While on their Spring 2011 tour TOURantula, Jesusfreakhideout.com sat down with Family Force 5 guitarist Derek "ChapStique" Mount to discuss the band's recently released III EP and their forthcoming full-length studio album, tentatively also titled III...
JFH (John): What music have you been listening to that you would say has greatly influenced the current direction of your music?
This interview took place on: 5/7/11.
JFH (John DiBiase): I can't say I'm a fan of spiders... why the whole arachnid theme for "TOURantula?"
Derek "ChapStique" Mount:
*laughs* I don't know if this is really why we chose the name, but "Tourantula," we just thought sounded awesome. "Skeletour" was the last clever one that we had. It was too short of a tour to have such a good name! We always try to come up with a good one, but we all thought "Tourantula" just ruled! And then the imagery was really cool. Kind of going with the theme "Arachnocoustica," y'know, "arachnophobia." Which is a pretty good movie as well. But apparently the real reason is, at one point, Soul Glow Activatur and Fatty and Crouton were down in Nashville and Soul Glow kept throwing up. It was red and they were like, "Dude, are you throwing up blood?!" And he said "I think so, we've gotta go to the hospital!" He was freaking out. So they went to the hospital and they were like, "Did you by chance eat anything red?" And he said, "Oh, I ate four packs of Red Hots." And they're like, "That's why he's throwing up!" *laughter* So he was sitting there in this really dumpy hospital, he said, and they wheeled in this lady who was like 103 years old. And they asked her, "What seems to be the problem, ma'am?" And she said, "I don't know, but I woke up and I think I have a... spider bite!" *laughter* So for a long time, they've been saying (*in a whispered, strong southern accent*) "spider bite!" So we thought the arachnid vibe would be kind of fun. It's kind of rock n' roll and kind of ridiculous.
I think, individually, we've all been listening to different stuff. I've been really into Dead Weather and a lot of old bluesy stuff but kind of with an indie vibe. I really liked The Kills a lot. So I think some of that stuff is coming through, but overall I'd say -- and you might not be able to tell with the three songs on the EP as much as the rest of the record but -- there's a lot of horns on our album. A lot of big trumpets and it's really kind of almost hip hop sounding. More like the Jay-Z kind of sound. Like some of the stuff Kanye has. There's still some dance, there's a lot more just BIG sounds, just big stabby sounds, like motown kinda stuff that's a little more gangster, though, y'know? I'd say that's probably the biggest influence on the sound right now.
JFH (John): Now, Dance Or Die had a unique theme throughout the record. Is there anything like that on this record?
Not yet. Not unless we decide after the fact. *laughs* Which would be a little unauthentic I guess. We just, for the first time in our lives, had the chance to write and write and write and actually choose the best songs as opposed to "Here's eleven songs, let's do ten of them and put them on the record!" We wrote like 45 or 50 songs for this album. So, I mean, you can tell that they're written in a similar era as each other, but they're not like Dance Or Die. [With that record], we had this graphic novel that was going to rule and this great story behind the whole album, but we just didn't have the resources to make it happen. This one's a little less sci-fi and nerdy even though we had a lot of fun with that.
JFH (John): Is there a title yet?
Currently, we're debating it a little bit, but everybody seems to be leaning towards "Three," but maybe even not just calling it "Three," but just the symbol. *holds up three fingers together* Three Roman numerals, y'know? Kinda like Led Zeppelin's IV, which kind of isn't even called "Led Zeppelin Four."
JFH (John): Is there a release date yet?
I wish. We're really in between a lot of business negotiations, which is what's holding a lot of that up. It'll be this summer, definitely, but hopefully sooner than later. We want it out, like, tomorrow, y'know?
JFH (John): So how representative of the whole album would you say the three songs on the III EP are?
I think they're cool. They give a vibe of it, but I'd say the record's a little "meaner" than those three songs are - "Dang Girl," "Wobble" and "You Got It." But they have the vibe, I think, that it's going for. But I think there's a little more for the rock kids on the album than the EP.
JFH (John): What inspired the lyrical direction of songs like "Dang Girl," "You Got It" and even the demo "Every Night of the Week?"
Oh, "Every Night of the Week" is not on the record, actually. Yeah, I don't know, just some of the guys wanted to do something different and fun. The funniest thing about "Dang Girl" was like there's a lyric that says "Birmingham" and everybody was like, "Did he say 'burn in Hell??!!" *laughs* But that [song] was profane, man! They say "Roll tide" in there, I'm a Georgia Bull Dogs fan! I'm like "C'mon man, we can't put 'roll tide' on the record!" We got in a fight about it, man!!
JFH (John): What other lyrical themes are on the record?
That's what I'm excited about with the full-length as opposed to the EP that it goes a little deeper. There's this one song called "Paycheck" that's my favorite one. Well, right now the working title is "Paycheck," but it's really cool. It'll take listening to the whole song for people to understand what it's really about. It's kind of written from this very personal perspective of struggling financially. Like, every one of us has moved in with our parents as an adult and every one of us has been broke. The whole story is that side of like, "Oh my gosh, I need a paycheck!" And it's a very human, vulnerable state. And my favorite part of the whole thing is at the end; the tone changes to what I consider a kind of perspective change. And it gets really, really soft and there's some purposely missed notes and it changes to saying "Don't be afraid, don't you worry. The debt's been paid. I found some change." I love that "I found some change" because it has that kind of double entendre: I found some change, literally, but also a change in my heart to know that, financially, money is not going to solve those problems or solve the deeper issues. It's that we've found some sort of peace, which for me is Jesus Christ that is way beyond any kind of poverty issues that we could face. It's a very honest song and I love that it doesn't get wrapped up in a neat little bow. It didn't end on this "everything is fine," it's like "everything's gonna be fine" and it's still hopeful, but it's still kinda hurt. It's a very real perspective.
JFH (John): Now, when we were given the opportunity to debut the "Wobble" clip to our readers last month, it seemed like most of the feedback from fans was that they were worried about the lyrics (and for some, I guess including "Every Night of the Week"), but with "Dang Girl" having lyrics that can be taken the wrong way... Would you say there are any songs on the record that have lyrics more like "Radiator" or "Replace Me" or "Color of Water?" Anything more spiritual?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, honestly, the record is still a little up in the air -- because there's so many songs -- about what will end up being on there. It could be an entire album of "Replace Me"s, y'know? Or it could be one with a lot less of that. But yeah, I mean, there's nothing that people are going to be offended by by any means. There's elements like with a song like "Paycheck" where there is a very deep and personal talk about a spiritual struggle but there's not like an overt praise and worship song that will stick out. They probably won't be playing [it] on Sunday mornings, y'know. It'll probably be at the Saturday night rock show. But I don't think people need to be worried about [it]. Everybody in this band still has - even more so - faith in the things we've always had faith in. And we're all growing spiritually.
JFH (John): Aside from "Paycheck," are there any songs that you know will be on the record that you're really excited about?
Oh, sure! There's one called "Can You Feel It" that's really fun. It's just like a BIG anthemic rock song. We call it a "jock jam." It's kind of the vibe that the record started out to be - A whole bunch of jock jams with big guitar riffs and we wanted these big songs you play at a sports game. Like when somebody gets shot-blocked, y'know? *laughs* So that one's really fun. There's a song called "Get On Outta Here," at least that's what we're calling it now, that's really fun. And it's really southern. Really gangster and ghetto. I say "gangster" with an "R" because I don't try to be "gangsta." Cuz I'm pretty white. But yeah, there's a lot of pretty fun songs on there. Again, I'm still not 100 percent sure what'll -- it's not really my decision what will end up being on there. I think there's a lot of good stuff to choose from.
JFH (John): Is that because you guys just haven't decided yet as a group or is it just the whole logistics of what the label wants?
I think all of the above. It's a combination of things.
JFH (John): Yeah, some people have been pretty hard on it and have even been like, "Well, they're dead to me" or "They're done."
Just to revisit your earlier questions a little bit, there's plenty of material that I think the fans who might be skeptical or scared - I hope you aren't worried if you are. We have a song called "Not Alone" that I think is going to touch a lot of people. It's a really powerful song. I guess the reason for the ambiguity is because I'm still a little unsure - I don't even know if the three songs on the EP will be on the record!
Well, it's tough to make everybody happy. It's impossible, really.
JFH (John): I'm sure people felt that way about the sound change to Dance Or Die.
JFH (John): I liked it. I didn't think it was that major of a sound change. It still felt like you guys.
And similarly, we have a lot of people that absolutely hated the band after the first record and then they were like Dance Or Die's amazing! Y'know? And we still have those fans that come out and that's all they're into and they're like "Don't play that old stuff!" And y'know, vice versa. So we gotta make stuff that, as a band, you believe in and everybody is proud of playing. And the message and the heart behind it. We're also one of those weird bands that it takes a few listens before people are like "Now I really like it!"
JFH (John): Would you say the writing process for this has been any different than the previous ones?
Derek: Yes, definitely. By far, extremely different.
JFH (John): How so?
Derek: Well, for the first time, we've had some outside writers. We've never had that happen before; it's been really cool. I think that's a big part of why "You Got It" has a unique vibe. There's a guy that we've been working with who brought a really great flavor and he's like, "I think we need a reggae kinda sound" and helped shape that sound. That was really cool. There have been several songs with people like that. But also, the thing that was really fun and kind of magical, I think, was the Rock N Worship Tour that we were on with David Crowder Band and MercyMe, we all, every day, set aside a minimum of 2 hours (but it ended up being a lot more than that), where the five of us would try some writing experiment. Where one week, we were only writing with computers and one week we only wrote with acoustic guitars and one week we only wrote with a little practice setup where we all had these little practice amps and Crouton had a little hilarious drum kit. And so we tried that and we then we did like one week where we were only writing after 2 AM and then one week it was only writing at noon and one week was only writing in the morning. Y'know, figuring out what works or just getting different ideas that way.
JFH (John): Is that also cause we're getting older?!
There's a great song called "Tank Top" that we came up with at like 2 in the morning that we were like "Oh my gosh dude, I don't know where these ideas came from! Maybe that's just from being up stupid hours in the night!" So that one's going to be really fun. It's a very tongue-in-cheek look at "the scene" and the kids that are too cool for school.
*laughter* Maybe! ... I don't know man, it was really fun to have all these different ways of writing, so it resulted in a whole bunch of crazy music and we'll see what the end product sounds like! I think people will like it though. I really do. I think it's going to be cool.
JFH (John): *To Xanadu* John, do you have anything you'd like to add?
Xanadu just joined us.
JFH (John): *To Xanadu* No?
I need more coffee. ... I haven't heard any of the new tracks, actually. Other than the three that we play constantly.
Well, I'm not in the studio with you guys, so how could I?
JFH (John): Any tour plans after Warped Tour?
It's still up in the air, too. I mean, we're probably gonna do a "Dance Rawr Dance World" is what the plan is. Get out of the States a little bit and go hit up some markets overseas. And then we'll probably do a Christmas tour of sorts again. Probably with the Christmas Pageant. But we're trying to figure out what that all looks like. I think a lot of that is just going to depend on what bands are interested in playing with us. I think it's going to be fun. We're really looking forward to going back on Warped again too. I like Warped, it's fun.
JFH (John): Are there any more soundtrack opportunities for you guys coming up?
Derek: Man, I hope so! That one was hilarious, that one just kind of happened. Nobody pitched that one to the movie. The director was into the song and wrote us and was like "Can we use this?" And we're like "Sure!" And then it was like a year later when they sent us a link to the trailer on YouTube and we're like "What?! They used it!! Oh my gosh! That's amazing!" ...We're referencing the Warrior's Way / "Kountry Gentlemen" I assume is what you mean.
JFH (John): Yeah, I was actually thinking Alice In Wonderland, but I did know about the Warrior's Way trailer.
Oh yeah! Cool. That stuff has been very magical, like we've been blessed where every now and again somebody really feels like "Oh, this song would be perfect for this" and they want to use it. But we're always writing. We've got TONS of stuff. Hopefully something will fit somewhere. It's kind of magical to watch something become part of another person's art. It's really humbling too, y'know? They make it sound cooler than we've ever imagined it to be.
JFH (John): And wasn't "Topsy Turvy" supposed to be in the credits of Alice In Wonderland?
Derek: Yeah, I guess that didn't end up happening. So we're bummed about that, but...
JFH (John): Did they ever say why?
Uh... no! I don't know. Sometimes that just happens. Well, similarly, a very old Family Force 5 song called "Master of Disguise" was supposed to be written for that Dana Carvey movie.
JFH (John): Are you serious?!
JFH (John): I was wondering about that! I was like "Oh, that's named after that movie!" So they commissioned it or they asked for it or something?
Derek: *laughs* Uh... It was before my time, so... I think the dudes knew someone working on the project, so they said "If you write a song, we might be able to use it."
Family Force 5's new EP III is available now!