Tony Cummings reports on the new lease of life for pop rockers RELIENT K
Top selling CCM band Relient K are experiencing a whole new lease of life. They recently became co-owners of the label Mono Vs Stereo and the band's first release on that set up 'Forget And Not Slow Down' is selling well. Singer/composer Matt Thiessen spoke to HM magazine as he looked back over the 13 years of the band's existence. "I think the band is obviously going to change a lot because we were 16 when we started and we're 29 now, but it has been a really cool band, because it always had this unique vibe. I don't hear a lot of the same stuff about my friends' bands. I like that everyone is still in the band after 10 years, that's pretty cool. If everybody on the bus is stoked to be on the bus, if everyone in the band is happy to be in the band, and we all want to work together and make it happen, as long as everybody is a good dude and we're all bros it is going to be great and it is going to be some of the best times of our lives."
So what is the problem that leads so many bands to implode after a period on the road? "Playing the same cities all the time," confessed Thiessen. "Like showing up in Bakersfield, California for the third time in a year? That's where it gets a little tough, just because forces beyond your control are turning this into a regular job, but you've got to make the best of it. But we have a lot of fun on the road and a lot of fun hanging out with each other and we hang out with each other a lot when we are off the road too."
The material on 'Forget And Not Slow Down' was written after Matt went off to compose in seclusion. He told Christianity Today, "When writing, I've found that putting a pause on my social life always leads to more thought-out songs. I also don't like creating music with anyone in earshot."
Matt continued about the songwriting process. "My new thing is when I write songs I try to be super honest and everything that I write down is something that I mean and something that makes sense to me. I mean, I know a lot of bands that write songs and sometimes they just put in lyrics that rhyme, or they put in something that is there because it sounds cool or it's hooky and I'm trying to find stuff that, yeah, maybe rhymes and sounds cool and is hooky, but I also want it to be exactly what I mean and exactly what is on the heart. It takes me longer to write lyrics that way but it makes every song a unique little flower, its own thing. It's never going to be stale."
Several of the songs on 'Forget And Not Slow Down', like "Therapy" and "This Is The End", deal with the subject of a painful break-up of a meaningful relationship. "Yeah, it's definitely a break-up record," stated Thiessen. "That was just kind of what was happening in my life at the time of writing it. I moved out to a lake house in the middle of nowhere Tennessee by myself and kind of sat there and fiddled with some instruments and went canoeing some days, or I got up to go for a run and then would sit and write songs. For me it was pretty hard, the break-up thing. So I just dealt with it, prayed about it and definitely got myself through it and I felt like I am pretty strong about the whole thing and it will hopefully make a good record that people can relate to. I mean, obviously, there were other things going on, too, with the relationship. This one was a pretty serious one, so the ramifications of how your family feels about the break-up, how the outside world looks at you and all these things, you can deal with that on a lot of different levels. The songs can be applied to more in life than just girl/guy situations, but definitely the way to learn some lessons."
The singer/songwriter was asked, to what degree did prayer factor into this retreat of sorts? He responded, "It was huge. Because I was by myself, the only time I got to talk to anyone was when I prayed. A lot of lyrics normally come out of those times. This album is about staying positive and not letting the things that get us down get to us. It's a melodic rock record. The songs are up-tempo and have a lot of tension notes which, coupled with the lyrics, give it an urgent sort of feel."
Thiessen spoke about the Mono Vs Stereo record label. "We always thought it'd be fun to sign bands. Toby [Mac] and Joey [Elwood] from [partnership company] Gotee Records are going to give [guitarist Matt] Hoopes and me a shot at building the MVS roster. Having Relient K's stuff on the label gives us even more freedom and control than we've had before. We're excited about the future."
Mark has begun working with chart topping sensation Adam Young, otherwise known as Owl City. "Adam is a really cool kid. One of the sweetest guys I have ever met in my life. He actually came out to that lake house where I wrote [the album] and we worked on songs for a couple of days. His ideas are great and he's great. He let me shuffle some things around and throw my opinion around in there. And then I went out to Minnesota where he recorded his record and I got to sing a few vocals and do some more work on some songs."
But their music partnership didn't end there. After working on the latest Owl City album, Thiessen brought in Young to contribute to a Relient K track. Explained Matt, "For our record I wrote a song but I really didn't want to finish the music of it, I didn't really know what genre of music I wanted to do it in, so I gave it to him and I played the chorus and the melodies and I sang it and he wrote this entire track around it which sounds like Owl City. So we have a Relient K song that basically, I didn't really do any of the instruments other than the acoustic guitar, everything is Adam. And that is going to be the B-side on our record on our international release and stuff. So it's been a really cool relationship meeting him."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.