In the midst of a lot of changes and challenges, rock band XD Out is only gaining momentum. The band, whose core is brothers Chris and Josh Haynes, has been making music since 1999, and in that span of time has seen tremendous shifts in rock music, the industry as a whole, and even their own personal lives, as Josh relocated from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles in 2013.
You'd think with all those things thrown at them, the longtime rockers would move on to other things. On the contrary, though, they're making their best art yet, having released the thoroughly enjoyable and nostaglic Better Day earlier this summer--a project produced by famed Audio Adrenaline guitarist Barry Blair.
With all that incurable optimism and distortion fueled enthusiasm, we had to know more about XD Out, especially after being in existence for nearly 20 years.
Since the core of this band is brothers, I'd imagine the Haynes family was musical. Talk about your upbringing and your early exposure to making music.
Chris:Our dad was an artist and a musician, and introduced us to lots of music and forms of creativity. His best friend, Bob, even taught me how to play drums when I was 15 years old.
Josh: Yeah our dad was a musical instrument repairman, so we were surrounded by music of all kinds; more jazz than rock, though!
At what point did you decide to start a band?
Josh: Well, Chris was writing and playing music with some other guys when he lived North Carolina. In '99 he moved back to Pennsylvania, and we started jamming and writing songs and things sort of took off from there. I think we wrote and recorded our first album in a year or so.
Where are you guys from? What's the music scene like there?
Chris: Well we've both lived all over--California, Texas, the South--but currently I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. There are a lot of creative musicians in the area, and a half decent rock scene. Exposure is a bit of an issue in Pennsylvania; there have been a couple of acts that made it out, most notably Breaking Benjamin.
Chris and Josh, you write the music together. What's your process? How do you make it work?
Josh: Well it has often been that I come up a riff or a hook and present it to Chris and we build it out from there. He will come up with killer bass and drums parts, and then add some vocals. We've been pretty blessed, actually, because it's been fairly effortless when it comes to writing music. It's never been a problem to be on the same page.
Better Day is your third record. How would you say you've grown since you started? What's changed, what's stayed the same?
Chris: We've learned a great deal about songwriting and how to get better production quality, especially in our sessions with Barry Blair. We work with an awesome studio in the area called SI Studios. The guys there Tom and Wiggy are so talented. We wouldn't want to record anywhere else.
How'd you get hooked up with Barry Blair, and what has that partnership meant to you guys? How much did he participate?
Josh: Barry actually reached out to us after he heard some of our songs online. Actually I thought it was a joke, because he was one of my favorite guitar players growing up! We flew him up to Pennsylvania for a week; he stayed in our dad's house and he was awesome to work with.
Chris: Barry taught us a lot about fine tuning the details of our songs, so the quality of our writing improved a ton. For example, he completely rearranged our song "Born Again," and he really pushed us to get a better performance on the record. We learned the art of the retake!
You guys have a late '90s Christian rock vibe in your music. Were you inspired by bands of that era, and if so, which ones?
Chris: We actually been inspired by music from all eras and genres. Big influences for me were the Beatles, Van Halen, Rush, and John Bonham. Vocally I've always been influenced by bands like Alice in Chains. When it comes to Christian rock, some favorites are Pillar, Spoken, and Disciple.
There's a definite hint of old-school Skillet in your songs. Have you heard this before, and what do you think about that?
Josh: That is kind of funny to hear that because we sort of a saw ourselves as the Christian Alice in Chains! Especially on some of our older songs like "Salvation" from our second record, Awakening. We certainly take the Skillet comparison as a compliment! It's actually nice to get an outside perspective because we see ourselves one way, and others can see something completely different! Hopefully, our future holds a similar one to Skillet, maybe we'll even get to play together someday!
If you could go back in time and tour with any Christian rock band from its heyday, which would you want to, and why?
Josh: Haha we talked about this not too long ago and we'd have loved to tour with Audio Adrenaline and dcTalk--especially on the Jesus Freak Tour!
What's an XD Out show like? What are some things that really stand out as uniquely you guys?
Chris: Our shows have always been a very energetic event! We've only ever played as a trio show we developed a big sound for live shows! Since we are brothers we get a little nutty with the banter, but it's a good time for us and the crowd.
What would you say you bring to Christian rock that maybe has been missing?
Josh: Well it seems the rock genre is a lot less crowded now, and the bands who are doing it are great. I think we bring our own brand of down-to-earth, organic rock-n-roll. Simple bass drums and guitars. Layer Chris' voice and his unique ear for harmonies on top and we have an energetic entertaining sound. I think we make a nice addition to the bands who've been carrying the rock mantle.
What's next for you guys?
Chris: We are in the midst of writing and recording our fourth album at the moment. We are really excited to see where it goes. We have three songs about done and are going in the studio later this month to record a few more. We may also release an EP of a couple songs that didn't quite make it on Better Day. We've recorded a ton of music over the years and there are a few songs that are really rocking and we think people would enjoy.
How can we be praying?
Josh: We really just want to make music that is an encouragement to people and we would ask that people pray for the Lord work through our songs. If it would be on anyone's heart, we certainly could use prayer for the financial support to travel and record as we are independent and self-funded. Ultimately though, it's our heart's desire to be in God's timing whatever form that may take.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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