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An interview with John Warne of Ace Troubleshooter.

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An interview with Philmore.

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Cool Hand Luke, the three-piece Christian band, has been part of the indie scene for the last four years until their recent decision to sign with Floodgate Records. Since they started as an independent band from Tennessee, a lot of people don’t know a whole lot about Cool Hand Luke, but the people who do know their music seemed to really dig it. So at Cornerstone I tracked down vocalist/drummer Mark Nicks to do an interview. Talking to Nicks, I came to the realization that Cool Hand Luke is a four-piece band, three members held together like a triangle with God in the center.

Matt M: I was just wondering, I saw you guys yesterday and you seem to face the opposite way as the audience, is there some reason behind that?

Mark Nicks: Technically, we face the same way as the audience. OK, sorry. Our reason for doing is we don’t really consider ourselves entertainers or performers and we want it to be a worship experience. We feel like if we’re not facing the audience it helps us focus. We hope that it helps the audience focus and just puts the focus on God, so that we’re not glorifying ourselves.

MM: Did you know there are some other bands that go by the name “Cool Hand Luke?”

Nicks: We played in West Virginia and some people said there was a ska band called “Cool Hands Luke.” Then somebody told us they saw online some cover band in Texas called “Cool Hand Luke.” I don’t know, we’ve never heard of a touring band called “Cool Hand Luke.” I guess yeah, we knew that.

MM: Do you think it will ever be a problem for you guys?

Nicks: I’m more worried about it being a problem because it’s a movie than I am because of other bands. We’ve talked to a lawyer, he doesn’t handle copyright law, but he said that it shouldn’t be a problem because they’re two different markets. You can’t copyright a title. The only problem would be if they decided to come out with a Cool Hand Luke action-figure that was called “Cool Hand Luke.” There might be a problem there because they could copyright that name. But I guess because it’s in different markets it’s not supposed to be a problem, but I’m still slightly worried about it.

MM: So where is Cool Hand Luke from and what’s the music scene like back home?

Nicks: I’m from Nashville, Tennessee, and Brandon and Jason are from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I just graduated from college, but we all go/went to Middle Tennessee State University and that’s in Murfreesboro. That’s where I met them at and it’s pretty much Nashville-it’s only like 30 miles away. The music scene is very sort of conceited there. Pretty much in Murfreesboro and Nashville everybody’s a musician, everybody’s a critic and kids don’t really go to show to have fun. They go to hang out with people, and they just kind of stand there with their arms crossed and critique you.
You’ve got to be a really big band to get a very good draw there. We usually have maybe 50 or 60 kids now when we play in Nashville, but it took a long time to even get that big of a following and half of them are our friends. It’s a very hard scene to be in.

MM: You sing and play the drums. Have you ever considered being up front and playing the guitar?

Nicks: I’ve daydreamed about that, but I’ve never really considered it. There are a lot of reasons. For one thing, I think that I might actually struggle with pride if I was the “frontman” and that would mean having to get another drummer. We’re just really worried that adding another member might change the “chemistry” of the band. We’re really like-minded and have the same spiritual goals, and I don’t know if we could find anybody that meshed with us as well as the three of us work together, if that makes any sense. I think it would be really cool to do that, but that’s really me thinking about what would be cool, instead of me thinking about what would further our ministry and I don’t see how that would benefit God’s kingdom any way.

MM: Supposedly, you started as a pop punk band and then became a screamo band. Musically how have you changed from what you were back then to what you are now?

Nicks: Well, Brandon and Jason had been friends for a long time and they started getting into punk like MxPx, Slick Shoes, old Squad Five-O and stuff like that. They wanted to start a punk band. They wanted to be a new school punk band, but I don’t think we were really good enough to be new school, so we were just kind of pop punk. Not to say that catchier pop punk is not good, I’m just saying that we weren’t good. Anyway and they met me at a Ruby Tuesday through a mutual friend and asked me if I wanted to play drums in a punk band. At that point, I was kind of like getting over the punk thing, but I was like, “I’ll give it a try.” I played with them and we just really clicked. We started out playing punky stuff and our shows just weren’t what we wanted them to be spiritually, because it was more kids just jumping around and pushing each other than it was really focusing on our message. We just started focusing on writing more worshipful music. We never sat down and said, “Hey let’s be screamo.” There was never any conscious change. We started handing our songwriting over to God and it started slowly changing into what it was. I think our first EP is screamo and the full-length has a lot of that on it. To me, I think those are sort of transitional periods where we finding out who we were. And we’re pretty much moving away from the screamy stuff. We just really want to write beautiful music that is glorifying to God and leads people in worship. Whether that what’s we’re doing or not, I don’t always know. But it’s evolving, I don’t think it’s done yet; I think we’re still trying to find our niche.

MM: What’s the songwriting process for you guys?

Nicks: We’re weird. I think most bands a guitar player usually comes in with a riff or the skeleton of a song. Usually a lot of prayer goes into our songwriting. Maybe as cheesy and cliché as it might sound, we really try to let God write our songs. I can say that it’s equal three parts, there’s no predominant songwriter in the band. We just come together and maybe Jason like just rip out something by accident and we’re like “That’s kind of cool. Do that again.” We just keep adding stuff and when I have an idea, I’m usually not good enough to play it on the guitar. I’ll just end up humming something to Jason and he’ll figure it out. Then, we usually write the music first and I’ll record it on a tape, just on a boom box. Then go home and I usually take a couple weeks writing lyrics to a song. I just pray over it and try to find out what God wants the song to be about. I usually get the melody first and then start putting the ideas into those melodies the best that I can. So it’s kind of a long drawn out process that doesn’t make much sense and we don’t really understand how it happens.

MM: What types of topics do you address in your songs and do you ever write about the opposite sex?

Nicks: Well, on the last record there was sort of a theme that I think God gave to it, more than I decided there was going to be a theme to the songs. Just sort of a theme of messing up, sinning, talking bad about your friends and seeing the error of your ways, and coming back to God’s forgiveness. We try to make our songs worshipful, but all of our songs aren’t always necessarily just straight up worship songs. We have a few songs like that; those are usually our favorite songs. But the newer songs are about some things that God’s been speaking to me about. Just about how we strive for contentment and the paradox of how you can’t strive for contentment, because it’s being content with where you are. Encouraging people not to chase “the American dream” and get caught up in this scene, and in materialism, that’s a lot of my lyrics. We try to write songs; also beyond just having some specific message, just songs of worship to glorify God and to maybe make people’s hearts think about that. As far the girl’s thing, we don’t have any songs about girls. I don’t want to write any songs about girls, I just kind of feel convicted not to do that. And I’m not downing bands that do, but I feel like our role is to solely glorify God and to try to minister to people. I have a song that is off of our first EP that is about one of my friends that was raped. There’s a song that is probably going to be on the new record that is about a girl. It’s just a fictional character, but it’s not a love song or anything like that. Besides that I have never been on a date, so I don’t really have much writing material for songs about girls.

MM: Your band seems to be ministry-orientated because of how vocal you guys are about your faith. That seems pretty rare today in the Christian scene, what is about your faith in God that makes you want to share it with people through your music?

Nicks: Acts 4:20 says we can’t help speaking about the things we’ve seen and heard, and that’s the way we feel. None of us have like a radical “I was a drug dealer and then I got saved” story or anything like that. We were pretty much raised in the church and Christian homes, and we’re very thankful for that. But we can definitely see that God has pulled us out of the mud and has given us something very special, and we want to share that with people. God is the biggest part of my life and I can say that he’s the biggest part of Brandon and Jason’s lives. For me, if we were on a platform, if we get on a stage and we don’t mention Jesus Christ, then I’m sinning. I know that God would have for me to share my heart and to share the gospel with other people, and that’s the biggest opportunity that God has ever given me to share Christ with people. To neglect that, I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself. That’s what He’s called me to, that’s what He’s called our band to and I feel like that’s what He’s called all Christians to. It’s just our responsibility and that’s our joy, and that’s the reason why we play music to begin with. Not to mention that just seems foolish to me.

MM: What does worship mean to you?

Nicks: That’s a tough question. I feel like I’m learning a lot, God’s teaching me a lot about worship. Traditionally when you hear worship you think about music, but it’s so much more than that. Henry Blackabee says that, “Worship is bringing your heart to God and being changed.” In light of that, I wonder how often we really worship God. I just think there are so many different ways that you can worship God. Ephesians 5:10 says, “And find out what pleases the Lord.” That’s been my prayer for the past few months. Because I feel like God makes us all unique and there’s a certain way that every human being can worship the Lord that nobody else can do it the way they can; like I sing and play drums-that’s one way that I worship God and Brandon paints. Some people can worship God through just sitting outside and meditating on Him. I think just anytime we acknowledge and just enjoy God-I think that that’s worship. I don’t think it has to be in a musical setting or even in an artistic setting. I just think it’s bringing whatever you can bring to God and enjoying him in that way.

MM: Do you think you’ll be in full-time ministry after the band?

Nicks: I’m planning on pursuing missions. For a while we thought the band was going to break up. I graduated from college in May. I felt called to missions about two years ago at the One Day conference in Memphis. I feel called to missions, I feel called to long-term missions, foreign missions. I thought that God was going to have me leave the band after I graduated, but as we prayed about it we just saw that God was using this band. I just assumed that because God called me to missions that I was going to have to give up the band, but God never actually told me that. So we’re doing this for a while, but I plan on going to seminary and pursuing missions-and that’s what I feel like I’ll be doing with the bulk of my life.

MM: How many releases do you guys have and can you talk a little about each one?

Nicks: Someone got angry because they interviewed me and I didn’t mention our first demo tape. So I’ll mention that. I think if you asked Third Day how many records they have they would mention the ones that are on [a label] and wouldn’t mention their demo tape, but I’ll mention that anyway. Like two months after we got together we recorded a pop punk demo, it was called “Demo Shmemo.” [It] had four songs on it and it was pretty much straight up pop punk, and enough said about that. Brandon sang at that point and I just sang backup, harmonies sometimes. Then we put out an EP called “So Far” and that was when people started calling us “screamo.” It was just sort of melodic emo stuff with a lot of screamy parts in it and we had kind of punky song left over that we recorded on it.

Then last year we put out a full-length called “I Have Fought Against Myself and Torn Myself to Pieces” (right), which is a quote from St. Augustine about his conversion experience. That’s sort of a hodge-podge of old songs that we didn’t want to let go and new songs that we had just written, so there’s not a lot of continuity in it, because there’s a lot of the old screamier stuff and then some more melodic stuff on it. Well, we just put out a 7-inch on Vindicated, which is just two of our newer songs that we wrote. One of them is not a very typical Cool Hand Luke song, it’s kind of rockin’ and dare I say even a little bit poppy. Then the other one is just a pretty worship song.

MM: What made you decide to sign with Floodgate Records after being independent for so long?

Nicks: Well, a lot of prayer went into it. Tim Taber runs the label and he’s just a man of God who I feel like respects us as musicians and he respects our ministry. We didn’t feel like he was going to change us or turn us into some “Rock star” band. He’s a complete man of God and he was in The Prayer Chain, he understands what it’s like to be a touring band and he wants to help his artists out. I think that his label has a lot of integrity. We prayed about it a lot and felt like it was where God was leading us. We’ve been independent and it’s kind of hard letting that go, but we’ve always trusted that God would take care of us. He allowed us to put two CDs out independently and I think this is how God’s taking care of us now, because it was going to be a big financial burden to try to do another record on our own, so it’s going to help us out a lot.

MM: So when will your next album be out and can you preview what you anticipate from it musically?

Nicks: Well, we’re planning on going into the studio probably late September or early October and we’re thinking it will probably be out at the beginning of next year. Musically it’s going to be a little toned down, not as much hard stuff. It’s going to be more melodic; pretty much there probably won’t be any screaming stuff on it. I feel like a Jeremiah of sort, because some of the subject matter is not always happy stuff. It’s kind of like some things that God has laid on my heart, just problems with the world. I’ve addressed some of that and I’m always like, “God, are you sure you want me to say this, it sounds kind of negative?” But it’s some stuff that God’s laid on my heart and I hope that it will be just a really worshipful record. We’re kind of nervous and excited to see what’s going to happen, but I hope it will be pretty.

MM: So who’s in the WWJD choir and what type of music is it?

Nicks: The WWJD choir is: the three of us in Cool Hand Luke and our road manager Joe, and everyone in Norma Jean, except for Doolittle, and sometimes Matt from Unwed Sailor and all those other bands he’s in, sometimes he’s in the WWJD choir. We’re pretty much a boy band with lots of choreography and really catchy songs. It’s just fun for kids of all ages.

MM: Is it really a boy band?

Nicks: We’re a boy band.

MM: Do you have recordings or anything like that?

Nicks: Well, Norma Jean has worked on some demos while they’ve been on tour. We don’t have anything final and official yet, but we’ll let you know as it progresses.

MM: Any last words, thoughts, comments or suggestions?

Nicks: I just encourage everybody to stay in the Word and seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, instead of just wearing the name “Christian.” Love God.

For more information about Cool Hand Luke click here.

Relient K’s sound often walks the tight rope of being in the CCM market and still being hip for high schoolers and college kids. Sometimes it’s hard to know what audience they’re trying to reach with their Blink 182ish style of pop-punk, which occasionally gets mixed with a touch of emo.

So when I interviewed the band’s singer/guitarist Matt Thiessen on the first of June at Blitz Fest in White Lake, Michigan, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some of my pre-conceptions of their band were wrong and I also found out about a lot of things that any curious person would want to know about their band. Hopefully this interview will provide answers to lots of questions for fans and critics of the band.

Matt M: So you’re Canadian, eh?

Matt Thiessen: Yeah.

MM: Do you get teased about that at all?

Thiessen: Not so much. Once in awhile you’ll hear a little Canadian crack. Mostly the boys in the band will just make some sort of joke like how I’m incapable of doing something because I’m Canadian. But for the most part nobody even knows, you did some research.

MM: Well, I think you said it in…

Thiessen: In a song, yeah. That’s research I guess.

MM: Where in Ontario?

Thiessen: Really southern Ontario like by Niagara Falls pretty much. Twenty minutes away is a town called St. Catherines.

MM: So you’re almost in New York?

Thiessen: Yeah, pretty much like 45 minutes from Buffalo I think.

MM: And then you just moved down to Ohio?

Thiessen: Yeah my folks split when I was young and my mom remarried some guy from the states and we moved to Ohio. I have four brothers and sisters and we all just booked it down here and started getting used to it and it was cool.

MM: Can you briefly give me your take on the whole Abercrombie and Fitch thing?

Thiessen: Oh, ok. Yeah, Abercrombie… I don’t know if you know the background on it, but Abercrombie talked to our record label said: “We’ve never really worked with a band exclusively. We play music in our stores, but never worked with a band. We like Relient K, we want to work with them.” Then, our record label was flattered, because we didn’t know anyone had ever heard of us. So we thought it would be a really cool ministry opportunity and we were so excited about it that our record label sent out a big e-mail to all these people in the industry just saying: “Hey check this out, it’s a really cool opportunity you know, pray for us,” and stuff like that. And some Christian publications found out about it and instead of viewing it as Abercrombie just using our music. They used it as us endorsing Abercrombie, which wasn’t the case. Basically they called for a boycott of not only our band but our record label. At that point, we were a little frustrated. Because it was affecting our entire record label and not just our band, we had to back out of the deal. So that was kind of a bummer. But our folks were real pissed, because they were like, “You guys were doing this for the ministry and now you have to back out.” Yeah, we thought it would be a really great ministry opportunity to minister to some frat boys. Jesus also talks about knowing like when to back down and when not to cause other people to stumble. So basically we cut our losses.

MM: You had some lineup change between albums with drummers.

Thiessen: Yeah.

MM: Why did you change and how did that affect the band musically?

Thiessen: It was a while ago. We’ve actually gone through I think five or six different drummers, but we’ve only recorded with two. So basically our first drummer on board, like full-fledge on, was Stephen Cushman and he played on the first record. He’s a really cool guy. He’s really into hardcore and he screams really well. But we ended up just having different goals, different visions for the band. He just kind of felt like God was taking him somewhere else. So he joined this band called Narcissus. I’m sure Decapolis does stuff like that. I think they might even playing Decapolis Stage this summer at Cornerstone. So anyway, they’re a really cool band and he definitely kind of gelled with them probably better than with us, because we’re a little too cheesy I would think. We’re even too cheesy for us sometimes. Then just a buddy of ours from home, we had him join. His name’s Dave, he’s great, we love him. He sings well, plays drums well, he’s not even a drummer; he’s a guitarist. So it was kind of cool that it worked out.

MM: I’ve always suspected that Toby McKeehan is the fifth member of Relient K.

Thiessen: Oh.

MM: Because I can just picture him in my mind as being behind some of your catchier lyrics. Has he helped you out as a band like musically or lyrically?

Thiessen: At the beginning he was the guy who saw the potential I guess-which I still don’t see. He was the guy who signed us, but other than that basically he was pretty hands-off. We wrote the first record, made it and he said it was good enough for Gotee records. Because there was talk about not putting us on Gotee records and just developing us. So he said, “Yeah, I’ll put this out.” And then he was kind of checking over the songs. When it came to the second record, basically he heard it when it was done and that’s the same with the one we’re working on. I talk to him probably about twice a year now. So he definitely was “Uncle Toby” at the beginning, but I think it’s flattering that he trusts enough to be able to write well. I guess it’s good enough for him, so that’s cool.

MM: Your label’s got strong ties to the CCM industry. Do you like being part of that and how do secular bands view your band being part of that and do you have plans to go mainstream?

Thiessen: That’s a big question, but I can just talk about this forever. We grew up in youth group listening to the Supertones, Switchfoot, Five Iron Frenzy and all this stuff. Really that’s kind of where we came from, those are the kind of bands we wanted to be like and open for. We did that because we liked the ministry aspect of the music. We liked where the lyrics were and how people weren’t afraid to talk about their faith. So that’s kind of what we patterned ourselves after and that’s something that will always be with us; we’re not ashamed of anything. But a lot of us don’t really listen to a lot of Christian music that much anymore, I guess being involved with it so much. It’s a really weird situation. A lot of bands once they are in a Christian band or in a Christian label-they view it as a stepping-stone to get to the goal of being a general market band and being huge. And that’s something that we’re kind of embarrassed of-that philosophy. We love where we’re at-God’s taken us farther than we ever thought we’d get to go and if he wants to do anything more with it, then that’s up to him totally. And you know what, we enjoy playing with a bunch of general market bands. We just went on tour with this band from Jersey; they weren’t Christian kids, but they really liked our music and we really liked theirs. We became really good friends. It’s just a really cool situation where you can make new friends. And then we were at Friday’s one time, just eating with those guys and I was like “Hey, do you guys think that our lyrics are dumb because we’re talking about our faith?” They’re like “No man that’s just what you believe. Nobody thinks you’re dumb for believing in something. It’s the same as us writing about whatever.” So I thought it was cool and I like it when people don’t cut you down because you’re singing about your faith. So I hope that covered it.

MM: I’m sure you did. Your music seems to really appeal to a high school audience.

Thiessen: Yeah.

MM: Do you think older audiences, like maybe your peers, have a hard time taking your music seriously?

Thiessen: Yeah. We ran into this rut of putting out records of material that we had written two years before. So basically when our first record came out, it was stuff when we were 15, 16 and 17. And when we put it out we were 19 and 20 years old, getting into the whole indie rock scene listening to the Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World every day and being ashamed of what we wrote. But still having fun with it, still being the kids that we are. You know you just move on and you try and mature. So then our second record, we thought we had matured a little bit. But we even still used some of those songs that we wrote when 15, 16, just cuz’ we didn’t want to make the transition too jagged I guess. And now we’re scared, because we’re writing this third record right now. We’ve got 18 songs on it so far and it’s even matured more. We don’t want anybody thinking, “Ah, these guys are just all grown-up.” But we’re just doing what we like to do. We’re changing things up, because I don’t think anyone wants us to put out the same record over and over and over again. We’re not trying to fall into any gaps and stuff like that. I guess I don’t know if I answered the question about the peers or not.

MM: I think so. The song “Pressing On” is pretty similar to a popular Blink 182 song.

Thiessen: Oh really, which one?

MM: “Dammit.”

Thiessen: Oh yeah, yeah.

MM: Do you get compared with them often and like how do you feel about that?

Thiessen: The “Pressing On” song-that chord progression…

MM: It’s gold.

Thiessen: Yeah, it’s just… everybody uses it. Actually I think I was listening to a lot of Sum 41 at the time. So if you listen to the EP that they came out before, “All Killer, No Filler,” it would probably be even more of a good comparison. But basically when you’re writing pop-punk music and you want to keep it poppy and not too weird, there’s only so much you can do. So I know how my melodies and my chord progressions [are similar], so I just keep doing it. And I’m like, “You know what our voices are different, we put harmonies on stuff, sometimes we add different instruments, different keyboards; it’s never going to be exactly the same, we’re never going to rip anyone off on purpose. So we’re just going to do it and if we get compared, so what.” We do get compared to Blink. I like Blink, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m never a big fan of “If you don’t want your kids listening to Blink 182, have them listen to Relient K.” Obviously it’s good to have your own identity as well, but you know comparisons don’t get me down ever.

MM: My friend, I think he did an interview with you guys. He insists that the ska riff on “What Have You Been Doing Lately?”…

Thiessen: Is a Suicide Machines riff? I think I’ve talked to that guy before. Yeah, oh ok I remember that interview.

MM: Jason.

Thiessen: That was in Minneapolis.

MM: Yeah.

Thiessen: At the New Union. That’s funny. Yeah, I was listening to that Suicide Machines record, but he said that before. I didn’t rip it off, but he told me that before. It wasn’t blatant or anything, but I do like that record. It was off of the… I forget what the record was called. I think it might have been self-titled, the weird one where they slowed everything down.

MM: The other Matt in the band seems to have some really strong emo influences that come out on “These Words Are Not Enough.” Do you plan to incorporate more of that sound into your music?

Thiessen: It’s funny, as I said before, three or four years ago we just started getting into all the indie stuff. I know Decapolis is all about that too. It’s a cool thing, that music, I like it. It’s becoming such a trend now. All the people who have done it before are like, “We hate it.” Rivers is saying “I hate ‘Pinkerton,’” and that’s like the “father of emo records.” Saves the Day is like “We hate the word emo.” And I understand it because you’re trying to make original art and you’re trying to do what you think sounds cool, and then people are just calling it “emo.” And of course all of your friends think “emo” is stupid. We were just writing what we think sounds good. Definitely, the new record is still really poppy, but a lot darker in areas too. I don’t know we’ve definitely tried to avoid getting put in the “emo” box that’s for sure. We’re actually stirring things up quite a little bit: we’re actually going vintage a little bit, doing some 70’s type of stuff, acoustic stuff, weird stuff, but it’s not like what you’d expect I think. It’s not what you expect every punk band to be doing.

MM: Do you ever get sick of playing songs like “Sadie Hawkins Dance” and “Marilyn Manson Ate My Boyfriend?”

Thiessen: Oh yeah, it’s actually girlfriend, “he ate my girlfriend.” Yeah we don’t play that one anymore, the Marilyn Manson song. We played it for two, three years straight and got totally sick of it and stopped played it. “Sadie Hawkins” is kind of different for me, because it’s cheesy, but I still kind of like it for some reason. So I don’t get sick of that one, that’s actually one of my favorites to play. But yeah I mean I guess a lot of bands get sick of playing the really cheesy songs, but that one was an exception for me I guess.

MM: Who did the screaming on “Softer to Me?”

Thiessen: That was our old drummer and actually our producer’s stepdaughter. She did a lot of it too. She’s got a good scream. So we’re still buddies with [them].

MM: They really toned that down.

Thiessen: Yeah, well we thought it was kind of cool to put it way in the back and not scare anybody. It was actually something that Juliana Theory does a little bit too sometimes, because they’re not really a screaming band and they don’t want to be labeled as a “scremo” band. So sometimes you just put the screaming in the background.

MM: I never knew about this emo side, I thought it was all just Matt.

Thiessen: What?

MM: About this emo side to you?

Thiessen: Yeah, you thought it was Hoopes?

MM: Yeah.

Thiessen: Yeah, we’re into the same music, I just don’t T-shirts I guess. I always wear button-up shirts, cuz’ I don’t know I’m just in not shape enough to wear tight T-shirts I guess. So I don’t ever wear… I don’t get a Saves the Day shirt or a Dashboard shirt like Matt does. So he gets branded like that a lot and he’s so much more serious than me that everybody’s like, “He’s the dark mysterious emo one.” But I definitely have a really serious side to myself, so that’s what I listen to.

MM: So like what stuff is in your CD player right now?

Thiessen: Well, there’s stuff like the Boxcar Racer, I just picked it up, so it’s in there. You know I’ve been getting into The Starting Line. It’s weird it varies from Pete Yorn to Death Cab for Cutie, Blink 182’s always in there, the new Weezer a little bit, Taking Back Sunday, this band on Victory, is pretty decent, the new Goldfinger even and that’s like cheesier than anything, I like Mest a lot and I could go on forever cuz’ I just listen to music non-stop. Yeah, it’s cool. It varies quite a bit.

MM: I remember seeing a single of yours with the song “For the Moments I Feel Faint” and there was a liner note in there about someone playing that song on 9-11.

Thiessen: Oh yeah.

MM: What were the circumstances behind you writing the song?

Thiessen: That song’s kind of funny for me. It’s the acoustic one on the album, but originally I think it was one of the first songs we ever wrote as the pop-punk band. It was pretty much kind of like a Blink 182 song. I wrote the lyrics to the verses back when I was 15 and I had just become a Christian. I was sitting in a bible study and I just started writing this poem-I don’t know how much of a girl that makes me. But I just start doing that because I was thinking about my… I was like “Man am I at the point where I can’t improve anymore or what about all this stuff?” So I was writing my thoughts down. It was like a first song type of thing almost. We never used it for anything and then I kind of looked back on it and I was like “You know what? Some people might think on this new record that we’re ashamed of our faith. You know what? I like this lyric a lot and it’s hopeful,” so we just decided to change the tune into an acoustic song. I liked the way it turned out a lot. It’s a really old one, but we just kind of brought it back and changed it around.

MM: So you got the Creepy EP out and this other one you’re working on. When will that stuff be out, and what such Relient K and Decapolis readers expect from such recordings?

Thiessen: Ok, right now we’re in the middle of this record. We started it in March and we’re not anticipating being done with it until August of 2002. We’re just taking our sweet time and just throwing like 14 guitar riffs on every song and stuff like that, we’ll weed it out later. Just basically trying to do everything we want on a really low budget, so it’s gonna be interesting, but it should sound good. Our record label doesn’t want to put it out till probably March 2003, which is forever of a wait for us. We’re gonna try to put together a new EP of some sort, like take some songs from the upcoming record, do some acoustic stuff, maybe just write some more songs and make an EP for the fall. And from the music, I don’t know. It’s basically the same direction that we were going with the self-titled to “The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek.” Now we’re just trying to keep going in the same sort of feel with it. We like all the songs-everything on the new record we like better than anything we’ve ever done.

MM: The Creepy EP’s already out?

Thiessen: The Creepy EP came out before “The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek.” It was kind of the same thing: it had “Pressing On” on it, “Those Words Are Not Enough,” a b-side from the record that didn’t make it and some acoustic songs, like it has “Softer to Me” acoustic on it. So we just put that out last summer so kids could hear what the new stuff was sounding like on “Anatomy.” So that when “Anatomy” came out at the end of the summer they could buy it. It’s kind of the same thing with the fall, we’re gonna try to put some new stuff [on it] from [the album] yet to be named.

MM: Are there any last words, thoughts, comments, puns or suggestions?

Thiessen: I’m all done with the puns I guess. But I just want to thank you guys for doing the interview; I go to the Decapolis site all the time. You know a band I like a lot, this band called “Noise Ratchet,” you guys had them on your stage a couple of years, we might get to tour with them a little bit next spring. It’s kind of been all about the stuff, so I just appreciate you guys taking the time out to interview us and actually caring enough to do it. It’s kind of weird, but we’re excited about it. Actually I write e-mails, I return all the fan mail that we get and on the bottom of everyone it says, “Questions about Christian music vs. secular music” and I have a link to the Decapolis site, this something somebody wrote on there. I really like the way you guys deal with that stuff, as far as saying that secular music isn’t evil. That’s it, there’s my piece.

For more information about Relient K click here.

Poor Old Lu was one of the coolest “Christian” bands, back in the pre-Tooth and Nail days when Seattle grunge rocked the mainstream. For many fans, their breakup in ’96 was quite saddening, but still their memory has lived on. Then, in 2001, after five years of non-existence, one of Christian music’s most beloved bands reunited. Since then Poor Old Lu has been working on a new album, which is scheduled to be released this fall on Tooth and Nail.

I recently caught up with Lu vocalist Scott Hunter for an interview before their performance at the Pre-Cornerstone concert in Galesburg, IL. The two main subjects he discussed included the new album “The Waiting Room” and more importantly, just how good it is for the band to be back together.

Matt M: I was reading an interview with Jesse in which he said that Jeremy Enigk, of Sunny Day Real Estate, was the lead singer of Poor Old Lu along with you for a while. Do you guys still keep in touch with him?

Scott Hunter: It was about in eight or ninth grade and we were all in a band together. It was Aaron doing basically keyboards and some guitar, Nick doing bass, and Jeremy and I would split the vocals. Jeremy did about two-thirds of the songs. I did about one-third of the songs. We did maybe one performance of that, but it was junior high, kind of early, early high school. But it was a couple of years before any Poor Old Lu stuff. Then, you had a question about keeping in touch with Jeremy. He and Nick grew up together, they went to school together and they were good friends. Aaron and I knew each other and then a couple of years later, Nick and Aaron met up and that’s how Jeremy got in. So [we’re] from different sides, but Nick was always the one who was keeping in touch with Jeremy. But I don’t think he’s talked to him in awhile, I’m not quite sure what he’s up to.

MM: I just thought that was interesting tidbit.

Hunter: Yeah.

MM: I understand you’ve got a pretty big following on the Internet, especially the message board at Why have the fans kept the Lu memory alive?

Hunter: I kind of stumbled onto that message board like late in the game. There was just a core of people who had Poor Old Lu in common and were just hooking up and talking about stuff. They will agree they have a tendency to get off the subject. Anyhow…

MM: So did you come on there and?

Hunter: I come on there and I’ll post a message here and there. Sometimes it’s Poor Old Lu stuff. Usually it’s Poor Old Lu stuff saying, “Hey, we’re in the studio,” or “We just finished the album.”

MM: Do they believe you?

Hunter: Yeah, they believe me, oh yeah. And I’ll respond to some of their questions and sometimes they’ll write questions specifically to get me to respond. They’re just a crazy group, but they’re tons of fun and they have good stuff to share.

MM: So what have you guys been up to musically and otherwise since the band broke up?

Hunter: Well, late ’96 we quit doing stuff. Ninety-seven through 2001, I wasn’t doing anything musically per se. I was doing stuff at church with worship, but that was about it. Aaron of course had been doing Rose Blossom and had been doing his solo stuff. Nick had also been playing with Aaron in Rose Blossom and playing in some other projects. Jesse of course had been doing World Inside, and helping out with Morella’s Forest and other bands like that. And then, in late 2000, we started talking pretty seriously about wanting to do something again. Agreeing that if we waited too long, people weren’t going to care anymore. So in March 2001, we had reunion shows, played a couple shows, played Cornerstone last year and some other festivals, and had a really good time. And then after that, [we] settled down to start doing an album. [We’ve] been doing that for a while and we just finished that up last week.

MM: What made you ink with Tooth and Nail? You were on Alarma in the pre-Tooth and Nail days.

Hunter: Well, all the labels that we were on before, starting with Frontline, Alarma and moving to KMG moving to something else, they’re all gone. They’re all totally folded. And we wouldn’t want to resign anything with them anyhow. We were just kind of looking for a deal that we could do one album, just one record for now. [We were looking for a label] that would understand where we’re coming from, “Hey, we want to do another album. We would like it to sell well and we will support it to a point, but we’re not going to do elaborate tours.” We have other stuff going on, so it’s hard to get too crazy. And we’ve known Brandon for a long time, from Frontline, from Alarma. And [we] just started talking with him and he gave us some of the benefits that we were looking for out of the whole deal, they’ve been really good to work with actually.

MM: So what do you think was the biggest reason the band broke up? Were artistic differences an issue?

Hunter: I don’t know, maybe all the guys would say something different. But I think at the time, it was just the time to do it. I think Aaron especially was looking for some different outlets artistically. We started so young and even up until the time we broke up, we were very young even though we had put out however many CDs and had done quite a bit. It was just kind of time and it was a hard decision to make for everybody. It wasn’t like one person was like “Forget it!” and everybody else was crying. It was a hard decision to make for everybody. We made the decision and stuck with it. Like I said, years later, five years down the road or however long it was, we realized that we wanted to do another project and that we had to do it or not do it.

MM: So what have you heard, I know you talked about the message board, but what have you heard from Poor Old Lu fans about getting back together and what has the anticipation been like for this new album?

Hunter: Our normal fan base are really excited about it because they want to hear something new from us, because it’s been so long. We really have a large fan base that has gotten into Poor Old Lu since we broke up in ’96. Really a lot of people that started hearing about us, in ’97, ’98 and ’99 or whatever, from friends and picking up [an] album. So I think it’s kind of exciting for them, because a lot of people got into Poor Old Lu and were like “Aw, this is great!” then found out that we broke up and of course they’re really bummed. So I think they’re really excited about it. As far as the buzz around the new thing, I haven’t personally heard a lot of real specific stuff. People are just like, “Hey, I want to hear the new stuff.” But I don’t know if there’s some doubt as to “Is this going to be good or?” People just want to hear it and see what Poor Old Lu can do after six years.

MM: So the biggest question I have is: Is Poor Old Lu emo now?

Hunter: Are we emo? You know, I’m the lousiest person to ask because I don’t really even know what emo is.

MM: You had Jeremy Enigk, I mean…

Hunter: Yeah. Well, you know if you listen to our past albums one of things that’s fairly consistent, if anything is consistent about our music, is that we change quite a bit throughout the course of an album. You’ve got some songs that are a bit darker and some songs that are happier. You’ve got usually a funky song on there. Probably the album that’s the most consistent is “Sin” and it’s not very consistent. Honestly, you could hear one song off of there and then hear another one, and you wouldn’t really know they’d on the same album. I think it’s been hard to ever put us in a genre because we don’t stick with super-heavy stuff, we don’t stick with real downbeat stuff; we just kind of do whatever. I think it’s one of the reasons people like listening to Poor Old Lu, because there’s always kind of a different song.

MM: So for the record, “No, you’re not emo?”

Hunter: I’d say no.

MM: So how long have you guys been working on this upcoming album? What is it called?

Hunter: The album is called “The Waiting Room.” I think we started working on it about ten months ago probably. I think last September (2001) we started working on it and then just finished it up at the end of June 2002. Now we weren’t working on it straight. We worked for a week here and a few days here, and then did most of the work in probably March and May/June of this year, definitely did more of the work in late or mid-2002.

MM: So what’s kind of like a preview of what this should be like compared to past albums?

Hunter: Well, I was trying to think of which album of ours you would compare it to and I couldn’t come up with anything. In a lot of ways it’s probably closest to “Eighth Wonder,” our last real [album], because it’s definitely more produced than say “Sin” was. The songs are definitely more constructed, more put together. It’s just too hard to call, our sound is all over the place and we just do whatever.

MM: So what do you like about this new album, what are some of the highlights or?

Hunter: I think there are definitely a few of the songs on there that are the best we’ve ever written and I think people will definitely notice them right when they hear them. Actually the title track on the album, called “The Waiting Room,” it’s the very last song on the album; it’s about five and a half minutes long. It’s pretty cool-it’s got a nice feel to it. It’ll be a fun one to play live. But it starts off with a bang and it just makes some nice transitions.

MM: Have you grown since you were last in the studio? What things have become sharper or progressed?

Hunter: I think musically. One of the things that Aaron has been doing over the last five/six years is a lot of producing, a lot of engineering and so his ear is very different than [it] used to be. So he definitely has the producer’s mind when he’s doing albums and when he was doing ours. And I listen to music probably a lot more now than I used, I think all of us in the band do. So we’re listening to the album, I think we notice things a lot more than we did before. We notice when a background vocal is lacking. We notice when something needs to build a bit more. We notice when something cuts off too quickly or what the progression of the verse-chorus-verse-chorus should be. So we have grown musically and I think in a number of ways lyrically. I think they’ll be some interesting surprises lyrically on the album. Nothing super crazy, but there is kind of a theme running through the album.

MM: Is that faith-based or not so much or?

Hunter: Oh, definitely faith-based, but the name of the album is “The Waiting Room.” There’s a song called “Now.” There’s a song called “Today.” There’s a song called “A Month of Moments.” There are just a number of songs that kind of deal with time. There’s just a real element of: “What are we doing? What are we waiting for? What are we doing if he appeared now? What have we done with our past? What are we doing with the future?” just a lot of time-based stuff and how it relates to our walks in Christ. I just let people go through the lyrics, I don’t claim to ever sit down and be a real genius with writing lyrics. People tend to like them and I give all the credit to the Lord, because I don’t usually remember writing the lyrics. It’s not like I’m possessed or anything, but they just flow sometimes. I’m always curious what people find, because people usually find really great stuff that never even came to my mind. Mainly because I’m usually not thinking of real crazy stuff, when the lyrics are being written. I’ll be interested to see what people find.

MM: I guess I got to ask just about how you guys feel about music and ministry. What are your views and have they changed since you were last doing the band?

Hunter: This is one that I probably couldn’t speak on behalf of the whole band. I would have to do my own views. I’m also a youth pastor. I’m a high school youth pastor and I see what the kids in my youth group are listening to. I see how that affects them and I really take that to heart. There are a number of bands that are pretty flippant about what they’re doing, what they’re saying and how they’re being portrayed in the industry. I’m not pointing fingers or naming names, that’s the Lord convicting their own hearts. I would like people to know that when they listen to Poor Old Lu and when they hear our lyrics, [what] they see is genuine and [is] something that is pointed toward God. Are we super-evangelical? No. Are we doing altar calls? No. But we’re honest, we’re sincere and we love the Lord, and I think the lyrics show that.

MM: At this point what type of commitment is there to the band, and what do think the future holds as far as touring and more albums after this one?

Hunter: Oh man, that’s so hard to say. We just finished this album and that was a pretty long process. I could probably speak on behalf of the whole band. I think we would like to do another album. We would like to have it be more normal. Jesse was out of town, out of the state, across the country for most of this album and it would be great to have all the guys together. He’ll be moving out to Seattle again in about a month. It’d be great to have all the guys together writing songs, and then going into the studio being able to lay them down and just make them. Make the album that way and to have it be a normal album, so I think we’d like to do that. As far as touring, we’re definitely going to play some shows. Especially the fact that Jesse will be out in our area, we’ll be able to play shows more frequently. We don’t have plans of playing every week. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to tour. We would like to do half a dozen shows around the U.S. just to support the album, do some major places and just do some bigger shows. I’m not sure if it’s going to happen or not, but I think we’ll try.

MM: Are there any last words, thoughts, comments, suggestions, totally open-ended.

Hunter: I think the main thing is it’s been a lot of fun hanging out with these guys again. In some ways since ’96, they were kind of swept out of my life and Poor Old Lu has been able to bring us back together to hang out. Not only to just have fun, because we’re pretty goofy guys, but also spiritually to talk about stuff. To get back in to each other’s lives and say, “Hey, what’s going on? Where do you need to grow?”-because we do have a big impact on each other in a lot of ways.

For more information about Poor Old Lu click here.

Aaron Sprinkle has been a household name in the Christian music industry ever since Poor Old began. But when the band broke up in ’96, Aaron continued with side projects like Rose Blossom Punch and his solo career, along with producing and engineering for other bands in the recording studio.

Like a good number of people, I’ve followed Poor Old Lu and much of Aaron’s other work for years. So it was a cool opportunity that I recently had to interview him at Cornerstone. In the interview Aaron shared mostly about his solo career, but also touched on subjects like the Christian market, along with Christianity and the Arts.

Matt M: So what’s going with Rose Blossom Punch these days?

Aaron Sprinkle: Nothing.

MM: How many albums did you guys have before you broke up?

Sprinkle: We did “Ephemere” and then we did a record called “Sorry to Disappoint You.” It was EP that never came out because Jackson Rubio went out of business before it came out.

MM: You also work as a producer with bands like MxPx, Squad Five-O and Pedro the Lion. What other bands have you worked with and what do you find challenging and rewarding about producing?

Sprinkle: I’ve made about 50 or 60 records, so a lot of bands actually. I love working with other bands, just helping them pull more out of their music. I really enjoy it. I enjoy the technical side of recording. It’s a great way to make some money, since I can never make money making music.

MM: Well, besides doing Poor Old Lu, Rose Blossom Punch and producing music, you also do some solo stuff. How many albums have you done solo and what’s been the overall response to your work?

Sprinkle: I’ve done three solo records and I’ve started my fourth one already. The response has been great. I mean everyone that has talked to me about them seems to really like it, but none of them has sold really well. But I think it’s just the timing has been off and maybe not working with the right label, but I don’t know we’ll see what happens with the fourth one.

MM: Being a one-man show, you’re probably compared a lot to Dashboard and Pedro, but who is an artist who that you feel is stylistically similar to your music?

Sprinkle: That’s hard. I get compared to Elliot Smith a lot too. But I don’t know. I’ve been very influenced by Matthew Sweet, who is kind of a one-man show too. And stylistically though, I don’t even know, it’s really hard for me to have any perspective on what my style is. I just sort of do what I like and then it comes out. It’s kind of weird. Sometimes I feel like it’s too all over the map. I don’t know. I’m not really sure.

MM: Do you tour much solo and what age groups does your solo stuff attract?

Sprinkle: I don’t. I have yet to tour as a solo artist, I haven’t done one tour. I guess I did a little one down the West Coast with a band, which I do play with a band occasionally for my solo stuff, about 25 percent of the time. The age group seems to be mostly college age, but it depends. Half or more than half of the shows I play in Seattle are in bars, so obviously the age group is going to be over 21 at the bars. But then I play some all ages shows and it seems to be a pretty good mix. The all ages shows, it seems like there’s young teenagers and people old enough to be my parents. That’s kind of what I like about my solo stuff, age-wise it really spans over a lot of years.

MM: Can you preview the new record a little bit?

Sprinkle: I never really can, because I don’t ever have any idea how it’s going to turn out until it’s done, because I just let the songs do what they want to do. [I] don’t try to force them to be anything.

MM: Do you think it will be similar to what you’ve done in the past?

Sprinkle: Yeah, it will be similar, but it will be different. It will be influenced by some of the stuff I’m listening to right now, but probably not directly, because my stuff rarely ever is. I don’t know we’ll just have to see what happens.

MM: As a solo process artist, is the writing process similar or different compared to your writing involvement with Poor Old Lu?

Sprinkle: Well, in Poor Old Lu, I don’t really have anything to with the vocal melodies or lyrics. So it’s totally different, like a completely different thing for me.

MM: Supposedly you were looking for more artistic freedom from what I’ve read in interviews. Do you think your solo career has provided that for you?

Sprinkle: Yeah. Definitely. I couldn’t be any more free artistically really, because like with the solo stuff, I don’t answer to anybody, which I really like having that outlet. I do miss being in a band and I’m trying to get another band started. But I think it’s been really good for me because I still think I really know or understand myself as a songwriter and it’s the best way for me to get closer to that.

MM: Your CDs are available in the Christian market. What is your opinion of that industry and do you want to be part of that in the future?

Sprinkle: I don’t really like the industry at all to be honest, but I love the people. I love a lot of the people in the industry and I love all the people that buy the stuff, that support the bands-they’re good people. So I would never intentionally not allow my stuff to be sold in the Christian market. I’m not ashamed of it. As far as the people go, I am ashamed of it. I guess in general it bothers me that it exists in the first place. I don’t understand why it exists honestly or why it has to. But I’m not at the point where I’m done like, “I’m not going to sell my stuff in the Christian market.” If I was on a label that just didn’t do it, then I don’t think that would be the worst thing, but I definitely am not against my music being in it. The people that buy my music at Christian bookstores are the people that have allowed me to keep doing what I do-supported me.

MM: You said you’ve caught some flack for some of your lyrical content. Can you give some examples of that?

Sprinkle: Sometimes I get flack from people just because I don’t sing directly about the gospel in my music, which I obviously don’t think is bad, but it’s just not at this point in my life that’s what God has given me to do-that’s how I feel. I’m not interested in forcing lyrics and I think it’s fake, and if I were to do that I would be forcing it. I think that that’s worse than if I don’t sing about that because then it’s not real. So I get flack about that and I had a song that said, “It makes me ill the way you love me still.” It’s about God actually. Some Christians thought that was bad to say that God makes you feel ill, they thought that was weird. Generally, the people that seem to like my music stylistically seem to kind of go along, seem to don’t really have a problem with my subject or what I’m trying to say and people tell me all the time how much my music ministers to them. Because I don’t believe it has to be directly about the book of Matthew to minister to you.

MM: You’ve talked about Christianity and the Arts. How do you think God uses art to minister to people?

Sprinkle: I can only say that through my own experience of how God used art to minister to me. Sincerely, the majority of the art that God has used to minister to me has been created-to my knowledge, by people that don’t know Him, which might sound really weird. I think there’s a little bit of a skewed perception of what it is that God intends for artists to do that believe in him. Like John Fischer’s book “Fearless Faith”-I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard a lot of excerpts from it. He talks about how he believes you really need to prove yourself as an artist before you even have a right to bring God into your art on a deliberate level. Art, in and of itself, speaks to the existence of God the Creator to me. I’ve been ministered to R-rated movies and songs that cuss in them, because I think it’s such a beautiful thing that God has created us in his image as creators of something. I think art is the most beautiful that we create, whether it is film or fine art or music or whatever. But I think every artist’s responsibility is their own thing between them and God. I think making Christians who do music feel that they have to be pastors is a really dangerous, dangerous thing. I think it already has proven itself to be a dangerous thing and really backfired, personally.

MM: At the end of the day what do you hope that your listeners will take away from your music?

Sprinkle: I hope that people don’t know Christ that hear it would really listen to it and experience it, and that it would touch their lives, and in some way that they would know God. And for people who are Christians, I hope that it would let them know that it’s okay to be a real person and be a Christian. It’s okay to go through all the stuff that we all go through, it’s okay to talk about it and feel it, and think about it and question things. My goal for making music is to connect with people-that’s it. I just trust God that my connections are going to be something that help Him-that’s all I can do.

MM: Any last words, thought, comments or suggestions.

Sprinkle: It’s really hot.

For more information about Aaron Sprinkle visit click here.

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