Hours before their tour bus fire fire along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Matt Thiessen and the other members of Relient K were discussing with Switchfoot ways the bands could support the non-profit Habitat for Humanity in their upcoming fall tour. "A week after the bus fire, it occurred to me that we were just talking about people that have lost homes and then I was focused on all my shirts being gone," shares Thiessen.With only the clothes on their backs and a few personal items they managed to grab on the way out, Relient K watched helplessly as their bus turned to ash in the early morning hours.
Fortunately, much of the band's equipment was salvaged from the wreck. The experience left the band shaken, but brave Thiessen a new outlook on what matters in life, "It was nice to give myself a reality check and realize that my concerns and my short-term problems are not a big deal. we're all about the big picture in life.
Relient K is focusing on other as they co-headline "The Appetite for Construction" tour with Switchfoot (which also includes special guest, Ruth). One dollar from each ticket sold will be donated to Habitat for Humanity. but the support for the organization will not end there, "We just recorded a song that Jon [Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot] and I wrote together. free on the [Habitat] website. You can donate money to the organization when you download it. "
Thiessen has a couple of projects in mind to benefit the non-profit, including an EP he may put together after the tour. Beside raising funds for Habitat for Humanity, the bands on the "Appetite" tour also hope to raise awareness for the organization, which includes encouraging individuals to become involved in local builds.
"Every night we're able to have some reps from Habitat come out to the shows." The whole local chapter thing really works out for a national tour, "remarks Thiessen. By highlighting the efforts of local Habitat for Humanity chapter, Thiessen hopes that community support and involvement with the organization will increase.
At the time of the interview, Thiessen and his tour mates were sitting in Springfield, IL anticipating an evening concert. Yet their thoughts are with the people of California and the fires that are raging. Hailing from San Diego, the members of Switchfoot have been directly affected by the wild fires, "I was talking to the bass player and he's got 20 people staying at his house," shares Thiessen. "Jon was talking about it from stage yesterday and he mentioned the San Diego fires and how Habitat can help."
"Appetite for Construction" marks the first time that Switchfoot and Relient K have toured together since 2001, the same year Relient K released their popular second album, The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek (Gottee). However, Thiessen says the band still nods to early songs, still performances "Sadie Hawkins Dance", but has also matured personally and musically. "You can not write the same songs that you wrote when you were 19 when you are 27," he explains.
Relient K released its debut album in 1999, when Thiessen was only 19. Now a few years from the landmark age of 30, Thiessen reflects on the past seven years, "When we started, we were on the road in a van stopping at Wendy's to eat every day. One by one, the guys got married. Everyone in the band is now married. The band's current line-up includes Thiessen (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Matt Hoopes (guitar, vocals), Dave Douglas (drums, vocals), John Warne (bass, vocals), and Jon Schneck (guitar, banjo, bells , vocals). Sadly, December 29 marks long-time drummer Dave Douglas' departure from the band to pursue other interests.
Even as band changes, Relient K remains a perennial favorite of teenagers and young adults, both Christian and non-Christian constantly receiving criticism for their departure from Gottee Records (who the band still uses for distribution in Christian markets) to the mega-label, Capitol Records. Undeterred by public opinion, Thiessen asserts that while the band expanded beyond the Christian market, their faith should not be in question. "We try to be who we are and a lot of people are drawn to the way our band does things and how we seem happy in doing them-the fact that we are all about our faith and writing about it, standing for it, and not backing away from it. We're definitely not throwing a Bible from the stage like Stryper did back in the day; but we also do not shy away from writing songs about what we believe. "
Serving as a great equalizer among fans of varying beliefs, the band hopes to counter the myth that all music produced by Christians is substandard. "It's a stereotype that goes along with Christian music," sighs Thiessen. "Once they hear that label, they think minor leagues. And the next post is like, 'Oh, crap! I do not like' em now. '"
"Everybody's got their own opinion of the Christian faith and sometimes people have not been introduced to it in a very good ways," continues the impassioned Thiessen. "It's tough for them to embrace a band that expresses the faith they may have been pushed away from." Even though they play bars and clubs as well as Christian music festivals, the band sees what they do as ministry, "But if we tell people that our ministry is to be less abrasive than other Christian band, it's kind of a weird thing. 're just trying to be a part of these kids' lives with our lyrics and who we are as people. "
In fact, to make their current tour more youth group-friendly, the bands have asked all avenues to refuse from serving alcohol. "Band like Switchfoot, Ruth, and Relient K-we do club shows and the Warped Tour, but we also love being involved in Christian youth culture, too." Growing up in the church and going to youth group, Thiessen has encountered many different Christians and their public statements on faith. He says, "Personally, I would not find myself drawn to someone who just comes out of nowhere, who does not know me and starts grilling me about my faith. some stranger's yelling at me about it. "
Instead of being a "preaching band", Relient K tries to show that Christians in a band can do more than just sing worship songs. "I feel like we're ambassadors molding the whole thing together and making things [between the secular and sacred] less separated. I feel like that kind of the point of the Christian faith-to be less separated from everything and do not have this isolated us against them mentality. " Branching out of the Christian bubble has been good for the band, who released their fifth album, Five Score and Seven Years Ago (Capitol) in March. Then October saw the release of the band's first full length Christmas album, Let It Snow Baby … Let It Reindeer (Capitol).
The reviews for the albums have been positive, often comparing Relient K's harmonic vocals to that of the Beach Boys, a comparison that seems to have been unnoticed by Thiessen. "That's my favorite band in the whole world!" exclaims an excited Thiessen. "To get a comparison like that, wow!" Citing the band's landmark album, Pet Sounds, as his favorite, Thiessen says, "I can listen to that record and I do not think we're ripping off the Beach Boys. my job. You always want the things you love to come across in your music. " Thanks to Capitol Records, Thiessen has about every song the Beach Boys has ever released, including a framed vinyl of Pet Sounds in his living room-a living room that Thiessen gets to see far too little because so much of his life is spent on the road.
When discussing the band's latest release, Let It Snow Baby … Let It Reindeer, Thiessen offers listeners a touching mental picture on what it means to come home after being on tour. Describing the song, "Merry Christmas, Here's To Many More," Thiessen shares, "It's got the imagery of me coming home and all the friends I've ever known are at my house and having a Christmas party. accepted from your friends and family. I spend most of my life not seeing a lot of my friends. Not only does Thiessen find comfort at home with friends and family, but his efforts for Habitat for Humanity are helping many across the country to do the same.
For more information on Relient K, please visit them online at relientk.com. To get involved or make a donation, to Habitat for Humanity, check out habitat.org.
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