An Interview with Ted Bond of Craig’s Brother
Written by Brandon Jones for Indie Vision Music
I have a long listening history with the band Craig’s Brother, starting with their first official label album “Homecoming” that I bought on release day back in 1998. I have followed them through the years and throughout all the gossip, hearsay, and general rebellion present in the group as a collective unit. My enjoyment of their intense music has lasted through the years and is still very much present now, as I spin their new track “The Mistake of Caring”. It’s been a long road for the band and they’ve had a tough uphill climb over the years to where we’re at today. This my friends, is my interview with frontman/guitarist/lyricist, Ted Bond.
So tell me a little bit about the history of Craig’s Brother. Where did you guys all meet and what brought you together as a collective group?
Ted Bond: We met in high school. We all kinda knew each other though we didn’t necessarily hang out in the same groups. It was like the last month or two of my senior year when Andy started jamming with Heath and Scott, after a few months they asked me to sing and I was into it. It was about a year before we added Adam on guitar.
You had a few demos in the 90’s which led to your signing with Tooth and Nail Records. Who signed you to the label and how did they get your demo?
Ted Bond: That’s an interesting story. The band, with the exception of Adam, felt strongly that we did not want to sign with a “Christian Label” since we did not want to be labeled as a Christian band. Adam, however sent the demo to T&N anyway. Bill Power loved it and offered us a deal. He and Adam essentially convinced us that T&N was not really a Christian label, but really belonged in the same category as us; they were Christians who ran a label not a Christian record label.
Your first release for the Nail was “Homecoming”, can you tell me a little bit about the creation of that record? What inspired the songs on “Homecoming” and what was the main lyrical theme of it?
Ted Bond: Homecoming was recorded at the West Beach studio in Hollywood. For us it was a big deal recording there because tons of our favorite bands had recorded there and it was partially owned by members of Bad Religion. Not only that, but the engineer/producer was Donnell Cameron who had engineered almost every BR record at that point. The record was written pretty evenly between Andy, Adam and I, and it addresses a number of issues, but I would say the two main themes are friendship and the tension experienced by Christians who would honestly engage their church and their culture.
You guys lost a couple of members after the release of “Homecoming” and those two went on to form Too Bad Eugene. What was it like losing those two guys and how did you move forward?
Ted Bond: I kind of expected Adam to quit because he was always the odd man out, but I was really shocked that Andy quit too. He had started the band after all. I was pretty mad at Andy. It took us about a year to recover, but by summer of ’99 we were out on the road again with Ryan Key and Dan McClintock
There was a 3 year gap between “Homecoming” and “Lost at Sea”, which in punk language, is nlike an eternity. Ha. What were the big differences between your label debut and the sophomore outing?
Ted Bond: Ok. So after reforming the band in ’99 we went into the studio and recorded Lost at Sea in January of 2000. The experience was totally different. With Homecoming we had everything completely planned out before we set foot in the studio, with LAS we came up with a lot of stuff on the spot, and we took a generally experimental approach to making the record. Working with Dan was amazing. Whereas with Andy and Adam, everything was a competition, with Dan it was pure collaboration, I don’t remember arguing once about the music. Unfortunately T&N dropped us in the spring of 2000, and then waited a whole year before finally releasing the record.
I remember hearing rumors about “Lost at Sea” being one of the most expensive Tooth and Nail albums to produce, was this true or just a rumor?
Ted Bond: That’s laughable considering that they did not spend any money on marketing. The budget was actually the same as Homecoming minus marketing. Maybe the source of the rumor is that we went over budget with the choir. We had to record that here in Santa Cruz and add it in later, and it ended up costing an extra 500 dollars. Bill Power was pretty mad about the $500 and it was one of the main issues that led to our split with T&N, but in my view it was completely worth it and necessary for the record. I even offered to pay it myself. I still don’t understand why it was such a big deal. I can assure you that the budget for LAS wasn’t even half of the budget for bands like the Supertones, or MXPX, or any of their more successful bands.
“Lost at Sea” is a classic release and one of the finest punk rock albums to come out in the past decade or so. It’s such an underrated album. Why do you suppose it has reached such a cult status among fans and what do you think has led to the longevity of Craig’s Brother as a band?
Ted Bond: I don’t want to say the lack of marketing helped, because it didn’t, but it says something. People who purchased Lost At Sea did it because they knew what they wanted not because it happened to be on a shelf in Christian book store. In fact it wasn’t on the shelf at first. T&N didn’t even tell their distributers about it. The distributors found out about it because people were requesting it. The truth is, we poured our hearts into that record and it shows. Every song is great IMHO. When you find a record that’s good and unknown its like being in on a secret. The fact that there was no marketing meant that this record was promoted primarily through word of mouth, and isn’t that the essence of a cult following?
Everything from the boys Choir to Sean’s (Yellowcard) violin playing on the album, has made it a big budget sounding release and the production has really held up to the test of time. Do you feel that “Lost at Sea” is your greatest release ever? Do you feel it truly is a “classic” after all these years?
Ted Bond: So far LAS is my favorite release. I remember thinking the production was super awesome too, though I have to admit, it sounds dated now. I can’t believe how much our standards have changed! I was listening to the raw tracks (unmixed, no effects) for the new record and it basically sounds like Homecoming. I suppose I would agree that LAS is in some sense a “classic”.
Ryan Key (Yellowcard frontman/guitarist) was a member of your band for a short while, did he play on “Lost at Sea”?
Ted Bond: Nope. We didn’t really like Ryan’s songs all that much. Some of the idea’s that became Yellowcard hits were originally written by Ryan with Craig’s Brother in mind, but I think the only song we were willing to play was AWOL.
Why was Craig’s Brother dropped from Tooth & Nail Records? What happened to you guys that caused this rift with the label?
Ted Bond: I already mentioned the 500 dollars, but that was only one of many issues. I also mentioned the fact that CB was initially against signing with a Christian label, so our relationship was tenuous to begin with. Brandon never liked us. Bill liked our music, and he convinced Brandon to sign us, but Brandon was never really totally on board.
At the same time I was never too impressed with Tooth and Nail, and after meeting them and seeing the office my distaste grew. I couldn’t help but feel like the whole thing was creepy. The label makes money by taking advantage of bands and Christians, that’s the business model. Record labels have been notoriously shady in the way they deal with musicians, and I can handle that, but when it’s done under the umbrella of Christianity, it really bothers me.
The first issue to arise was upon the release of Homecoming. The song Going Blind addresses the issue of lust in a frank manner. Its actually really tame, but apparently someone was offended and they complained to Family Book stores, who in turn freaked out and sent all the Homecomings back to the distributor. The distributor, which happened to be T&N’s largest, in turn dropped CB. Obviously Bill and Brandon were not too happy about this, but within a few months desire for Homecoming, led Family Book stores, and the distributor to pick us back up.
The next issue that was pretty important was the fact that Andy and Adam quit in the summer of ’98. Remember Adam was the one who had pushed us to sign to T&N in the first place. When we began to reform the band with Dan and Ryan, it was really a different project, with a different aesthetic.
Then after spending most of the first half of ’99 touring our butts off, our van cracked a head. With no money, and no means of fixing the van, we cancelled our plans for touring the rest of the year and went home. At this point Ryan had begun to realize that we weren’t going to play his songs. He had got a taste of the Rock Star dream, and he was determined to keep touring even if we did not, so he quit and went home and started playing with Yellowcard. Looking back, I think Ryan was right. We should have borrowed money from wherever and kept touring.
Anyway. So Ryan quit and left Dan in California with the Craig’s Brother craziness (Ryan and Dan were both from Jacksonville, FL where they pretty much grew up together). Dan hung around long enough to do LAS, but he was homesick, and he quit in early 2000. (he immediately went home and recorded In Recovery with his band Inspection 12, an amazing record that has songs that talk about the whole CB thing, and at least one song that was a potential song for LAS). At this point we struggled with some guitar players who really were not working out and we played a few pretty embarrassing shows. Heath, who had become engaged to a chick who was not very supportive of the band, (even though that’s how they met), then quit in the fall of 2000, coinciding with his marriage.
I managed to find Steven Neufeld, who recorded on EPidemic and the new stuff, and Juice Cabrera, the current drummer of HeyMike!. The band was back to being functional, and we did some tours in early 2001. At this point, however, I was the only Christian in the band, and it was feeling really wrong to play churches and such. Then, someone took a picture of Juice flipping off the camera, and put it on our website, I didn’t even know about it until Family Book stores and in turn their distributor dropped us again. This was the final straw for T&N and they dropped us. Of coarse a few months later Family Book stores and their distributor picked us up again.
Why do you think Craig’s Brother have been labeled “Infamous” by some people in the industry and how do you feel about “rebellion” in your music?
Ted Bond: Craig’s Brother is infamous. We deserve that label. We are crazy. I am not saying it’s a good thing but it’s a fact. It’s funny, because Heath and I are the two people in the band who are serious Christians, and we have been the two craziest and most self destructive members. We are not presenting ourselves as role models of anything other than how to be good artists (hopefully). In fact we have sacrificed our ability to be role models for the sake of good art (ie. by being honest about struggles with lust in songs like Going Blind, we are no longer able to be role-models in some sense). It is in our aesthetic, art is good when it is honest, art is saccharine when it attempts to model good behavior.
As far as “rebellion” in our music… Yes. Our music is a little bit rebellious. It’s Punk Rock after all. One thing that’s really refreshing about being in a somewhat Christian context is that it’s actually possible to offend someone. Rebellion isn’t just a gimmick to sell records, in fact it hurts your record sales. In that sense we deserve some credit for being genuinely challenging. Nobody gets offended by bands who write completely profane and lude lyrics anymore, because its old hat. Being offensive for its own sake has become recognized as a means of selling records and not really challenging anything. But to come along and say, “Your understanding of Christian engagement with the world is wrong and needs to change” is actually threatening to a lot of people, especially those who are making money off of the current situation.
Rebellion is a word that Christians don’t like because it describes the wrong attitude toward God and authority. Yet rebellion is one of the defining qualities of Rock and Roll, Punk, Hip Hop, Heavy Metal, etc. If we as Christians are to genuinely engage these subcultures, we can’t abandon their defining characteristics. If we do we wind up with something different.
What we need to recognize is that the Rock and Roll understanding of rebellion is not the same as the Christian understanding of rebellion. For Christians rebellion is a rejection of Gods will for your life, and a refusal to obey the laws of the land, or respect those in authority over you. In Rock and Roll, rebellion is the questioning of the established power structures. Questioning our culture and our government is actually very much in line with what the Bible calls prophecy. If we understand rebellion to mean speaking prophetically to our culture, then Christians are actually called to rebellion.
Yes CB wants to be rebellious, but not rebellious against God, rather, rebellious against a culture and church that hates God.
Do you think it’s fair that people have improperly labeled you guys?
Ted Bond: I am not surprised that some people have misunderstood us and that others have understood us and hated us. I think my previous answer essentially sums it up.
Craig’s Brother broke up for a few years following “Lost at Sea” but came back strong with “Epidemic” in 2004. What led to the first break up and what inspired you to push forward with new members and record a new ep in 2004?
Ted Bond: After Heath, our original drummer quit, I attempted to keep the band going with Juice and a guy named Tristan on drums, but it just wasn’t working out. Heath has a really unique style, and it really has a lot to do with why we sound the way we sound. After a year of working with other drummers I finally came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t the same band without Heath. In 2004 Heath’s wife (the band killing sort), left him. After that it was on again.
How well do you think that ep was received? I know there was some political statements made on that record, how did your fans take it?
Ted Bond: I think the EP went over all right… By 2004 we were playing pretty much secular venues exclusively, and that audience liked it I suppose.
What happened with Takeover Records?
Ted Bond: Technology happened and the music industry couldn’t keep up. Record Labels are obsolete for the most part.
It has been 6 years since the release of your last album. I am ready to start labeling you guys the Social Distortion of melodic punk rock. Lol. Why has taken so many years to record a follow-up?
Ted Bond: Mostly because I had babies. Babies take a lot of time and dedication. Now that they’re a little older I have a little more freedom to rock.
In the years that followed “Lost at Sea” and “Epidemic”, how has your personal opinions/attitudes changed? What do you have to tell the world now, that you didn’t have the opportunity (or time) to tell on prior releases?
Ted Bond: I don’t know man. I don’t feel like I’ve changed all that much. I’m older, wiser, less anxious and fatter, but my viewpoint and message are still the same. The only difference is that I am more convinced than ever. I think when we first started the band I had this view that Christian music was somehow less sincere. I think often it is, but what I’ve come to realize is that being a Christian gives me a specific cultural vantage point that is powerful and worth leveraging. When it comes to ethical issues, Christians are speaking from within a 2000 year old tradition that has had profound influence on western culture. Whether or not the culture we live in likes us, or what we think about morality, when we say something about it, they pay attention. That means that when I step out as a Christian and a Punk rocker, I am more easily engaged by the listener, Christian or not, than if I were to step out as only a Punk Rocker.
Just to be clear the central message of CB for Christians has been that we have failed to use Christian music as the mission field we want to claim it is. That is, it is a different audience that attends a Christian Punk show than the one that attends a secular show. This is not the case everywhere, but mostly that is what I have observed. The reason for this is not because the world has rejected the church, but vice versa, the church does not want to participate in the culture of the world. Rock and Roll, and especially Punk is dangerous. There’s sex and drugs and violence and Christians are mostly just plain afraid of that stuff. So instead of teaching our youth, who would be punks, to go out into the world and represent Christ by being different, we have made a safer version within the confines of what we can control. We have brought the punk into church while leaving the punkers out. I think that’s a shame.
Of course participating in the culture of the world means writing music that non-Christians would want to listen to, and that means that you can’t write songs that speak in Christian-ese, and church lingo (though I have to admit I break my own rule by mentioning “the fall” twice on the new album). It also means you are held to a higher standard of quality. For us that’s what its all about. The standard is the highest standard ever; it’s the glory of God. We want to be the band that’s so good that the non-Christian can’t help but love it even if they hate God.
What is the title of the new album? When will see the release of your new album? How many songs are on it and can you give me a tracklisting? Are there any special lyrics that you’d like to share with our readers?
Ted Bond: I will tell you that there are 11 tracks, 12 on the Japanese release, but other than that you’ll just have to wait and see….
Lyrically, how is this new album different from your past material?
Ted Bond: I think it talks more directly about issues of spirituality than either of our other records, but it also deals with drug use and sex and war… There’s a break up song, a love song in a minor key… you know a good variety.
Is there an overall theme to the new album?
Ted Bond: Only that it completely rocks.
Who produced these new set of songs and how do you think the production stacks up against your earlier work?
Ted Bond: Kyle Black is the producer. I have to thank Ben from Takeover for introducing us. He is amazing. This production is without a doubt the best sounding recording we have ever made. Part of the deal is that Kyle is sort of cutting his teeth with us. He is up and coming and has done a lot of singles for other acts, as well as editing for groups like Menudo and such, but we are his first full length. What I love is that he is just as obsessed as we are. Part of the reason this record is taking so long is that we are not limiting ourselves in terms of time. We are obsessing and nailing every detail and it shows. People are going to crap their pants when they hear this. It sounds like major label stuff, and it just proves that labels are not really a necessary part of the production.
Will Craig’s Brother tour in support of this new album and if so, where might we see the band travel to?
Ted Bond: We’re definitely going to Japan and probably Quebec… other than that we’ll just have to see. I want to go to Europe.
What bands would you love to tour with?
Ted Bond: The Eagles mostly, or Gwar.
Your lyrics have always had a slight spiritual bent to them and deal with matters of Faith, hope, love, betrayal, and loss. Do you still feel the same way about issues of Faith here in 2010?
Ted Bond: I think I have already addressed this to a certain extent but… Yeah, my faith is a huge part of my music even still. In fact, as far as I am concerned, the band is one giant exercise in faith. I would say that this record delves further into spiritual matters than our previous releases.
How has Faith played a role in the creation of music for Craig’s Brother?
Ted Bond: We have stepped out in the belief that God has called us to be a better band than anything the world or the church has to yet to offer. This is pure faith. We were not exactly good when we caught this vision, but we believed and we acted upon it and the Lord provided. I never would have imagined 15 years ago that I would have liked the records I made more than Lagwagon or NOFX or Bad Religion (my favorite punk bands), but today it is true. In terms of skill, I don’t think that we are actually better than those bands, and in that sense, we have room to improve, but I like our songs more, and for me that’s a huge accomplishment of faith.
What inspires you the most when it comes to songwriting?
Ted Bond: I dunno. It’s a lot more practical then you would think. I just sit there and sing random syllables and then sometimes I’ll think something like “this sounds like a song about a captain going down with the ship” or something. I usually like to have an engaging premise of some sort, or else something that was emotionally important to me.
What people have had the biggest influence on your life as a musician?
Ted Bond: Mostly the member of Craig’s Brother. Heath Konkel, Scott Hrappoff, Andy Snyder, Dan McClintock, Steven Neufeld, and most recently I have been incredibly inspired by the music of Chris Merritt.
Who continues to influence you on a daily basis?
Ted Bond: Chris Merritt, Chris Merritt, Chris Merritt. He plays Piano on the new album by the way.
How do you feel about other bands sharing their Faith through music?
Ted Bond: It’s awesome if that’s what they are really doing. But I would argue that a band that chooses to represent Christ by rocking faces is going to reach more non-believers than a band that focuses on an alter call at every show.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring musicians?
Ted Bond: Don’t doubt that God has called you and equipped you to be truly excellent.
What are your top 5 favorite albums released in the past year?
Ted Bond: I don’t even think I bought one album that was released in the last year…
Top 5 albums of all time?
Ted Bond: Dude I can’t even go there right now. I am totally obsessed with Chris Merritt and it’s effected my ability to be rational about it. Here are some bands/records I have been liking
- Chris Merritt- Singularity
- A Wilhelm Scream
Can you tell me a little bit about your track “The Mistake of Caring” and it’s overall theme?
Ted Bond: It’s a song about opening your heart to someone and having them take advantage of you. It’s not really super profound or even necessarily Christian in its message, but consider this: When we love the way Jesus has called us to love, it makes us vulnerable to certain kinds of betrayal. It’s a bummer when someone treats your good intentions as if they were foolish.
How about the other two new tracks you released “Problem of Evil”, and “Thousand Yard Stare”?
Ted Bond: The Problem of Evil is a lamentation about how there is no satisfying explanation for sin and evil, and The Thousand Yard Stare is about soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Anything you’d like to share with our readers?
Ted Bond: Yeah. In the past, we in CB felt that we had to distance ourselves from the Christian punk scene if we were ever going to break into a secular audience. I have since come to realize that that was a mistake. A missionary does not go on a mission without the support of the church. In the same way, we need Christians to be on board with what we are doing. We are attempting to be a point of cultural overlap between Christianity and Punk Rock culture. If Christians do not show up at our shows then we have not accomplished our goal.
On the other hand, if we are truly going to be reaching out to punks, we can’t play a lot of churches. The Punks we want in our audience are not necessarily people who want to go to church, and they shouldn’t have to. Jesus commanded us to “go out into all the world…” not bring the world to church. So don’t expect us to come to your favorite Christian venue. Rather, help us achieve the goal by showing up when we play at your non-Christian punk friends’ favorite venue.
Well that about concludes our interview. I want to thank you Mr. Bond for answering myquestions and hopefully it’ll give our readers a little more insight into the inner workings of Craig’s Brother. If you have any prayer requests, please let us know. Let us know as fans, how we can best support your band. Many blessings to you and your band. Take care.
Ted Bond: Awesome. Please pray that God continues to open doors and pulls resources together as we finish this record. Please pray that God’s protection would be over the hearts and minds of the members of CB and their families as they complete this project and attempt to do some tours. Pray for wisdom with regards to the business of the whole thing, or maybe that God would bring along the assistance of someone with more business sense than us. Also pray that God would guide our words and actions, that they would be tools of good and not evil. Other than that, please purchase our new songs at www.craigsbrother.com and Itunes, and stay tuned for a new record.