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Relient K

On the second day of their Spring 2007 tour, and just days after the release of their fifth studio album Five Score And Seven Years Ago, we sat with Matt Thiessen and John Warne of Relient K on their bus to discuss the songs and production of their new record and their favorite things about the 80's... (and be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page for exclusive video clips from the interview!)
This interview took place on: 3/10/07.

  • Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): Let's begin with a few nonserious questions... Choose one: Back To The Future or Ghostbusters?
    Matt Thiessen: Well, it's Back To The Future for sure, because, I mean Ghostbusters II, the sequel - this is something that really bothers me in life in general is that if you look at their uniforms in the sequel... you know how in the first one they had the [logo of] the ghost with the "no ghost" sign, well in the sequel they have the ghost and he's holding up two fingers on their actual uniforms! (John Warne: That's bad...) It's like "we need to make a new patch because we're going to make a new movie." It made no sense! (John Warne: They wouldn't know they're in a new movie.) Right! Terrible filmmaking. (JFH's John DiBiase: Beyond the fact that the end of the first movie is all happy and in the sequel, they make them all washed-up, [New York City] had sued them...) Right! Yeah! *To John Warne* Have you ever seen Ghostbusters II? (John Warne: Yeah.) Like when they have to read to Kindergarteners or something?
    John Warne: Don't they take the Statue Of Liberty for a ride?? (Matt Thiessen: Ahhh, yeah!) (JFH's John & Amy: Yeah.) So I guess in default of that, I guess we'll go with Back To The Future. (Matt Thiessen: Yeah.)

  • JFH (John): Airwolf or Knight Rider?
    John Warne: K.I.T.T., gotta go with K.I.T.T.
    Matt Thiessen: I'm gonna go with Knight Rider. Airwolf used to bore me. I had to watch Airwolf because my sister had a crush on the dude, whatever his name was. Chiseled-face-guy. Whatever, I didn't like him. And the dude with the patch? Just scary. *To John Warne* Do you rememeber him?
    John Warne: No, I never watched it. I have a Knight Rider "Big Wheel," though. It was pretty awesome.
    Matt Thiessen: Well there ya go! Mr. Feeny - was he in there talking to you?
    John Warne: *laughs* Yeah, he was. Crammed him in.

  • JFH (John): G.I. Joe or Transformers?
    Matt Thiessen: Ooo, that's a tough one.
    John Warne: Yeah, this is the hard-hitting question.
    Matt Thiessen: Yeah, I played with both. Gonna go with G.I. Joe.
    John Warne: I'll go with Transformers. I think I had more Transformers than G.I. Joe's.
    Matt Thiessen: More than meets the eye? Yeah, well G.I. Joe's were the real American hero. I used to actually have more fun making paper TNT boxes and stacking them up and making bridges and all that stuff for my G.I. Joe's to fight on, than I did actually playing with them. *laughter* Would that make me a... girl? *laughter* More fun "dressing up" the set than fighting.

  • JFH (John): Are you going to see the new Transformers movie?
    Matt Thiessen: Yeah, I'm excited about that. That and the new TMNT. (JFH's John: I'm a little leery about how the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is.) Really? The animation just looks great. (JFH's John: I know, I just hope it's not too cheesy.)
    John Warne: Well, yeah, it's about aliens.
    Matt Thiessen: Oh, is it aliens?! (John Warne: Yeah.) Ooo, I hate aliens. Like across the board, in general, I hate aliens. Like just the word even. (John Warne: No foreigners for you.) *laughter* No, not that - I'm actually a resident alien. (John Warne: Yes you are. *laughs*) So not across the board. [I] take that back. (John Warne: Especially not across the border!)

  • JFH (John): Alright, if you had to pick your all-time favorite original NES game, what would it be?
    John Warne: Mine is this one called "Bionic Commando."
    Matt Thiessen: I'm definitely going to go with "River City Ransom." The ability to purchase items and stuff like that, it was kind of new at the time, and you could purchase special moves and stuff. (John Warne: I didn't even know about that one until a couple of years ago.) Really? I think my girlfriend's cellphone ring - when she calls me - is the "River City Ransom" song.
    John Warne: You used to wake up to that in the bunk area. (Matt Thiessen: Yeah! *laughs, then impersonates the theme*)

  • JFH (John): OK, so how does it feel to be battling it out for the top spot this week on the Billboard Top 200 list with the debut of your new album Five Score And Seven Years Ago? Album cover
    Matt Thiessen: I didn't know we were... Anytime anyone talks about sales and stuff, I don't want to hear about it. We don't really care. But we'll find out next week and whatever happens, happens. I didn't know we were "battling it out." (JFH's John: Well, yeah, apparently you're neck and neck with Arcade Fire.) Oh, really? (JFH's John: Yeah, it's a pretty big thing online right now. The label's even giving away coupons for people to buy the record this week.) Oh, really?? (John Warne: Is it that big of a deal?) (JFH's John: Yeah, cause you guys would be the first band related to "Christian music" to debut number one with a new record.) Oh really??
    John Warne: I thought - I don't know what their status is, but didn't Underoath have a... (Matt Thiessen: I think they were number two.) Oh, were they? Huh... (JFH's John: So it would be Relient K.)
    Matt Thiessen: That'd be weird.
    John Warne: We're not "gunning" for that or anything. It'd be sweet if it happened...
    Matt Thiessen: Yeah, we're not battling... (JFH's John: Yeah, I know.) It's funny though when interview questions become more informative to us than to you guys. *laughs*

  • JFH (John): What was it like working with a different producer than Mark Townsend for this record?
    Matt Thiessen: It was cool. We wanted to work with a different producer on the last record, maybe even the one before that, just to stir things up a little bit, but the way that it always panned out was that the best and smartest choice was going with Mark. And with Mark, he's like a father to all of us and literally to one of us, so there's that "comfortable" factor. You take your time. He lets you make a lot of your own decisions. Like, if I say 'this part' has to be in the song, then he lets me put it in the song. The reason why we wanted to go with Howard [Benson] was because I wanted somebody to say... I'm like, "I want to put that part in the song" and he's like, "That part doesn't make sense, it's not going in the song." Y'know? I wanted somebody to tell me what to do. That's kind of what he's known for I guess. He's very blunt about his opinion and whatnot, and it worked really well. We didn't actually chop the songs up too bad and I just went in there with a very flexible attitude and it was a lot of fun working with him.

  • JFH (John): How did being a quintet for the first time working on a new studio record affect the process?
    John Warne: I haven't heard us referred to as a "quintet" yet, that's pretty cool.
    Matt Thiessen: Yeah, that's kinda cool! I love being a quintet. Sort of like a barbershop quintet. *laughs* You should answer that question seeing as...
    John Warne: Well, I would know the least about it...
    Matt Thiessen: Oh, that's true. *laughter* (John Warne: I did like being part of that quintet...) Yeah, it wasn't different, really at all, honestly. The guys have been in the band for two years, and they joined right after the last record. I've been asked about the new guys and their contribution and I actually never even thought about it until after it's done and I've been asked the questions about it, so obviously that means everything is kind of smooth and we're just used to it. But we've done a little bit of recording - a song here, a song there - before this album, so it wasn't like it was anything brand, brand new. But eh, it's great. We all work really well together... We're a band! We band together.

  • JFH (John): How did "Plead The Fifth" come about. 'Cause the whole thing's a cappella...
    Matt Thiessen: Yeah, it's kind of a long, twisted story. OK, so I always wanted to do a song where I did the drums with my voice. And then I didn't want to just put them on the track, I wanted to get a kit and trigger all the drum sounds while you're playing it. So it's like you're actually playing my voice as a drum kit. So that was the goal of a song, cause I wanted it to be an a cappella song and my voice as the drums. So I knew I wanted to do that and I knew I wanted that to maybe be the intro of the album. And then we had to name the album, and it was our fifth record and we were just trying to come up with titles and I ended up coming up with Five Score And Seven Years Ago. So then I'm trying to come up with a lyric to put over this a cappella song that I haven't even written yet and I just decided to do something kind of about a conspiracy theory about a Lincoln impersonator being assassinated rather than Lincoln and kinda throw Abe Lincoln in that category with John Lennon and Elvis and all the people that are still kind of "alive." Eh, it's just stupid. Basically, I could have just said "stupid," and that's all the answer you need. But yeah, it was fun though and I like it.

  • JFH (John): "Deathbed" is a truly epic song. What inspired it and what went into the writing process for it?
    Matt Thiessen: I started the song with the chorus, the very first part of the song, the "I could smell the death on the sheets" sorta thing. I don't know how that came about, I was just kinda goofing around on the piano one night. And so then I was like, "Where should I go with this? I kind of like it." And I was thinking about writing a song about myself - imagining myself dying. At that point, it wasn't cancer or anything, I was like, "Maybe I'll go through my life and imagine everything," but then I thought, "Y'know, that's kind of weird and it might not be good." So I started making up this fictitious character and that was really fun. I just started having a lot of fun with it. I thought "This'll be cool!" and I'll go through his life and whatnot. And certain parts of this guy's life, I based off family or friends that I knew. Like he ended up getting married on his twenty-first birthday, well my brother got married on his twentieth birthday. And he got divorced, and my brother got divorced. My brother-in-law, his previous marriage ended up getting divorced and he joined a bowling league and bowled seriously every day of the week and ended up bowling two to three hundred games. And that is how he dealt with his divorce and stuff. So it was just a lot of different little things like that. Actually, I had two or three people tell me already that the song is their grandfather to a "T." My old roommate, he's been on our third record and did our hidden track with me, I played him the song - see, I always play him our stuff and he doesn't really like our music, I just wanted to play him that song - and his grandpa died a week before and he was a preacher's son and there are all these coincidences with it, it was really weird. He was like, "Dude, that's crazy! I didn't tell you my grandpa died!" I had no idea.

  • JFH (John): When did you get the idea to have Jon Foreman guest on it?
    Matt Thiessen: Well, I guess it's kind of something I always wanted to do. I mean, I'm a big fan of Switchfoot and we're good friends and stuff. He actually sent me a song that he wrote and he just wanted to see if I'd record it and do one of their songs, but didn't end up doing that. But we were in correspondence and I asked him if he'd do it and I sent the files down to his house and he just sang it in his house and sent it back to us. It was really cool how it worked.

  • JFH (John): Is there a song on the record that you're most proud of?
    Matt Thiessen: Probably "Deathbed," just because it was the most fun I've ever had making a song. I mean, the writing process was fun. The song was in shambles at one point and I remember Howard wanted to hear it - he didn't know if he wanted to produce it or not - and he wanted to hear it by Monday and it was the weekend and it was the fourth of July and I had like forty five minutes and I showed up at this practice space that was the only place that had a piano. We're out in L.A., and I ended up putting it together, and I just remember driving home and was really excited because about seventy percent of the assembly of that song was done in that short amount of time, just because I had all this pressure, y'know? It was kind of cool. And then the recording process, just being with Mark [Townsend]. We didn't really have time, we were under pressure the whole album to get things done quickly. They wanted to put it out by November and in order to do that, we only had this window of time and it ended up getting pushed back. So Howard didn't have time to do that song, so it was cool we got to do it with Mark and we just sat back and were like "throw the kitchen sink at this thing. Put everything we can into it." We actually borrowed a little toy piano that I played with as a little kid and all these cool instruments - and I'd never played French Horn before or a trombone or baritone, or any of that stuff. I got to play them for the first time, kind of figure out the notes. So it's really really fun.

  • JFH (John): Any future plans for Matt Thiessen and The Earthquakes?
    Matt Thiessen: No, that's always an issue with time. I don't have spare time, really. And if I do, I try to get away from music a little bit. Although I don't know if I ever really do that. I'm already actually kind of starting to work on the next Relient K a little bit. This band's awesome, it's fun to be in, but it's also fun to have that other creative outlet. But originally, that side project started because Relient K was this pop-punk band and we were pigeon-holed in that. All of a sudden we realized we didn't have to be and we could put some piano in our music and we could branch out and have some Beach Boy influence and whatnot. So we started going that direction and all of what I would do in a side project is already in the band, so that's cool. I enjoy it.

  • JFH (John): Is that why you used "Faking My Own Suicide" as a Relient K song?
    Matt Thiessen: Yeah. I mean, "Faking My Own Suicide" was written back in 2001. And I never put it on a record because I thought it might be too controversial. It was just kind of a joke song, but I thought Christian audiences would never be able to accept it. And then years later I recorded it as a demo for that thing (My Other Band: Volume One), and I was like, "I think it's okay! I'm not worried about it." I know Matt's (Hoopes) mom was like "Even saying the word 'suicide' a song, people have experiences with that, like a loved one or whatever, it's going to conjure up some ill feelings," but the song isn't meaning to go in that direction. Obviously, it seems dark, but it's not.

  • JFH (John): What has God been teaching you lately?
    Matt Thiessen: I think a really big lesson that I learned, actually, over the last bunch of months - even recording this [record], I even wrote a song about it - is I get stressed out and I start thinking about certain things too much. And when I pray, it seems so juvenile that I do this, but my prayers become sort of a wishlist, or a grocery list, or a to-do list, or whatever. Like "help with 'this,' take care of 'this,' gimme 'this,' gimme 'this,' gimme 'this.'" There was this show in Washington, I think it was Creation West, and we were staying at this hotel that was right on the lake. One night I walked down to the lake by myself and just sat by the lake. [At the time,] I was writing a song called "Give" that's on the record, and that's kind of when I was realizing that [I was praying], "Please let this record turn out alright and get it done on time and I don't want to fail at doing this," and that's when I started writing this about giving and that's where I wrote the bridge of that song. That was a good lesson. Kind of a good scene - I love Washington state, it's one of my favorite places, so it was just a real cool place to do it. We ended up going down there the next night that we stayed there and we had a little bro-down! (John Warne: Yeah we did!) It was like when you're a little kid and you're camping. (John Warne: Looking up at the stars!!) Telling juvenile little stories! (JFH's Amy: When you said that you wrote a song about it, I had a feeling it was going to be "Give.") Oh! Right on.

  • JFH (John): What do you think was the best movie of 2006?
    Matt Thiessen: Stranger Than Fiction. I mean, it's not amazing, but I just like how different it is. Like, it was not your typical movie. Little Miss Sunshine was good, but I think that Stranger Than Fiction was better.
    John Warne: I haven't even seen more than a handful of movies in the theater this year, I don't think.

  • JFH (John): What movies are you looking forward to this year?
    Matt Thiessen: This year... what's on my "To Watch" list...
    John Warne: Blades Of Glory looks pretty good.
    Matt Thiessen: Ah, yeah, that does look good. Will Ferrell. He's coming up a lot in this. Well, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I think. But! Yeah... aliens... *laughter* The Transformers movie, they're making a new one of those, right? When's that coming out? (JFH's John: Uh... July? Live action Transformers movie...) Right on.
    John Warne: The animation and all that looked pretty sweet. (JFH's John: I know, but I'm a little nervous. Remember Bumble Bee? He was a little Volkswagon Bug?) Yeah! Mhm. (JFH's John: It's a Camaro now...) Really?
    Matt Thiessen: You can't do that! (JFH's John: I know! That's why he's "Bumble Bee!")
    John Warne: How about Soundwave? Does he make an appearance? The little cassette? (JFH's Chris Valdez: Yeah, except he's going to be a little DVD or iPod or something!) *laughter* Hopefully he's not a Zune! (Matt Thiessen: He'll be an iBot!)
    Matt Thiessen: There's Starscream. He had the voice of Cobra Commander. (John Warne: Yes he did!) Is that guy still alive? It'd be great to get that guy to do a voice over on our album. *laughter* (John Warne: That would be pretty amazing!) (JFH's John: He could do your intro.) Yeah, we could have him do a G.I. Joe one, and then we could have him do a Transformers one.

  • JFH (John): Any last comments?
    Matt Thiessen: It just kind of dawned on me. *To John Warne* You voted pro-Transformers and I was pro-G.I. Joe. And that Cobra Commander guy - his voice is...
    John Warne: ...the tie. The link!
    Matt Thiessen: The blood that courses through both our veins. We're brothers after all. We're not so different...
    John Warne: You and me. *laughter*

    For video clips from the interview, check out the video below!

    *video footage taken by Amy DiBiase*


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