RED's End of Silence was a debut album that lived up to its name, breaking onto the scene in 2006 with an auditory and thematic intensity that refused to be ignored. Over the past ten years, countless listeners have found a reflection of themselves in the songs' passion and honesty.
The now-veteran rock outfit decided to celebrate a decade of the album's impact with a deluxe re-issue of the project and a special tour centered around the songs that first brought RED to listeners' ears. Songs like "Breathe Into Me," "Already Over" and "Pieces" were brought out to the stage as well as deep cuts like "Wasting Time" and "Hide."
In early November on the last weekend of the tour, I had the chance to sit down with guitarist Anthony Armstrong to look back at where RED has been and ahead to the new territory they're preparing to traverse in 2017.
We're at the tail end of the End of Silence anniversary tour. What has that experience been like, bringing out these songs and playing them again?
It's been I'd say nine years since we'd played some of the tracks. So it's definitely been nostalgic, taking the stage and playing the original first four songs we ever wrote in a garage before we ever got signed. It's pretty cool.
There's a couple things we're doing that people don't even realize we're doing. There's guitars on stage that we haven't used in ten years, stuff that we just wanted to bring back up. Playing these small clubs with these really intimate settings has been really cool. The crowd responses have been great.
One thing I think people often don't realize is that you have closed almost every set for ten years with "Breathe Into Me." Why have you made that creative decision?
It's obviously always the song that we revert back to. It's the song that put us on the map, it's the first song where anybody really got a taste of what RED was all about. Songs just have a way of making it for years to come, of being in the forefront of people's' minds. "Breathe Into Me," this being the tenth anniversary tour, we still wait til the very end of the show to play it.
We don't play the whole record in its entirety back to back and then play different stuff. We play through each record, two or three songs from each record, obviously all the songs from the first record. And then end with "Breathe Into Me." Like I said, it's just a lot about nostalgia, and it's something we've always done.
One of the songs that you've brought out at a couple of the shows is "If I Break," which was the one new song on the End of Silence tenth anniversary re-release. Do you want to talk about the evolution of that song, how it ended up where it is now?
Yeah, we started writing that song for the first record. It's one of those songs that we just kind of threw in the vault, that didn't make the cut. There's only so many you can put on a record before you have to say "OK, maybe we can use this for another time." And that was just one of those songs.
It already had some lyrics to it, the strings had actually been cut for it and all the other instruments had been done already. So we went back in there and added a little bit of programming, some cool elements to it. And then we basically rewrote the lyrics, because where we were then and where we are now, we're trying to find the happy medium between those two. We've just become better writers. So we put that one on the record.
The other one was "Circles," which was a demo. We literally just turned on record and started tracking. It's seven minutes long, and ideas just kind of poured out of us and we put them all together in one long, huge track. And obviously it would have never ended up being that way on an album, but just to give people a taste of how we sometimes write, we put it all in there.
A consistent theme in how you write, from End of Silence to now, is that you have a tendency to dive into the darker parts of the human psyche. Why has that been a consistent theme? What makes that a priority for you?
We just don't like the cookie cutter stuff, you know? There's a lot of that out there, and it's not something that speaks to us. When we were kids, the cookie cutter stuff didn't get into our souls as deep as this does. Because we're talking about real life things. And you've got the worship bands that do what they do, and do it well, but there's still a huge demographic of people that that's just never going to speak to. And we're those people, and this is a form of worship for us--and therapy, and you name it. It's the kind of music that we want to write, and we know that there's obviously lots of people out there that like it too.
The first record was called End of Silence. In our experience growing up, a lot of people are very quiet about their problems because they're afraid of judgment, they're afraid of people walking away from them if they find out that there is something dark about them, something that they may not necessarily like at first. A lot of people abandon their friends when they find out, even when you've been friends for years. And that's just really hard for people, so they tend to be quiet and reserved and reclusive about the things they do. And music is a way for people to open up and speak and talk and get through those situations.
So there are rumors that you're writing for a new record.
The rumors are true. We actually have already been writing for our new record, but we go full-on in December. So after this tour's over, we go to Winter Jam for 13 days, then we start writing head on for record 6.
You guys have somewhat gone on record saying that you might be moving away from the album model after this, looking at other ways to do things. What necessitated that shift, and what it would look like?
It's just fans not buying music. The paradigm shift that's happened with music consumption has changed the game for a lot of musicians and artists. There's just no value in buying a record anymore, people stream everything. So we have to adapt to survive, figure out a way to get our music out there, but still make a living so we can have the ability to travel and tour and perform for people. You know you make a record, and it doesn't stop there. You've got to be in front of people with it. They don't want to just hear something that you made in the studio, they want to see you and appreciate it live too.
A lot of bands are having a really difficult time financially. We've made it onto the radar. When we first came out, music hadn't quite made that huge shift yet where people were downloading everything. And that's why records just aren't selling anymore. The bands that are coming out now have such an uphill battle to make it, and that's why, that people don't consume music the way they used to.
So we're looking at doing things a little different. Maybe not releasing entire records, maybe feeding people slowly--do ten or twelve tracks for a new record, feed them one at a time, every couple weeks release a new song kind of thing. Do something different, something where it keeps you in the front of people's minds.
We've been doing it ten years, and a lot of bands call that a career, a lifetime. It just doesn't happen for everybody. We're very blessed and honored to have been doing this for ten years, and we want to do it for ten more years. So we're trying to do all of the things that we can think of to keep that relevance.
So with End of Silence having hit that ten year mark and the fact that fans are still singing along to those songs every night, what are qualities that you think has made it enduring, or that makes any album enduring?
Being in the band, it's hard to say this without sounding a bit narcissistic. But good songs just rise, the cream rises. Good songs will live on forever. And we've received emails and messages and letters from people for the last ten years about where they were when they heard that first record, how the songs have lived on with them in their hearts and minds and in their ears for ten years.
It's funny to hear when someone says "I was ten years old when that first song came out," and now they're graduated and they're at a college and they're super excited to come see our show again. The last ten years have gone by so quickly since we've just been doing nothing but touring and making music.
For some people, maybe they only ever hear one record, maybe they only ever hear one song, but when you remind them of that, it takes them back. And it may not necessarily take them back to a place they want to remember, but it also takes them back to good places. And I think both are good. I think if you can take them back to a dark place, they can be reminded of how they got out of that dark place. And if it was that song, that experience, that did that, people are excited and they want to experience it again.
As somebody who has put in the time grinding it out to get where you are now, what would you tell artists who are starting out now, with as much as things have changed in the past ten years? Would you have advice that you would give them?
I would say be vigilant about what's happening with music. Pay attention to the things that matter, and pay attention to the things that work. Starting a band now, like I said, it's an uphill battle, more than it ever has been. There are thousands of bands out there that will never see a record deal, that will never see the inside of a tour bus, that will never see another country. They just won't have the means or the music to make it happen. And that's just the reality. It's a fact.
But if it's something you truly want to do, and it's something that you've got your heart set on--we believe, like anybody that's done this, that we were the same way. We were dreamers, we wanted to do this for a living, and we stopped at nothing to make it happen. And we did. And it all boils down to the music. Like I said, if the music's there, the cream will rise. You will find a way to be in the forefront of people's minds and maybe sign a record deal, or maybe run independently like a lot of bands are doing now, and have a career.
Technology allows people to do so many more things without having a state of the art studio. You can record on your own and do some pretty amazing things with some new technology that helps people who didn't even go to school for music make a record.
Big picture, what does 2017 look like for RED?
In 2017 we are going to release a record. And we are probably going to tour heavily in Europe. we just got back from there not too long ago, right before the End of Silence tour started, and we had a lot of great experiences. We made some new connections over there with new promoters and new festival owners and stuff.
We're probably going to stray away from the Christian market a little bit and go back into the general market realm where we started. We haven't been at radio very much, so we're looking to maybe hit radio again. We have about a year before our record deal ends, and there's obviously things on the table there where we either resign or we don't, we maybe go independent ourselves and rely on our fans to make music. So it's going to be an exciting 2017. Obviously touring a new record and doing all the things we've done this year, but hopefully in support of some of our old buddies on the other side of the tracks.
You can see our official photo gallery from the End of Silence tour here.
Associate Editor Mary Nikkel’s 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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