After years of being mocked by the Beavis and Butt-head and South Park generations, ’80s supergroup Journey is culturally relevant again. The band’s songs — or covers of them —have blared from TV sets tuned to shows ranging from The Sopranos to Glee. At the same time, the group has enjoyed renewed success with lead singer Arnel Pineda, the second man to replace longtime vocalist Steve Perry. Their first album recorded with Pineda, 2008’s Revelation, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and earned them their 11th platinum album.
As keyboardist Jonathan Cain prepares for Journey’s summer tour with Foreigner and Night Ranger (the three groups play Blossom Music Center Aug. 2), he talks about Pineda’s success, the band’s new album and why their music still matters.
How did Arnel Pineda — a Filipino struggling to master the English language when Journey hired him — accomplish the feat of replacing the beloved frontman of an American rock band?
I was not sold on him until I got him in the studio and heard what he could do. Then I was like, “If we’re ever going to have another chance at making a decent record, this is the guy.” His studio voice was just fantastic. It was the whole frontman, Western-civilization, rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that he had to come to grips with. He was intimidated by Steve Perry’s shoes and just a little star-struck by the whole idea. But now he’s really taken on the role. He owns being the lead singer of Journey.
Journey’s new album, Eclipse, has been described as a concept album. How does it differ from the band’s previous releases?
Lyrically, it’s pretty deep. It goes to the tantric way of life. The concept is that the universe is the supreme force that connects us all, that there is one true energy that we all feed off of, and it’s all woven into a chain of love. We’re all connected. Coming from Journey, it’s a good, positive flow.
But it was a challenge, really, to pin the right message on this music. We have these raw, primitive rhythms going on, and then we have these sexy, elegant, spiritual lyrics. I always liked the way Led Zeppelin would go about their lyrics, try to be a little mysterious. And I think this album has a lot of that.
Why are songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and “Open Arms” so popular again?
When we were making the music, we did it in an innocent way. It was always this wide-eyed, gee-whiz, Americana kind of music. We stayed true to that for those years. And it was coming from the heart.