A hard music band from Orange County, PROJECT 86 have been making a big noise in the States. . . a very big noise. Amy Coonagh reports.
Since the phenomenon that is P.O.D. broke the Christian hard music underground open to the startled gaze of the mainstream, other bands have been benefiting from the promotion dollar of the big boys. One of them is Orange County's Project 86, whose searing blend of spiritual angst and explosively loud guitars has brought them to the attention of Atlantic Records, who have been giving mainstream distribution to their Tooth & Nail album 'Drawing Black Lines'.
Appearing at Tomfest, (an annual hard music festival held in Washington, USA) Project 86 invaded the stage with their crunching brand of music, opening for P.O.D. and confirming the crowd's belief that Project 86 is ready for it's next hurdle of impacting mainstream culture. They are quietly confident with a clear knowledge that their role as a band is to take music to the next level. After their set I spoke to the band's frontman Andrew Schwab.
"As a band we hope that we would do something artistically that would inspire people, but our music is not written for religious circles. Our vision as a band is to shape and affect culture through the art that we do. We want to inspire people to think or look at things from different perspectives. The more we grow and evolve as a band the more this vision develops. The gist behind what we do is to write music, which is not bound by a certain sub-cultural group or their perspective on us."
Project 86's second album, 'Drawing Black Lines', has sold just under 100,000 copies worldwide. It boasts lyrics that express the band's desire to break new ground and prevent a premature conclusion to be drawn on the so-called genre of the band.
When asked how being signed to Atlantic will affect them Schwab continued, "Our goal as a band is not to be a part of the corporate pop culture but rather to use the resources of pop culture to make statements about it being signed to Atlantic brings within that context both good and evil and I think that any band that has any kind of success on a major label will admit that it is a bitter sweet thing having access to the public sphere and corporate medium. For Project 86, it is a matter of how we can navigate the musical environment and at the same time resist the games that so many within the corporate structure wish to play with us."
Project 86 certainly has succeeded within the sphere of Christian music and with the popularity of bands such as P.O.D. breaking into the mainstream there is an open door waiting for them. With Andrew's passionately gutsy vocals underpinned by Randy Torres (guitar), Steven Dail (bass) and Alex Albert (drums) and boosted by the addition of ex-NIV Corey Adelman on second guitar, the band undertook a mammoth 35-date US tour with P.O.D. and (HED)pe. It was a very positive experience for the band. "You know, whenever we get a chance to play in front of larger audiences, and for fans that haven't heard our music before, it's a good opportunity for us to go out and just show them what Project 86 is all about. And it's been very cool, not only playing for P.O.D.'s fans, but also (HED)pe's fans. We've had the opportunity to go out there and make our presence known every single night. And we've gotten a very good response at every show. I mean, we have a core of our fans there who actually create energy at the shows, but also it's been cool getting feedback from kids after the shows when we just hang out and talk to people. These kids who've never heard of us before are coming up and saying, 'Yeah, we really liked you guys,' or whatever."
However, with many bands within popular culture fitting into the "nu-metal/hardcore" music genre is Project 86 providing anything new or merely following popular culture? "We see ourselves as a rock band like so many rock bands out there who are attempting to write songs that make artistic statements about the world around them," said Schwab. "There is a lot of heavy music around at the moment and it has a lot of influence on popular culture as a whole. But, I believe that pretty soon you are going to see a lot of it die. Music in culture always travels in cycles and when it reaches its apex it will decline and it is always a fast decline. I would be a fool to say that our music, to date, could not be associated with heavy music but I think that too many bands aren't realistic about what they are trying to accomplish. I think as far as Project 86 is concerned we are still growing and are still on our upswing."
When asked about the spiritual aspects of the last year for Project 86, Schwab told HM magazine, "I would say internally we've grown leaps and bounds in our perspective, in our maturity, and in our approach to doing what we do. I would say that [God has] opened so many doors for us and shown in so many ways his support and his hand upon what we're doing. I think that the further we go the more we see that we need him and that we need to be thankful for the things that he's given us, not just in a success perspective, but also in a character perspective. He continues to mould all of our characters together. And that's really what he desires out of this, not necessarily success for our band, but character for our band, and that's what he continues to mould and build. And hopefully with God's help, and with his hand upon us, we want to make the greatest music that we can possibly make, the most creative art that we can possibly create, so it makes a real impact on the music industry as a whole."
Andrew is positive about what the future holds for Project 86. "As we evolve and grow as a band we're finding more clever and inventive ways to express ourselves. I think as far as we are concerned we are still within this growth process and still defining what our sound is. I think that we have hinted at that with our last album 'Drawing Black Lines'. Our new record will continue with expressing this belief a bit more and I believe that we will be able to make more of a statement about who we are and what we believe."
With their new album due for release spring 2002, the band is currently recording and deciding the producer for the album. There is an expectancy from the fans of Project 86 for a fresh album which displays the band's belief that music is there to say something about the culture in which they find themselves.
When asked if Project 86 is to visit the UK, Schwab smiled and said, "We would love to! We have always wanted to tour in Europe but we haven't had a chance to as yet. Hopefully next year will see some opportunities open up."
As I left the room, allowing the band to continue their game of pool,
I smiled and realised that Project 86 is more than merely a band. They
have a clear vision that God has handed to them, which is to invade
the culture and provide a door for the freedom of the Gospel to be
circulated through their lifestyles and music. This is surely the
future for many so-called "Christian" bands, to take the gift that God
has given them and use it within the mainstream music scene and seek
to alter the face of popular culture.