Sent By Ravens have had a pretty big year so far. Currently on the road with Project 86, just wrapped a tour with Emery and dropped their spohmore release on Tooth and Nail Records, Mean What You Say. I recently had the pleasure to interview vocalist Zach Riner via email.
The band name, Sent by Ravens, is biblical. It comes from the story of Elijah. The bible is filled with thousands of stories, what was the significance in this one story to drew out the name of the band?
God used “unclean” birds as a source of provision. I love the parallel between the ravens and us as human beings. None of us are perfect, however, we can still be there for others.
Prior to Our Graceful Words, your debut album on Tooth and Nail, The Effects of Prayer and Fashion received a lot of attention. Do you still have fans come up to you after shows telling you that they’ve been fans of you guys since that EP? Is it surreal for you guys?
That self released EP is still a favorite to a lot of fans, for sure. It shows a younger, more raw side of our band. I don’t think surreal is the exact word for the feeling. It’s more a feeling of appreciation. The fact that people stick with us through our seasons of learning and growth means the world to us.
Let’s talk about Our Graceful Words, it features a redone and “softer” version of “Trailer vs. Tornado”. This was a song from the Prayer and Fashion EP. Why redo it with a different feel?
For the record, we don’t like that version one bit. We’ve never played it live and never will. It was a producer choice that we didn’t agree with. It worked for radio and we understand why it happened, but, its a situation that we’re going to avoid in the future. There are no hard feelings. We just play it the way we want live. Sometimes you see kids who only know the new version and can watch as their expressions change when we play it the old way. I guess its our way of saying thanks to our fans who we’re mentioned in question #2, while at the same time, performing it the way we feel comfortable.
While we’re on the subject of redoing songs. Prayer and Fashion also featured a six minute worship song entitled “The Best in Me.” When fans pick up your latest offering, Mean What You Say, they will find a redone version of this song. Why re-release this track and shave off two minutes from it?
This situation is a bit different than “trailer vs. tornado”. We were able to shorten the song as we saw fit. This is one of our favorite songs and wanted it to go to radio. The reality is that radio doesn’t play 6 minute songs. It was a compromise that we all had peace about. Also, my wife was able to be involved again. That in itself makes it ok for me!
Let’s talk about this new record, Mean What You Say, you guys released in February of this year. A lot of the writing in this album was based on the actions of Westboro Baptist Church. Why has this had such an impact on you guys?
About two years ago, I learned about their actions and was instantly angered. As quick as it started, however, I immediately knew that feeling was wrong. We shouldn’t be so quick to point fingers and place judgement. This made me examine my own heart and the words I speak. “Mean What You Say” is completely introspective. Although I whole-heartedly disagree with the WBC, this album isn’t directed at them. It was meant to encourage others to pay attention to the words they speak.
Would you guys say that some of the body of Christ often struggle with hypocrisy, as Westboro has made so famous for Christians?
It’s not just a christian thing. I think everyone struggles with that at some point in their life, whether realized or not.
The video for “We’re All Liars” was released recently. It seems that most artists in the scene now-a-days don’t put any creativity into their videos. It shows you guys took time in thinking this out. What was the thought process in making this video’s storyline?
We were blessed with the opportunity to work with Daniel Davison (norma jean , underoath) again. His idea for this video fit perfectly with what I envisioned lyrically for the song. The song is simply a story. Its about a person who is hurt by a church and quickly points a finger back. As the song moves forward, the church realized they’re wrong and apologize. This person’s heart is hardened and soon sees they are treating the church the same way they had been treated. In the second chorus, the narrator is speaking introspectively. This video is the narrators dream (in my opinion).
I recently had the pleasure of seeing you guys on the Emery and Friends tour. You guys had Emery’s bassist fill in for you guys and your drummer fill in for Emery. What’s it like in doing something like that?
It’s great other than the fact those two had to play back to back sets. That was tiring on both of them. Dane knew he was filling in for the tour but Andy from Emery kind of got thrown into it. Our bass player sleepwalks regularly. First day of tour, he decided to sleep jump out of his bunk and shatter his nose. It was scary but I’m sure its going to be a running joke for a very long time :)
Summer is one of the biggest seasons for music. A lot of festivals, bigger tours and more. What can fans expect to see you guys doing in this upcoming summer season?
We’ll be playing a lot of the festivals along with a run with Project 86 in April and a few dates with Nine Lashes in May.
When it comes to album artwork, you guys are always a mystery. What are the stories and meanings behind the artwork for your Tooth and Nail released records?
We go for a bit of mystery in the artwork to leave it open for interpretation. We want people to form their own opinions. To me, the title “Our Graceful Words” was intended to be a bit sarcastic. The boy on the front cover was looking at a can attached to the ceiling. This was a direct line to God, or basically, prayer. The guy contemplated talking into it, but never did. We all have a direct line. A lot of us just choose not to use it.
The MWYS artwork was a representation of the way we sometimes follow things blindly. It paints a cautious picture of how weighty our words can be and how they can affect us AND the ones around us.
What is the one thing you guys hope fans can take from your music on a ministry basis?
Love others as we are all loved by God.
We’re musicians, not preachers. We write songs and that is our way of expression, our art. God affects our lives and this comes out in our songs. We hope that people take something from it. But personally, as a lyricist, it helps me. In the case of MWYS, it made me tackle things in my own heart that I’d never confronted before. It helps me stay honest with myself as well as others.