The reaction from fans surprised the remaining members. "Everyone sent in their condolences, like something horrible had happened," bassist Josh Newton said in a recent phone interview. "Like you'd look on MySpace and everyone was like 'Oh, I'm so sorry.' It was odd to write them all back saying we're not [broken up]. We're stoked."
Stoked because, according to the remaining members, the departure was the end of a long period of strife. Things were rocky as early as 2005, when the band set out to record its third album. Perri, who had been the band's lyricist, essentially checked out, despite living in their rehearsal space in Hunter, N.Y.
"So Garth made [backing vocalist and drummer Francis Mark] write his ass off basically in like a week or whatever, two weeks," Newton said. "I think Fran built up a lot of resentment toward Ben then for not pulling his weight."
When the group opted off of the Sounds of the Underground tour, it had all the earmarks of an impending breakup. They kept it together, though.
"We basically realized that we A) liked playing music together and B) liked being around each other," Newton said. "We're friends. We never stopped hanging out... why don't we just go play?"
Last fall, as writing and rehearsals began on their new album, Perri was a no-show. When band members contacted him, Perri again assured him he was writing lyrics and would be ready to record.
But Perri didn't arrive on the bus he was supposed to take to the recording studio. Days after frantic calls to Perri went unanswered and unreturned, the group got an e-mail from the vocalist saying he was uninspired had decided to quit.
"I would say at most there was like an hour of panic, like 'Oh my God, what are we going to do?" Newton said. "We had been living with these demos [with Mark doing vocals] for two weeks already," Newton said. "We were used to hearing the songs that way."
So Fran Mark officially slid over to the vocalist/lyricist slot. The band, now a trio of Mark, Newton and guitarist Brian Deneeve, headed to the studio with producer Brian McTernan and recorded Holding a Wolf by the Ear.
The new CD, which is due for release April 10, marks a shift back toward the harsher sounds of the group's 2003 sophomore album, The Fiction We Live, after the somewhat disingenuously melodic Abandon Your Friends.
"I like it a lot," Newton said. "It's definitely a reaction -- and not a negative one -- to the last record." And certainly therapy for all the strife surrounding it. Or, in Newton's words, "It felt good to rock out."
From Autumn to Ashes with Haste the Day, Maylene & amp; the Sons of Disaster, the Sleeping, Alesana at the Blvd. on Wednesday, March 21, at 5:30 pm. Tickets: $13; $15, at the door. Visit Ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.