Relient K: Seeing Your Hard Work Is Paying Off

Guitarist Matt Hoopes talks on what it takes for a young band to break into the mainstream, selling music online and plans for future.

Relient K: Seeing Your Hard Work Is Paying Off
130
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? Matt Hoopes: 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.
"It's that feeling of total happiness that influenced the band."
The songs on your record are really different. How much did the production by Howard Benson influence your music? 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
"The main thing right now is just us getting older when we leave for tour."
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? 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. Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2007

41 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    whocares09
    i only have one of their cd's (two lefts..) its good, good band id like to see them live. and to the comment above (this is offtopic) seeing as how everyoen but matt is married and the guitarist has a kid... i can guarantee Their not all virgins.
    MHSDC
    Great record, although different. Definitely a great band and worth checking out.
    andrewp7
    Really great record, all the lyrics fit in perfectly with eachother. The sound is so great, and it always makes you want to sing along. Deathbed would be my favorite.
    Guitar-freak921
    All this talk about christian or non-christian, none of us can know for sure unless we know the band members, but as far as any of us know the band members of RK are christians, and i think people should stop critisizing them for that, thats the best thing about them, and i hope they never give up their christian stance because of all the pressure that i'm sure there is to do so. Moral of this story-Relient K rocks, and i hope they keep rocking for Jesus. The day they stop that is the day i am no longer one of their fans.
    Nighthawk551
    I really like Relient K. I went to their concert recently and I must say I was impressed to see them live! I met John Warne, the bassist, after the show. They're all great guys and are excellent musicians. They spread out a lot more and are more progressive than most "punk" bands. In fact, they're the only band from that genre that I like.
    singscreams
    deanosaurx wrote: pps "i need you" isnt nessesarily a christian song. that is one possible interpretation, but he could be talking about a girl.
    "I need you I need you here I need you now I need security somehow I need you Like you would not believe You're the only thing I want Cause you're everything I need When my hopes seem to dangle Somewhere just beyond my reach You say you've heard my prayers And read my words there on the beach" First off, he would never say a girl heard his prayers. Secondly, all the songs on the album have a feel about them that says "this is what it's about". Every song (except Give) that is about something dealing with the Christian walk or self improvement, has a harder edge to it. Therefore, the HARDEST song on the record is just screaming out to God. If you can honestly say a Christian like Theissen would say a girl is all he NEEDS, then you are mistaken. Thank you and good day.
    pinktuxdude
    deanosaurx wrote: ps. dont say sell out, you are embarrassing the music community. sell out is just a term used by little 12 year olds who think they were the first ones to listen to bands like MCR and fall out boy and now theyre pissed because other people listen to the same music as them. instead, how about you show some compassion and be happy for the band because in a struggling music business they can make a little more money and be able to actually buy things other than food and gas. if you show me one band that actually stopped caring about their music and beliefs completely to be on a bigger label, then you can call them sell outs. but i doubt you will find one.
    Yes exactely! I am a long time Relient K fan, as well as my singer, and he gets very mad cuz everyone starts to like them, however, he doesn't think they are sell out's. They are obvisiouly christian, and my teacher, (and I go to a private christian school,) says they are sell outs, but he fails to just look at the song, and think about what he's saying, If you listen to it, it will all come together, however, ther are some sell out bands who have strayed. (I am expressing a confirmable opion that anyone who has seen them and the way they were), Underoath was. WAS. They had a fall out, and if anyone watched the warped coverage on fuse, you'll vouch for me, however, I was told by my closest friend, that they admitted they had a fallout in there music, and they praised God and told everyone the on reason they were in music, our God. So they redeemed themselves, and for those that will be quick to argue, plz don't, because I won't bother, I've got better things to do.
    dyingtolive8
    Their very first album was the best. They used to have more punk rock influence. My little sister loves their new music, not a good sign.
    Tentaphane
    dookie_dude_ : yeah i hate preachy music, dont really like them but, haha there all virgins! Yeah, that explains the kid mentioned in the interview
    SURFraptor7
    dookie_dude_ : yeah i hate preachy music, dont really like them but, haha there all virgins!
    4 of the 5 are married. Doubt they're virgins. Besides, what's wrong with being a virgin?
    xsv
    Relient k is a really christian band if you have followed them since there first records such as the self debut title, the anatomy of tongue in cheek, and even 2 lefts dont make a right but 3 do. those cds were fillied with christian anthems with even a little bit of the pop/punk emo trend that is going on right now.
    _sam_
    dyingtolive8 wrote: Their very first album was the best. They used to have more punk rock influence. My little sister loves their new music, not a good sign.
    off the subject, but they were never punk. just so you know.
    Beast_Within
    Christain rock does not have any improvement on religion it only exceeds in making rock worse. If you want ot make religious music that is fine with me but do not refer to it as rcok and try to act as if you are "Hardcore." I have enothing against personal spirituality its just that christian rock is too preachy. And I feel that in a way organized religion is destroying the chance for any true form of spirituality and instead brainwashing people as a means of scamming them out of money. Well, theres my rant for the day.
    singscreams
    Beast_Within wrote: Christain rock does not have any improvement on religion it only exceeds in making rock worse. If you want ot make religious music that is fine with me but do not refer to it as rcok and try to act as if you are "Hardcore." I have enothing against personal spirituality its just that christian rock is too preachy. And I feel that in a way organized religion is destroying the chance for any true form of spirituality and instead brainwashing people as a means of scamming them out of money. Well, theres my rant for the day.
    Ok, lets set something straight, the word is succeeds, not exceeds. Secondly, the "Christian" bands I listen to make really good music. Third, not many of them are preachy at all. If you LISTENED to Relient K, instead of making an assumption, more often than not, Matt Thiessen is talking to himself! He's talking about problems he finds in himself. Often times, it's things we ALL need to see. We should all forgive others, no matter who we are, because if we do not forgive others, we hold anger, and that's just bad for society. They are as preachy as any normal rock band that wants to make a difference. If all your songs are about "I want this girl" or "I like drugs" or "I love sex" or selfish wants, you're in it for the money, and that's selling out. If you have no message, why are you doing it? Any good band should be a little "preachy". I listen to "Christian" bands not because I am a "Religious" person, but because I like clean music with a good message. I'm a Christian, but I hate the term "religious" cause I'm not. I love Jesus, and that's what it's about. That's what most of the "Christian" bands are about, serving Jesus by making good music. You want some good "Christian" bands, listen to bands like Anberlin, Emery, Relient K, As I lay Dying, August Burns Red, Showbread, The Afters, The Classic Crime, and many others. Trust me, if you gave it a real shot, you wouldn't know the difference, except, they have a purpose.
    Learn_to_fly
    deanosaurx wrote: pps "i need you" isnt nessesarily a christian song. that is one possible interpretation, but he could be talking about a girl.
    really?? i would have thought a song about a girl wouldnt sound so deseprate and dark, it just seems that hes in a dark place and he really needs god. but yeah, it COULD be about a girl. long shot though...
    jdhinds1234 wrote: so if i said god n jesus in my songs would that make it a christian song? lol
    well, ur right, but in the context that relient k use it in, its obviously christian.
    deanosaurx
    pps "i need you" isnt nessesarily a christian song. that is one possible interpretation, but he could be talking about a girl.
    klaheto
    You mean these guys arnt millionairs? Why the hell would he want to go get a normal job after doing all hes done?
    deanosaurx
    ps. dont say sell out, you are embarrassing the music community. sell out is just a term used by little 12 year olds who think they were the first ones to listen to bands like MCR and fall out boy and now theyre pissed because other people listen to the same music as them. instead, how about you show some compassion and be happy for the band because in a struggling music business they can make a little more money and be able to actually buy things other than food and gas. if you show me one band that actually stopped caring about their music and beliefs completely to be on a bigger label, then you can call them sell outs. but i doubt you will find one.
    Learn_to_fly
    shadowsofatticu wrote: Relient K has definatly sold out from the previous albums..i guess thats what a new big label does to you..why do bands have to change?? listen to there old stuff!
    sold out?? if u mean that they arent christian nemore in their songs, then ur dead wrong. dude, have u LISTENED to 'i need you'? or 'deathbed'? 'devestation and reform'? 'forgiven'? all christian songs, they even say God and Jesus in their songs. they havnt sold out. far from it.
    not_emo
    good cd, a little too poppy for me, should have done more screamo like in Mmhmm, i think Mmhmm was there best CD, but thos one has a few stand out tracks that are worth buying on itunes...so check out I Need You (very underoath inspired) Devesation and Reform (has a cool opening riff) Give (slow but i dunno, i just really like it) and of course, Deathbed (just a good track about Gods forgiveness) a great band, its soo good too see a good christian band get the mainstream appeal they deserve.
    DrosteGuitar
    Shadow, what are you talking about? When most people refer to selling out they talk about writing songs that are nothing like what they used to write and full of pop hooks simply so people will listen rather than making the song artistic, which is the complete opposite of this record. Matt's developed as a songwriter and his songs are more serious than Sadie Hawkins Dance now, you're gunna have to deal with it. It happens to all songwriters eventually, from Tomas Kalnoky to Bob Dylan. The recent CD is deeper and less 'pop' than their other albums. I recommend it, it's fairly good.
    the waste
    Hmm, they are a Christian band. Normally I would just pass over that kind of stuff, but I'll go check out that 11 minute song. If its not preachy bull$*** and sounds good maybe I'll buy the CD.
    shadowsofatticu
    Relient K has definatly sold out from the previous albums..i guess thats what a new big label does to you..why do bands have to change?? listen to there old stuff!
    KsE_Fan220
    thier really awesome, i got thier newest cd and really like the way they did it. the 11 minute song is actually my fav
    Dirk Gently
    ^ Your argument makes absolutely no sense. If you "love Jesus," then you're religious. It's pretty simple. And stop saying "Christian" bands, it makes you sound pretentious. And hey, guess what, if there music is about loving and serving Jesus, they're a Christian band. No quotes necessary. Checked/deleted. And no more Christian rock arguments or I'll start issuing warnings.