Red's highly anticipated debut release, End of Silence, delivers a powerful sound while tackling real life issues that all of us face. Red hopes their music reaches people in a way that causes them not to feel alone in their struggles. Recently, bass player Randy Armstrong took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with Angel from New Release Tuesday™ about their debut CD, where the band is headed and who they want to impact along the way.
The band's lineup includes Michael Barnes (lead vocals), Jasen Rauch (guitar), Randy Armstrong (bass, piano, BGV's), Anthony Armstrong (guitar, BGV's), along with drummer Hayden Lamb. Album credits include Dove nominated producer/songwriter Rob Graves; mixed by Ben Gross (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fuel and Sixpence None the Richer); and Composer Bernie Hermes.
Angel calls their release the "most unforgettable debut project of the year." And there's a reason for that! Join us as we pull back the curtain and present to you Red—one of the most buzzed about bands to crash through the Christian rock world.
How did you come up with the title for your debut project?
End of Silence is something we would like to turn into a movement where Christian's can openly share their faith with others and talk about where they've been in life. A lot of people are looking for an opportunity to witness, but they don't know how to do it. When we thought of the title, End of Silence, we were thinking: "Well, this is our opportunity. In the past two years only a few people have known about the project. Now, we finally have our first record out, we finally get to speak to people through our music, and this is the end of our silence!" As we thought about it more, we were also hoping that Christian's would not be afraid to talk to others about dark subjects and to share the negative experiences in life that led them to seek God out for the answers. This can help people to see how you got out of your struggles and into a relationship with God. We know this hasn't been easy for some people, but we have to reach out to others, and stop being silent about our faith!
The messages on End of Silence are uniquely deep and thought-provoking. Your lyrics deal with the emotions people experience when they're going through difficult periods in their life and the situations that caused them. What inspired you to take that direction?
Christian music is uplifting, and I feel our lyrics deal with themes that Christian music is evolving into. Musicians are trying to find a way to meet people where they're at, and most of us in the band didn't grow up in ideal situations with perfect families. So many kids are dealing with difficult circumstances, and I think things are just getting worse out there. Families are continuing to break up, forcing kids to have to deal with tough issues way before they need to. Early on, these kids become very unhappy with life and they make a decision that they just want to give up. We want to meet people where they're at and explain to them that we have struggled in life, and we know you're struggling, too. There are so many more people facing challenges out there, and you have to realize you're not struggling alone. When Jasen was four his father committed suicide and that was really difficult for him. We have come from broken situations and we have made mistakes, but we want to let [the readers of NRT know], a relationship with Christ really helped us and it can help you. If you have faith and you believe in His word, then you realize that Christ has conquered death and He has conquered everything! Finding Christ and having a relationship with the Creator of the earth and the Creator of everything can ultimately change you . . . and you can be reborn again!
That is so true. He has conquered everything, including every challenge we could ever face! How did you come up with the name for your band?
"Red" symbolizes the blood of Christ. We wanted a name that was short, meaningful and easy to remember. We had to make sure we could use the name "Red," so we searched for two and a half years before we got the trademark for our band name. Many people have used the name "Red" in their music, or in the name of a band like the "Red Hot Chili Peppers," or "Simply Red," but nobody has ever used just "Red" as a band name. I thought that was amazing!
That is amazing! That name was meant just for you.
Can you explain some of the themes on End of Silence?
"Breathe Into Me" is our first single, and it's about a person who feels like they have tried everything but have finally reached the end of their rope. They have experienced God somewhere in their life, but they didn't necessarily turn to Him. Instead, they tried to control things on their own. The first verse says:
"This is how it feels when I / Ignore the words you spoke to me / And this is where I lose myself / When I keep running away from you."
If you let that go on too long, you'll be on your death bed spiritually! This person, in the song, finally realized they couldn't do it anymore without Him. So they cried out to God, saying, "Breathe your life into me"–to help them get back on track.
We did two different versions of "Already Over." The first version is full production and it's basically talking about addictions. The person knows that these addictions are affecting their life, but they just keep running to it. Deep down inside they know it's going to destroy them but it's an addiction controlling them. Tragically they "offer up their soul." The second version, "Already Over, Pt. 2," talks about running to something different. This time they are running to the answer, which is God, and finally allowing Jesus' power to overcome temptation. The moment we finally "offer up our souls" to Jesus, it's "already over," the darkness fades, we are forgiven of our sins, and we can rest in His peace. When you listen to the first version and then you listen to the second version, you see the redemption that takes place between the two songs.
The song "Wasting Time" is about resisting the devil and standing strong in our faith. You're at a place spiritually where you're fighting back, telling Satan: "Don't even waste your time; you're not going to get me! This time I'm pushing back!"
"Let Go" is also dealing with a spiritual battle. You're fighting back, talking to the negative things in life that pull you down like stress, worrying about finances or anything that just drags us down and gets us into a rut. You're just telling all those things to "Let go," you have no business with me–God has conquered them, He has conquered everything! There is a point in the song where Michael is whispering back saying, "You keep twisting me; you keep breaking me." He's telling them, "You can't have me anymore," and at the end of those whispers he screams, "let go" for about 12 seconds. This song is about coming to a point where you find the strength and the courage to resist Satan, telling him to "Let go!"
I have been there; I know what that's like.
We are going to get there over and over again in our life. It's a constant spiritual battle that goes on in our head and all around us.
Did you feel God calling you to get involved with Christian music?
Anthony and I are identical twins, and we have known Michael since the 3rd grade. We're from a small town in Pennsylvania, called Linesville, where the three of us grew up together performing in bands and playing to youth groups. We always had a heart for Christian music; it was just something we wanted to do. When we were seniors in college, a couple of us received confirmation from God. We were at Creation Festival with a friend, up on Lookout Mountain, and we started praying. Right there God told me that I would be a Christian musician. I came off the mountain smiling, and my parents told me they would never forget the look on my face. We were just young kids from a small town (21-22 years old), and it was scary to move away from everything we had known our whole life to do this. We knew we had nothing going for us—we didn't have a job or any financial security when we left—but we knew we had to step out in faith, and go to Nashville to pursue the call of God on our lives.
What happened once you moved to Nashville?
Anthony, Michael and I moved to Nashville together about four years ago. Michael went to school for nursing, so he got a job working in the emergency room in downtown Nashville, and Anthony and I got jobs working in the mall. Even though we had to work in the mall, all the networking that ultimately happened for the band happened between my brother and me meeting people at the mall. Through our networking, we met Jasen and our original drummer, who is no longer with us, and we started the band. Since Jasen worked in a recording studio, he was able to get us free recording gear, and he also met our producer, Rob Graves. So we started the process of recording our demos and then we let Rob listen to them. Rob really believed in our music, so he took us under his wings, signed us to his publishing company and funded the entire demo process. Rob had an office at Paragon Studio, and he was able to get us free studio time. Since we weren't signed to a label yet, Rob was funding the project. When other paying bands came to use the studio, we got kicked out of our spot since the studio had to make money. For this reason, it ended up taking about two years to get four tracks done. Once we got the four tracks done, we sent them around to different labels here in town and Provident Label Group was the first one to jump on it! God opened all the doors that needed to be open and here we are!
I don't blame Provident for jumping on it. You're very talented musicians to be able to deliver such a unique blend of passionate vocals, heavy guitars and intense string arrangements. When I heard you debut project, I was really impressed with the way you combined classical influences with hard rock. What inspired you to do this?
When we first formed the band, we were really influenced by Christian music, and didn't know that much about mainstream music, which is kind of hard to believe. But, Jasen brought that element into the band, and he showed us what he was into growing up. We started talking about what we could do to bring a unique sound to the people. We love classical music, so we talked about combining classical elements with hard rock. We set out to do that, so we sat down with composer Bernie Hermes (Natalie Grant's husband), and Rob Graves. We showed Bernie our ideas with our demos and he started playing on the piano. If you listen to the "Intro" track on the record, you hear Bernie talking in the background, and it's a session with Bernie and Rob. Bernie is talking about the ideas he had for our music, and we recorded that session on tape. While we were playing the piano, we thought it would be a cool idea to add the string arrangements to our project. So, from the piano arrangements we added the string arrangements, and that's how we created our sound. We just wanted to do something different that Christian music didn't necessarily need but was lacking.
I was amazed by your arrangements. They build up such emotion and then you've wrapped powerful messages inside that musical emotion. For me, a good album may have 4 or 5 songs on it that I enjoy listening to, and then I skip over the rest. When I listened to End of Silence, I didn't skip over any song. Every song on there is amazing! In my opinion, your album is going to be the most unforgettable debut project of the year.
Bernie did some amazing work on our new project, and we were also very fortunate to have Rob Graves as our producer. We developed a great relationship with Rob; he is like a brother to us. We really wanted to control the sound of the band and everyone around us, including Provident Label Group, were all for it. They let us work with the people we had been working with, and that meant a lot to us. When we first recorded the demo, we had no idea that our project was going to end up this way, but one thing led to another and it just did. It was a total God thing! He opened up so many doors for us. It took some time, and it really worked our patience, but it was worth it.
What are your tour plans?
We are currently on the Reborn Tour with Day of Fire, Decyfer Down and Fighting Instinct, and we will be at 12 major festivals this summer. In August, we are headlining a tour with Decyfer Down that will start at Spirit West Coast and will probably extend into the Midwest. You can go to our web site www.redmusiconline.com and check our tour schedule, as dates are still being added.
What are your aspirations for the band?
I think just to have longevity and constantly make music that people respond to. We are making music and writing lyrics from our past, because we want to reach people where they're at. I think bands are really going in that direction because people are tired of having Jesus thrown in their face. We're on the Reborn Tour now and Josh (from Day of Fire) made this great point, which was: The world doesn't need any more churches; the world needs more love. People are going to experience Jesus through somebody who speaks of life, and from somebody who understands that loving them like God is what will capture their attention—then more people would be attracted to God.
As far as our career goals, I'll be straightforward with you: At the time, we were looking for a booking agent and interviewing with Third Coast Artist Agency. (Third Coast is our agent now.) They sat us down and asked us, "What are your goals for a Christian band, and what can we do to help you?" We replied, "We want you to put us in a position to conquer Christian music. Our goal is to be a mainstay in the industry, to be a household name, a band that will be around for a long time." We told them, "We wanted to be the most well known Christian Rock band in history!" I remember asking them, "Doesn't every band that comes in here want to be the biggest Christian rock band in history?" They said they never had anybody come in there with the answer we gave them. They said most bands are just looking for somebody to book shows for them. They felt like bands nowadays don't want to go all the way in Christian music–they are just looking for the quickest way to mainstream. We told them, "We want to be that core band for Christian music," and they were very encouraged with our answers. We were really surprised! We thought we gave they them the same answer that every other band does, but they never heard of that before!
You have over 22,000 MySpace
"friends" in just over a year, which will only grow with the release of End of Silence. There is a message posted at your MySpace site that reads: "THIS SITE IS RUN BY THE BAND. IF YOU SEND THE BAND A MESSAGE WE WILL WRITE YOU BACK ASAP. WE RESPOND TO ALL EMAILS!" What made you want to respond to each and every email?
We want people to know that we're not up there for ourselves, but we're up there for the people we're playing for. We'll get up on stage and perform but afterwards we'll talk to the kids. I feel that it's more important for us to be available for them after the show, and answer their questions and pray with them. We just want to be real with them and not put ourselves up on a pedestal just because we're in a band. We receive attention from that naturally, but the attention is not that important to us. The important thing is that we see that our music is affecting others. The only way for us to do that is to make contact and connect with our fans, and let them know we genuinely care about them.
When I was a kid, I would have given anything to have a MySpace account to make contact with my favorite bands. I would have loved to have contacted dcTalk, Jars of Clay and Audio Adrenaline to let them know how their music affected me and to ask them questions and advice. We put that disclaimer on MySpace to let them know you are actually talking to the band and not talking to a web person or somebody at the record label. We are taking the time to take care of the page ourselves, because we care about you.
Can you share any emails that you've received from your fans that really stand out?
There was a kid who saw us at GMA week who was really struggling. He got a copy of our CD through his youth pastor, and on his way to the cemetery to visit his parent's grave, he started to listen to "Pieces." He told us that he was in tears all day, because he never had a worship experience like he had with our music. I was almost blown away and humbled, because we are not a worship band by any stretch of the imagination. For him to say, "I have never worshiped like that before in my life," was amazing to us! When you see God move, it does something to you. His email was very encouraging to us. We are just servants and we're trying to serve people just as much as we possible can. We hope it never gets to the point where we can't answer emails and make contact with the fans because they are the reason why we do this.
Randy, thank you for sharing with NRT and for this incredible opportunity to help introduce Red to the world!
Angel (pictured above with her husband and the members from Red), a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.