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Monday, June 22, 2009

Christian music news: We're Not Goofballs'

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Given Matt Thiessen's gift for lyrical wit and clever turns of phrase, one might expect Relient K's frontman and chief songwriter to be, well, witty and clever and eloquent round the clock, including conversations and interviews like this. But even Thiessen admits he's somewhat "boring" in person, not nearly as articulate as he comes across in his songs, which exude an air of charisma and nonchalance that sets the band apart from other more conventional pop/punk affairs. Still, we openly talked about the band's transition from silly to serious, their exploration of new avenues for their music, and how they really feel about touring with Good Charlotte and Simple Plan.
Relient K front man Matt Thiessen (left) with bassist Matt Hoopes and drummer Dave Douglas
Relient K front man Matt Thiessen (left) with bassist Matt Hoopes and drummer Dave Douglas
You guys are so big now. Your publicist says getting an interview with you was harder than Amy Grant!
Matt Thiessen Absolutely not!
Anyway, your most recent album, mmHmm, has been out for some time, and response has been great. But some people have said it's more serious, and they miss the silliness. Do you get that a lot? Why the change?
Thiessen We thought we were going to get it a lot more than we actually do. It's a weird thing. There's this misconception about us as people, and everybody thinks we're really funny. But we're actually really boring, serious people. When we're hanging out we're not goofballs or anything like that. A lot of our early influences are NOFX, Less than Jake, Ghoti Hook, MxPx, bands that wrote real cheeseball, fun songs. That's kind of what we were doing. Over time, our influences have changed, but also, spiritually, I wanted to write a record that meant a little more to me than earlier stuff. I feel that if you're writing a whole bunch of cheesy songs and mixing them in with a bunch of serious songs, it takes away from the album as a whole.
Now that you're at this new place, how do you feel about your older, sillier material? Do you still play it?
Thiessen Oh yeah, we're still doing a few things from each album.
Do you ever tire of it? I noticed you're now playing the piano.
Thiessen Yeah, that's why we hope the album is a little more dynamic. Live, I'm probably playing just as much piano as guitar. My favorite band is the Beach Boys, and one of the biggest influences on me is Ben Folds. But I kinda like the fast stuff, too, 'cause that's how I grew up.
You mentioned Ben Folds. Do you ever see yourself leaving pop/punk behind and moving onto something more progressive?
Thiessen No, not Relient K. I have a side project and it's not pop/punk at all. We still haven't figured out what we'll do for the next album, but I imagine it'll still be rock 'n' roll.
Will that "side project" develop into a solo album?
Thiessen Maybe. It's contingent on how much free time is available. This year doesn't look like there'll be much free time. And that's a good thing.
You single-handedly write the albums most of the time. You co-produce. You call the shots. Have you ever been tempted to lay the pop/punk thing to rest? It can get old after a while.
Thiessen I don't know. If I would have made that call, I would have done it two albums ago. But I'm the one in the band who probably likes it the most, so I won't be stopping it.
The band's platform and audience have grown tremendously. Do you fear to be seen as standoffish because so many people like you now?
Thiessen It's almost as if we've had just as many people who are mad at us because they didn't get to meet us because we didn't have time, as people that we actually got to meet. We still go out [to meet people] after every show. If sometimes I haven't gone out in past tours is because I've been so sick I couldn't even sing. We're doing the Warped Tour and we'll probably be out there watching all the bands. We're not pretentious in any way about popularity.

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