Solid State Records up-and-comer, Silent Planet, recently released their sophomore album for the label. The band was also invited to be on this year's Warped Tour. While at Orlando's Tinker Field, Jesusfreakhideout.com's Michael Weaver was able to catch the band's set and sit down with lead screamer Garrett Russell to talk about Warped Tour, the new album, and some controversy...
This interview took place on: July 2, 2016.
Click here for Silent Planet's Artist Profile page.
Warped Tour has been amazing, man. It's been a unique thing. We've toured a long time now -- like DIY [Do It Yourself] touring. I had a friend tell me, "You can really understand club tours or international tours." We've done a lot of various kinds of tours: Bigger tours in America, international stuff -- we've even been DIY in Europe, literally driving ourselves around, -- but Warped Tour is like its own thing, you know? You don't know Warped Tour until you do Warped Tour, you know? So, this is all pretty new to us. It's been pretty warm and we're in a van, and the AC doesn't work [JFH (Michael): Oh! Brutal…] You don't sleep a lot, but the guys are working harder than we've ever worked and I feel like we've really achieving something. We're making some ground, to be honest. Everyday, people are finding us -- because our stage is smaller and not near the entrance -- so people finding our stage and finding our merch booth are kind of going to the distant reaches of the Warped Tour galaxy to support us… It makes it all worth it.
Garrett: I think we did, to be honest with you. It's cool. I don't feel like we deserve it. I'm just flattered and honored, and it's just by the grace of God that we're here. So, yeah…
Garrett: Yeah. There's a huge difference between being in a band wagon, or a bus -- that's basically a moving living room -- and being in a van. A lot of other bands on our stage are in a van. It is definitely a unique challenge and it requires a lot from you, but when you're not making big bucks, you've gotta be smart.
Garrett: It's so relieving -- especially for me. I do a lot of stuff in the album release: The press, the media, and like I said, we're pretty DIY. Our label's great, our manager's great, our booking agent is amazing, but I'm very actively involved -- and I like it that way. It's been that way since I was 19, so it's like, "Why not?" Because we are so actively involved, when you finally put the record out, it's a huge sigh of relief to be done with it.
Garrett: That's about how much For Today lost…
Garrett: Yeah, back in 2012, they got hit for like probably eighty grand.
Garrett: I'll tell you what, man; it's important to keep things in perspective. I think every band who's allowed to play music for a living is extremely privileged to be able to do so. I think that a lot of bands forget that and you start to think that you deserve these things. You deserve to be on a stage. You deserve the freedom to play music. People can very quickly forget how many gifts they've been given. When that happens, and something gets taken away from you, I think what kind of hurts is that reality hits you. It's like, "Whoa! That was just possessions; it wasn't me. Someone just took my possessions, but I'm still here." I think it really shows sometimes where people are at. I think a lot of that has to do with the maturity of someone. It's almost a spiritual question, like, "What do your materials mean to you?"
Garrett: Thank you. I will admit that when I first found out our stuff gone I wanted to go… Go talk to someone. But once I realized he was gone, I realized I'm glad I didn't resort to violence, I just realized that that dude probably stole because he's in a place in life where he has very few options. We got stolen from on Skid Row -- which you could even blame us for parking on Skid Row. We didn't really have options, but still… These things happen. As someone who's been given a lot in my life, I don't know what that dude's life is like. That might be the way he feeds his family. The world doesn't need more hatred. I don't understand that guy, but I don't just want to hate him immediately. Jesus showed me a new way to be a human. I don't think it makes me better than anyone else. I just think the way that Jesus taught me how to live is a better way than anything I've ever found.
Garrett: It's still dark to be honest. *laughter* The last record was about women throughout history who have overcome evils, war, indifferent things in society… [JFH (Michael): Seven different examples in there?] Yeah, seven women. This record is about nine different people who the world would describe as mentally ill. It's about their experience of illness of the mind and what their story tells us about ourselves in how we can better understand people who struggle with mental disorders. It's essentially a journey through a mental hospital and every song is a new room and a new paradigm shift.
Garrett: It is. Very personal, yeah. A lot of the stories where inspired by people I've met at shows, and I was a therapist of a university -- some of these stories are inspired by people at the university. Some of them are just inspired by family and friends.
Garrett: Thank you! My band's favorite song is "First Father." Which is funny because on the last album, their favorite song was "First Mother." I realized that I have very different tastes than my band because we never have the same favorite songs. My favorite song is probably either "Understanding Love is Lost," or the last song -- it's called "Inhabit the Wound." Those are probably my two favorites. Probably because they have a lot of Thomas in them and singing. That's probably why.
Garrett: I'd love to see that! I haven't really seen any actual reviews. I've seen people that talked about how they felt, but not a review.
Garrett: Yeah, I started footnoting lyrics pretty early in the band. I think the first thing was our 2012 EP, Come Wind Come Weather. My idea was just like, "Creativity is a process of sharing ideas." I think you'll see a lot of young people -- people on stage at Warped Tour -- who think that they're like completely original. I think that kind of flies in the face of... The more you read, the more you learn. The saying that there's nothing new under the sun is somewhat true. A lot has been said and a lot has been done and my goal is to share ideas. To say, "This person said this and this person said this," and to dialogue with ideas and show that what I'm learning is coming out of much greater people. Whether the authors of the Bible, whether things that Jesus, Himself, said, or Nietzsche, or someone who didn't think God was real. Dialoguing with ideas has always been something I've been passionate about. Since I was in college, I was already footnoting my papers, so I was just like, "Why don't I footnote the lyrics?"
Garrett: Yeah, that's my hope. If people want to know what "that" means, a lot of times there's a book on it. So, you can go learn a lot more than I can teach you, because pretty much everyone I'm citing is way more important to read than myself. In my opinion, so...
Garrett: I would say David Foster Wallace is a huge one. He was a fiction writer and killed himself in 2008. He hung himself. When he hung himself, he left his last manuscript at his foot. He had a life-long battle with depression and that was really tragic for me when he killed himself. I wanted to study under him after finishing my undergrad. What broke my heart is that I REALLY discovered how much I like him after he died. He taught at a grad school like twenty minutes away from where I was going to university. That was tough. Yeah, David Foster Wallace… I don't know, he kind of broke all the rules to modern fiction writing. It kind of flew in the face of stuffy academic people. His stuff is kind of hard to understand, but it's also bizarre and hilarious and existentially dark; it's just crazy. His writing gives me hope. It really hurts that he died, and the song "Understanding Love is Lost" is largely inspired by him, as well as three other authors who killed themselves.
Garrett: Ah! *laughter* I started the band when I was a freshman in college. I was 19 and did it through university and graduated at 22. I did some touring with the band, but we still weren't able to do this full-time. So I said, "Cool, I'll go to grad school." So I went to grad school for psychology and after 2 years, I got my MA. I was at this jumping point where I was going to be like full-time PhD stuff -- which my life would've gotten even busier than it was. I was in a 6-year PhD program, but the further you get in, the crazier it gets. Finally I was just like, "Dude, this band is really happening and I'm seeing a lot of change in people's lives." I just felt like it was what the Lord had for me for now. Someday I will, Lord willing, I may be alive after this and I might not be doing this anymore -- or maybe I won't be alive. Whatever God's will is, I hope that I can be involved in people's lives and I hope that I can use creativity in some way,
Garrett: *Laughing* It's a silly thing. I feel like I do one of the more undignified forms of art, you know? If you can even call it art... I yell into a microphone and talk about stuff. *laughter* It's funny, because you expect a master's person to be working at like a jazz opera.
Garrett: Yep! He does. One of the old heavy metal rockers does too. I forget who, but someone was telling me he has his PhD. Granted, I think he got it after his major rocker days, but yeah.
Garrett: Usually, there's a couple of things I find that people get offended by. One of them is that I don't have an interest in deciding how sexuality should work. My primary concern is dealing with homophobia and making sure that gay people don't feel threatened to be alive and that Christians should never use their voice to superimpose their morals onto someone. I don't have an issue, obviously, with Christians believing what they would like about sexuality, but I do have a problem with Christians trying to put money and support politicians so that people can't do what they want in a free society. I know some Christians feel very strongly that they should tell people how to live their lives that aren't Christians and I do have an issue with that. And they have an issue, I think, with me saying like, "You know, I don't think the problem is gay people. I think the problem is hatred and fear and that towards people." I think that's the real issue. I think people get upset about that. People have been upset about how I referred to God as "mother" in a few different songs. That's definitely upset some different Christians. I don't know what to say because the Bible clearly shows God as a mother hen and using motherly imagery to show the maternal aspects of God. I don't really know... It's weird, because most people who are upset, they don't think God's a man. They don't think God's a woman. You know? Thinking that God has genitals seems very reductive to me. I think using feminine terms to talk about God has definitely offended some people's imaginations. It's definitely lead me to a deeper understanding and love of God. I think the hope is, as we move closer to Jesus, that the box that God is put in is continually broken away. Because those boxes are made up of ourselves. We see God in a mirror; it's the human way. So many people leave faith and leave religion because they constantly experience God being actually just another name for people getting what they want. So people just kind of get disgusted with it after a while. I think that any time that we imagine God, I hope it looks less and less like us as we grow older. I think as we grow in love with God, I think love involves not loving yourself, but loving someone else. Just like a lot of these kids are in relationships and they say, "I love you so much," or whatever, but really they just love what they want this person to be in their life. They love what this boy, or what this girl, does to them, or does for them. But maybe they don't "love" this person because when you love someone truly, you're in awe of their otherness. Does that make sense? [JFH (Michael): Yeah, I got you!]
One of my favorite psychologists, Martin Buber, talks about that. He calls it the "Ich-Du" -- the "I-Thou." It's moving from basically projecting yourself onto other people and projecting yourself onto God. So you realize that God is other than me and people are other than me. Having a respect for people being like, "I don't totally understand you," and to me, that's a weird thing that I've struggled with a lot in my life. So… I think probably talking about God as mother and trying to talk about how harmful homophobia is are two things that upset some Christians. You know, I desire unity. I want Christians to support each other and love each other, but I don't think it's unity when alternative views are silenced and told, "I don't like you. I want to hurt you." Unity doesn't come when it's forced. Unity comes out of love and out of reconciliation.
Garrett: Yeah. And I've very aware that Jesus says, "We pray like this. Our Father, who art in Heaven." However, I don't read that as saying, "If you say Mother, you're off." I think the point is: You created us. We're made in Your imagine. You love us like a parent. Father is awesome! Like, that's sweet, but it seems too silly to say that because you said Father before, that Mother is out of the picture. It's an illogical fallacy, I feel. It's like, "If A, therefore not B," or something.
Garrett: Yep. There's nine or ten verses where the Bible is indisputable. Where Biblical authors are talking about God in feminine language. In some of them, God says, "I will be over you as a mother hen," and, in one of gospels talks about looking through the coin and it's a woman. It's like, "why?" I bet that was probably pretty offensive. If Jesus' metaphor involved us being a coin and God being the woman. You know what I mean? I think God is actually offending a lot of gender ideas as well. Jesus was on earth. My point isn't to be like, "Look what I can do," but my point is that I just want people to experience God. I don't want any of the hierarchical crap. So many kids here have been burnt by religion. I want them to know Jesus, and honestly, that Jesus at the time was known as a very anti-religious figure. [JFH (Michael): Oh yeah!] Like, within the religious establishment. So the paradigm for religion, Jesus didn't fit in there, for he was not "religious," obviously. I just wonder what that means until now.
Garrett: *Laughs* It has an ugly past and a lot of people have been hurt. You know?
Garrett: We do! I can't tell because we're supporting, and that's the headliner's job. If it was our tour I would tell you, but we're supporting two bands -- two different bands on two different tours. Both of them whom I love. Both of them, I think the reader will love a lot and will be very fun tours. One of them is actually a farewell tour for a band, so...
Garrett: It's very secret. Whenever it gets announced, it will be online.
Garrett: Oh, no. Thank you. I'm sorry for getting here 15 minutes late. If you're [reading] this, know that I'm late. I'm sorry!
Garrett: Just, thank you for anyone who supported us and made it possible for us to be on this tour. We're humbled, we're grateful and I hope that we're able to be servants to you in some way. Whether it's the music you listen to, or meeting us at shows. Our goal is to have less of us and more of the love of God and that involves serving. I hope we become better servants.
Garrett: Thank you.
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