Breathing Out: A Conversation with TFK's Trevor McNevan
The Thousand Foot Krutch frontman shares about their latest release and this season as a band.
If you've been anywhere near the Christian rock scene in the past two decades, chances are you've heard of Thousand Foot Krutch-- and for good reason. From their humble beginnings as a Canadian rapcore-influenced garage band to their status as an iconic name that can easily carry an arena in fist-pumping, adrenaline-laced rock and roll, Thousand Foot Krutch has infused every moment with a passion for their craft and a dedication to God's calling that has kept audiences captivated.
With the release of new album Exhale, TFK takes that passion and dedication and breathes it out in one of their most bold and spirited records yet. I had the opportunity to talk to frontman Trevor McNevan about Exhale, Thousand Foot Krutch's legendary live performances and the view from the band's milestone 20th year.
You just released a new album and had a new baby on the same day. What has it been like trying to juggle those two things in these first couple weeks?
It's been unbelievable, man. We've had a pretty surreal couple weeks. To have the blessing of a beautiful new baby girl on the same day you release your musical baby is such a special experience. So it's been awesome, it really has. It's been wild, I'll tell you that much! Never been a dull moment!
So Exhale is the second part of a two part story you began with Oxygen: Inhale. How did the creative process for part two look different than for part one?
It's just such a great feeling to have Exhale finally released. Because it is part two to the Oxygen: Inhale/Exhale idea. Because we've been around 20 years actually, as insane as that sounds, we've made a bunch of records. So this idea was just fun and inspiring to us, to kind of be able to dive deeper on Inhale into the quieter moments that have always been a part of our records. And then on Exhale, to just be able to jump the gun towards the more aggressive side of the band that has obviously always been there as well. So it was fun, it was really inspiring and a lot of fun creatively. And we're really happy to finally have part two out.
So that said, with you guys having been a band for 20 years and releasing 8 studio albums, is there anything you still dream about doing as a band?
You're always dreaming, it's just a fun part of this. You start dreaming in your bedroom when you're a kid about if you feel called to music, and you never stop. 20 years later you're still dreaming and not taking it for granted, that's for sure.
I think for us, we'd love to do another live DVD. We've been talking a lot about the last one we did, Live at the Masquerade, which we did in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada actually. And that was in 2010, so we're due for a new one. We've got a lot of new music and just new dynamics and show elements. And our live show is a big part of who we are as a band. So we've been talking a lot about doing that, and we have new music videos in the works, and there's always bands it would be a blast to tour with. But overall we just love making music and love sharing it, and love just connecting with people. That's our heart, so we feel blessed and feel like we're just getting started.
You guys are taking some of those new songs out on the road this fall. You've got two big tours coming up, your own Exhale tour and then serving as support for Skillet on their Unleashed tour. What can fans expect to see from you guys on the road in the coming months?
Exhale starts in about two weeks, and that's our headlining tour. We really wanted to do something special and intimate to release this record, just classic rock clubs and smaller spaces. So we're really excited about it. We're bringing out our good buddies in Adelitas Way, and then Smashing Satellites and 3 Pill Morning. It's going to be awesome and a really fun rock show. These bands are great. We feel blessed to just be getting back out and connecting with this new music. So we're going to be trying to mix it up between the older catalogue and records and trying some fun new stuff as well.
The Skillet guys have been old buddies for a long time, but it's been a long time since we've toured together. So both of us have new records this summer, and we're excited to go out and support those guys. Devour the Day is coming out with us, so it's going to be a good one. We'd love to see you guys out there!
As you're moving into this new season with those tours and the new record, what do you feel is kind of at the heart of TFK's band, of your ministry, in this season? What are the themes that are really important to you right now?
Exhale being the new chapter of this journey for us, it touches on a lot of that stuff. This record has a lot of ties to just dealing with obstacles and issues and things that we deal with that feel like mountains at the time in our lives, those times when you're just standing there and that mountain in front of you looks impossible. It's about the faith steps, faith and fear and hope, and all those moments and the big God that we serve.
There's a level of vulnerability on this record, talking about the moments and the times in your life when you just come to the end of yourself. We're all imperfect, we're all broken, and we serve a big God, and it's OK and it's necessary to say "hey, I need help." That's a beautiful thing, not a downfall.
So this record really embraces that. There's a lot of conversations we want to have, to bring to the light. Whether it's obstacles or issues or anxiety, it's just a very honest and vulnerable record, and we're excited to have those conversations.
Out of all of those songs, do you have a personal favorite?
Man, this is always a hard question for me because as a songwriter, they're all special to you in different ways. But I will say I have a soft spot in particular for a song called "The River" off the new record. It just has this guilty pleasure vibe to me, and I love it. It's a little different for us. It's almost like a hard rock hymn. It kind of has this southern-gospel type vibe.
I think the reason it went there is that I've always thought there was something awesome about the verbiage that they use in old hymn. Whether someone goes to church or not, there's just something cool that we all relate to about the story of redemption. To me obviously, faith is my lifestyle, it's who we are. But to other people, whether they've been to church ever in their life or whatever they do, there's just something about the verbiage of being "washed in the water" talking about redemption, the idea of us all having stains and wanting that second breath, wanting that second start. I've always thought it's so cool that that's such a universal thing, regardless of the fact that a lot of that verbiage is in hymns. So this is kind of a hard rock hymn for us.
You went soft for one song on this record, and that song is "Honest." How did that song come about?
It really felt like the right way to end this record, to have this beautiful kind of quiet moment. And for this particular song, there was no other title that it could be. This song is very emotions-on-the-sleeve and very real to me. And the lyrics in the chorus, those are questions and words that I've spoken very many times in my life, where you're like "God, my heart is 100% for You, I want You to lead my life, I want to take my hands off the wheel." Yet you always find yourself back in those moments and those places where you're like "man, how did I get back here?"
So I just felt like it was a good time to talk about those questions and have that conversation. It's been a really special moment on the record for me. And yeah, it is the quietest moment by far, and it's been a bit of a common thread with our records before where the quieter moment caps off the end of the record. It just always kind of feels right.
So aside from that, the record is definitely pretty aggressive. Did you write these songs with the live show in mind? Was that part of the decision making process?
At this point in our career, it's not like you write it just for live, but it's definitely something always in the back of our heads when working on stuff as a songwriter. When you're out there touring all the time, and when you're creating new music outside of that, you're also thinking "what moment would we love to have that we don't have right now?" Or "what would be really fun to expand on?" And you kind of get stuff in your head as you go, you kind of collect it in the back of your head as you tour a record and get ready to make another one.
So it's not all you think about for sure, but it definitely plays a part.
How can we be praying for you, both personally and for your ministry?
For us, we have new kids being born-- Steve had a new baby born too. And we're about to embark on a very busy touring season. So I would love if you could stand with us in prayer for health, and for protection for our families. And for us on the road, for unity and God's covering and traveling mercies as we head out.
Associate Editor Mary Nikkelís love for writing, photography, videography and rock and roll have all been bound together by her love for Jesus, leading to her role with NRT. Her favorite things include theology and Greek language studies, her math grad student husband, obscure Nashville coffee shops, all things related to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and pushing the boundaries enacted by societal norms.
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