Matt MacDonald: This is probably the most thematic thing we've ever done. We wrote for the record specifically. The first time around, we had written songs the prior three years and put them on a record. So I think the theme of the record was a little bit fragmented. I mean, this record definitely captured what we were doing, what we were writing, how we were feeling at that very moment. And of course the theme, or the content, was all directed towards the theme of the record. The production process was way different in that we, this time around, didn't use any click tracks or quantizing, we didn't use any borrowed samples. A lot of the stuff we played live in a live room so it gives it kind of ebb and flow rhythmically and it hasn't been doctored and kind of put to a grid, so to speak. So it's kind of like us playing live a little bit, and we like that sound. We like that the energy that that brings and you feel like you can connect with people better with music like that. And all my favorite records aren't over-done digitally; they're really organic so…
Matt: Well all my favorite records are probably in the 90's. But that's, you know, pre- as far as production goes- you know, how Incubus used to do records or Third Eye Blind or just like that kind of stuff. Yeah, so we couldn't have done that on the last record because we weren't good enough musicians. I'll be honest, we were pretty terrible, *laughter* but this time around our producer, Michael Basket, we call him "Elvis," he put a lot of faith in us and said, "You know what? You guys want this direction? We're going to go all the way that way." And it was kind of scary at first but when we heard it come out of the other end we were really excited.
Matt: Well thank you! That's a really huge compliment. That's what we were going for with this. I think there's some songs on the record that could be on Albatross, it's just the production on them is different, so it's a different energy.
Matt: It really does, it really does.
Matt: Jordan Butcher at the label, the design guy, heard the theme of the record and was kind of inspired to do something. And we've learned that when anytime someone's inspired that you should just let them do what they've got to do. And a lot of time's as artists and musicians we try to impose what we think is cool and you do it long enough, you start to realize that sometimes other people have a lot of good input too. And if you let them be inspired and act out what they feel they're called to do then you're going to have a better product. So with Jordan, that was the case. He said, "I want to do this," and we said, "Alright, go ahead," and that's what he came up with; the metaphors of the golden bowl and the blood in water and like everything so pristine and crystal clear that's on the cover like that. It's so simple, there's no logo, it's really just jam packed full of metaphors and symbolism and so that's kind of what we liked because that's how the record is for us.
Matt: Yeah! Yeah I feel like just the energy, the vibe, the colors…you know, the symbolism all fit the record really well.
Matt: You know what…there was a pulley holding up the golden bowl and we thought the golden bowl should be floating on its own because it's alive. And that was one thing we took away and then we said the background was…it was really a blue sky, sunny day, and we're like, "let's make that a moody day, a little bit of clouds.." and so he threw the clouds in and we were sold.
Matt: Yeah, that's what we were looking for - something to fit the mood of the record.
Matt: "Salt In The Snow"…um… geez, I haven't had any of these questions yet, haha, so I'm trying to figure out what is the story *laughter* It's kind of about going through a hard time in life where you kind of feel empty or complacent or there's no real purpose and you're trying to find your way. "Salt In The Snow" is a metaphor for…well, the metaphor in the chorus is "Left all alone on the side of the road, melted like salt in the snow." So salt melts snow. It was kind of a vibe of a feeling that I had, you know, and there's imagery of seasons in there and Summer being a good season of your life and Winter being a tough season in your life. So it was kind of in between those two seasons where you're just melted. And there's no sun and there's no snow. And that was kind of the imagery I was going for. But there's a hopeful message in that too. We try to bring not just the desperation but like, if you seek, you'll find it, you know? There's hope out there.
Matt: You know, it's really inspired by people watching, and I do it a lot. My mom told me when I was a kid, I used to swear to God I was a psychic and that I could read people's minds *laughter* but I'm pretty sure that's not true. But I believe now I am not a psychic but I do like to sit and look at people sometimes and look at their actions and how they interact.
Matt: Exactly. And we're on tour a lot, we're traveling a lot, looking out windows a lot so sometimes it gets my mind reeling about "what is that person, why is that person the way they are?" And trying to figure out who they are and try to put a story to what made them who they are, what made them dress like that, act like that, or twitch like that, or laugh like that, you know? And they're definitely fictional characters but I think they're very real characters in that there are people who, the characters in the "The Way That You Are," the story, could identify with. And so that was the idea behind that, just to put something out there that maybe someone could sing along to and go, "that's me," you know? Or "I relate to that in some way" or "I have a friend like that."
Matt: Um... I did, I mean a lot of the guys didn't want it on the record *laughter* because it's pretty blatantly about wanting someone's body, but I think it's tasteful enough. I mean, I'm a married man so my wife wanted it on the record *laughter*. But yeah, it's a love song and we never really write love songs. I mean, we didn't have any love songs…well we have one sarcastic, sort-of, slash love song on Albatross. But we don't really write love songs. We're not that band. You know, with the theme of the record being as it is, we haven't really talked about it yet but, love is a big part of it and so I wanted to represent a love song on the record that was… I mean, it is a little sarcastic if you sing along or read along but that's just how we do things. But that's our attempt to write a poppy, cheesy love song that the girls will gush over. *laughter*
Matt: Yeah, I mean, actually that's something I wrote down in my journal years ago. It's like something I came to realize. But the Bodies Exhibit got me thinking of how we spend so much time on ourselves as people, trying to look good to everybody else. When it comes down to the core, you know, we're all mortals, we're all human, we all look like this on the inside. We all have these organs, we all function the same, so instead of trying to put yourself ahead of the pack in the way that you look or the way that you act, instead of being selfish - be selfless. And that's a line that I can draw from, that I've written down, that I can put into the song because it made so much sense. You know, that there's more glory in suffering or, not self-suffering in self-pity or wallowing, but sacrificing for somebody else, than there is to self-serving escape- which really that's what it is, an escape. You know, you see different people in walks of life escaping, so to speak. And it really comes down to selfishness and that was one of the things that inspired me about the Bodies Exhibit is that, it's like "Wow that's me, on the inside" and here's a guy and he's dead and so your mortality is...you're kind of hit with it. You're like, "that's going to be me. I'm going to die." You know, that's real. And so what am I doing everyday to make sure that, because obviously I'm taking care of myself but, am I making an impact on anybody else? Because life is fleeting.
Matt: Yeah! You know, it's crazy cuz when we started out as a band, going on tours and stuff, we always thought that we were going to go out there and change the world and whatever. Like the fans- we're going to have this positive impact, this positive influence, and we do with our music to a point, but really it's hard to have. It's hard to develop a relationship at a show and as much as we want to develop these deep relationships in a matter of minutes, it doesn't happen that way for people. So there have been times when we've had the opportunity to talk about things with people at shows and really share things with each other but mostly it's with the bands that we tour with. And the camaraderie between the bands and the friendships we develop. That's really where, I think that's at least where I feel the focus is, you know? Because you can develop something over a long period of time. A lot of times you get off a tour with a band and you're friends for life after that. You know, you keep contact and everything so it's really a good opportunity to meet people and to get to know people on a deeper level, so it's cool.
Matt: Well, we shot that in L.A. It was actually shot in a real, live, working autopsy place. Half of it was an autopsy, which they were getting cadavers while we were in hair and makeup, and half of it was a set - like if you walk across the courtyard, it goes into a set, like a TV set. They film CSI there and stuff. And in the video, I'm a mortician that's dissecting myself, or trying to do an autopsy on myself. But I get foiled in the end by myself *laughter* so it's kind of a little twisty, plotty, story. But it was a lot of fun. It was definitely the biggest production video we've done yet with the hair, and the makeup, and the crew, and everything there.
Matt: Yeah I got to throw things around and break stuff and that was fun. I've never actually acted before so I was a little bit scared because I didn't know what I was going to be doing when I showed up. And Dan Dobey, the director, was just shouting things at me to do and I had to react. *laughter* And it was just kind of awkward cuz there's 20 people standing there staring at you and the cameraman's zooming in on your face and its like…I don't know, definitely a training, like a little lesson in acting and what actors go through. And I don't know…if I had formal training maybe I'd do a better job or do it again but…
Matt: Yeah he cut off all the bad, cheesy stuff out. *laughter* I was doing a lot of stuff. I went overboard because, you know, that's what rock and roll is. It's what we do on stage. People are looking at us so we act really silly and I definitely did that a little bit in the video. He trimmed it up and made it look good.
Matt: Yeah, I mean there's a lot of metaphors and that's why I liked it. When we thought about this idea we were just like "this is awesome" because the song inspired by the Bodies Exhibit right? So you're looking in, these thoughts, these lyrics in the song reflecting on, you know, the fragility of life and living day to day and stuff like that. It's almost a self-examination of what I'm seeing here is making me reflect on what is physically inside of me: organs and tissue and everything and also emotionally what I'm going through. So it's almost like a self-autopsy but the metaphor at the end is that you know, you can't go too deep into yourself because nobody has the truth or the answers so you throw yourself in the freezer and bounce. *laughter*
Matt: There's a couple songs that are about addiction or about using a substance to escape, which could be really anything, but this specifically talks about drinking and as an escape from truly living, because truly living to your full capacity is kind of terrifying because of the sacrifices you need to make. It's kind of about that, it's kind of about a longing for something more in just day to day life and the ups and downs and a longing, I think, is in everybody's heart, as humans for a higher power or some sort of sense of what's going on because nobody really knows. That's what that song's about.
Matt: Yeah! I mean, we prefer to play places where there is the higher opportunity of people who are hurting or people who are sad or depressed or who have gone through abusive situations because we feel like those people really need music to lift their spirits and take them through certain periods in their life as therapy.
Matt: You will find that anywhere.
Matt: Right. No definitely, they're everywhere and that's the good thing about us where we cross over different genres and we're trying to reach everybody, you know? Not just trying to be exclusive to one group of people. And it's not just that, we have pop songs for people who just want to sing along and are happy you know?
Matt: There's nothing wrong with that either but we try to bring something to the table for everybody.
Matt: There's a couple. "A Simple Seed," or "The Beginning," which is the last track on the record, is kind of about missing home and about the struggle of being away from your loved ones or the one that you love and actually, truly, being able to live in the moment with the people you're with on the road. And we have a saying in our band that if you live with one foot at home and one foot on the road, you're not really living anywhere. And so, it's almost a hard thing to do, but it's something that, with time, you're able to really be on the road or at home and if you're giving your home life 50% and your road life 50%, then you're only giving somebody 50% and you're not giving 100% of yourself to somebody.
Matt: It's hard to find a balance. And so that's kind of about trying to find a balance and it's a little bit about discovering your self-worth. I don't know, I think that song came out in like 5 minutes, from A to Z it was done and then I played it for Skip and he jammed on the drums and then that was it. So that was one of the songs. Another song is called "God and Drugs," which is another song about addiction in which basically people substitute the need for God or the feeling of God or enlightenment with a substance and there's a relationship between there - a substance would mimic a feeling of God or something or can become their god that they idolize so that song, I think the metaphors in that song can really hit home for some people, and it hit home for me too as I kind of work through things in my past.
Matt: You know, I have yet to define what Christian music is. I know what worship and praise music is, music directed towards God, but I don't know if you can mix a belief or a system of beliefs with your music, because I mean, obviously if you're a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew and you're very serious about your faith, it's going to come out in your music. But I don't think there's Jewish rock or Muslim rock or, you know?
Matt: Not yet! *laughter* But I don't know that they would sell out that much to make it, so I think faith is a personal thing. I have nothing against bands that are Christian bands or claim to be Christian bands because I think what they're doing is following conviction and that's honorable. It's honorable to be committed to do something about it but for us, personally, we don't really understand it. So we kind of steer clear. I'm a Christian so the music I write is about real struggles with real people and real situations that have happened in my life and there's obviously sort of a Christian outlook. There's hope. There's something that goes beyond just the human struggle. But I wouldn't call our music "Christian music," I think it's "human" music. *laughter* For humans! So…
Matt: Everybody! There ya go!
Matt: Yeah I listened to them growing up, too.
Matt: Right. And that's true, there's a lot of truth to that. Our A&R at the label, Chad Johnson, is a really devout Christian guy, just a really awesome guy. One of the coolest guys I've ever met; probably the reason why we signed with Tooth and Nail. We can talk to him about anything and he's always praying for us and it's really cool. But he was telling me the other day how that Death Cab For Cutie song, really hits home for him. *starts to sing* "You gotta spend some time, love, you gotta spend some time with me. And I know that you'll find, love, I will possess your heart." (The song is "I Will Possess Your Heart") And he always says that he pictures God singing that to him. "You gotta spend some time with me. And I'll possess your heart."
Matt: Well and it has nothing to do with the Christian bands they grew up with, it has nothing to do with the Christian bands that they like, cause everybody likes a few that call themselves "Christian." It has to do with the fact that the industry, for a lot of people, rubs people the wrong way. The money that's involved, or the money that's spent on safe music, and the parents are just trying to get something for their kids that's safe, and that's understandable. But at 19 dollars a CD, with all the profit going to these people and not the artist, not the consumer, there is profit on the mind with an exclusive industry like that. And so as much good as it is for the kids to have safety and something that's going to inspire them, something that's going to make them feel like they belong to something...
Matt: It's still a business and the business side- the business of Jesus- really settles weird in me. So I can't sell... The thing is, we play in clubs and bars, we play for a quarter of the people we would maybe play for if we were playing churches and stuff like that. And we would be getting paid twice, three times the amount of money. So selling out to us, is going "Alright, we give up on the mainstream. We're going to go where the money's at." Which to us, this isn't about money. This is about reaching people and this is about sharing your music, and your art, and your talents with people.
Matt: You can't follow people. And you know, as much as people are going "Why aren't you saying you're a Christian band? Why aren't you doing this and doing that like all my other favorite bands?" Well, we don't follow you. Sorry, we're not put here to follow you or the trends or whatever you think is cool. We're following our own convictions, what we feel called to do. And everybody has different convictions. That's the beauty of it, everybody's in a different place in their life, if they're a Christian, they're at a different spot in their faith or a different place in their walk, so to speak, and what we do as humans is we get convicted on something and expect everyone else to be convicted on it at the same time and we push it on everyone else and we have no patience. That's really what's turned me off from a lot of Christians and a lot of the corporate sort of Christian bureaucracy where it's like you go to a big church and they put you through all these rungs and its just like the Pharisees and Saducees. That same style of religion. You're following this list and I can go on and on and on but I will say this - at the heart of it, however much it's been screwed up and corrupted, at the heart of it, if you look at Jesus, you see someone who you would want to be; everyone wants to be. And you see someone who sinners and prostitutes and thieves and whoever like to hang out with, so if you're out there and you're a Christian and these people who you despise or people you don't want to hang out with, don't want to hang out with you, then you're doing something wrong. Because Jesus would be reaching out to these people, trying to hang out with these people, and they would enjoy His company; they would enjoy your company.
Matt: Right, and well, you'd also have to know where you're putting your value, where you're putting the emphasis in your faith. If you're putting it on very physical, material vices, then that's not what Jesus came and taught. He didn't come and say "don't smoke, don't drink, don't do this, don't do that" and that's basically what makes up Western Church Christian spirituality. You look at someone who doesn't drink and smoke and go "Oh, well they must be a Christian." *laughs* or "They must be religious." You know? You should be looking at people who are helping other people and loving other people and giving of themselves and go "that's a Christian." But unfortunately, it's just people who don't drink, don't smoke, and are jerks and are judging you. And so that's why we hang out with people who drink and smoke in bars and we try to love them and we try to be nice and not jerks and not judgmental in any way. That's the sort of mentality we need to be instilling in our kids because you instill this kind of isolation or this kind of cut-yourself-off from the world, which to a point, yeah you can't be…you got to be in the world not of the world, to a point it's true but Jesus didn't cut Himself off from the people at all, He went and ate dinner with them and put Himself smack dab right in the middle of them. It's like Paul eating unclean foods. It's against his convictions and his religion. Or Peter getting the vision from God saying "It's okay to go be with those people, go do as their culture does." Not at the expense of your faith, not at the expense of your relationship with Christ, because you will feel convicted when you do something that you feel convicted about. Right? Not at the bad expense at all, but don't be terrified of people who do things that you're not used to because those are the people you're supposed to hang out with. People not like you.
Matt: Well, we go on tour with bands and you know, first day they're like "this band's on Tooth and Nail…are they cool or are they just going to be weird Christians?" *laughter* So that's why we like touring with mainstream acts. We like to be like "Oh no man, we're just like you! We're the exact same as you, actually. We're in the same predicament as you except I believe this. I believe I have hope in life. And I believe I can see past all the stuff that's going on right now because someday it's going to be better." And that's what I'm trying to work towards and live towards. And people look at that and they respect that. They go, "That's really cool. You have hope and you're not acting like you're any better than me." And the truth is, we're not. We're just as bad. The only thing that makes us different is that we've had an experience with Jesus. And that's it. That's all that matters. And so, go out in the world and share that with your friends. That's all you need to do, just break it down to the basics. Don't follow these rules or these guidelines that your church or the institution puts in place for you. They might be based off of truth, but truth is placed in your heart. And you'll know if you're truly following Christ. You'll know, you'll be convicted on the things you need to be convicted on. And even to this day, my wife's convicted on things that her parents taught her. It's been placed in her mind that things are this way and she thinks that, even though she knows in her heart that its alright to do this or that. Her parents have kind of put this mentality where it's like almost like you got to follow "these" rules. This is how you do things. We live a very abnormal life. I'm on the road. It's not very normal. But for us it's normal. It's like we're apart a lot of the time and that's normal. It's one of those things where it's hard to break out of religion. And while it instills really good morals and values it's not going to put you in heaven. It's not going to let you bless anybody. Unless you really feel convicted that your message is to hang out with smokers and not smoke, and maybe you could change some lives. And I know, I've heard people say "Well, the sick's in church too, you know."
Matt: And it is true. The kids there really need a lot of guidance and I think that who are we to say that these kids are more valuable or we want to play [only] for these kids… they're all the same, they're all in the same predicament. For us, we say that at least those kids have that church.
Matt: Sometimes it can, but I think that God can work through anything, even very bad situations. And I've seen Him through some really uncanny situations. Like, really, "there was just a bunch of sin going on and You worked?" Don't put God in a box, right? There's a lot of cool churches sprouting up in the Northwest- Portland, Seattle- I mean, there's a lot of cool stuff going on. I know what you're talking about where you go someplace and it's like, "This really isn't for me, but where else am I going to go?" you know? *laughter* You can be a buffet church shopper where you're just like "I'll take a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I don't really like this or like that so I'll just leave that." But there's probably going to be something with everyplace that you're going to be like "ehh" about.
Matt: No people are perfect. People run churches. *laughter* People run churches mostly… and it's not about money. Money can corrupt so fast.
Matt: It's great to be poor! And I tell rich people that and they laugh at me. I mean I grew up in a family where there were always fights about money and everything like that. And over the years, being on the road, both my wife and I have cut our needs, our physical needs, down to just basics. "This is what we need. We don't need this or this or all these things we thought we needed. We just need this one pair of jeans and this couple of shirts." And it's cool because you become a minimalist and you start to really actually see that, see what life's really about. I'd be so happy with so little. I went to India a couple years back and those kids were happier than any American kids I'd seen at a Chuck-E-Cheese. And we were just sitting there with like a beat up guitar playing "Row Row Row Your Boat" and they were singing and dancing and clapping and laughing. And these are the kids whose parents are prostitutes in the Red Light district. They just live in the slums…but just the joy…and you see, "Wow, kids with nothing have that much joy." Like, how much more joy do we have? We just get rid of all these things that we're told we need or we think we need; this iPhone which I can't live without. What would I do without it? What would I do without my new apps?" You know? *laughter* It's just stupid. But my wife bought it for me so I can say it's a gift; can't throw it away. I have to save this gift!…
Matt: It's tough. The best way to learn is to go witness other kids…give a kid a balloon in Mexico and see him be happy for three days until it pops, you know? It's inspiring. Digital cameras were great because you take a picture and they can actually turn it around and see themselves; kids who rarely have seen their reflection. There's no mirrors. And they turn around and they're just like "That's me!" and I'm like "Yeah!" and they're like "That's you!" and I'm like "Yeah!" *laughter*. And they show their friends like "Look at me! That's me!" It's crazy. It's really awesome.
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