Red: The Grammy nominated rockers line up their second album

Sunday 11th January 2009

Tony Cummings reports on Nashville rock band RED and their soon to happen pitch at the mainstream


To begin with, the tale of two rock bands both sharing the same name Red, one based in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and one based in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2003 both bands went into recording studios in their respective home towns to begin recording for what they hoped would lead to their debut albums. After months of work Stevenage's Red released their tracks on an independent album 'Lighting Fires'. It was pretty good for a low budget recording, got a little airplay but in little more than a year the band had gone their separate ways, discouraged by the lack of opportunities for UK Christian rock bands. Nashville's Red - Michael Barnes (vocals), Anthony Armstrong (guitar), Jasen Rauch (guitar), Randy Armstrong (bass, piano) and drummer Andrew Hendrix, to be replaced in 2005 by Hayden Lamb - didn't go the independent route. Instead they recorded demo after demo. Explained Anthony Armstrong to HM magazine, "The basic process is we come up with some cool ideas, kind of get some pre-production happening and record some stuff down. The songs on our record changed about 12 times. We re-wrote them, played them, re-wrote them, over and over again until we were satisfied and thought that they were the best that they could be. After the music was done, that's when we really started the lyrical process. We had other people in the production for the string and piano arrangements come in after that and do their magic, and then just pull everything together one song at a time."

As what was to become the Nashville Red's 'End Of Silence' album gradually took shape, the group brought in award-winning producer/songwriter Rob Graves and mixer Ben Grosse (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fuel). While the never-ending recording process continued, Red toured heavily in the mid west and the west coast of the USA where, unlike in the UK, there are plenty of gigging opportunities for bands, Christian or non-Christian, if their music is good enough. As it turned out, Red's passionate and powerful rock music found an ever-increasing grassroots audience. By the time the group took their finished album to Essential Records, Red had already gained more than 20,000 friends on their MySpace page.

'End Of Silence' was released in June 2006 and with its blend of roiling guitars, epic string arrangements and haunting hooks was an impressive release. Anthony Armstrong explained the album title. "The title of the record was coined by our guitar player Jasen, 'End Of Silence' meaning it's been three years in the making with the record, and it was the end of silence for Red. Also meaning it's not wrong as a Christian to speak about the things that you struggle with in your life and just kind of being vocal about them, so it's the end of silence for you as well."

The band gigged heavily but it took quite awhile before radio got behind 'End Of Silence'. Explained Jasen Rauch to, "I think we were fortunate enough to get on some great tours. It took a little while for radio and stuff to kick in on the Active Rock markets and Alternative. We went from playing a lot of small shows and festival type things to getting a few shows here and there with Papa Roach, Theory Of A Deadman, a couple with Buckcherry. Then we got on with Three Days Grace and Flyleaf and became really good friends with both bands. We did four or five tours with Three Days Grace last year and Breaking Benjamin. I think the size of the audience allowed us to make an impression on a lot more people and a larger demographic. We have a lot of those bands to thank for the exposure."

'End Of Silence' sales began to soar (it has today sold over 250,000 copies). The band, rather bizarrely, were nominated for GMA Dove Awards in 2007 and 2008, for the same album! It finally produced three number one Christian radio hits in the US, "Breathe Into Me", "Already Over" and "Break Me Down". It also surprised pundits by being nominated for a 2007 Grammy in the Best Rock Or Rap Gospel Album category. Said Jasen, "Our manger called early one morning and told us and we obviously spent the day flipping out and calling relatives. It's one of those things that is such an honour. Winning or where you're placed or whatever has nothing to do with how excited we were about it. Just to be nominated and go to the Grammies and to be on that platform with your peers. You look around and there's The Foo Fighters and Prince. . . the elite of the elite. Just to be put in that category was such a cool thing. It's something that we definitely don't take for granted and we're really proud of, but at the same time something that we never anticipated."

In November 2007 Essential Records released 'End Of Silence' in a Deluxe Edition with a bonus DVD featuring a Red concert filmed at a private show in Nashville in August of that year as well as behind the scenes footage of the band on tour with Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin. But in that same month Red's van and trailer crashed on Interstate 24. There was major damage to the vehicles involved and drummer Hayden Lamb suffered injuries which forced him to sit out Red's headlining tour. Joe Rickard was brought in to drum on Red's live appearances but today Red are officially a four-piece.

Red: The Grammy nominated rockers line up their second album

At the beginning of last year Red took time out from their gruelling 250 gigs a year touring schedule to begin work on the new album. At the time Jasen told, "We took off six weeks at the beginning of the year to start recording and we got the drums and a lot of the guitar parts done. We're doing a lot of overdubs and stuff on the bus. We're super proud of it, we spent a year preparing for the record and recording a ton of demos. We got the opportunity to just mature. The heavier songs are heavier, the poppier songs are poppier and there are still all those things there that make Red Red."

While most of the writing process was done on the road ("80 per cent of it on the road," Jasen said, "and I mean in hotel rooms and in the studio in the back of the bus"), they did actually record the Red-style strings and synth live with an orchestra. Rauch told HM magazine, "We had over three separate string sessions, all of it done in Nashville. David Davidson did a lot of the string arrangements. He's a friend of ours and he has an amazing ability to see something, see the landscape we wanted, and despite the fact that he's heavily classically influenced and trained, he understands rock and pop music."

Although 'Innocence & Instinct' has a brooding and haunting atmosphere and with lyrics which explore mankind's search for meaning, Red's continual touring with mainstream pop bands clearly rubbed off on their songwriting. Said Rauch, "We wanted to have each song to have its own identity and stand on its own. We listened to a lot of pop music when we wrote the record, being on the road with nothing but radio bands. We just tackled [songwriting] in a different way. We just added that haunting element trying to further define Red and that delicate balance with strings, minor keys and things that lend itself to that."

'Innocence & Instinct' is clearly a progression from 'End Of Silence' though still containing Red's particular take on thinking man's rock music. Said Rauch, "From my perspective we definitely wanted to have points that people could connect between the two releases. We still wanted to have those things, but stretch it a little bit further. I could play a random person three or four songs and they'd think ['Innocence & Instinct'] was a catchy pop record. We wanted to have a little bit of success at radio, and with the influence from all the bands on the road we could still use that platform to connect with people."

Rauch said, "The album is about the duality of man. It examines the fight between our childlike innocence and the instinctive side that makes us do things we shouldn't. A lifetime is spent on this internal tug of war between who we really are and who we hope to be." The first radio single from 'Innocence & Instinct' is "Fight Inside". Commented Jasen, "The song is an anthem for what the entire album is about. On our first release, 'End Of Silence', we addressed issues we struggled with, but this time it's about the struggle itself. It encapsulates the struggle between 'innocence' and 'instinct' that resonates through all the songs on this record. The music captures the internal tug-of-war inside all of us; between good and evil, light and darkness, spirit and flesh, exploring that fragile barrier between overcoming and being overcome."

'Innocence & Instinct' is being released (in the deluxe edition only) by Integrity-Provident to UK Christian retail in February. In the US though the album, as well as getting Christian retail distribution, has been picked up for release into the mainstream by Epic. Not that this signals a watering down of Red's strong Christian convictions. Said Jasen, "On a personal and even a corporate level [the change of label] doesn't change [things] too much. Our dynamic is the same, basically it's an opportunity to go from a large indie label to a major label. From an economic standpoint, you get a little bigger push and more clout and more things, but the stakes are raised. With Epic we are sharing the label with some great bands, a lot of successful bands and we're really proud to be part of the Epic family and really excited to see where it takes us." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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