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Monday, June 29, 2009

Christian music news: So This Is Growing Up

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With sharp tongues of wit, driving spurts of punk/pop energy, and unwavering enthusiasm, Relient K has been inciting hysterics on young audiences since its debut performance on New Year's Day 1998. Over that span, these once irreverent teen musicians have matured into young adults, developing a sound beyond the formulaic pop/punk mentality in favor of a blend of hooks and harmonies. This growth is best evidenced in their third CD, Two Lefts Don't Make a Right … But Three Do. We chatted with Matt Thiessen, the group's whimsical songwriter and front man, about growing up … and other stuff.
Left to right: Brian Pittman (bass), Matthew Thiessen (vocals, guitar), David Douglas (drums), Matthew Hoopes (guitar)
Left to right: Brian Pittman (bass), Matthew Thiessen (vocals, guitar), David Douglas (drums), Matthew Hoopes (guitar)
How has your writing grown since the last record?
Matt: The problem with our band is that every time we record all the songs we've written, the CD doesn't get released for another eight or nine months. And when you're our age, you grow up a lot in that span. Our first record [2000's self-titled debut] is the worst example of that: We wrote the songs when we were 15 or 16, but were 19 by the time the album came out. Then [2001's The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek] was done in January and didn't come out until that August, so that was another eight months of sitting on it. On this new record the goal is to kind of cover where we are right now and where we've been for the last year and a half. Even so, there are still a few outdated things on the new album.
For example?
Matt: It's the little things and the self-critic in me that says, "Man, I wish I hadn't written that lyric," or, "I should have changed that," or, "I wouldn't have put that drum loop in there; that was cheesy." When you start playing those songs live in a way that's so much cooler, you think, Man, why didn't I put that on the record? But still, Two Lefts is the happiest we've ever been with a record once it's come out. It's the best representation of who we are.
One thing I love about your songwriting is how you intertwine pop culture references, all this wit and humor, and then make something spiritual out of it. Which inspires the other?
Matt: I've tried to avoid pop culture and wit and stupid puns but I just can't do it. I'll be writing this serious song, trying to write something normal, but I think about the lyrics too much and put a double meaning on everything. I can't be straightforward; there's always a pun or two hidden in a lyric. I guess my theory is that if I just write what I think immediately, then anybody could write that.
I noticed more variety on this record beyond the standard punk/pop lines and sounds. Was that intentional?
Matt: It's kind of been the direction of the band. Anatomy even had a little bit of that. I'm glad you noticed that because I just read two reviews that said we sound like a typical pop/punk band throughout the whole record, and that's what we're trying to avoid. That was a little disheartening.
How have fans reacted to the new CD?
Matt: I know from personal experience that it takes some listens. You have to listen to it maybe ten times before you start to get it as a whole—not that it's too deep or anything, just that it's different. When we finished it, I listened to it and thought, This isn't going to work. But after a while I was cool with it. If people listen to it enough and give it a fair shot, they're going to dig it. But if you just listen once for a quick review, you're gonna think we're trying to be New Found Glory or something like that.

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