AJ Babcock: We started to write a few songs here and there towards the beginning of the record - a lot of songs were just music for awhile - and it wasn't a plan to go the way it did, but I started getting really inspired by the Second World War - books I was reading, documentaries on PBS and stuff. I kind of dove into it and just kept finding inspiration there. I didn't necessarily mean for it to go that way, but once it started going that way, it was just easier to stay with it. I think that's kind of what happened.
Tim Skipper: And also there's a war going on at the time when we started to write the record. We [wanted to] write songs that were relatable to those kinds of people but definitely not about the war going on, because we didn't want to take sides on it or anything. So it's universally relatable. My grandmother can relate to it as much as some kid in History class who's like, "Omigosh! We're at war!" Y'know?
Tim: Oooooh. Y'know, I don't remember.
Jared Rigsby: We threw around a lot of stuff. We wanted something that encompassed the idea of the end, but the beginning, y'know? *laughs* It just seemed perfect to take the lyric from "By Your Side," I mean that lyric's basically smack dab in the middle of the record, and it just stands out really strongly.
Tim: Yeah, yeah. It's got multiple meanings, too. It's got a real spiritual meaning, as well as something that can be applied to many different things.
Tim: Oooooo! Good question!
AJ: That was a product of having the album done for so long. We had artwork for it done and we just kind of sat on the record and sat on the artwork and sat on everything while we worked out some stuff. And I think just having more time to think about it, we wanted to come up with an idea for the artwork that was more focused.
Jared: I think Colin actually came up with the homeless guy idea. His initial concept idea was the homeless guy with "The End Is" and "Near" spray painted out with "Not The End." And we just kind of took that and it evolved into what it is and it turned out really well.
Tim: Yeah, we've been throwing that idea around, because since we put it out now, if somebody wants to buy it again, we want to make it worth their while. We've been through that whole, "Oh yeah, it's a re-release," "Oh, I just bought your record and it's only got two more songs on it!"
Jared: "It's just different artwork?! Oh..."
Tim: So we're meeting about it this week and talking about it a lot, but I think... we've got A LOT of footage from back when Colin and Jared used to play in a band when they were 13 years old and AJ back in high school, just a lot of history. So if we could throw that together and put out a DVD with some extra songs with it and videos and stuff like that...
Jared: Yeah, I don't think many bands have really done that or had the chance to do that and show where they kind of came from. I mean, we've all been playing music all our lives and we sucked back then, y'know?
Tim: We can show it from the ROOTS! *laughs* Yeah, we were really bad.
Jared: It'll be cool for people to see [that], y'know, you can go from pretty bad to being a pretty good band.
Tim: The response has been overwhelmingly positive with reviews and with fans' opinions. I don't really think I've seen anything real bad, necessarily. I've seen some mediocre comments about it. But for the most part, man, like the reviews especially have been ridiculously positive -- and almost to the point where, like some people are saying, "This is the most important record to come out in a long time." It's like, "Oh, geeez..."
Jared: That's a lot of pressure! *laughs*
Tim: That's a lot of pressure, y'know? And if you believe the hype, then you gotta believe the backlash. You gotta believe those people who are going to come around and be like, "I can't believe that! The band probably thinks that too!!" But it's just a collection of songs to be honest, but whatever it becomes is cool with us, y'know? We're really excited. My personal favorite song to play live is probably "In The Valley [Of The Dying Sun]" or "Lose Control," just because it's a rockin' song.
Jared: I like "Code Name: Raven." It's fun.
AJ: I like playing the easy songs. I like playing "Baby's A Red" or "Leave You Now." I don't like to think. *laughter* It's fun.
Jared: Although, actually, we did the CD release show in Columbus and we played "Voices." That song was SO fun to play live.
AJ: "In The Valley Of The Dying Sun" was one that we had written the music in its entirety before there were any lyrics or melodies even. And we all kind of joked that we thought it sounded like a sci-fi cowboy adventure, musically. And I had absolutely nothing to say about that. *laughs* The music was kind of epic so somehow or another, I got really interested in the story of Jacob in Genesis and it's loosely, very loosely, based on that. [It's] the idea of a guy who thinks that his life has a certain amount of curse on it or thinks he has to control his life and gain his own comfort and security by his own means, and to that end, he'll do anything to gain security. But in that sense, he thinks that God is his enemy and wants to take security from him, until he comes to a very real encounter with Him and, of course, his life is changed for the better.
Tim: Endeavor Media Group directed it and they kind of came to us. They really wanted to do a video, and we did too, we just didn't know which song and they were like, "We really want to do this song." It's got to be a great idea to do this song. So they kind of came with the initial idea. They had just bought an underwater casing for their camera, so they were like "We want to shoot some stuff in the water." *laughs* So we said, "Alright, we'll go from there." So we brainstormed ideas on how to bring it back full circle and have a really redemptive quality at the end, so it's mostly their idea. We were just worried, "Are you sure you guys are going to be able to pull this off without making it look cheesy?" And they were like, "No problem, no problem"
Jared: And, of course, we only shot the performance part of it with just us and we weren't there for the day they shot the other guys. I mean, we knew what they were going to be doing, but every music video sounds stupid on paper, but it just sounded like it's going to be dumb. So we're playing our instruments (AJ: In the forest...), and thought this could really, really be terrible. But they just dominated. It's such a good video, I love it!
Tim: We just trusted them. They did a great job.
Tim: The music - that was the last song we did, I think...
AJ: We threw it together.
Tim: We threw it together in the studio. We just threw a melody Jared had and a melody that I had and one other part together and we thought, "Sweet! We got the music, we got the melodies..." and then I remember, wherever we were staying that night, we get there, and AJ was kind of quiet the whole night, and we get out of the van and he just goes, "I think I want to write a song about falling in love with a Communist." *laughter* [And I said] "What?! Okay..."
AJ: Yeah, I always loved that song "Back in the USSR," it's that kind of idea. But then I did go home and I went to Panera with my laptop at the time and looked up a bunch of stuff about the Cold War and McCarthy and all that, the Red scare, to get my facts straight. I didn't remember it very well from high school. But yeah, I think it came out to be a fun song.
Tim: Cool, man. That's what's funny. We get people sending us emails and they're like, "It's weird to tell my friends, 'Hey, my favorite song right now is about falling in love with a Communist in the 60s.' That's cool." *laughter*
Jared: The cool thing about that song is that the lyrics are ridiculous and hilarious, but they do have a lot of universally relatable subject matter and message, like "If the bombs fall on our lands, then our politics won't matter, only that I loved you." Anybody can relate to that.
Tim: I was thinking about this the other night because we played this club and this guy was having this dance party up on the fourth floor after the show, and he was crazy. This guy was so funny and crazy and he made his own drinks. He made his own smoothies and adult beverages as well. And we looked over the menu and it was like, oh my gosh, you'll never forget these names! You have a drink called Gray Matter, a drink called Agent Orange, and all these crazy names. We read his bio and he's like, "I just name drinks crazy things because you're never going to forget a drink named..." such and such. And I feel the same about that song. It's just SO bizarre that you're not going to forget a love song about a Communist!
Tim: Yeah. That song went through some changes.
AJ: Yeah, I don't even remember. Was that one of the ones that started with just music?
Tim: Yeah, yeah. You came up with the main creepy core part and the chorus part...
AJ: And then we jammed a verse or something...
Tim: And then we had a jam at the end and then we got in the studio and we decided to make it a little more dancey.
AJ: Yeah, that one kind of came together in the studio a lot. Kind of threw a lot of stuff together and just had a lot of fun with it, as far as instrumentation and background vocals. The lyrics... I was reading a book called "Ten Days To D-Day" and one of the true stories about the invasion of Normandy, I thought it was real interesting, followed two Nazi soldiers and it has their stories on each day of what they were doing up to D-Day. It really got me thinking about the idea of seeing things from a perspective that you wouldn't expect. I was also reading another book about a guy who worked at a concentration camp. He was a guard and so I started thinking about "well how does that guy process the things he's done in his life and the things he's seen." It's real heavy stuff, I'm just stabbing at what I think it might be like to be in that guy's shoes. But it really deals with a lot of issues about what you do with your guilt and kind of "the blood on your hands." That's when Tim had the idea to put the sermon in there. There's a part from a sermon by Rich Nathan. He's the pastor at the church we go to in Columbus. He's a great pastor. It just happened to fit.
Tim: And what's funny about that is our pastor grew up Jewish and his father actually fought in the Second World War. He's a history buff because he grew up Jewish and then became a believer in Jesus, so I think it had a lot of meaning to him.
AJ: I was kind of surprised. I was wondering if he was going to let us use it because it's kind of a violent song, pretty dark. So we tried to kind of explain it and he approved it. All he asked is that he got a copy.
Tim: Oooo! "Field Of Daggers." That's an old, old song. We wrote that probably four years ago. We did some demo sessions with a guy... they didn't turn out the way we liked, so we kind of fell out of love with all of the songs we did on those demo sessions. But then we revisited that one and realized, "Y'know what? If we changed it around a little bit more, this could be a really cool song!" So we just changed it around and now it's one of my favorite songs on the record for sure. And also, it deals with more of a spiritual war...
AJ: Yeah, it was meant as much more of a spiritual [war]. I wasn't basing it on any particular event in history or anything like that. It just happened to fit so well with what we were doing.
Tim: It's a nice closing to the record.
Jared: It has the perfect closing lyrics and my favorite part about the close of the album is the fact that we do have that unresolved chord *laughs* at the end there, just kind of further emphasizing that 'the end is not the end.' And then, also, after that, we have a hidden track, so...
AJ: It really wasn't the end!
Tim: We fooled you!
AJ: The strings came out really good too. The two girls played on that song and they played on "Baby's A Red," "By Your Side," and "Faces." They did a really great job.
Tim: Y'know what we should do? When we release the album to retail, we should put the demo version [on there] - we should get it mixed right first of all. Because it's way different.
Tim: We don't right now...
AJ: But we could record a few, that'd be fun.
Tim: It'd be fun, yeah.
AJ: Wouldn't take too long.
Jared: We have lots of bits and pieces of those songs coming together over the past couple years. *laughs* I don't think anyone wants to hear those though!
AJ: We did. We just recorded it a few weeks ago.
Tim: True story. We just had some downtime and the label asked if we'd even be interested in recording a Christmas song. So we said, "Yeah! Let's record a Christmas song a few cover songs too." And we just went down to Nashville without a clue of what we were gonna do. We had kind of talked about it. We were like, "Let's make it mellow, piano-driven." And we get down there, played it through, with just acoustic guitar, bass, and drums once and we were like... "That's pretty cool!"
AJ: *laughs* Just record it!
Tim: Just leave it like that. So it's got a very laid back country feel.
Jared: It's really, really cowboy-ish. Elvis.
Tim: And once again, those girls came in and knocked it out of the park with the string parts. It sounds really cool.
AJ: When's that coming out? Any idea?
Tim: November 18th.
Tim: iTunes. iTunes exclusive.
Tim: Yeah, it's going to be packaged with three Relient K songs, and a couple others, but you can buy it individually as well. We're trying to get it on some commercials or TV shows or something. We'll see. We'll see what happens...
Tim: We did. We recorded three Beatles songs.
Tim: Uh, might as well! Actually, I forget...
Jared: We did "Can't Buy Me Love," "Obladi Oblada," which we played tonight," and "It Won't Be Long," which is just an older song that not that many people have heard.
Tim: Y'know, we don't know! They're in the vault right now, so whenever we need one...
AJ: We'll just keep covering Beatles songs (Jared: Til people actually think we're the Beatles) and then in a few years release an album of ONLY Beatles songs! *laughs* They're the best songs to cover
Tim: Of course Josh wants to know that! Um, we definitely started writing the next one.
AJ: Yeah, we definitely have a lot more ideas and concepts. I think after we're done with this tour, if we do get some time before the holiday, I think we'll get a good chunk of it written, which I'm excited about. I'm also excited because with this next record, the concept is there before anything. I think it'll be really interesting to write a record that way. I would even call it a concept record.
Jared: You heard it hear first - a concept record!
AJ: It's such a dirty word anymore, "a concept record."
Tim: But, at the same time, the way we're doing it leaves so much open. Musically, it's going to be all over the place, because there's so much ground to cover.
Jared: In a sense, but...
Tim: I would consider it "conceptual"
AJ: I think it's close. I would only say it's not because we included a lot of songs that were just kind of "songs." That we were like, "These are great songs, and we've had them, so let's put it on the record." Y'know what I mean? That's the only reason I wouldn't call it a concept record is because there wasn't a concept originally and then everything followed the concept. As things started to fall into place, it's more heavily "themed" I would say. But it's not like a linear thing at all.
Jared: *laughs* Man, we're all hugely into Lost, so I'm sure we all have different opinions.
AJ: Obsessed with.
Jared: I've done such a good job of NOT thinking about Lost, that trying to think about it right now kind of hurts me. Like I feel really sad right now because it's not a part of my life. And, oh my gosh...
AJ: It's like a bad breakup when it's not on.
Tim: Good thing the Dark Knight came out this Summer, otherwise we'd be totally..... LOST.
Jared: I don't know. I think we have so many theories and ideas that we couldn't really give you a short answer.
AJ: We could do a record about our Lost theories.
Jared: Actually, we wanted to cover "Obladi Oblada" with "Obladi! Oblada! Lost is awe-SOME!" *laughter*
Jared: I would probably have to say the most top secret government agency - more secret than the CIA.
Tim: I would say that too, but since you already said that, I'm going to go with... I would say the CIA, but then I saw The Good Shepherd and realized it kind of ruins your life. So I would say the Air Force.
AJ: NASA's kind of cool. All those guys are Air Force guys.
Tim: I'd start with the Air Force and then go to NASA.
AJ: I would do The Red Cross. I like the logo. *laughter*
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