘Oh well that sounds kind of serious’. But then the next thing I heard was the NHL canceled their season, and I go ‘Oh, now that’s really serious!’”

With the idea in mind that perhaps this would be over in just a few weeks, the band didn’t really think about how far along the new album was. But by July, when it sunk in that this could go on indefinitely, the band had to find another way to continue work on the record. “Zoom phone calls, and other apps that connect people and studios around the world came about, and it’s amazing how quickly these tools moved to the forefront of how people stayed in touch.”

Styx revisited the record and were pleasantly shocked at how the songs related to the current situation in the world. “You can take the lyrics to them and bend them around to fit the condition of the world, and the current human condition we’re facing. Songs like ‘Sound the Alarm’, ‘Fight of Our Lives’, and ‘Save Us From Ourselves’, these titles began to really kick in.” Together, they discovered an app called Audio Movers which helped streamline the recording process. “I’m suddenly in the studio in Toronto, and Tommy Shaw is in the studio in Nashville, and Todd’s in the studio in Texas, and we’re all linked up on the screen in realtime, and the engineers are in a separate studio talking to each other.” 

Suddenly, Styx had found their role and their way to finish the new record without really compromising anything. For Gowan’s first album with Styx, “Cyclorama”, member’s parts were recorded sporadically throughout the year in parts. Styx also did a number of live albums afterwards. For “The Mission” album, the band limited themselves to the analog approach by recording on tape and being together in the studio. With the new album, things were different. “I think that all being in the room at the same time is still the best for a rock band to really thrive and come up with the best ways of doing things. Because we had that experience making ‘The Mission’, even though we couldn’t do that for the full making of COTC, we projected it into the process because of how we used the separation to actually bring us together in real time. I think (working together in) real time is the biggest thing.”

The new album was finished in late 2020, but the record label advised that the band hold onto the record until they could go on tour. By the time the record was about to be released, Styx hadn’t played the songs together in the same room yet due to the digital nature of the recording process. “The very first show we did was in St. Augustine, Florida. We got there a whole week before that show and used that theater as our rehearsal place. Suddenly to play those songs all together, knowing how the album flows and all the sequencing… it was a visceral experience quite honestly, because we thought ‘We really pulled this off!’”

During the touring pause, Styx also added a seventh member to the band that had been six members for so long. Will Evankovich, a guitarist and backing vocalist joined the fold after previously producing and writing with the band on ‘The Mission’ and COTC. “Having Will Evankovich made a lot of sense,” Gowan explained. “He had intimately been woven into the fabric of the band for a number of years. He even goes back to when Tommy Shaw did his Shaw-Blades project, Will was a third guitarist on that. Having him there really keeps us in line with what the songs from these records are supposed to sound like, and what they’re supposed to sound like live. If somebody goes a little too far outside the line, it’s noted right away. He also added so much to the Mission shows, we just figured ‘Why not have him out here permanently?’”

Kicking off the “Live and UN Zoomed” tour with another band who has cut their teeth playing hundreds of rock shows every year, REO Speedwagon, Gowan says the opening shows have been spectacular as people are thrilled to experience live music again normally.  “We’ve never had crowds that big in those venues before. They were just teeming over!”

The run, which will extend throughout the entire summer, marks Styx’s 6th tour alongside close friends REO Speedwagon, with whom Styx even recorded a live album titled ‘Arch Allies’ in 2000. “Every couple of years we do some shows with REO, and people just love that combination! It’s just that midwest flavor, and two bands that are very complementary to each other. And we get along great as people.” 

Gowan proceeded to share one of his favorite memories of REO Speedwagon. “People don’t know the implication that we travel by night. We leave one city after the gig, and then we drive through the night to the next gig which is usually 7-8 hours away. One night, twelve years ago our bus broke down somewhere between about 3-4 AM in the middle of this very desolate highway. Our bus driver just said ‘I guess we will have to stay here for the night’. One of our guys texted a friend on the REO bus who were about two hours away from us, and said ‘Our bus broke down, we’re going to have to figure this out tomorrow.’ Well, they turned around and came and got us. And we were all about to sleep on the floor, and Kevin (Cronin) goes ‘Hey Lawrence, I’ve pretty much slept for the night. You go ahead and take my bunk.’” The fond memory has stuck with Gowan this whole time. “It just shows what good guys they are, and how they kind of saved the show – and my night’s sleep!”

Both all-star headliners are joined by Loverboy supporting on the entire trek. “What a great triple bill,” says an enthusiastic Gowan. “I’m used to being the lone Canadian in the group, so it’s nice to have some other people! In my solo years before joining Styx, we were label-mates, and we had the Juno awards, and we’d say hello to each other at those things. And we’ve done one-off shows with Loverboy in the past, but we’ve never done a full tour with them. So I was really happy that they jumped aboard. And boy, do they sound amazing! I watched their set the first two nights, and they sound great and people love their songs. They’re like a cherry on top of this whole thing.”

Be sure to catch this star-studded lineup for a night of classic rock hits as Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Loverboy travel across the US through mid-September. The tour resumes July 8th in Denver, CO and concludes September 18th in Bangor, ME. Visit styxworld.com to grab your tickets.

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