For over fifteen years Project 86 have proven time and again that they are among that elusive class of musicians able to constantly produce fresh and exciting music that simultaneously defies expectation and yet somehow keeps a signature sound. While every member of the band (past and present) has been a dominant force, it’s hard not to notice front-man Andrew Schwab’s distinct fingerprint. With a highly anticipated (and fully fan funded!) new P86 album on the horizon, I chatted with Andrew about how this new record is different from their last independent release and what greatness fans can expect to be unleashed upon them… soon.
Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Andrew. I know a ton of our readers are excited about the new record! What has it been like going independent again with this album?
It’s really been an adventure, in the best possible way. As some of you know, we did a Kickstarter campaign. The way that the industry model has changed, with direct-to-fan platforms becoming increasingly popular, makes it advantageous for bands on any level to cut out the middle man, so to speak. And it allows you to really connect deeply with the people that follow you. It really kept us on the edge of our seat, as each new backer came through we saw it in real-time. All we can say is that we are so thankful for our fans!
How did it feel similar/different from when you guys first released Songs to Burn Your Bridges By?
It was a completely different time in the industry back then. People still bought CDs in stores, for one thing. For another, the direct-to-fan platforms like Kickstarter were not available. We viewed the STBYBB indie release as simply a transition. I could see us doing another Kickstarter on the next release!
Anything you’d like to say to fans who supported the campaign?
I feel like we have partnered in something that makes you guys more than fans…you are now “lifers” in the P86 camp.
What was it like working with a different crew in the recording process?
Refreshing. More of the responsibility for this album from top to bottom fell on my shoulders, but I was able to work with a bunch of my friends who really made the album better, each in turn. Here’s the list:
Rocky Gray (Living Sacrifice, Evanescence)
Blake Martin (A Plea for Purging)
Cody Driggers (The Wedding)
Andrew Welch (Disciple, Capital Lights)
Producer Steve Wilson (Jonezetta, Juliana Theory)
Engineer/Mixer Steve Blackmon (Hank Williams Jr., Living Sacrifice)
Bruce Fitzhugh (Living Sacrifice)
Brian “Head” Welch (Korn)
Scott Davis (The Myriad)
Dustinn Lowry (The Becoming)
I also was able to add some new instrumentation on this record. We hired a hammered dulcimer player, an Uilleann piper, and a mandolin player.
Over the years you explored many different styles, was there a certain style or sound you were going for with the new album?
I’d say this is a very diverse record. There are some very heavy moments as well as some very moody melodic ones. There’s some hints of Celtic influence, even some slightly psychedelic sounds. Still sounds like P86, but it’s a new sound, for sure. I would say that this album has a spirit that none of our others do. Whereas in the past I’d say there was a darker vibe, a dirge that was present in the sound and lyrics, this one is dominated by a spirit that I can only describe as…overcoming. It’s epic and hopeful without compromising the attitude that has defined our music.
Picket Fence Cartel was possibly the most faith-filled record the band has put out. Where would you say the new album sits in terms of faith-related messages?
They are there on every record we have put out if you have eyes to see. I’ve always wanted to try to approach lyrics a little differently with each release. This time, each song either tells a story or paints a specific image. There are definitely moments where the spiritual message is clear, but for most part, it is metaphorical. There is one song where there is a conversation between Isaac and Abraham as the dad is about to slay his son. It switches voice and perspective…so on the first verse Isaac is staring up at his father as the stars are behind him. His father has a look he has never seen on his face, and is holding a blade high above his head. I tried to give some insight into that story that is fresh. The opening track references David and Goliath, but it is more symbolic than literal. Hope that gives a little insight.
Can we expect more songs like “Destroyer,” or even “To Sand We Return?”
I don’t think we ever try to repeat ourselves with songs. If we do, it just isn’t as cool as the original. I can promise we have songs that are fresh and have a brand new energy!
Is there one track you’re the most excited for fans to hear when the new record drops?
The opening track, tentatively titled “Fall, Goliath, Fall” is my personal favorite.
Speaking of Picket Fence Cartel, when you and I talked last you mentioned that people were sort of upset over the album artwork. You talked about fan comments that it looked like it was made with Corel Paint. While I was a big fan of the curve ball on that one, historically, Project has always had highly artistic album art. I’m sure there is something bold in the works for the new record, any comments on that?
We are still working on the album art as of now. Picket Fence Cartel was very minimalist in approach, which can be effective if it is done the right way. I feel like the words in the layout, the questions asked, did leave the listener thinking, even if it ruffled feathers. I think the worst thing you can do as a music listener is try to pigeon-hole an artist into an expectation that they can only do one type of thing in general. We have always tried to defy that type of thinking.
Project has been around for over 15 years now and still seems to be going strong, do you sit back and wonder if you’ll still be doing this 15 years from now?
Anything is possible. I guess that’s the whole point. I have always tried to take this band one day at a time and just submit it to God. When we first started all we wanted to do is put out a record…
Last question, and I’ll warn you it’s a little silly: Who’s better Superman or Batman?
Which Superman? Which Batman? There have been different incarnations of each. I am a big Dark Knight fan…the original cartoon series.
Keep watching IVM for the review of Project 86’s new album. Sound off in the comments section below about your favorite P86 jam. And, be sure to share this review on all sorts of social media to help get the word out about this epic upcoming release. After all, we were just promised a hammered dulcimer, an Uilleann piper, and a mandolin on a Project 86 album… how could you NOT want to share that!?!