[ feb. 16, 2003 | philadelphia, pa | see spot rock tour ]
With the snow falling outside at about an inch an hour, and the news that the February 16, 2003 See Spot Rock show was to be rescheduled, I sat with Relient K at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. Matt T was happy to be able to rest his voice that night, but that did not stop him from answering some varied questions about music and life.
cMusicWeb.com: The motto for cMusicWeb is "A Different Approach to Music." How does rK fit into this?
Matt Thiessen: One thing that we find is different than a lot of other bands is that we don't take ourselves very seriously. A lot of bands are like, "We are only in it for the music, not for the money and the fame," and stuff like that. And we are definitely not in it for the money or the fame. We're in it for the music, too, I guess but we just love our jobs and we love having fun with it. And we feel like every day that we come out and play a show, God has just been blessing us with more opportunities to keep doing it. So it has just been a really good time. So our goals, I guess are just a little bit different than other peoples.
cMW: I have heard the word "relevant" used a lot in Christian circles. What does the word mean to you?
Matt T: Relevant is a pretty general word used to describe something that actually means anything in the grand scheme of life. When I look to see if something is relevant or not to me, that means if it means anything to me when all is said and done. Sometimes I'll get really worried about something, like I'll get all worked up about a sound check or something like that and then I'll realize that it is not really relevant to what we are actually trying to do.
Brian Pittman: I would say that I would have to have something, like a situation would have to be proposed to me before I could answer that question.
Matt Hoopes: A lot of people use the word relevant, like if you are playing music that is really outdated or not with the times, and a lot of people will not like it. People would say that is not really relevant. You are not affecting people around you because no one cares what you are doing as far as music.
cMW: I have also heard people talk about the Bible, for instance, is it relevant for today, well of course it is.
Matt T: Yeah, and I think they are talking about making the Bible relevant to people who don't come from the same background.
cMW nods in agreement
Matt T: I mean, there are some things in the Bible, like in the Old Testamant, some of the Law were relevant in the time they were written and they are relevant now because they are used as things to look at, to study and stuff but the Law itself is not actually still applicable for the way we are living now. We are not still sacrificing lambs and stuff whenever we mess up.
cMW: If you were to write a song about your typical fan, what would you include in the lyrics?
Dave Douglas: We are really lucky with our fans. Our fans are amazing. We all know so many people who like bands and even like specific bands that have been their favorite bands for a long time. But for some reason, it's really crazy, but I feel like our fans are just like super intense. They are like all about Relient K. It's really cool because it just seems like the fans are like hard core Relient K fans and they really like Relient K. And they enjoy all of the little things that we do, we try to put stuff up on the website, and keep changing stuff around, and little videos. I think we are really lucky that our fans are that into us that they get something out of that stupid stuff and we do a little extra stuff for them.
Matt T: At least those are the ones that stick out the most, the slightly obsessive ones.
cMW: I understand that your parents encouraged you in the decision for you to make a living as a band. What do they think now?
Brian: I just saw my parents. We just played in Cleveland which is really close to where we are from. They were sitting in the balcony of where we were playing, and I could see them the whole time. The expressions on their faces.... I talked to my dad afterwards and I guess he signed like 10 autographs and they were like, "Oh my gosh, that's his parents." I think everyone has learned a little bit about faith because my parents, when we first started, there wasn't that solid.... They were not sure what we were going to do or whether or not we'd be successful or not. It took a lot for them to put their trust in us and to put their faith in us and their faith in God. And I think that they can sit back now and definitely see that God had a plan for us in the beginning. It is really rewarding for them to see that just the way they brought us up and the practices that they showed us has paid off when we are out there doing it on our own now. I think it would make anyone proud to realize that you raised someone to be that, we can get on stage and be encouragers and just be role models to kids. I know all of our parents are very supportive and extremely fond of what we do.
cMW: You have toured extensively in the last few years, gaining new fans all the way. Do you have plans to slow down sometime?
Matt H: I think this year we are really slowing down a lot compared to normally what's going on.
Matt T: Two reasons for that. One - Dave and Matt are both engaged right now. They are both getting married in May and June. So that would be good for them just to get a little more time off. And also, right now, the Christian market isn't that huge, so the fact that we have been touring so much in that small little market, we don't want to over saturate it. You have to create a demand sometimes. So if we stay out of a few places for a season, then it will hopefully create more of a demand. The other thing that could happen is that no one will want to see us, they will forget about us. Like we played last night in Lancaster, PA. We have played there like 4 or 5 times a year. But the last tour we did, we skipped Lancaster, we skipped the market. I think that may have contributed to the fact that we sold out 2 shows yesterday, and the fact that this is a bigger tour. But that was the idea to skip that market because we over saturated it so much. That's also why we are trying to slow down a bit. And then we'll hit it hard again.
Matt H: You can't play in Des Moines, Iowa 5 times in one year.
Matt T: We did it, it was crazy.
Matt H: We probably did it like 2 years in a row. It was good shows every time.
cMW: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Dave: I don't think any of us know how long people will still like us.
Matt T: It is very possible we'd still be here with the band, though.
Dave: We just have no idea. It does not look like it is going to abruptly end soon. We have been really blessed that we are doing well right now. But there is always that possibility that in 2 years we could be doing something totally different or we could still be doing this in 5 years. I know personally I want to stay in music. I have loved music all my life and I have wanted to be in bands performing since I was like 7. When I was 7 I decided I wanted to be in a band and go on the road. There are a lot of different aspects of music that I am really interested in as far as the technical side and recording and stuff like that. I definitely want in music, but we'll see what 5 years brings.
cMW: Some people may read or hear that your music is considered "Punk rock" and decide not to give it a listen because they don't like that musical genre? What would you say to that person to get them to listen to your new CD?
Dave: I would not really describe it as that. There's a lot more to it. I mean we are definitely influenced by punk rock, we all like it, but we all like different kinds of music. And especially as The Elms have gone on from more of a straight kind of punk pop band to being pretty well rounded. We have a new record coming out on March 11th and it is really well rounded. There are some slower stuff kind of like on our last CD, and kind of exploring stylistically a couple of different things. So we still have that same pop/punk kind of flair on a lot of songs, but then we got to do a lot of different stuff on the new album, too. It's kind of a pop/punk influenced rock and roll band. There are a lot of different styles that come in all come into play.
cMW: Speaking of the new album, Two Lefts..., why 4 album covers?
Matt T: It was the labels idea. I guess a couple of other artists are out there doing that, like Tori Amos had that one, she did an album that had 4 different album covers. It's kind of a cool thing. We are only doing it for the first 80,000 or 40,000 or something like that. And then we are going down to one. We are kind of bummed. We were hoping that the record label wasn't trying to go out and make one person by four.
Brian: The only thing that is different on each one is the cover.
Matt T: It should be cool, like there is only going to be a certain amount of green ones out there. It's something different, I guess. Our record label had never done different covers.
cMW: I have read on the message boards, people talking about Relienk K and going mainstream/General market? What do you think about that?
Brian: I think if that is where God would take us, I think that it would happen. I think we definitely would end up alienating a lot of people but gaining a lot of people at the same time. It seems like in the Christian market there are a lot of people want us to stay Christian and do all this stuff and there are other people who are like go out and reach everybody. So I think that if God were to have us do that, we would like to. And at the same time we are comfortable with where we are. I feel like we got here because of God's blessing. In the next couple of years we have no idea where it could go, but it has been worth it so far.
Matt T: To say we are content with where we are at is not even true because we are more than that. We are still, you know, we do not really deserve to be where we are. It's crazy, every day is like that blessing. And so for us to be continually looking ahead and further down the road, "We want more, we want more," is not our mentality at all, so it's kind of cool. But in the same respect, we don't like headlining that much, and we don't know who else to open for in the Christian market. I mean, we don't know who else to open for, we have opened for the Supertones twice, Five Iron Frenzy twice, and how many other Christian ska bands are there to open for?
cMW: Well, pretty soon only one.
Matt T: That's the one thing. We listen to a lot of general market rock and roll bands and we would love to get on some tours with some bands. MxPx would be really cool because they obviously don't cross too many lines as far as language or sexual references and stuff like that. It would actually probably work with our fan base as well. That would be something we'd really like to do.
cMW: If you could take away the distinction between Christian and mainstream, what would you call it?
Matt H: I think with Christian music there is kind of a built in fan base a lot of the time. Like if a new Christian rock band comes out, there is like a built in crowd for that. It's a real weird kind of music. If you look in the Gospel section or Christian section of the Best Buy or something like that, there are just all kinds of music that is separated not by musical style but by lyrical content. And that also gets really weird because who is the judge of what lyrics are Christian and what are not? If a person that writes Christian songs isn't a Christian, what happens then? I think it is kind of an odd reference but I think that Christian music does do good things. But I also think that just having Christians out there making God inspired art in film and music and everything, being out in the public eye, making a good witness, is a good thing.
cMW: I know you like to play at venues where you are closer to your fans. As you become a "bigger" band and on tours like this, I am sure you will be playing larger venues where you are farther away from your fans? What do you think of that? Like I remember at Creation East you commented on how far away you were from the audience.
Dave: Festivals get really rough like that because, like last year at festivals was the first year we ended up playing the Main Stage at almost every festival which was also a different thing. With our kind of music and just the way our mentality is, it's really cool for us to be on the smaller stages and just be in a more close knit environment and just having fun instead of doing the rock star kind of thing. Some bands, that's just their normal environment to be on a big stage and have a 20 foot gap before the first row, which is really weird for us. To have a couple of cameras and a couple of VIP people down there and everybody else is like 20 feet further away. So it's really weird for us, we just like to be close to people.
Matt T: Our music has a lot more to do with our personalities and just relating to people than actually the physical skill of playing the guitar and drums. So when you are on the stage and the audience is 20 yards away, you can just forget about them and just show off, do your talent. But we have nothing to show off. It's all in your head, too. If you pretend that the gap is gone, you just try to do your best.
Brian: I think for us, we would much rather prefer, I love going up to the front of the stage and smacking the kids hands away when they reach for my guitar. I am out there until they reach for it and then I just pull it away. I think that is just like, I have so much more fun, I feel like I am connecting with people. But when they are so far away and if there's lights you can't even see anybody. It wouldn't matter if there were a thousand people screaming, it feels like there's no one. The kind of thing that we have always loved having personal hang out time. I miss the shows when there were just like a handful of kids afterwards and you could just go and hang out and now it seems like the bigger scale it gets, it's just rough to do anything. We are very grateful for it, but we always appreciate those other times, too.
Matt T: We have this fan club. But the cool thing about it is that we do these meet and greets before our shows now with the fan club kids. It reminds us of the old times because there are only like 10 - 15 kids at every show and you actually get to have a real conversation and get to know these people that you see on the message board. I feel kind of bad because it does cost money to be in the fan club, but it is good to have that small group again.
Dave: They get free stuff, though. We try and give them something.
cMW: Share something about your experience making a video with a retirement home setting.
Brian: It was really cool because there were a bunch of extras, and there were a lot of Sr. citizens who were professional actors. They were the sweetest people. They'd come up to us and off the camera they would say, "We really like you guys sound." Seventy year old women who said they like our sound. I don't know when that would ever happen anywhere. These people were so willing to work all day long, and they were there all day just hurrying up and waiting, and shooting. They were just so supportive of everything. They just seemed really grateful to be there. I feel like we walked away from that almost blessed by their attitude and their willingness to serve. They were just there to have a good time. It was crazy seeing them, they were really getting into the mosh pit and just attacking us and giving us kisses on the cheek. They were just totally having a blast. I feel like they made it fun for us, too. Sometimes those things are not much fun. I talked to almost every one of them. They had a lot of cool stories, like some of them had been extras in commercials and movies before. One lady said something and I was like, "I remember you from that," and she was like, "That was me." It was a Pepsi commercial. It's just so funny to see. These people, that's what they do - wait until there's an offer and then they come out and work all day.
- Kim Flanders
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