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Project 86

Rock act Project 86 has gone through many changes over the years since its inception, and with the release of their sixth studio album, Rival Factions, a new day dawns yet again. Jesusfreakhideout.com had the pleasure of chatting with the guys about the album, their industry involvement, their fans, and a little bit about what drives them as a band...
This interview took place on: 4/23/07.
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  • Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): We recently heard a sampling of your new album, Rival Factions, with four songs from the record. The new style is clearly a departure from the darker, more edgier material the band has become known for. Is this change deliberate or rather natural?
    Andrew Schwab: Well, I'll preface it by saying that the songs you heard are the singles. So those are the least heavy on the record. The record in general is different for sure. But you definitely heard the more "poppy," melodic songs.

  • JFH (John): Yeah, to be honest, I was really surprised when I heard those, but they are growing on me. It's cool that you guys diversify...
    Andrew: We don't want to make the same record over and over again. We have done plenty of typical "Project" heavy songs and we can write those songs in our sleep, believe me. We didn't necessarily intentionally set out to do something different, but the fact that it came out that way is really cool to us because it's exciting. Six albums deep, you have to evolve and you have to push yourself to keep it exciting and that's what we did on the record for sure. Now again, you did hear the more extreme versions of melodic songs. If you think back even to ...And The Rest Will Follow, a song like "Something We Can't Be," is a lot different than a song like "Sincerely, Ichabod." So you're getting the "Something We Can't Be"'s and "All Of Me"'s first. There are some songs on this record that I would say are more hectic and crazy than anything we've ever done.
    Randy Torres: Yeah, probably.

  • JFH (John): Why the title Rival Factions?
    Andrew: Y'know, when it comes down to choosing album titles, at least for us, we just make a master list of all kinds of stuff. And then out of that, comes a few that we like. And then out of that, comes a couple that we vote on. Rival Factions seemed to encompass, from the spiritual standpoint, the tension that exists in everybody between the two opposing poles. In Christianese, it's the flesh and the spirit. That's sort of the spiritual interpretation, but the sonic interpretation is: We wanted to sort of polarize ourselves away from all the predictable, heavy music today - and even the "box" that people say "this is what Project 86 sounds like." Y'know what I mean? So if we can do something different just as well, and make a sort of confrontational statement even about what people think we are, we think that's cool.

  • JFH (John): How has working with Ulrich Wilde helped shape the album's sound?
    Steve Dail: He was real good with helping with song structures, but mainly it was his approach of keeping everything really organic and really natural and focusing on performances rather than fixing everything later in post-production or Pro-Tools and stuff like that. I'd say that was the biggest role he played. He made us really comfortable, he was really fun to work with. Was just kind of one of us. He engineered and produced, so it was pretty much the four of us in there the whole time. So that was pretty cool.

  • JFH (John): How have things changed with Alex leaving the band?
    Andrew: Well, he hasn't been touring with us full time for quite awhile. I mean, he was always involved with doing the records, but when it came down to touring, we had a different guy that would fill in. It just made sense for him right now cause he's really involved with his family and obviously needs to support it, and he's also going to school, it was just time for him to focus on other things and it totally made sense to us. We still feel like we have some things to accomplish musically, so we're really excited about the newest incarnation of our band.

  • JFH (John): There's still no official replacement yet?
    Andrew: No official replacement yet, but I don't think we're necessarily looking for a fourth band member. I mean, we'll have a permanent touring guy for sure. It's not the type of thing where we can really replace Alex. He's just been with us for so long as such a key part of our band. But the guy that played drums on our record was one of our favorite drummers of all time. It was a name that we'd just been kicking around and it just happened to work out. And he was going to play with us. He's actually playing with us tonight. It's this guy named Jason Gerkin, he used to play in a band called Shiner. He's also played with some other well-known bands. For us, personally, we just really like his playing style. [He] fit the band. Fit the record.

  • JFH (John): What's the story behind the single "Evil (A Chorus Of Resistance)?"
    Album cover Andrew: That was actually the first song that we demoed on this record. Steve wrote the jam. The vocals and everything came together pretty quick. There's this kind of little thing that happens within the band that any time there's a real cool song and it's finished, I don't hear it. So I'm just like "Yeah, that's alright." And then Randy and Steve heard it and were like "Y'know what man? This is cool." So we show it to a couple of other people and they're like, "This is really cool!" So that's become kind of one of the main songs. I think it's got an immediate energy. It's a little bit more accessible, but the chorus is still pretty aggressive. It's a different sound. We definitely wanted to try some different sounds on this record, and we were able to do that.

  • JFH (John): What does the song mean to you thematically?
    Andrew: I guess the key line in the song is "Deep in the recess of every man is a thief, a robber, a criminal." That whole concept. It's just saying that we're all on an even playing field - Billy Graham or just a destitute person searching for something. We are all equipped from birth with a hole in the middle of us that can really only be fulfilled by one thing. And the song sort of outlines striving to meet that hole by everything and anything except that and ultimately coming back to the realization that you can only be fulfilled in one area and that's God. And that's kind of the theme of the album as well.

  • JFH (John): How about "Molotov?"
    Andrew: That song is kind of expanding on that idea. It's looking at night life culture, dance club culture with a little eighties twist on it - I tried to paint some imagery of the sort of indulgent new wave atmosphere that was twenty years ago that sort of recurred now. And sort of the emptiness of that - living from the hours of midnight to six AM. And how, essentially, when the party ends and you're alone with yourself, how empty life can be when you live for that thing. The chorus is "I've swallowed it all, but I could never be full. And now they call me a fool for leaving." I've tried all that. It doesn't work.

  • JFH (John): So part of it is out of personal experience?
    Andrew: Old personal experience. It's written in a third person perspective.

  • JFH (John): For a few years, it seemed the band had been distancing itself from the confines of the "Christian music industry" and have recently sought to increase its presence there. How do you hope to impact or change the industry? And (as said in a previous interview), are you still trying to "save it and destroy it at the same time?"
    Project 86, courtesy of Jesusfreakhideout.com Andrew: That's a pretty big question. As far as our relationship with the Christian market, I think when the band started, there were perceptions created with our band - good and bad. And we've always sought to do whatever we can so that our music can be received as objectively as possible. So if our fans are out there, holding our CD up on the streets going, "This will save your life! Jesus is in this CD!" or whatever, we never really set out to be that thing, but we've never set out to be the opposite of that either. We always tell people that the goal has been to just write music that we love, and write music hopefully that is challenging and inspiring to people and doesn't sound like everything else out there. As far as opportunities that came about outside the confines of the Christian music industry, we'll always welcome those. For a few years there, those were a natural result of being on a major label. As the major label system has sort of swallowed and eaten itself up over the last few years and kind of become increasingly desperate, the Christian, or Tooth & Nail scene, or whatever you want to call it, has become stronger and stronger. Our core fanbase is Christian people, and that's probably never going to change. It never did change. That's always going to be a part of what we do and we always take into consideration our core fans with the decisions we make as a band and try to include them, while still just being honest.

  • JFH (John): Any update on returning to Purple Door Festival?
    Andrew: *laughter* Man, that subject...
    Randy: Supposedly, we were supposed to play it last year, but... *shrugs*
    Andrew: There's no aversion on their part to having us back at this point. I've had a number of conversations with them. It's been cool, a little weird at first just because of everything that went down. The public doesn't really know all of the factors that went on behind the scenes, just the legal, political stuff that is a fuzzier picture about that whole situation. We've done everything that we can on our end with that situation to try to make it right and I can say that with a clean conscience. So as far as us playing the festival again, we'd love to if they want to have us back.

  • JFH (John): Are you working on any new writing (poetry, a book)?
    Andrew: Yeah... y'know, Project 86 is such a time committment, and even more than that, a headspace committment, that in order to be in that headspace, it has to be a completely different thing. And you have to have time to devote to it. So when you're writing an album and touring and those types of things, it's not necessarily the right headspace. With that being said, I've been working on some new ideas for quite awhile now. I'm just trying to find the right way of going about making it public. So if publishing and blahblahblahblahblah doesn't happen the way that I want in the next six months, then I'm just going to put out something new on my own. Something soon, definitely. It's a big goal.

  • JFH (John): Are there any songs you guys are totally stoked about on the new record?
    Steven: Yeah, there's a few that we're really, really excited about. "Evil," "Put Your Lips To The TV," "Illuminate."
    Andrew: "Illuminate" is definitely one that we're digging. It's definitely more commercial. Some of our core fans might be like "Ehhh... Drawing Black Lines!!" But that's okay.
    Randy: It's just one of those things where no band wants to keep making the same record. If they want to hold onto that record, that's fine...
    Andrew: Or those five records! Our opinion's like "Dude, we're really happy you like Drawing Black Lines, and Songs To Burn Your Bridges By, and Truthless Heroes, and the self-titled, and ...And The Rest Will Follow, that's why we gave you five records that has those kinds of songs!"
    Randy: Now they have six records to choose from!

  • JFH (Amy): I think you're going to draw a population of fans that might have not listened to you guys before.
    Andrew: Well, and that's the other thing. Those 50,000 kids don't get to be the only ones that enjoy our band - although we care about them immensely. And we always want to include our core fans again in what we're doing. And of course live we're going to continue playing songs from our entire catalog. We're really excited about our new music because it's different.

  • JFH (John): Yeah, I agree. How about you?
    Randy: I like "Evil" a lot.
    Andrew: Everybody's favorite song is that. We like it a lot.
    Randy: It just came out really good. It's just funny because when you do a demo, you get stuck to that demo, and you're always chasing it trying to recreate something you already did. And when I heard the demo, it came out really good and we had to end up chasing it and try to make it as good. And I think we actually pulled it off, which is pretty rare. There are always songs you are super excited about in the beginning that just turn into something that you're not really into.
    Andrew: And it happens on every record, and it's really sad.
    Randy: But there's always some dark horse song that you weren't expecting to be good come out in the end, and you're like "Wow, this song is really cool!"

  • JFH (John): Is there one from the past that you can think of off the top of your head?
    Andrew: That's a good question.
    Randy: "Subject To Change" kind of came out of nowhere.
    Andrew: I thought "Another Boredom Movement" kind of came out of nowhere.
    Randy: "Something We Can't Be" kind of came out of nowhere. (Steven and Andrew: That one did, yeah.)
    Andrew: For that matter, "My Will Be A Dead Man," too.
    Randy: Yeah! For sure that song. One of the songs that I was totally surprised came out the way that it did was "Slaves To Liberty."
    Andrew: That's actually one of the more punk rock songs on the record. But there's this song called, "The Forces of Radio Have Dropped a Viper into the Rhythm Section." And that is like for sure, not the heaviest, but the most hectic and crazy song we've ever done. It's really aggressive. (John: Not like "3 Card" crazy?) No. Even more. Way more wild than that. (John: Can you understand the lyrics?) No. (John: Really?) Not at all. *laughter* On the chorus you can. There's a semblance of a melody on the chorus, but the verse thing is wild. It's fun.

  • JFH (John): What's "The Forces of Radio Have Dropped a Viper into the Rhythm Section" about?
    Andrew: It's about likening fond memories of an ex to a VCR. Where it's the idea of going back and revisiting old video tapes and putting it in your VCR is great until your realize the tape is corroded and the picture's horrible and that your VCR doesn't work very well mechanically. So you just put the tape in and it flashes red and ejects itself. It's like dealing with an obsolete technology. You remember how fun it was, but trying to use it now and apply it currently is a hassle. So the idea of having memories that you only remember the good things until you were to revisit that memory with that person or whatever, and then you're reminded of the crap you went through. *laughs* You know what I mean? So that's what that song's about.

  • JFH (John): What has God been teaching you lately?
    Randy: I've always had trust issues with God, and I think more and more as I grow older, I'm not really that mature anyway, but I've just been learning to trust more of what He's trying to do for me. It's just hard to let that go. That's kind of personally what's been going on as of late.
    Steven: I'm somewhat recently married, so I guess just learning to be a leader. It wasn't my natural thing in life to lead, but in a marriage it's kind of what you're called to do as the dude. So I've been learning a lot about that.
    Andrew: I think honestly He's been teaching us to not be afraid. Things are always changing in the music industry and with our lives and we've been able to work it out and make it work, whether it's personality stuff within the band or evolving relationships, growing up, families, getting married, all that stuff. We're just really fortunate to be a band for as long as we have. And there's been a real faithfulness to one another, even dealing with one another's nuances and shortcomings, etc. Going into this record, one of us was in the Netherlands, one was in Seattle, and we didn't know who was playing drums on the record. And it was awesome, because we're flying mp3s back and forth to one another and listening to music. We wrote more songs for this record than we've ever written. We probably worked harder, honestly, than any record we've ever done - just pushing ourselves til we were really satisfied.

  • JFH (John): Have you thought about what to do with some of the songs that won't be used on the record?
    Andrew: We're still deciding that specifically. We have fourteen mixed songs, we may put as little as ten or as many as twelve on the record. We have to make that decision in the next day or so. (Amy: And release the others on iTunes or something like that?) Yeah, inevitably, we'll do some sort of thing - online promotion special, b-side.

  • JFH (John): What about the ...And The Rest Will Follow remixes that were on your MySpace?
    Andrew: That's a great question. It would be great to put those to some kind of use as well. Well, we can always do an EP too, if we're allowed legally.
    Randy: Yeah, I think one day that'll be released, which would be cool. But I think it was just more of an online thing.

  • JFH (John): Any last comments?
    Andrew: Nah, man, just check out the new disc. If you're a hardcore Project fan and you're expecting "Stein's Theme," then maybe check your expectations at the door and open your mind a little bit and give it a shot.


    Project 86's new album Rival Factions is available now!




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