They manage to mix influences as different as The Beach Boys and Nofx in their music and fit all that into pop-punk genre, at the same time being so ambitious to make 115-track song. Relient K
is a band from Canton, Ohio. Seven years into their career and three albums that have gone Gold with the new record very likely to follow the success.
Their fifth album, Five Score And Seven Years Ago
, debuted at number six on the U.S. Billboard charts and has sold about 64,000 copies in its first week. UG
talked to one of the founding members of the band - guitarist Matt Hoopes
about what it takes for a young band to break into the mainstream, about selling music online and the plans for future.
UG: I'm gonna ask you a few questions. First of all - how are you?
Oh, I'm doing great today! We are in Detroit on tour.
Your new album Five Score And Seven Years Ago has just been out 6th March. Are you happy with the attention it gets so far?
Yes, definitely! It has started out pretty good in the charts, but that's not the point. We just love being in a band and are very happy with any amount of success that we can have and any amount of exposure that we can get. We are just happy to be playing music, it's a very fun thing for us!
You've started recording the album on June 2006. Why did it take so long to release it?
That's actually kind of a funny story. Our record label wanted to release it last fall and so it was a rush process over the summer. We were done recording in August and then they mixed it and had it all ready to go. After that they've started to push it back for some reasons, which ended up the release date being March instead of fall. We wanted it to come out earlier obviously and we have been working really hard to try to squeeze in the recording time and get it all done. But the guys at the record label had their own plans.
You say the new album is your happiest record. What influenced you when writing it?
I don't think anything necessarily exciting happened. I've noticed that time have passed for our band to write about conflicts and resolution and we tried to avoid corny and silly songs. Now four out of five of us are married and Matt [Thiessen, the vocalist] actually has got quite a serious girlfriend he's been dating for about two years. So, writing the album we were like: I'm in a good place in life right now. I'm happy and everything is good.
It's that feeling of total happiness that influenced the band.
What about the last track on the record - 11-minute epic Deathbed?
That's my favorite song we've ever recorded and the one I'm most proud of. It's a factitious story about a guy who's on his deathbed and he's looking back at his life; he didn't do anything perfectly and obviously has a lot of regrets. It paints a really cool picture about what we believe the grace and forgiveness are. It's not anyway autobiographical, not about anyone in particular. It's just a made-up story about what happens when we die. Originally it wasn't supposed to be as long as 11 minutes. But we just kept going with it and Matt kept writing more and more verses, more parts of the story. And when we were putting the song together we realized it should be something really interesting. It has 115 tracks - we tried to use as many different instruments as possible, make it interesting to listen to the entire way through.
The songs on your record are really different. How much did the production by Howard Benson influence your music?
|"It's that feeling of total happiness that influenced the band."|
Our first four records we did with my father-in-law [Mark Townsend], he was the one who helped us to get started. He's a great guy and we're still really close with him, it's like family to all of us. If we wanted the song to be a certain way, he was like Ok, cool!
He always let us do it our own way and we got to the point where we wanted the producer to have a strong opinion - tell us how the song needs to go. Howard Benson didn't even say it that much, but he provided a lot of songwriting and the way we put songs together. We felt the record sounded really good, went to the studio in LA where they've got some really great engineers. It seems to work out well!
What guitar effects and pedals did you use recording the album?
We actually used a lot of everything. As far as the amps go, we used some old 60s and 70s Marshalls that they had in the studio. We used just a ridiculous range of gear because of the amount of stuff that they had on hand at the studio. All of those vintage guitars, vintage pedals, amps and some really cool equipment that's hard to find. There's an awesome guitar that we found in the studio and used on every track - Les Paul Junior from 1958 and it sounded really good. We didn't go too crazy with effects - just a few delays. When it comes to pedals we used Line 6 Verbzilla - it's a reverb pedal.
Did you use any weird tuning while recording?
We play more E flat, rather than E - that's the tuning we used on most of the record. On several songs - I Need You, Bite My Tongue and Come Right Out And Say It - we used drop D tuning, which is actually D flat.
You've got a very tight tour schedule almost till the end of May. Are you more nervous or excited about it?
We've been touring for a very long time and I don't think any of us is nervous about it now, we're pretty used to it. It's fun to hang out with friends, besides we have poker games and video games on the bus. It's fun to drive around the country, see new places and friends we've made over the years. The main thing right now is just us getting older when we leave for tour. My wife had a baby just a little over a month ago, so it's hard to leave. It becomes really hard for us being away from our families. But we still like touring and have fun time with each other.
You've just played a so-called secret show on March 8th. Tell me about it.
We were notified about it at the last minute. It was the first show before the tour and we just though we'd get practiced and have an extra run through the songs.
That's why it was for free!
Yeah, exactly! We were supposed to be practicing that day and getting ready to leave for tour. It was cool to make a smaller show - they've announced it last minute and we didn't know who'd come to it. They did it at quite a small place and it wasn't really crowded, so it was a more intimate show.
Do you warm up before the shows?
None of us really have a routine Sometime Dave, our drummer, does push-ups and a lot of time Matt, our singer, drinks energy drinks - like Red Bull. He drinks those super-high caffeine drinks and he's like I'm really tired, I don't wanna do the show. I have to drink it.
But we don't have any pre-show ritual. I usually try to pick up a guitar and get my hands used to playing, Matt warms up his voice. That's about it
Three of your first albums have gone Gold. Was it an easy success for you or you've worked hard to get where you are?
|"The main thing right now is just us getting older when we leave for tour."|
I'd like to think it was a little both. I think any time that the band is successful, there's definitely a little bit of luck - being in the right place at the right time. Because there's so much music out there and there's so many talented bands, artists and songwriters. But we did work hard - we had to go out and tour in a van for many years and didn't make much money. We just made enough money to pay our cell phone bills and pay for food. When we started this band, that was our goal - we just wanted to sell enough records to be able to go out and tour, have fun time with our friends for a year or two and put out a couple records. It's been a great opportunity for us to be able to continue doing this job even when we're getting older. Be able to mature and still write music and tour together. It's cool to look back and see your hard work is paying off.
I know you're selling music online. Which is better for you - real CDs or digital music?
We don't really have any preferences, we're all kind of Mac and iPod fans. Honestly they're all the same - whenever you can find music.
Do you care about people downloading it for free?
It's a little bit of a touchy subject. I hope that if someone really likes our record and likes our band, they would support us and would buy it. I know that people do download it for free, but I can't personally stop it. And considering that we had a really good first week with our new record, the true fans pay for our music.
You say the band won't last forever. Do you have any particular plans on how many albums you're gonna release?
I don't really have any plans. I don't know what I'll do when it's done. I was thinking about going back to school for something, learn something different. I'd like to continue working in music, but it's hard to find a job and I just don't want to count on that. But music will always be a part of my life - I'll go on playing guitar and recording, whether it's my job or not.