Midway through their first tour as a band ever, Sons of God frontman Aaron Newberry took some time to chat with JfH's Scott Fryberger about their first tour, the future of the band and the reason they make music - and give it away for free...
This interview took place in July 31, 2010.
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Let's start off by telling everyone reading who you are and your role in the band?
I am Aaron Newberry, and I sing, play guitar and play keys in Sons of God.
JFH (Scott): And you guys are on tour right now, right?
Yes, we are, actually. We are in Dayton, Ohio, this evening playing at The Attic.
JFH (Scott): Did you have a big crowd?
Aaron: Tonight was alright. It was kind of a last minute thing. And, honestly, the shows have been better than we've ever expected. So we're pretty stoked just to be able to play in front of anybody at this point.
JFH (Scott): Your publicist told me that sometime recently was actually the first Sons of God show ever.
Aaron: Yeah. The beginning of this tour was our first show as a full band. I know we've been a band, well at least appeared to the public to have been a band for a while, but what a lot of people don't know is that I recorded The Genesis Prologue EP by myself, and the band didn't come along until November, just before we released The Genesis Prologue. So that's why it's taken us so long to get on the road.
JFH (Scott): I remember Sons of God starting on MySpace several years ago, then there was kind of a break up, and now you're back. Wanna explain what all happened?
Aaron: Well, the formation of Sons of God was honestly a really long and arduous process because I probably went through about ten members before something solid was nailed down. And so what happened was I was playing with two other guys and I honestly felt like the Lord was telling me to just let it go. And so I explained it to the dudes, and we decided to disband, then literally a week later I felt the Lord telling me to pick it back up. But it was because the Lord had totally changed my heart in the direction where the band should be going. So that's kinda the story. It's just God's really really versatile timing pulling us together. And at that point it was even gonna be a full year before I had a strong lineup again. So that's what's up there.
JFH (Scott): How did you find the people that are actually in the band now?
Aaron: Well, it started with my friend Jacob Bundren who we randomly met at a show in San Luis Obispo, California, when I was touring with a band called Chasing Victory. We met and figured out that his name was Jacob Aaron and my name was Aaron Jacob and we thought that was cool. So we just stayed in touch. And one day I called him and I said "You know, I really feel like you're supposed to be in a band with me," and he's like "Cool, I'm in, sign me up," 'cause he was just about to move to Alabama from California. And then not even a month went by and Kyle called me and started talking to me about him joining up with me, but he was doing this other project with someone else. Kyle and I had known each other because I sorta played in a band with him and Drew, the guy that recorded our record, and Jordan who is our drummer and also plays for Advent. And we were kinda doing some stuff, and so when they called me up I kinda thought they were joking because I had gotten my hopes set high a lot without anything happening. And they called me the next day to talk to me about it, and then we prayed about it and it was like it felt right and everything fit. But it's been really hard 'cause we live so far apart right now. But we've been able to make it work.
JFH (Scott): The original line up you had when you first started... is there anybody left in the band now that was in the original line up, beside you?
Aaron: Nope. There's literally been about ten guys that have come and gone before this line up came along.
JFH (Scott): Now, you said you toured with Chasing Victory. Are there any other bands you've gone on tour with?
Aaron: Oh man, I've toured with Spoken, Brighten, Everyday Sunday, and... gosh, I'm trying to think of all the bands I've toured with. Mourning September... there's a bunch of bands that I've had the opportunity to play with. I did a short time with As I Lay Dying back in '07. I tried out for them. That's just some of the bands I've played with in my career.
JFH (Scott): Those are some heavy hitters you've listed.
Aaron: Yeah man, they really are. And it's kinda strange how all that happens. I mean, it was all so random from the beginning. Like I set out to be very network savvy and you just become friends with certain people and sometimes bands have a need and you're there to fill that need, you know? And it's been that way with a lot of bands for me. Them just coming to me saying, "Hey dude, can you help?" or "Do you wanna try out?" and stuff. When I was younger, I was really quick to take those opportunities, but today I'm very very solid with Sons of God. I'm not going anywhere.
JFH (Scott): Now you guys have one release through Come&Live!, The Genesis Prologue EP, but are there official plans to record anymore songs soon?
Aaron: There are. We don't want to release the dates of when we're recording yet, but it's soon, I'll say that much. And we're looking, hoping, to have something out before summer of next year. And that will be a full-length.
JFH (Scott): Nice. I remember you had a cover of "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" on your MySpace.
Aaron: Oh man, yeah.
JFH (Scott): Do you think you'd ever include that on a full-length?
Aaron: No, uh, I think if we ever did a cover, it would probably be a worship song or something that we totally made into our own rendition. Even though I love Death Cab For Cutie. But that was just something I did before I thought we even had any fans or anything like that. But the legalities of covering a song like that and distributing it would be something I don't think we or our management would wanna have to deal with.
JFH (Scott): Oh yeah, I guess there would be a lot of cost involved.
Aaron: Yeah a lot of paperwork involving royalties, and honestly I'd rather just not have to deal with any of that.
JFH (Scott): Yeah, I hear that. I was listening to The Genesis Prologue yesterday, and one of the lines in the song "Doubt" kinda stood to me as, well, I guess I didn't understand what they meant. It's in the chorus when you say "And I know shallow hearts thrill me, God bless my soul for the graves that I'm digging." What do those lyrics mean?
Aaron: Well the song is about a guy, a fictional character, that I thought up, and I thought to myself that there's probably a ton of these guys that are on the brink of salvation and the Lord and the Holy Spirit are working in their lives and they're ignoring it but they're becoming more and more sensitive to it every minute. And so I'm imagining this guy sitting in a car like I talk about early on in the song and kinda just praying for the first time. He's a guy that was maybe saved at a young age, in the youth group, all that stuff, and so to pray, for him, is slightly natural, but at the same time very uncomfortable because of how long he's been away from God. So it's a confession; it's him confessing that he knows that all the stuff that he's been doing like partying and drinking and all these people he's been hanging out with are living very shallow lives. And it's been to the point where he's been getting just enough out of it just to keep going to the next day. And then there's a sense of guilt when he says "For the graves that I'm digging" because he understands that God has him here for a purpose and God's bringing him to this point of surrender before Him, and then he's realizing, "Oh my God what have I been doing with my life? All these people that I've been out partying with and doing all these things, now my witness is pretty shot and weak within this group." And so he's feeling guilty for the way he's acted in front of these guys and now he realizes that he's repenting of that and he wants to somehow be able to witness to these people. Long story for such a short amount of lines, I know. *laughs*
JFH (Scott): *laughs* Yeah there's a lot of depth there in so little writing. I love that. Are you gonna have more subject matter along those lines on your full-length?
Aaron: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I can't really help it, you know? I'm just writing about humanity and what people go through. It just seems so natural to me because I care so much about the way people feel and the way people think that it just comes out naturally. Like, when I see somebody, I may not even know them but I feel like I can dissect the way they feel just from body language, the things that they say, the way they act around people. I definitely believe that God has given me the ability to discern what people are going through. And then, it just comes out in a flood. And I've gone through so many things myself that it makes it all easier to just write about it.
JFH (Scott): I had some more questions about your tour. How many shows have you played so far?
Aaron: Let's see. I think tonight was our sixth show. We've played a couple of Hot Topic in-store acoustic sets, too.
JFH (Scott): How did those go over? That sounds interesting.
Aaron: Honestly, they were kinda hit-and-miss. They're not bad, but what I like about them and what we took away from them was that we stretched ourselves and that we able to find some sort of middle ground for doing an acoustic set and being intimate with the crowd and being able to take those kinds of circumstances and, I guess, applying them to what we do every night. You know, still being able to talk to people and be personal with people, because it doesn't change. You still have people in front of you. Really, there's just a difference in volume. So, as much as I'd like to say that they were kinda awkward, I still enjoyed them.
JFH (Scott): Was this Hot Topic's idea, or was it all on your end?
Aaron: Well, one Hot Topic did, and then the other one we set up because of the first one.
JFH (Scott): That's a really cool place for you guys to play.
Aaron: Yeah, and it's interesting because they're very anti-religion, and most of the world considers Christianity to be a religion, and I guess if you take it for what it is, it's really a relationship. I mean, if you've gotta "genre-ize" it for the world to understand what's going on, I guess it is a religion. But you understand the juxtaposition between us being a Christian band and people that talk about Jesus openly and boldly playing in a place like Hot Topic.
JFH (Scott): How many more dates do you guys have on your tour?
Aaron: We're halfway through this one, so six more, including Soul Fest.
JFH (Scott): Where's that?
Aaron: That's in Gilford, New Hampshire.
JFH (Scott): Do you have any other tours planned in the near future?
Aaron: Oh, definitely next year. When we hit the new album cycle, we're gonna tour hardcore. But this year I think we're just kinda focusing on writing, but we are gonna play more dates. I just don't know if they're gonna be tours, you know, like maybe one or two shows at a time.
JFH (Scott): And you guys play mainly on the east coast right?
Aaron: Yeah we've been hitting the east coast for now.
JFH (Scott): Now about being with Come&Live!...everybody knows the country is in kind of a poor economic state, so what is it that would make you want to spend tons of money recording music and then just give it away to anybody?
Aaron: Well the fact that it's available to anyone for free at anytime is what we like about it. But people still buy it. We still get people that donate, we still get people that pay money for it online, we still get people that buy it from us at shows. So it's a gift, just like something that somebody gives you that you can obtain yourself somehow. And if you think about it, anyone today can get your music for free anyways. One kid goes out and buys your record and it's on some P2P network ten minutes later, and anyone that wants it can get it. So we just figured, why not just go ahead and give it away with no strings attached, unashamed? And honestly, the response has been incredible 'cause it's like, you don't have to steal our music, we're giving it to you. And people have responded really positively, and because of that we've seen better turn-outs at shows, we've had more people that have wanted to support us, a lot more people buying merch, which, a lot of times, is what sustains a band financially on tour. And we felt like there are so many bands out there that are so stingy with what they have, no matter how much money they have. We weren't interested in doing that. We felt like it's the heartbeat of Jesus Christ to be available. He wants you to come to Him, He wants a relationship with you, and we're the same way. We wanna know people, we wanna hang out with people, we're not the band that blows people off. I'm not saying a lot of bands do this, but... I mean, we're in this for a different fruit than just financial gain. So, it was an easy decision.
JFH (Scott): Have you guys experienced any positive testimonies or people giving their life to Jesus [on the tour]?
Aaron: Oh dude, just a few days into our tour, our photographer Scotty was just really taken over by the Holy Spirit and we got a chance to pray with him. And it wasn't even at a show, it was just at our guitarist's house when we were playing in Raleigh. And so we had this two-hour prayer session and he was just weeping and asking for forgiveness openly. He had been openly living a life that wasn't pleasing to the Lord, even though he was a Christian. So, so far, with us having been on tour so short, we've only seen remnants of small relationships developing within the band and people that have come to shows. But I wouldn't say there's been a huge groundbreaking of the Holy Spirit released where people have been giving their lives to Jesus. At least not that I know of yet. But we're definitely expecting it for the future.
JFH (Scott): That's a great expectation to have.
JFH (Scott): Alright man, I don't think I have any more questions I wanted to ask. If there's anything you want to add, go for it.
Aaron: No man, it's been great. I really appreciate your time. Thanks so much for being willing to follow us and tell more people about what we're doing and what Come&Live! is up to.
JFH (Scott): Oh of course. I love your music and what you're about, and Come&Live! itself is just a great concept.
The Genesis Prologue EP is available now for free download on the Come&Live! website.