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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Relient K Biography

Since 1998, Relient K has been a staple in the Christian music industry.  Through many member changes, three gold albums, two Christmas records, a Grammy nomination, two Dove awards, and performances on Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and numerous television shows, this group has exploded in popularity over the last ten years.  Throughout their history, Relient K has been known for their pop/punk sound fused with humor, witty lyrics, and Jesus Christ.

Relient K first formed in 1997 in Canton, Ohio with Matt Thiessen, Matt Hoopes, and Brian Pittman.  Drummer Stephen Cushman later joined the group.  The band is named after Matt Hoopes’ old car, which was a Plymouth Reliant K.  After an independent album, Relient K caught the attention of Gotee Records, and released their first album on Gotee in 2000.  The self titled project features Relient K singing fun, punk rock songs mixed with many pop culture references including Back to the Future, Marilyn Manson, and even staples.  The first video is of the song My Girlfriend.  This song is about Marilyn Manson and MTV.  But more specifically, it is about a girl who is corrupted by the world around her.  The official music video is a funny take on the song.

Shortly after their debut album, drummer Stephen Cushman left the band, and Dave Douglas filled his position.  In 2001, the group released their second album, The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek.  This album once again was filled with many humorous songs and pop culture references, but it also included many soft, spiritual tracks.  From meaningful worship ballads to the Sadie Hawkins Dance to even criticizing Christians for fighting among themselves, this album featured a little bit of everything lyrically.  Five years after the release, The Anatomy of Tongue in Cheek was certified gold.  Pressing On is the second track on the album.  This song is about pressing on through the hardships in life and striving to be with Jesus Christ.

In 2003, Relient K released their third album entitled Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do. This album mixed together elements from their first two albums:  pop culture references and meaningful worship ballads.  From mood rings to pink tuxedos to college kids, this album was filled with funny and comedic takes on the world.  Plus, like their previous album, Relient K also embraced their serious side with songs such as Forward Motion, Trademark, I Am Understood?, and Getting Into You.  For Two Lefts, Relient K released multiple album covers featuring different vehicles in car crashes.  This album was also certified gold.  The song I want to share with you is the lead track entitled Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry.  This simple and fun video features the band performing the song and taking care of the elderly.  Overall, Two Lefts was probably the most pivotal album in Relient K’s career.  After this record, Relient K slowly disregarded humor and comedy in their lyrics, and embraced a more mature punk rock sound.

Shortly before the release of their next album, Mmhmm, original bassist Brian Pittman left the group.  Filling his shoes was former Ace Troubleshooter member, John Warne.  Jon Schneck also joined the group to play guitar, banjo, and bells.  Mmhmm was released in late 2004, and in less than a year was certified gold.  Arguably Relient K’s most popular album to date, Mmhmm spawned two very popular singles: Be My Escape and Who I am Hates Who I’ve Been.  It was also the major label debut for them on Capitol Records.  On Mmhmm, Relient K fully embraced a mature sound.  The group definitely progressed from their previous efforts, and the album really shines musically and lyrically.  This next song is one of my all time favorite songs by Relient K.  Who I am Hates Who I’ve Been is a song about a person regretting their past choices.

Three years after Mmhmm, Relient K was poised to release their next album.  Five Score and Seven Years Ago pays homage to the beginning of the Gettysburg Address (Four Score and Seven Years Ago).  The album title also comes from the fact that this record was their fifth album, and their debut was released seven years earlier.  Featuring a mixture of emotions, happiness and cynicism, this album had it all emotionally.  The Best Thing and Must Have Done Something Right are pure, pop, love songs.  Other tracks like Devastation and Reform and I Need You are simple cries out to God asking for help.  This album also ended with a rather unique song entitled Deathbed which features Jon Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot.  The eleven minute song details the life of a man who is near death.  In my opinion, this is Relient K’s most unusual, but also most fascinating song to date.  Shortly after the release of this album, Relient K experienced tragedy when their tour bus caught fire.  Thankfully no one was injured, but the group did lose personal items, including Matt Thiessen’s laptop computer which held 100 unfinished songs.  The next song is Must Have Done Something Right.  The video features a very cool concept about a relationship and a soccer ball.

At the end of 2007, Relient K went through another member change, as well as a musical shift.  Long time drummer, Dave Douglas, decided to leave the band in December of 2007.  He was replaced by Ethan Luck, former guitarist for the O.C. Supertones and Demon Hunter.  In 2008, the band released a double EP entitled The Bird and the Bee Sides.  The first of the two extended EPs featured 13 brand new tracks.  Relient K also delved into some brand new music with this EP, dabbling in pop, ska, and even country music.  The second EP featured B-sides of their former albums.  This EP had acoustic tracks, demos, and a few unreleased songs. Their latest album, Forget and Not Slow Down, was released in 2009.  Even more than their previous record, Relient K separated themselves from their earlier punk rock sound.  Featuring mostly straight rock music with many intros and outros, this album was vastly different than previous works.  This album also featured many guest musicians including Aaron Gillespie of the Almost and Matt McDonald of the Classic Crime.  For me, I definitely miss their old, witty lyrics mixed with punk rock music.  But, there is still a lot to enjoy with this record.  This was the first full length album that the band did not release a music video.

Relient K has also released two Christmas albums in their career:  Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand in 2003, and Let it Snow, Baby…Let it Reindeer in 2007.  Both of the albums featured classic Christmas songs with a punk rock twist.

Relient K has not announced any new music or upcoming albums.  But, the group will embark on the Vans Warped Tour this summer in 2011.  I want to end this biography of Relient K with one of their most popular songs of all time:  Be My Escape.  Off the Mmhmm album, this single went gold in 2005.  Also, this song boosted the band’s mainstream popularity by becoming a hit on MTV.  Here is the official music video for Be My Escape.   I hope you have enjoyed this look at Relient K’s career.