It's been quite the journey for the lads of Righteous Vendetta
. From the halls of a Wyoming community college to sharing the stage with Skillet
, the independent hard rock band has enjoyed moderate success and considerable momentum.
NRT's Michelle Gillatt caught up with lead singer Ryan Hayes and guitarist Justin Olmstead to talk about their past, present—which includes newly released album, The Fire Inside
Before we start talking about all the exciting stuff you guys have got going on right now, let's go back to the roots. Explain how R.V. got started, where it got started and kind of your heart at the beginning of it.
We started about four-and-a-half years ago at a community college called Northwest College. We were both Christian dudes and we were like, “Let's make this thing a Christian gig.” Started playing with our piano professor and just started playing a few shows here and there and it grew into something bigger than that.
Did you guys have a mission when you first started? Or did you just want to play some music?
We definitely had a mission. The mission wasn't as in the forefront as it is now. It's kind of developed more into a missionary thing, but at first we were just kids that wanted to play music. We really weren't sure. We just wanted to bang on guitars and drums.
Since then you guys have released two full-length records. You've gotten some attention and known for how much touring you've done. Do you have any ballpark idea of how many tours or shows you've played in in the last few years?
In the last four and a half years we're somewhere over 900.
It's safe to say that live music—connection with fans is a passion for you guys? You guys had your first tour in Europe just this last year, right?
Yeah, that's right. We did six countries in central and eastern Europe. It was pretty cool.
It's something you guys would definitely go back to?
Absolutely, when we get the chance.
All that touring was based on your heavy metal sound. That was the direction that Righteous Vendetta was going at the time?
Yes. Up until last year about this time we were a little bit different.
With your newest single, "This Pain," and your upcoming album, it sounds like you are definitely moving in a new direction. Do you guys want to describe the decision behind your new sound and just what your new sound is all about?
We were doing so much touring and so much writing in that metal [phase], and we had an immature approach to music. We were just a bunch of kids that liked metal music. Then as we started maturing as musicians and songwriters, we wanted to start challenging ourselves in more ways than just technical guitar riffs. We wanted to make songs that people liked and we wanted to try and tap into a creative mindset of being able to create something that's well-rounded enough for everybody to be able to take something from.
Did you guys do all the writing yourselves?
I (Ryan) write all the lyrics, aside from a few that we write together, but most of the lyrics are just all from us, straight from my heart mostly and what I'm going through and how it relates to the Gospel. I tell stories of things that happened in my life. It all comes back to the Gospel, but we write all the lyrics ourselves.
I was going to ask you your heart behind this new album. Is your personal testimony in this album? Or did inspiration come from touring, or a combination of both?
There's no central concept to the lyrical content. Every song kind of has different ideas. There's everything from the apocalypse to "This Pain," which is about the detriment of suicide. "The Fire Inside" is about the Holy Spirit and its power. Every song is a much different facet of the Gospel. There's no real central concept. It's just what's on my heart at the time when I write it.
Has it been a good transition for you guys?
Absolutely. There's always going to be haters and we've had our fair share of them, but the positive feedback has far outweighed the negative that we've received. God's really just put it on our hearts to do this exact thing we're doing and we know that's what we should be doing and so we're doing it.
For this album that's coming out, what do you want listeners to feel after listening? For a listener that's never heard you guys before and they want to check you out, what's your hope for them when leaving your music?
There's a lot. We want people to walk away from the record obviously wanting to come listen again, to really dig deep into what it's all about, but we want people to leave the record not only convicted, but also at peace.
We want people to even be empowered by it. There are some songs in there that are about fighting back and I don't want to say be violent, but be... upfront and courageous and just super strong in your faith and not being scared to fight back or be bold in their faith.
There's a lot of really pump-up songs like that. There are a lot of slower songs about changing the world. We just want the record to empower people to repentance, to just further their relationship with Jesus and there's so many facets of that in the record. I think everyone can pull something from the record in that sense.
You tour with both secular and Christian tours. Will you guys will continue to tour with both mainstream and the Christian world if you can?
Yeah. We do both right now. The past few months we've been doing all secular stuff, but we definitely still do a lot of Christian stuff as well.
What's the next step for you? I know you're on tour right now. Do you want to explain the tour you're with?
Right now we're on tour with a band called Taproot. They had a hit back in 2005—a big song called "Poem." Our manager actually manages them so he got us out with Taproot right now. Actually we're sitting out in the van right now outside of the club that we're playing at tonight. It's very, very warm.
Just as a band, how do you guys stay close with your walk with the Lord when you're on tours, especially on the secular tours? Do you have the group doing devotions together or how do you encourage each other on the road?
We just all have been together for so long and have had the same vision and the same goals. It's one of those things where we don't even have to try. We just know that we're going to hold each other accountable. We know that if there's something in our lives that we need to be made aware of, we know that we're going to get called out on it and we know that it's going to be out of love.
We just grew to be each other's accountability partners. It's tough to say in particular what keeps us from temptation because we don't even really come across it. We don't really have that temptation just burning around all over us because we know that we're going to hold each other accountable and we just don't come across that.
You don't even entertain it or put yourself in the situations?
Yeah. We're a very boring band when it comes to that stuff.
How can we be praying for you guys here at NewReleaseTuesday?
Definitely be praying for the bands we're touring with. We're touring with all secular artists and we really get to see the lives of these people. They need jesus just as much as anybody does, but just be praying for them and for courage for us to really step out and be courageous because it can be really tough on the road, especially when you're surrounded by people that hate Jesus.
That's something that can be prayed for. Always pray for our band. We never know how it's doing. Those are the main things. Pray for courage. That's the big thing is just courage and keeping our minds focused on what we're out here for.