The world hasn't heard from The Listening for a few years now, but that's all changing quickly as the band has
re-emerged with new members, a new EP, and a refreshed vision. The Transmission 1 EP is now available from
the band with promise of a new full-length due out next year, so we took some time with front man Gabriel Wilson
to discuss where The Listening has been... and where they are going.
This interview took place on: 11/20/08.
Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): What lead you to leave your hometown and relocate to Nashville?
When Tedd T. expressed a lot of interest in working with our band, we jumped at the chance. With our new creative
relationship with Tedd, I found it a good idea to move to Franklin, TN to be closer to the record making process with him...
What I didn't expect to find in Franklin was such a great community of artistic people who were so open to helping each other out,
being friends, etc. Other communities I'd lived in had a bit of a competitive nature in their "scene." Not the case here.
It's a great place to live and do business...
JFH (John): It seemed like somewhere around mid 2006 or so that The Listening went into hiding.
Can you tell us a little about how that happened?
We progressed throughout 2006 making music and touring pretty regularly in Europe, but at some point we as "The Listening"
began to stray away from our vision. Our reason for even being a band was based on creating an environment of music, art, etc
by which people would experience the presence of God. When that vision was compromised, all Hell broke loose. And without that
vision keeping us grounded and focused, we simply disintegrated as a band and as friends...
It took quite some time before I recognized it. I remember it very clearly... My father and mother sitting me down and saying,
"Son, since you've ignored your responsibility to point people to Christ with your music and your message, look at all
that's happened." Personal tragedies, a horrific van accident, failing relationships, etc... It was a difficult, eye-opening
conversation. It has taken a lot of time to rebuild and put the elements back together again. A lot of soul searching, and a
lot of contemplation and prayer... It's a bit strange, really, but I put it all into a song on Lovely is Death before it
even happened--almost like it was prophetic.
"If you don't know where it is you've gone, then go back to the place that you started from."
It's what Abraham did every time he missed God's leading. He'd go back to the altar where he last met the Lord, and try to
get back on track. In a sense, that's where we've been and what we've been doing - Getting back on track.
JFH (John): How did the current band roster come together? What have they brought to the band’s current sound?
The Listening are -
Gabriel S. Wilson - (lead vocals, rhodes, guitars)
Nolan Russom - (drums, vocals)
Kyle Reid - (bass, fuzz, moogs)
Josiah Schmidt - (keys, pads, synths, moogs, guitars)
Nolan, Josiah, and Kyle have all been friends of mine for quite a few years now. They are all musicians from Longview, WA who were
in bands in that area that had grown up around The Listening. (The Harps, Dead Melodies). Nolan was the first to step in
as our drummer. Josiah came on board shortly after as our keys player. Kyle came on in January this year...
There was a point at which I was contemplating quitting all together. But my friends would say, "Hey, we believe in this music.
We believe in you, and what God has done through The Listening's music and ministry... Don't stop! Let's keep it going!"
These guys were friends of mine... friends that had stuck by me through some pretty tough situations. They gave me the strength to
keep it going, not only logistically but also spiritually and emotionally.
Nolan is a pretty incredible drummer-- he's super rock solid. His voice pairs pretty well with mine as he does backing vocals and
such. He's also a great guitarist and writer... Though he doesn't play guitar live, he'll often help out writing guitar lines or
Josiah is busy dabbling in everything, from the visual arts of our live show to a rhodes/moog/synth and guitar attack ala Johnny
Greenwood. From song to song, he's back and forth from his two stations on stage making as much beautiful noise as possible.
I think one of the largest shifts in our band's sound is the addition of Kyle. He's a heck of a bass player. In the past,
we've done all of our low end on an old Moog. Kyle uses the Moog at times, and then also a 1967 P-bass for fuzz tones and
intricate bass lines. It has added a much more exciting dynamic to our music.
JFH (John): Can you tell us a little about your new EP, Transmission 1?
Why the title? Why the unique song titling? What are your musical influences for it? Is there a plan for more EP’s like this one
with similar titles?
Transmission 1 is a short burst of communication, you might say. We've come out on the other side of 3-4 years of feeling
a bit lost in space--as if a 'pause' button had been pushed. Though we've been steadily working away on so much new music, we've
hardly travelled or made any contact with our fans. It's a creative way of saying "we're back...and there's much more to come."
The musical influences are very much the same as they've always been--Pink Floyd, Radiohead, perhaps EU music in general.
Those haven't really changed... Tedd T's production has had a huge influence in the sonic shape of the record. He uses much
different recording techniques than we are accustomed to using. And with his help, we've been challenging ourselves to write
melodies with a bit more sensibility--sorta as we had done in the past on The Listening EP.
I've made mention of this before, but there is a HUGE amount of material that we've been working on since we put out
The Listening LP in 2005. We've begun recording 30+ songs since the beginning of 2006. With all of that material in the
can, we opted to place some of the more "accessible" songs we had written on Transmission 1. The Listening LP
was a collection of songs that strayed away from typical song structures. They were more slow moving, mid tempo, not too
much energy--more hypnotic than anything. Very melancholy, and quite beautiful... With Transmisison 1, we thought it best
to show off the songs that would expand our live show (with more energy), and also show our fans some new facets of our writing...
The songs titles? Those are hints... clues to the meaning of each song. The most obvious being "The End." Its hint is
"Sweating blood and a game of spin the bottle in a Jerusalem Garden." You'll notice the lyrics speak of love, betrayal, and it
not being "the end." It's a song with several references to Jesus and Judas. Jesus sweat blood in the garden, Judas kissed Him on
the cheek. Thus the title. I suppose it could be self-indulgent artistry. But I don't know... sometimes it's fun to paint in
colours that aren't quite so obvious in their tone.
JFH (John): Your recent blogs have kind of followed the “Transmission” theme and even displayed some sci-fi, Star Trek influence. What inspired this approach?
Gabe: I was trying to capture what the past 3 years had meant to me. The disappointment, the feeling of being
buried in so much songwriting and recording. The loss of friendships, the darkness and vacuum a broken relationship brings...
And the good things, too... The new sense of discovery, the new sonics, the different techniques of working with Tedd T's
recording style (Logic/Digital) vs. our old analogue ways. It was all there. And of course, the internet is a universe all
unto itself. It is vast and unexplored. It was like being lost in time and space...
JFH (John): The songs on Transmission 1 are considerably less dark and moody than
The Listening LP. Was this intentional or did it happen kind of naturally?
Gabe: Well...again, we opted for the more accessible songs for Transmission 1 for the reasons I've stated.
But also, it should be noted the fact that 3 years have gone by since the LP. And as artists, we felt we already created
the LP, and it was time to be challenged into new thoughts and ideas, new sounds, tempos, and atmospheres. My head space as a
lyricist is shifting constantly as I'm inspired to find better ways of communicating the Gospel, life's experiences, and
perspectives... So in a sense, it was both a deliberate move, and yet a very natural progression...
JFH (John): The songs on Transmission 1 also seem to all revolve around relationships
specifically more than the previous LP – almost more like your solo project Lovely Is Death.
Gabe: A while back, Martin Smith and I were talking and he said to me, "Gabe... do you know what you need to write
about? You need to write about Love. Love, discovery, and the Mysteries of Christ--and how they all intertwine."
That conversation has been with me ever since. To speak of a broken relationship is to also speak of our broken relationship with
Him. The longing, the regret, the remorse, the feeling of having lost your way... All of that. To speak of a relationship being
healed is also to be speaking of our healed relationship with Him. The feeling of resolve, of being restored. The ache is gone,
and now you have the joy of discovery...
In my mind's eye, being a Christian simply means being a man in relationship with Christ. I am married to Him. I am walking in
friendship with Him. Whatever frame you'd like to put it in... we are in relationship.
It wasn't always that way for me. There was a time in my life where I called myself a Christian, went to church, loved others,
etc... But my relationship with God was less of a relationship of friendship and love, and more like an employee/employer
relationship--one where I feared Him because I didn't want to piss off the boss and get fired, so to speak. It was all respect
and servitude. It was distant and aloof...
But now, it's much different. I've discovered a greater relationship--the mystery of Christ in love and discovery, of regret and
healing, grace and mercy...
So I find myself now writing about relationships--my own, mine with Him, His relationships with others in the Bible
(like Judas, etc). I'm fascinated by it.
JFH (John): Tell us about the song “When?”
Gabe: The chorus of "When" really sums it up, "When you're lost, you know I'm never far from where You are."
There's the feeling of God being distant, the feeling that you've lost Him. I know, having gone through a lot of personal tragedy,
the tendency is to believe that God doesn't like you anymore, that He's not with you. And so I wrote this chorus to address that.
At the time, it was His song to me...
"When you can't hold on much longer...When you're weak I'll make you stronger...When you're lost you know I'm never far from where
you are. When you're all alone and wishing...When your prayers have hit the ceiling...When you're lost you know I'm never far from
where you are."
JFH (John): Can you share about “Prayer In The Dark”?
Gabe: "Prayer in the Dark" is like an auto-biography of my walk with God. There's not much mystery to it,
really. As I look back and I survey my life, I'm thankful to have lived this story. I'm thankful to serve a God who answered
those prayers spoken from a dark place....
JFH (John): What is the story behind “Fight With You?”
Gabe: "Fight with You" is a song written from God's perspective to someone abandoned,
alone, and too weak to fight to live another day. There are several media clips in the beginning and end of the song.
They represent all of the confusion and all of the other voices that cloud our perception and keep us from being able to
think and hear clearly... "Peace turns into madness" and "colour turns to monochrome" as we go through painful times.
JFH (John): What’s next for The Listening? When might fans hear another EP or a full-length?
Gabe: We are continuing into a massive exploration of live visual arts during our live show. TV's, LED's,
Projectors... Visual arts have been our passion since the beginning of this year, doing our best to communicate even broader and
greater messages more effectively throughout our live shows.
Also, next year there will be a full-length album. And we are more than excited about it...
It's called LMNOP. It is also produced with Tedd T. It will be a nice marriage of our darker tones, more intimate sounds...
But at the same time, will display some of the melodic sensibility of Transmission 1. The Listening - LMNOP. Get ready :)
JFH (John): Why the title LMNOP? What does it mean?
Gabe: It is philosophical in its meaning. The letters LMNOP are essentially in the center of the alphabet.
It's our way of saying "we've not reached the end of the journey. Rather, we are in its center." We've found our center...
We're right where we're supposed to be.
JFH (John): What has God been teaching you lately?
Gabe: The miracle of redemption...
JFH (John): Any last comments?
Gabe: I'd just like to thank JFH for all of the support throughout the past 6 years of my musical endeavors.
From Big Star to Tranmission 1, you guys have been so great to us--and even to other bands. You have helped
keep indie music in the CBA alive... :) You've given indie music an equal voice among the major CCM voices. I'm very, very
thankful for you guys...
The Listening's Transmission 1 EP is now available from www.thelistening.com!