If you are new to Christian rock, please read this
post about the definition of Christian rock and some of the biggest questions about Christian music.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wolves at the Gate Interview

Wolves at the Gate exploded onto the Christian rock scene in 2011 with their independent EP We are the Ones. With a post-hardcore sound, Wolves at the Gate fused together their beliefs with a style that was slightly different than your usual screamo acts. What they created was a powerful form of worship and rock and roll. The main goal of Wolves at the Gate has always been about sharing the Gospel, and their EP beautifully translates into hard-hitting anthems of Christ. We are the Ones eventually led the group to Solid State Records, which landed them a spot on the heavy label alongside juggernauts like August Burns Red, Demon Hunter, Emery and Underoath. On July 3rd, the group exploded once again in Christian music with their debut full length album. Produced by Andreas Magnusson (Haste the Day, Oh, Sleeper), Captors takes the band’s talent and sound to a whole new level. Receiving both fan and critical acclaim, Captors could easily qualify for album of the year in 2012. By mixing together the truths of Scripture with screams and hardcore rock and roll, Wolves at the Gate has created an unforgettable debut record. I recently had the chance to interview guitarist and vocalist Steve Cobucci about their new album, the effects of Spotify and pulling teeth on tour.

Webb: Your new album just dropped on July 3rd. What were your feelings on the release day of Captors?

Cobucci: I would say that collectively, we all were just excited. For as long as I can remember, since I picked up a guitar, all I wanted to do was record and put out a full length record, as it was the same for the rest of the guys. So naturally, we could not wait for people to get their hands on a record that we've been waiting to write and record since day one of the inception of the band. We were eager to hear from long-time fans and from new fans as to their reception of our new music.

Webb:  On this new record, what song are you most proud of?  What is that one song that you are really excited for fans to hear?

Cobucci:  This is a tough question as it's almost like being asked, “which one of your children do you love the most?”  But personally, I was most excited for fans to hear “Man of Sorrows,” which is the last track on the record.  This is a completely different type of song than fans generally would expect from us.  To date, it is easily the most different sounding song we have ever written.  The music to this song has some cool dynamics that really help communicate the weight of the message in the lyrics.

My goal with the music and lyrics for this song was for the listener to feel the weight of Jesus' humility in taking on human form, living in poverty, serving His own disciples, humbling himself before His own creation that nailed Him to the tree, beat him, spat in his face and eventually put Him to death.  Almost all of our songs directly talk about the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, so for this song I wanted to paint a picture of the One who gave His life for us.  I want the listener to read these lyrics and see that Jesus is a valiant Savior who endured much for the sake of providing peace between God and man.

Webb:  When listening to your record, the main thing that I came away with is your overt proclamation of Christ.  From beginning to end, you guys unashamedly share your faith on Captors.  Is the main goal of Wolves at the Gate to share Christ through music?

Cobucci:  We hope that our love for Jesus and His gospel is clear in our music, performances and lives.  Since day one, four years ago, we established that the precedent be the exaltation of Christ as Savior and Lord.  The message hasn't changed simply because we know that it is the Gospel alone, through the work of the Holy Spirit, that will beckon people to the cross of Jesus Christ, and see that He alone is the way, the truth and the life.

Webb:  My personal favorite on the album is the song “Dead Man.”  What’s the story behind that song?

Cobucci:  “Dead Man” is a look into my own heart and what the Lord saved me from.  It is a depiction of the thoughts that ran through my mind upon the work of God revealing the sin in my heart, leading me to repentance and drawing me into a love for Jesus Christ for simply who He is.  The verses from the Bible that are used in that song were crucial in my growth in knowledge, understanding and love for Jesus' perfect work of salvation.

Webb:  For your debut, you worked with producer Andreas Magnusson.  What was it like working with someone who had such an accomplished resume?

Cobucci:  Working with Andreas was a real blessing.  A band as young as us had no place working with a seasoned producer, such as Andreas, but [we] were excited and thankful nonetheless.  It was a huge help for us to work with someone who had a clear vision with how to capture the sounds we were looking for in various portions of the record.  He has a really broad perspective when it comes to music, which worked in our favor as our music definitely is not as heavy as a lot of the records he works on.  He quickly caught on to our style and sound, and how to help us capture it for the record.

Webb:  You guys also feature a new screamer, Nick Detty, on Captors.  What was the story behind him joining the band?

Cobucci:  Last summer, we knew that we were going to need a new vocalist because our old vocalist, Colin Jones, was married and had two little girls, which would keep him from touring full time.  Nick really came out of nowhere.  We had not posted anything about looking for a vocalist and really hadn't told anyone about our situation as well.  We played a show with some friends of ours and Nick's band at the time (Cyrene) played earlier in the show; and we all separately thought to ourselves, “dang, this kid is good.”  We played later on in the show and in the middle of our set, I began sharing the Gospel with the crowd.  For some reason, the crowd this particular night was really loud and distracted from listening to the Gospel.  Then here comes Nick, he walked across the floor in the crowd right in the center, and locked eyes with me.  He had a smile on his face as he was encouraged by our boldness in sharing the Gospel from stage.  It was really encouraging to me and afterwards I found him, and told him I appreciated his encouragement.

I then contacted him a couple weeks later about trying out, and he totally killed it on his tryout.  He knew all the lyrics, all of the patterns, all on his first try.  That was an awesome testament to his work ethic and respect for us as well.  We then took him on two tours to see how he would do.  They both were difficult tests for him, but we were able to see his heart and get to know him much better.  Since then, everything has been a big learning experience for him, as we are [all] 5 - 6 years older than him (being 19).  So, it has been cool to see him grow and mature as a person and most importantly spiritually.

Webb:  You released your debut full length through Solid State Records.  Being such a young band, how did you get connected with the label?

Cobucci:  To be honest, I have no idea.  We had already been a band for three years when they contacted us, but We Are the Ones was our first official release that we did on our own.  Before that, we had released four singles and a three song EP.  We really are a testament to "right time, right place," as we are not really sure what we did to get their attention, beyond their enjoyment of our music.  This was just yet another sign of God having His hand of blessing in the life of this band.

Webb:  How do you craft a song?  What is the process for your band from beginning with an idea to hearing the final version of a song?

Cobucci:  It really is different per song.  Many songs start off with a chorus/riff on the acoustic that I eventually take to my computer, and start tracking tons of different ideas to fit around the main feel of a song that I am seeking to communicate.  Sometimes, a song is sparked from writing lyrics long before any music; and other times I simply sit down with a concept in mind, and then it just flows out of me seamlessly.  Once I demo out the main core of the songs, I email them out to the band with all of my ideas in them for vocals, guitars, bass, drums, etc.  Then the guys are able to analyze what I have constructed and either alter the part to fit their playing style a bit, change it completely or change nothing.  It is more or less a filtration system to which everyone listens and gives their input about the songs.

Webb:  You also just had an album release show on July 7th.  How did the show go, and how was the turnout?

Cobucci:  The release show was a great success.  It was such a blessing to have great friends there, excellent bands and at an awesome venue.  We have always loved going to shows at the Newport in Columbus, and this was the second [time] we have ever been able to play there.  The last time we played there was about two years ago when we opened up for the PacTour with Saosin and Innerpartysystem.  So naturally, this time around it was really weird to be the headliner.  We had an incredible turnout of fans supporting the release of our record, and [we] were really thankful that God was able to use that show to be such a blessing to so many of the hearts there at the show that night.

Webb:  Wolves at the Gate is fairly new to the touring scene.  But, do you have any crazy or funny tour stories you would like to share?

Cobucci:  There were a couple funny stories from Nick's first tour with us in November of 2011, but I will just share one.  We were in Connecticut at a local pizza shop; and Nick took a bite out of the pizza, and somehow cracked his molar in half.  So, he played that night, and then the next morning we decided that we needed to pull this tooth.  I grabbed some needle nose pliers, sterilized the pliers with some Vitamin Water, had him lie down in the grass; I put my foot on his chest and then pulled that bad boy out.  It took me two tries, but we got that sucker.  We have the whole event recorded; we just need to post it for fans to see the essence of Nick Detty.

Webb:  What’s your favorite part of touring and least favorite part of touring?

Cobucci:  I really enjoy traveling, meeting new people, hearing different music, seeing great musicians perform and learning from them.  Touring really is just a big learning experience in general, and I always walk away from tour learning something new.  My least favorite aspect of touring is the fact that you spend a lot of time away from friends and family.  I am very close with my family, so it's difficult to miss spending time with my brother, parents, grandparents, etc.  As well as missing out on what's going on in my friend's lives, as they are all now starting families and having kids.

Webb:  One of the hot topics in music right now is the emergence of the internet.  How do you feel about digital music and online sites like Spotify?  Do you like the idea of, if you can get your hands on our music that’s awesome, or do you support the thought of fans having to buy music?

Cobucci:  This is a topic that comes up all the time in talks with other bands, fans and people involved in the music industry.  Thankfully, we have fans who care; and ask us all the time the best way to support our band with how they purchase music, to which we are extremely blessed and thankful for.  There simply are problems on either side of this debate.  While I am all for music being available to people to enjoy and especially in reference with our goal for people to hear the Gospel of salvation through Christ, I do have a problem with people illegally downloading music, and will never come to a show or support the bands they enjoy.

My personal conviction is that I simply will not illegally download music or use Spotify.  Bands see no return from people using Spotify.  If people are really interested in seeing how Spotify affects bands, then I would encourage them to research, and see how many plays are needed before a band will make a fraction of a cent.  I love the idea of buying records because that is how I show a form of support for people who write music that I enjoy.  I have all the t-shirts I could ever need; yet, I want to buy shirts from bands I enjoy, as I know merchandise is the lifeblood of touring bands.

Wolves at the Gate simply doesn't exist without all of the records that I have bought over my lifetime because that is what has impacted me to write our songs.  As a kid, I saved any money that I made to buy the records that I wanted.  I remember mowing lawns, working for my dad and grandpa, so that I could go to the record store on my way home from school and find a new record to listen to.  The harder we make it for bands to play music for a living, the greater risk we run on missing out on great music.  I would never hold resentment towards someone who uses Spotify or illegally downloads our records, although I feel it definitely is hurting bands.

Many times people use the defense of wanting to listen to a record before you buy it; but, bands usually release upwards of five songs from a record and stream the album before it comes out, providing plenty of opportunity for people to get a taste of what they will be purchasing.  When you go to a restaurant, you can't eat a sandwich to see if you like it, and then decide you will pay for it after realizing you like it.  If our economy was based on the foundation of that mentality, we would be in even more trouble economically than we are now.  Yet, on the other hand, I really do want as many people as possible to hear our music.  We personally have given our records away for free plenty of times and to strangers or kids who don't have the money.  I simply would encourage kids to have the boldness to make an investment in the bands you love with either buying records, giving bands a place to sleep or however you can lend support.

Webb:  Do you have a favorite Scripture or Bible verse? 

Cobucci:  Isaiah 53 has always been a portion of Scripture that I read frequently to remind me what a great Savior I have in Jesus.

Webb:  What does the future hold for the group?  What can fans expect from Wolves at the Gate in the next couple of months?

Cobucci:  Touring, possibly a new music video, more touring and probably some cool things that we haven't even thought of yet.  We do our best to stay active and to give fans something tangible to enjoy from the band.  We really just want to get out there, play these songs for new and old fans and support this record that we are really proud of.

Below is the official lyric video for their song, “Dead Man.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Love Songs

The art of creating a love song has always played a special part in music.  Over the years, music has served an important role in communicating and sharing love.  In Christian rock, the theme of love carries a couple of different meanings.  Some songs are very romantic, while others are simply fun, sing along summer tunes.  Still, others sing about a heavenly love with our Savior.  With each song and subject in mind, Christian artists regularly sing about different forms of love.  For this post, I mainly want to focus on one type of love song. Here are five, romantic love songs from some of your favorite Christian rock musicians.

The first song is “Deer in the Headlights” by Owl City.  With the inclusion of many tongue in cheek lyrics, Adam Young sings about finding love at first sight.  According to Young, randomly talking to girls could land you with a black eye, bloody nose or even some pepper spray to the face.  The video includes Young riding in a DeLorean, his encounter with Lights and a nod to his video for “Alligator Sky.”  All in all, this is another fun tune from Owl City that will give a few laughs alongside love at first sight.

Next, is “MySpace Girl” by The Afters.  Off their album Never Going Back to Okay, this is a much different style of song than their usual hits.  A little creepy and a little funny at the same time, The Afters sing about having a crush on a girl who works at a fast food restaurant.  This crush eventually leads to stalking on MySpace, which finally turns into a relationship.  The best part of this song is that it’s a true story.  According to lead singer Joshua Havens, “MySpace Girl” is a true tale of how their bass player met his wife.

Third, is the song “A Day Late.”  Early in their career, Anberlin dabbled in punk rock, and this has to be one of their poppiest songs they’ve recorded.  In “A Day Late,” the theme of love is a little different than most songs, in that, Stephen Christian sings about falling in love with someone after their relationship had ended.  The music video features some really cool shots with a simple, but interesting concept.

The fourth song is by Run Kid Run.  “One in a Million” features a straightforward message of true love.  The group sings about finding love with a one in a million girl.  Another pop hit, a young man uses the help of a marching band and a generous old man to find true love in this video.

The final song is “Definitely Maybe” by FM Static.  One of the more well-known Christian rock love songs of the past decade, this hook driven melody will get stuck in your head.  Off the debut album from the side project of Trevor McNevan and Steve Augustine, “Definitely Maybe” sings about falling in love.  The only problem is the woman of your dreams is dating someone else.  Throughout the song, McNevan attempts to point the girl in a different direction than her jerk boyfriend.  “Definitely Maybe” has high school love written all over it, but the addicting qualities make it one great hit.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at some popular love songs in Christian music today.  If you are a fan of these love songs, here are a few more Christian rock hits to check out.

“Treasure” – Flyleaf
“How in the World” – Family Force 5
“Here With Me” – Eleventyseven
“Moment of Truth” – FM Static
“If You Love Someone” – Dizmas
“Wind in My Sails” – Spoken
“The Best Thing” – Relient K
“A Summer’s Song” – Wavorly
“Revelation” – The Wedding
“Say Goodbye” – Skillet
“Souls on Ten” – The Almost