Former Ardent Records rock band Justifide split up (sort of) over a decade ago, but have recently resurfaced with the promise of new music in 2015. To shed a little light on everything, bassist Sambo Moncivaiz spoke with Jesusfreakhideout's Scott Fryberger, revealing plans for not one, but TWO new albums...
This interview took place on: 1/18/15.
Click here for Justifide's Artist Profile page.
I can't believe it's been a decade already - over a decade. That's crazy, man. What happened was that we had just come off of a tour - the band was just the three of us: me and my brother [Jason Moncivaiz] and Joey [Avalos], who was a friend of ours that we grew up with. And my parents were managing; well, I guess we had other managers at the time, but our parents had started managing the band. So they were kinda always around - my dad was the road manager, so we always had a pretty tight family. But Joey's family stayed in Arizona when we were touring, and we eventually had to locate the band to Nashville. So there were a lot of things, and it was just a good time, because Joey was missing his family and wanting to settle down. He got married to his girlfriend shortly after that. And I think, stylistically too - because Joey had a pop rock band that he did [called Stars Go Dim], and he's into a lot of different stuff. And we were trying to work on songs for a new record, and Joey was just done, you know? Life on the road and everything; it was just kinda everything together. So, it was just time for him; I don't know, he's the one who left! *laughter* It wasn't like he got kicked out or anything; he just decided he was ready for something else. And how he's got a management company, and he's managing bands. I guess that was the next phase in his music career.
Sambo: Yeah, he played with Pillar for a little while. We had toured with Pillar, so we were friends with them. Their guitar player, Noah [Henson] had torn up his ACL and he couldn't perform, so they called Joey and he helped them out since they were good friends of ours and stuff. You know, they had a tour bus and stuff, so if he was gonna come back into music, that's the way to do it. *laughter*
Sambo: Reform the Resistance happened right after Justifide, though I'm not sure how long it took us to get a name and stuff. You know, we were a three-piece with Justifide, so when Joey left, it was just me and my brother. Well, we happened to play all the instruments, so we didn't stop writing, and so we did a record on our own, just me and Jason. He played the drums for Justifide, and when he started singing, he came out front and we would hire drummers. Then he started playing guitar to help out Joey. So he was coming into his own as a guitar player and singer, but he still played drums. And I play bass. Jason does everything and I play bass. *laughter* So yeah, we weren't really a full-on band, because it was just the two of us. Well, let me backtrack a little bit. We continued with Justifide for a little bit after Joey left. In fact, I remember we did have some gigs as Justifide, and we had some friends on guitar. And actually - you know the band Skillet, right? Seth [Morrison], their new guitar player - well, I don't know about new, I guess he's been with them for a while now - but Seth was one of our buddies, and he was supposed to play guitar for us. We had a festival lined up in Wisconsin, and so we were still under the Justifide name. And Seth got really sick, and was in the hospital and couldn't make it. And his mom called me saying "I'm sorry, Seth would be there if he could, but he's in the hospital!" And that was the turning point, and now that I'm telling this story, I'm remembering all this. So Jason had to play guitar and sing at the same time. He had to. And that really got Jason to start playing guitar more and practicing. And so once he started taking all the guitar duties all on his own, that's when I said "You know what? This is a different band now." There were new guitar parts for these songs, and so we thought it's not right to keep the Justifide name, because Joey was such a big part of it. And so we thought we should change the name.
Sambo: Yes it has. After we did Justifide, Jason started playing guitar and we started writing more songs, we got into the studio and did an EP - it was like a six- or seven-song EP - and we had recorded more songs than that, but we didn't get them all finished as we had kind of a limited budget. At that time, Ardent Records (who we were signed with), had released us from our contract, and so we were just independent. So we released the EP, had to kind of find another band, and we started touring Europe. And so, a lot of people had lost contact with us, people that had known Justifide. We locked ourselves away in the studio with new material that we were writing, and then we were in Europe for like five or six years. So yeah, we never did stop.
Sambo: Yes! All of the above! It should be available there, anyway. We have a record label now; it's an independent label in Chicago, Illinois. And with their distribution, they have us pretty much anywhere online.
Sambo: That's a good question! *laughter* Okay, so we had stayed friends with Joey; he had done his different tours with Pillar, had another band on his own, but he settled into a manager role - he and Mike [Wittig] from Pillar have a management company now, managing bands. And so we would hang out with Joey and call him and talk to him and stuff, and he was always asking how Reform the Resistance is doing, and we'd be like, "Uhhhhhhhhhh...." *laughter* You know, we were never business planners, we were just the music guys! And he would always ask us all these questions, and the answer was always "Yeah, I really don't know. I don't have an answer for you." Jason was talking to Joey, and, out of the blue, he said, "Joey, why have you never asked to be our manager?!" *laughter* And so Joey said, "You know, I thought you guys would never ask!" So we decided to talk about it. Now, our commitment is 100% Reform the Resistance; that's our focus. With Joey back in the picture, it's as the manager for Reform the Resistance. However, that being said, he thought it was a good idea - well, he said, "You know, you guys lost a lot of contact with your Justifide fans." He had stayed more in touch, because he was on the road with Pillar, and he was running across a lot of Justifide fans. So he told us he found some songs that we had been working on when he left the band. And he said, "You know, now that I'm back with you guys, and we're working together, this would be a good opportunity to say thank you to all the Justifide fans, tell them about Reform the Resistance, and get them back into your lives." Because, you know, the people that were coming out to the shows were as important as the music that we were making. With the ministry we have, we thought that was a purpose that God has for our band. And that has never stopped, even with Reform the Resistance.
So we thought this was a way for us to continue the ministry and get back in touch with all the fans who may be excited to hear what would have been if Joey would have stayed in the band, and so it's kind of a win-win for everybody. But, that said, we are doing a fundraising campaign online through PledgeMusic, and we have four songs already done and recorded that we did with Joey when he was here and we were all together. We got in the studio and did those four songs [for The Vault Sessions]. But [Justifide is] not our focus and priority. We're writing new music and - we're not old enough to have a reunion! *laughter* We're still young guys! People are saying "You guys getting the band back together?" And we're like "Man, it's not like we're sixty years old or something!" *laughter* You know, God has new things for us, and we're happy that we can go back to the past and reconnect with everybody. And so that's what this is really all about, just reconnecting with all those Justifide fans, and letting them know that we're still alive and still playing music, and hopefully it's a treat for them to hear some new Justifide stuff. I hope they like it! But that's kind of the extent of it. On the campaign, we have some incentives for a Justifide show. At this point, Joey is in band management, and that's his focus right now. And we're finishing up a new record for Reform the Resistance [called Dos], and so that's what we have going forward. This is just kind of a way to say thank you and hopefully reconnect with everybody again.
Sambo: You know, we're not really putting a lot of limits on it. I'm not sure if it's gonna be a one-time thing or not. Who knows, man! Crazier stuff has happened! *laughter* I never want to say "This is what we have in the future," because God can change things at any moment's notice. You think you're going in one direction and then suddenly you're going in another direction. So who knows? All we know is that we're still playing music, and we're very grateful and thankful for that.
Sambo: Some of them were pretty close to being finished, and some of them were kinda just guitar riffs and they hadn't really been developed. It ranges from both extremes. The difficult part in the songs that weren't finished, you know, like you said, they were over a decade ago - we're kinda like "Man, we need to listen to old Justifide songs again," and try to get back into the mindset of what we were doing twelve or thirteen years ago so that it sounds like Justifide still. That's gonna be the difficult thing. A couple of the songs had more ideas with them and lyrics written, so it's just a matter of giving them a proper recording.
Sambo: We have discussed it, and everybody liked the idea, and for some reason, as we're finalizing everything, that hasn't been brought up again. (Scott: I'd buy one!) I am writing this down, and I'm gonna talk to the other guys again!
Sambo: Yeah, I think Joey got us a Justifide website, and we have a Facebook page. That's as far as I know, though. I think with Justifide, it's just one step at a time. Since our priority is Reform the Resistance, it's just gonna be about how much free time we have after that obligation in order to do something else. Right now, we have day jobs! *laughter* My brother and I have a studio, so we get to play music all the time, but that's paying the bills right now. Paying the bills is a priority, unfortunately! Otherwise, we'd probably have Reform the Resistance full-time and Justifide full-time as well. But yeah, we'll see kinda how the reception is. But even at our peak, we weren't really selling out arenas. *laughter* We were real underground.
Sambo: I like that question. We were so young when we started Justifide, but even at a young age, we had been through a lot, and God had taught us a lot. But I think when your life is so radically changed, and you're pumped up and you're young and you want the whole world to know your story, you just don't know how to prioritize things in life. We love God with all our hearts, but it's easy to lose focus, especially being on the road. The most important thing is God, first and foremost, and remembering that, it really was nothing on our own strength. If God was gonna do something, it would be on His strength. And God doesn't need us anyway! God is God, He can do whatever. But yeah, it's easy to lose focus, and it can seem like everything is so important, but the important thing is your relationship with God first. And people were always important to us, too. But I think, in some of our business deals, we were just young and didn't know how to handle different voices telling us things that should be done. We thought, "No no, this is OUR ministry, and we're gonna do what we gotta do. And if you don't like it, then don't hang around us." *laughter* But the fans that came out to the show were important to us. And we've come to realize that every interaction we have is important and a chance to show God's love, whether it's to a fan or a promoter or a booking agent--all those people.
So, back at that time, we didn't really have life experiences outside of our own family and our own home in Phoenix. We started touring and seeing the way Christians believe in different parts of the world, and we sure had a lot to learn still. Our parents were still involved, and I think it's hard to grow up and mature when you have your parents still there, because they try to coddle you and keep you from the pain. And sometimes, you just gotta let us hit our head, you know, and have faith that God has us in His hand, and He's not gonna let anything happen to us that's not for our own good. He's looking out for us, even though He lets us experience hurt and difficulties throughout life. It's part of the growing process. So now, my parents moved back to Arizona where we grew up, so they're back home. And it's kinda just me and my brother for a while. And I think we learned a lot more to rely on God's strength and not our own, and our faith has grown from it. And it's not without its trials.
We got dropped from our record label, and when everything is given to you and handed to you...man, when we were young, it was almost as if we could do no wrong! We would write a song, everybody would love it, we would have a concert and everybody would ask for it, we were signed to a record label. We weren't worried about how we were gonna eat that night. The bills were being paid, we were having fun. And when we started dealing with some stuff - Joey leaving the band, getting dropped from our label, having a manager drop us, and then struggling again to have a fanbase to get people to listen our music - it was hard, and we really questioned whether God still had use for us. We said "God, we believe that You gave us talent and gifts, and we're working really hard on this. We've got no label, no managers, no tours, we're having to work other jobs just to fund ourselves. Aren't You blessing this? Aren't You blessing what we're trying to give to You?" And that was hard, man. That was really hard.
So our faith has grown, and then came Reform the Resistance. We had a buddy that produced the record for us, and we learned so much from him, and it cost us no money. From that point, we really got inspired to do our own recording. Jason started interning at Gravity Studios in Chicago, kinda learning all the gear and the process. Before that, we were just musicians recording. We were never on the technical side. As soon as we started getting on the technical side of things, we grew a passion for that. And then we did our own record. Our last record we produced and engineered ourselves. We had no idea what God was gonna do with it, and we were just praying about it, "God, we can't get a radio station to play us because we have no one to back it. We have nobody, but we're gonna have faith that, if You're gonna bless it, You're gonna bring people to us." We didn't want to have to knock down doors for this. Jason said, "What good is it if we have to beg people to listen to us? They're not gonna give us a fair chance anyway." And so we prayed about it. And so then a friend and the owner of Gravity Studios [Doug McBride] had been doing a lot of work mastering for a record label in Chicago called Wuli Records. And they had told our friend at Gravity that they were looking to sign a rock band, and Doug had mastered our record, and he said, "Well I've got some friends who have a rock band. Why don't you check it out?" So, before you know it, we got a call from Doug saying "Hey, I've got these buddies that have a label here in Chicago, and I gave them your record, and we'll see if anything comes from it!" That was an answer to prayer! How many bands have the labels call them? And we got a call, and we thought, "Praise God! He still has a plan and a use for us!" So I think we've seen a deepening of our faith, and a realization that we are nothing without God. And we don't wanna do anything on our own. We're gonna be used by God, but we're not gonna beat down any doors. We are going to wait for God to open the doors, and we're gonna use the strength that God gives us to walk through those doors.
Sambo: Cool man. Well, again, this has been a process of over ten years, so trying to consolidate everything in that time is hard sometimes. But I get excited talking about it!
Sambo: We are planning a simultaneous release. The new Reform the Resistance record has been about three years in the making. And we've got two more songs to wrap up for this album, and then we'll see which songs make the cut and I need to decide how long we want to make it. But you know, we're looking to be done in the next couple of months for Reform the Resistance, and we'll finish the Justifide songs kind of at the same time, and then release them together.
Sambo: Hopefully some of the people reading this will remember Justifide. That'd be pretty cool. It was a bit sad that we had to say goodbye to our friends in the United States, but God had a new chapter for us, and that was mostly in Europe. We developed a lot of good relationships over there, but we definitely missed all of our old friends and colleagues here in the States. So we're excited and hopeful that, now that we're with Joey as our manager, that we'll be able to reconnect with a lot of people again. So, I hope they remember us! We remember a lot of them. We're very excited about what's to come of this.
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