If you go
• What: Tonight Alive in concert.
• When: 6 p.m. Nov. 14.
• Where: Hawthorne Theatre, 1507 S.E. 39th Ave., Portland.
• Cost: $13 to $15 through Cascade Tickets, 800-514-3849 or cascadetickets.com.
• Information: 503-233-7100 or hawthornetheatre.com.
Jenna McDougall was in a good mood when she called for a mid-October phone interview.
Her band, Tonight Alive, was a couple of days away from finishing a tour opening for You And Me At Six and jumping right into a headlining tour that runs through Nov. 23.
The You And Me At Six dates had gone well, and life in general has been good.
But she had one worry.
“I was talking to the guys (in the group) the other day about how we’re writing (music for) all of these songs, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what to write (lyrics) about.’ Nothing’s wrong,” lead singer McDougall said. “Most of my songwriting is fueled by confusion, frustration, all of that kind of stuff. When you can’t figure something out, that’s when I’m writing about it. And I’m like, ‘Well, what the hell are we going to do if we make the next record, and I’m really happy? Are we just going to write a happy album? This could be really hard.’”
McDougall and her bandmates actually won’t have to worry about a new album for a while, considering the band’s second album, “The Other Side,” just came out in September. Besides, McDougall should enjoy the good times while they happen.
The band, which formed in 2008 in Sydney, Australia, has had some trying times mixed in with what has so far been an enjoyable journey onto the worldwide rock music stage.
The making of the group’s first full-length album — “What Are You So Scared Of?” — provided a mix of highs and lows. The group had fun living together in Los Angeles and sampling life in the city during the project. But recording had its challenges, particularly for McDougall.
“When I started recording, it was a month and a half into the whole thing,” she said. “I start singing and I was like, ‘Is that how my voice sounds like now? I haven’t heard it in a long time.’ It had changed, and I didn’t know what I was doing. It scared me, because I didn’t know what I wanted.”
In the end, “What Are You So Scared Of?” came out well, all things considered.
“I guess working with (high-profile producer) Mark (Trombino) was great, and we got a really good album for that time,” McDougal said. “(But) I think we needed more direction at that time. And that’s the only thing I regret about the album. But it’s just where we were at the time. It’s a representation of Tonight Alive in 2010.”
The next big challenge came on tour behind “What Are You So Scared Of?” For some nine months, McDougall battled a severe case of eczema before in early 2012, the band decided to cancel a spring tour and get off of the road.
The two-month break gave McDougall the time she needed to heal and the band a much-needed rest. It also provided the opportunity to resolve another situation that was hampering Tonight Alive: disagreements with management.
“We were working really hard to set up international foundations, and it became obvious that it wasn’t our best interests that were at heart with the management,” McDougall said. “I guess we were looking to expand and grow, and he was beginning to hold us back.”
By summer 2012, Tonight Alive was back to touring.
Then in late fall 2012, McDougal and her bandmates -- guitarists Jake Hardy and Whakaio Taahi, bassist Cameron Adler and drummer Matt Best -- turned their attention to making “The Other Side.”
For the album, the band reunited with Dave Petrovic (who had produced Tonight Alive’s pair of 2010 EPs, All Shapes And Disguises” and “Consider This”) and returned to Australia to record. The growth in the band’s songwriting chops and confidence is apparent on “The Other Side.”
The strong melodies, crisp playing and tight arrangements of songs such as “Lonely Girl,” “The Ocean” and “Complexes” typify the quality of “The Other Side” as a whole.
McDougall said she is proud of the band’s work.
“At first, we didn’t think the songs were that much different to ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’” she said. “But listening to them now, it’s like, ‘Oh God, they are quite a big step forward from the prior record.’”
She said she is also happy about the band’s live show.
“We’ve really settled into a set list now,” McDougall said. “Initially, we were actually having complaints that there weren’t enough new songs in the set. And it was a conscious decision that we wouldn’t overdo it on this tour. We’ve seen a lot of bands, when they put a new album out, that’s all they play, and you still want to hear the old songs. So we tried to balance it, and as I said, we got complaints about it not having enough new music. So we’ve added another (new) song. It feels really good. I believe this set list is the strongest songs we’ve ever written. It has a lot of momentum, and it feels really good.”