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sanctus real interview
[ lhms, lancaster, pa / see spot rock tour / feb. 15, 2003 ]


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Heard singles on the radio. Wanted to hear more. Got the Say it Loud album. Liked it. Heard their set at the Lancaster Mennonite High School in PA as part of the current See Spot Rock tour. Liked it more. Sat down with Matt Hammitt, vocals and guitar, and Steve Goodrum, bass guitar player of Sanctus Real for a few minutes. Now I am hooked. See what they had to say.

cMW: The motto for cMusicWeb is "A different approach to music." How does Sanctus Real fit in?
Matt: I think that we really try to be different in the sense that…actually our name, "Sanctus Real" means "Holy", "Sanctus" means "Holy" and we really want to hold to that standard, and that's part of what real means as well. "Real" means just trying to be real. A lot of times people in music put a face on, it's always a façade. Maybe there is like a "rock star" image involved. And really a lot of times it is about image. And what you see on the outside really isn't what is going on behind the scenes. Our goal as a band, what you could call a different approach, is to get past all that, don't put up a façade, and let kids know right off the bat that we are just people, too. We are not stars. We don't have an ego, we are not into image, we are just who we are, and we are no better than you are. And we just want to really reach students. I think that is a bit of a different approach than some may take.

cMW: I have heard the word "relevant" used a lot in Christian circles. What does that word mean to you?
Steve: I think it can also go back to what he just said about our name, Sanctus Real. Being real with kids. Being able to relate to young people in our music, about relationships, about situations that we go through, the difference that we add trying to be relevant to the kids. Stuff that they can hold on to but also give them a chunk of truth, like a piece of hope that they can hold on to through that music and not just woe is me, life stinks, I just broke up with my girlfriend. Something that a kid can be laying on his bed, "Man I feel the same way." At the end of the song just really tie it in and make it to where they can feel like they can carry on and push through the situation.
Matt: That is really weird because what is relevant is in a sense what is relative. What is relevant? Every person has a different thing that relates to them. Maybe someone that our music would relate to would not relate to someone with a different kind of genre, or whatever. But there is that one thing that we can all relate to in terms of our Spiritual need for Christ in our life. I hope we can relate to all people in terms of that, depending on whether or not our music is relevant. I hope our message always will be relevant.

cMW: What is the message/passion as a band?
Matt: A lot of artists or athletes or whatever say they don't want to be a role model, but we do want to be role models because we all know that whether we like it or not, we are. And so we feel there is a standard to live up to that we can't compromise in our personal life if we are saying one thing on stage. So I think that is just really our ministry - doing what we say. Obviously we are not perfect and we make mistakes, but we strive with all of our hearts to get to know God better and that is what we hope students will do, too.

cMW: You have toured successfully for about 6 years before being signed to a major record label. How are things the same or different for you now on a national tour?
Steve: It's kind of the same.
Matt: It's weird because it is the same. Well, I guess this tour really isn't the same because we really couldn't draw the same kind of numbers on our own at this point in our career, having our first national debut just come out. So that's really different in terms of touring with other bands who really draw and have been around longer. Playing for those kind of crowds like this, I mean we'd never play 2 crowds of over 1000 people all in one day on our own. And so that's really different. But you find that students and whoever - people are the same everywhere you go. Generally they like the same things, ask the same questions, and feel the same a lot of times. It is kind of weird how different and how the same people are.
Steve: I think being able to get out and see different parts of the country is exciting, but also being sheltered sometimes you feel like you are the only person in the world who feels that way. Getting to meet different people, going back to the relating thing, you know, "Oh, I feel the same way." Just getting to know the body of Christ, and seeing kids and going through their little things.
Matt: Just more people to relate to!

cMW: If you were to take away the distinction between Christian and Mainstream music, what would you call it?
Matt: Wow…..that's a crazy question.
cMW: I ask that question a lot, and have received a variety of answers.
Matt: So you are saying if you actually broke down the wall between the two of them, like what would you call that breakthrough or what would you call our kind of music?
cMW: You could answer it either way, actually.
Matt: I think the only people that really separate music by label are Christians because we have this community that's a bubble. To anybody who is not a believer, they would listen to any given song and to them that is just music. Maybe it's rock and roll, maybe it's country music, whatever. It's just music to them. And as a Christian community we have actually created this subculture. I think, it really wouldn't affect anybody. On a musical level it really would not affect anybody in the mainstream, I don't think, as much as Christians would feel like, "Oh, we lost our subculture, it's gone, what do we do now?"
cMW: It's like safety.
Matt: Yeah. They'd lose that safety. And I think it would be great because Christians would have to be forced to, going back to the other question, to be relevant. "Oh no, we'd have to be relevant now, we have to go out in the world and we have to mingle with non-Christians and share what we have." It's like a hard thing for Christians to grasp. I think it would be a really great thing. We would have to learn how to get involved with non-Christians and really learn how to impact our world. But I don't think the church is really ready for that. I think it would be a cool thing even though people who aren't Christians would not know the difference in the music, but they'd definitely notice a difference in the message. And that would be great. Then it would not have to be labeled Christian music but they'd pick up a CD and take it home and go, "Wow, this really speaks to me. This really does something for me." But I think it would be a pretty big shake up in the church.

cMW: Any "words of wisdom" for an independent artist who desires to be "signed" with a major label?
Matt: The biggest thing for me that I tell students that there is not a formula. Everybody wants a formula. "What do I have to do to get signed?" "What do I have to do to get recognized?" It is absolutely different for every band. So if you are pursuing your dreams, God is going to take you the way that you are supposed to go and He is not going to let you miss that path. You could never follow what somebody else did because God has a very special and unique plan for everybody's life. And I hate for students to miss that because they try to replicate what somebody else did. If you are supposed to make it in this, God is going to take you exactly the way you are supposed to go. So I would just say, in the words of Relient K, keep pressing on.
Steve: I would definitely say to be very patient with whatever comes in your path and to hold out to what you feel is right for you and to what you think God is leading you into. So often we see these independent bands that just go in and step into the first thing that is offered to them and it is not usually the right thing. Not necessarily bad, but there could be something better out there that God is waiting for. So just to be patient because sometimes, like in our case it did take a while. We spent 8 months In a relationship with Sparrow getting to know them before we signed with them. You get frustrated and you get nervous and you see all these other opportunities.
Matt: There are some bands who think they should be signed 8 months after they get together.
Steve: P.O.D. is a huge band right now, they have sold triple platinum records, but they were a band for 10 years before they got technically signed. But there are bands like Skillet - they were a band only a few months before they got signed.
Matt: And Bleach. So, patience and don't look for a formula.

cMW: Tell us something you like about being on the road and something you don't like?
Matt: I like driving through the night and waking up to the sunrise in the west. That is my favorite thing. Seeing the sunrise over the mountains, whether or not it is in the desert or the mountains or the hills of northern California. Wherever, it is just so beautiful. It's my favorite thing. Everything you get to see, even during the day, you just drive through some really cool things. That's actually a benefit of driving yourselves on this tour. Everyone else has a bus. But we get to see everywhere we go. We drive everywhere ourselves while everyone else is on a bus sleeping or just hanging out. So I enjoy that for now. One thing I don't like is not being on a bus. *laughs* Sleep. It's like give-take give-take. Yes the sleep - you lose a lot of sleep when you do it the way we are doing it and you really miss home, sometimes. But I would not trade it for anything.
Steve: I truly think musicians are wired differently than other people and for me to sit at a desk job, 9-5, I would just go crazy.
Matt: And we did it for a while and we went crazy.
Steve: Being in the band and holding two jobs. But there is that payoff of something new and fresh every day. Getting to meet new people and experiencing new cities and states and areas of the country you have never been in. That's definitely a positive thing. But I think like you said the fatigue does wear on you. Everybody wants to be in a rock band but they don't realize how much work it really is. It can really take a toll, our drummer is out sick with mono right now. It caught up with him.

cMW: What is your favorite song on the Say it Loud album? Why?
Matt: My favorite song on the album is a song called "After Today." It's my favorite song because of the lyrics. It's a song I wrote after I graduated from High School and it's actually about what I talked about before a little bit about the unique plan that God has for everybody's life. Sometimes we don't understand our circumstances or the things that surround us and we get confused about the direction we are supposed to take. But the whole point of the song is saying that God had a plan but understanding it is not our place. If we just seek God at first, we'll never have to lose our way. So that's the message of that song. I love that because a lot of times people get lost in life and end up on the wrong side of things. I hate to see that happen.
Steve: I personally like "Inspiration." It's just a fun song for me. I enjoy it. I think a lot of times I forget where my inspiration comes from and the difference of where it comes from and where it should come from and trying to keep the focus on being a positive influence back and forth between the band members and also really staying focused with God and having Him direct us. That is really important. I was just thinking about it when he was talking. "What's your inspiration?" And people are like "Bands" and people list 3 or 4 bands. But the inspiration should be God first. We tend to forget that and that song tends to remind me. It's just a great song, I play the bass. And Mark, our drummer, I think that's his favorite song. There's kind of a fun groove to it.

cMW: What song do you like best performing live?
Steve: I really enjoy "Audience of One."
Matt: Me, too. It's a really rocking song. Kind of in your face. It's got that break in it and it's just, "Wow!" And I just do the jump and land.
Steve: It's powerful. It's got a lot of meaning to us.

cMW: Where does the inspiration of the lyrics come from?
Matt: Relationships is the biggest inspiration, most importantly our relationship with Christ. We just write the way we feel and because we are Christians, it just happens to be that it revolves around the Lord. So our inspiration is our life experience and our daily walk with Christ.

cMW: Who is Grant Cunningham? ("Audience of One" is dedicated to Grant Cunningham)
Matt: He was the head of A&R at Sparrow Records. I don't know how long, how many years that was. He was a really cool guy. He had a real talent for songwriting, a real talent for lyrics especially. He worked a lot with the pop artists on Sparrow. He wrote a lot of songs. He worked with acts like Avalon, Jump5 and Point of Grace. He was a really cool guy and he also had a lot of input on our record lyrically and really taught me how important it is to clarify your message in a song. We would have our sessions and we would go over our lyrics and he would always make the coolest observations and the coolest points. He was so precise on how to word something so that you got your message right across. Unfortunately, during the making of our record, he had a soccer accident. He just fell on the field and ended up breaking his brain stem and he died. It was a shock to everybody and he left behind a wife and three kids. A lot of people at Sparrow were very close to him. We did not get the privilege of knowing him for a long period of time, but he really influenced me as a song writer in the short amount of time I got to spend with him.
Steve: He was definitely one of the very influential guy who helped us make our decision to move to Sparrow. Just his relaxed demeanor, it was almost comforting to talk to him as if you were family.
Matt: He was one of the reasons we came to Sparrow. Sometimes when we were going through issues on the business side of things he would call and really put things in perspective. We partially owe the fact that we are at Sparrow to him. We really wanted to find a small way to dedicate something to him because there were so many other artists at Sparrow who knew him better than we did. We felt "Audience of One" - since he is up there singing to an audience of one.
Steve: It has a lot to do with the song lyrically.

cMW: What is the reference to Hunan Chinese Restaurant on the record by your producer?
Matt: Hunan Chinese Restaurant is in downtown Franklin, Tennessee and that is where we recorded our record - Audio Adrenaline's studio. Just down the street. And they have the nicest, over the top nicest Chinese people that work there. I mean always, "Thank you. Thank you. Yes, sir. Thank you. Yea ma'am." I mean we always had some jokes about it, because it was always just so funny how nice they were to us. We would always go there. At least 3 times a week we would go get the buffet. It's always top notch. We had some good times at Hunan, that's for sure.
- Kim Flanders
April 2003
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