Mike Rimmer met up with "new" band REMEDY DRIVE and discovered they're not new at all
Can anything good come out of Lincoln, Nebraska? Well, Remedy Drive for one thing. The band is composed of four brothers: David, Paul, Philip and Daniel Zach and although they're a new name for us over here, the band have been recording independently for 10 years. With five independently released studio albums and one live album, the band finally decided to sign to Word Records and release 'Daylight Is Coming' internationally. When they first emerged, they were originally known as The Aslan band but changed their name after the first independent release to Remedy before lengthening it to Remedy Drive in 2005.
So it's at the start of a new chapter that I get to meet the band during my trip to Nashville in April 2008. In truth, I get to meet half the band! Singer David and bass guitarist Philip venture to my hotel room and introduce themselves.
Despite its reputation as the most boring state in the United States, the brothers assure me that Nebraska has a thriving music scene and then name a bunch of bands I've never heard of to prove the fact. There has been no shortage of places for the band to play although they quickly spread out beyond the state line of Nebraska. David recalls, "We started off playing colleges a lot, especially our college, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and things spread out from there. We started touring all the way to California; we've been to Florida recently. We're working on getting to New York this year hopefully. We play 200 shows a year. We've been doing it independently on our own, doing our own booking. We're having a blast doing it. We just want to play concerts and we'll just do whatever it takes to do it!"
The roots of the band are found in after school jam sessions. Philip remembers, "We'd just come home from high school and we'd play music and crank up the amps. We didn't have a TV growing up." Most of the band members studied at university and then plotted to see how they could make the band work financially. They've obviously done a good job!
The four brothers have an elder sister and a younger sister but didn't let the girls play in the band. Christianity played an important role in their upbringing. Philip explains, "Our parents became Christians in the '60s. They came out of the hippie movement and it was all tied up - music, sex, drugs. It was all tied up as one thing so we grew up pretty conservatively; didn't listen to a lot of music. I mean great, great parents. My dad; what I remember of my dad was this man on his knees every morning at 5:30am, reading and praying. It was quite impressive to be honest. But we didn't listen to a lot of rock music because I think for them it just brought back a whole lifestyle with it and I totally understand that. But then in our teens we looked real seriously at it and my parents realised that music is a powerful thing whether it be used for good or for evil, so we started playing in our basement with a guitar."
David wanted to buy an electric guitar so he worked for the money, mowing lawns and doing odd jobs. When Phil graduated high school he was give $1500 as part of a scholarship so that he could buy books and materials and support himself in college. He went out and bought a bass guitar and taught himself to play. David laughs, "He was educating!"
One of the things that irks us at Cross Rhythms is when American acts who have recorded independently are signed to record labels, no matter how many albums they have previously released, they are deemed to be putting out a "debut" album. I suggest to the band that with the release of 'Daylight Is Coming' and the label telling the world, Remedy Drive are a new rock band with a debut album out. . . they're, quite simply, lying! David and Philip laugh and David responds, "Well, we're new, we're new. 28-years-old but we're new! Just like a brand new band again."
The band have, in fact, been challenged about signing to a label in an age when many other bands are deciding that indie is the way to go. David confesses, "Everybody's been saying, 'Hey, it's the wrong time. The industry's going digital; stay independent.' But what we realised was there's only so much that we can do all on our own. There's four guys working, four guys around a vision, and we've met people that believed in us. We met people that wanted to come alongside and help. I don't know anything about distributing records. I don't know anything about what it takes to get an interview with Mike from England! But now there's a publicity girl that knows you and she knows everybody else in radio. She sets up interviews and there's people that work on getting our songs on TV and on movies."
So fundamentally, when you boil it right down, they've been releasing
albums for a while and playing gigs and now they have a shot at making
a bigger impact with support from a record label. But what is it that
they're trying to achieve? David responds immediately and says, ""We
wanna make great music." I'm disappointed. Is that it? "Of course
that's not it," responds David, "but I think that's a big deal. To be
excellent at what we do brings glory to the King of the universe when
we really enjoy our craft. But then at the same time there's such a
power to a message put to a melody, and there's such an energy - even
in just an instrumental part - when four guys are in unison bringing
the show. But to put a message about a Kingdom; a Kingdom that doesn't
go into recession, a Kingdom that doesn't run on foreign oil, is
something that's more real than rock music, you know? To be able to
use rock music to say, hey, this is only the rough draft. You know how
C S Lewis says; it's just a pencil sketch? The lines aren't coloured
in, man. There is something permanent; there is something that's more
tangible than skin and bones. This flesh and blood, it can't even
inherit the Kingdom that's coming; that's what I read, you know? So to
put that message to a song and make that the anthem that fights
against the material.
A lot of the bands I love, they don't have much more to sing about other than materialism sometimes. I grew up on Dave Matthews and it's like, 'Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.' That's the anthem my friends were singing in high school. There's got to be some way to shed hope and to shed light through a song and if nothing else, let's generate some excitement about the Kingdom that's coming. I feel like that's our calling."
Does the band only communicate through music? The brothers come across as one of the more intelligent bands I've met in Nashville. Philip explains, "What we try to do is, after the show we make ourselves really available to people and we've always done that just because we love meeting the people that make our job possible. I mean we play music.we can do that because people come to the shows, so we hang out with them and talk with them and get to know what's going on in their lives. And then obviously we can email back and forth and with all, like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube and all that stuff, it makes it a lot easier to communicate with people that we won't see for another six months. So we work really hard as a band to make sure we communicate back to everybody that writes us and messages us."
David picks up the thought, ""But at the same time I don't have all the answers and that's a great thing about music; I can actually say at some point, 'Hey man, I ask questions too! I'm broken. I'm empty. I'm disillusioned. We're falling apart and we need hope so let's be a community about looking for hope!' And when we leave a town what I think is important is that we do partner with people every night that are gonna be there, that are rooted into that community that we can always point and direct to if people need personal help that day: I can respond in email but I know that there is somebody in town that would love to hang out with them for an hour that day."
Do Remedy Drive have a harder time being together because they are four brothers? Are there ever any Gallagher Brothers style bust ups? Philip laughs, "Certainly!" David responds, "You're the first guy that's ever asked that! But then you're the first guy from England to interview us." Philip interjects "It's not quite to that level but there are definitely times where..." and David jumps in to say, "Phil's never played a show that I decided not to play in and I jeered him from the crowd! That's never happened."
Recreating the famous Oasis spat hasn't been part of Remedy Drive's history. "I don't think that it would go over well in this industry!" Philip observes. "So there are a lot of times where it's more difficult because we're brothers and because we're just brutally honest with each other. And we've know each other since forever so there are times that it gets a lot harder to basically live the same day every day on tour in a different city. And all the things that annoy you about a person that come up during that day, they're gonna come up the next day, and the next day."
David suddenly pipes up in an accusatory manner, "Phil chews loud! He chews very loud!" David makes a loud munching sound to demonstrate. Philip sighs and retorts, "I've never heard that before!" David cries out triumphantly "See!" like he's suddenly proven a maths equation. The brothers have their sibling issues from time to time. I offer Philip the opportunity to tell me something that annoys him about David. He laughs, "I don't even want to get started with that!" But suddenly he becomes more serious, "There's also a camaraderie and a sense that we're not going to leave each other. No one can be replaced."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.