They were labeled a Christian band even as they denied the tag, partying harder than ever on the road. The Jesus label stuck, and Creed grew exhausted trying to refute it.
As the band's star and album sales began to rise, so did a spiteful and vocal minority. By the mid-'00s, the elite music media turned them into literally "suck" incarnate and Creed split in 2004.
His personal demons running rampant, Stapp began a solo career and the rest of Creed formed Alter Bridge with singer Myles Kennedy. By 2009, relations had warmed and Creed reunited for a new album and accompanying tour, which was extremely successful.
This spring the band embarked on a new touring experiment: Spending two nights in select cities playing Prison and Clay in their entirety (Monday and Tuesday in Houston, respectively), plus a few other singles.
Almost 15 years after their initial breakthrough, what is still propelling the Florida band? Chatter reached out to Stapp on the eve of the first leg of Creed's touring cycle to see what it is.
Chatter: Whose idea was it to play these two albums in their entirety?
Scott Stapp: It all came together initially as an idea from our management, Live Nation, and through social media. With the increased access the fans have to the band now, we had been constantly hearing the need for this. We think it will help stimulate us creatively, get us back to our roots, while reconnecting with songs we hadn't played in 15 years.
Chatter: The Creed empire was built on those two albums. What kind of emotional ties are there?
SS: I now have a greater respect, as I look back, [for our] early work and what we have done. Everything was straight from the core, and those albums have become a snapshot of our lives. A lot of those themes and vibes are still very much relevant. There is a new passion and vigor now.
Chatter: Few bands from that period have lasted, or even have albums that have stood the test of time, necessitating playing them live like this.
SS: From 1997 to 2003, our lives were Creed, and then it ended. It's been flattering and cool to hear from up-and-coming artists that came after us share how they were inspired by us, the way I was inspired by the Doors, U2 or Metallica.
We saw artists on American Idol and The Voice covering our songs and stating that we were an inspiration. So it's been a blessing and I am humbled by it.
Chatter: Of course, the band has also been a lightning rod for flak...
SS: Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and you hear that and think it's the general consensus. It's par for the course for any artist that comes on the scene and takes over. With Creed, we have kept in the front of our minds this whole time that the negativity has always been less than one percent of the 99 percent of the whole.
We had no idea things were going to be like that. We were on an indie label, and had no expectations that that would happen. When you get in that position and you have all this love and respect, an opposing camp forms. One thing I always wanted was to connect with people, and get a reaction out of people.
We saw that with the fans, and even in that negativity. It spurred a reaction, good and bad.
Chatter: Do you think your earnestness scared people?
SS: I was addressing things lyrically at the time and was coming from a point of view that can be polarizing. As much as that allowed us to connect with a fan base, it also shook our foundation.
When you talk about hot-button issues and then you throw in spiritual concepts as I did with my struggles with faith...if you go back and read the early press, we never even said we were a Christian band. We just talked about every issue in this life, and the spirituality that you wrestle with.
The rumors and the lack of understanding by the elite media who dubbed us a Christian band without ever reading the lyrics or understanding what we are talking about, was polarizing, too. If you all are over the radio and TV, got three songs in the Top 5 at once, all of that becomes a point of conversation.
Not everyone has those same feelings or beliefs. Some people have animosity towards people who they think are involved in religion or go to church, because they have been burned or turned off.
But the whole time we were just a bunch of rock and rollers living a rock and roll lifestyle, which created even more of that "Look at these guys, they're fake!" flak from the haters.
Chatter: It seems now the tide could be changing, though.
SS: The beauty in all of it, despite everything, is that our fans ended up passing that music down to their next generation. Despite any of the negativity, the music continued to speak and resonate, aside from all of that.
That's the real story. We have a whole new generation to play for. The small one percent hated us, but a lot of people didn't care about that and they connected instead with the music.