''Daredevil'' puts Arkansas' Evanescence on the map. With Evanescence's surprise hit ''Bring Me to Life,'' just don't call this dark rockin' duo a Christian band... or a couple
Amy Lee, Ben Moody, ...
Credit: Evanescence Photograph by Emily Shur

Evanescence singer Amy Lee isn’t a big drinker, but now that she and musical partner Ben Moody have settled in around one of the finest sushi-chopping stations in their hometown of Little Rock, Ark., she’s hankering for sake. ”Do you have your ID?” asks the chef, eyeing Lee’s pale, pristine features while wielding a blade that’s been the death of many an underage albacore. As she goes for her purse, he rescinds the demand: ”Just keep it with you.”

”Wow, I should have tried that a long time ago!” says Lee, who must have started drinking only a few months ago — right? ”Yes, I turned 21 in December,” she chirps. ”I changed your question. That’s kind of a twisted Bill Clinton answer, isn’t it?” Depends what your definition of isn’t is, but anyway, it’s good to see the local kids still taking cues in prevarication from a certain former Arkansas governor.

Evanescence can lay better claim to Clinton’s footsteps than most: They’re already the biggest export to come out of Little Rock since the saxman-in-chief launched his campaign from the nearby courthouse steps. The pair kicked off their national campaign by contributing two songs to the ”Daredevil” soundtrack, one of which, ”Bring Me to Life,” almost immediately topped modern-rock radio. That buzz was leveraged to a startling No. 7 sales bow for their debut album last month; in the weeks since, ”Fallen” has stubbornly refused to live up to its name, going gold and holding on amid a highly competitive top 10. With apologies to Willie, this band’s sudden success has been even slicker.

The last Arkansas group to enjoy anywhere near such a sizable hit was Black Oak Arkansas, who peaked in 1974, long before Lee and Moody were born. Unlike their Southern-rocking forefathers, Evanescence’s music seems to have been crafted far away from the sun, with its crunching power chords, melodramatic orchestral swells, and gorgeously sung postteen angst. These are shadowy, gusting anthems of life, death, loneliness, and love beyond the grave; the ballads of consuming romantic obsession pretty much count as the lighter moments. If their latent Goth elements were just a little stronger, you could almost call ’em Black Cloak Arkansas.

In the raw-fish-eating flesh, though, Lee and Moody are the picture of levity, and you do eventually stop worrying about what might happen if they were alone with that sushi knife. ”Because the music is dark, [fans] expect us to be f—ed up, on the edge of slitting our wrists, but we are very lighthearted,” says Moody, the 22-year-old architect of the band’s sound. ”You can’t live every day depressed,” adds Lee. ”I used to be that way. But generally, I’m a happy person, and because we have our music we can purge ourselves.”

If you hear anger, says Moody, that’s probably him; sadness or childlike innocence, that would be her. ”I experienced a little bit of trauma in my childhood, and I’m constantly trying to get back there,” says Lee, who cops to an oft-mocked tendency to watch cartoons on the tour bus. ”I’m obsessed with anything that takes me back to when I was 6, 7, 8.” Adds Moody: ”She loves Care Bears and kids’ anime; I love ‘Evil Dead’ and death metal.”