With so many projects having just seen the light of day, Andrew Schwab, frontman of Project 86 and author of the recently released The Tin Soldiers, talks to us about books, Christmas albums, and his band’s latest powerhouse album Wait for the Siren.
Hello again, Andrew. Always great to get the chance to “sit down with you.” So, it’s been just a few months since we reviewed and you released Project 86’s Wait for the Siren. How do you feel the album has been received by the fans?
You know, the response has been fantastic. We really believe in the songs on this record, and I am not just saying this because it’s our newest release. I think if fans of rock music just give this record a chance they will enjoy it. I am truly proud of it and so thankful for the way it all turned out.
Having put the album out fully fan funded, was there anything substantially different in the process (after the album was already finished) from partnering with the labels?
This record was completely different from anything this band has ever attempted, from the writing process to the funding to the recording itself. I had always been involved with the musical process from top to bottom, but this was the first time I took on such a direct responsibility for everything from drum parts to arrangements to vocals. It was very refreshing to work with my friends Andrew Welch and Blake Martin, who co-wrote the music with me.
The Kickstarter element was like Christmas morning every single time someone backed us. The whole direct-to-fan platform makes you feel like you are a brand new band again, no joke. It was win-win all the way around and I think it shows in the music.
What can the fans expect in the near future? Are there any tunes rumbling around in your head that are about ready to see the light of day?
Oh man, 2012 was my busiest year in all my years of doing this. Writing and recording the album, writing and editing the new book, recording Christmas tunes, and also working on some music unrelated to Project 86 in addition to touring has left me ready for the holiday season. My near future will involve lots of watching sports, movies, and eating good food, along with the occasional video game! 2013 will involve more touring and there is a chance of the beginnings of some new music later in the year.
Last time we talked, I asked you if there was any particular song on the new album (Wait for the Siren) that you were most excited for the fans to hear. Was there any track that got more or less reception than you expected once the album was out?
The most popular song thus far has been “Fall, Goliath, Fall.” We chose that as the first single, as it was one of our faves as well. The dark horse thus far has been “*Ghosts of Easter Rising.” It’s such a different song than a lot of our other material, and definitely one of the most unique on the record. I honestly didn’t know how the fans would respond, but it was heavily requested, so we have started playing it live. Other favorites thus far are “Take the Hill,” “SOTS,” “Off the Grid,” and “The Crossfire Gambit.”
*Lee’s note: Amazing song!
A few years back, you released This Time of Year EP, an album full of Holiday themed tunes. I for one, never expected to see a Project 86 Christmas album up to that point. What inspired you/the band to dive into the Christmas album genre?
At first, the idea was appealing because of the challenge it presented. You hear rock bands attempt Christmas music every year, and it’s not easy to pull off well. So, we wanted to do our take on the “Christmas genre.” We ended up with a few covers and some original tunes which were holiday-themed but still sounded 100% p86-heavy and dark. “This Time of Year” is one of my all-time favorite P86 songs and it needs to be in a holiday film at some point!
My personal favorite track on that record was “Misfit Toys.” I know it’s been several years since the track was released, but what (other than Rudolph) inspired the striking message in that song?
The whole experience of the holidays, for most, is a double-edged sword. For many it’s a time of rejoicing and joy, but for others it’s a very difficult time that churns up hurts. We wanted to do some music that would speak to the latter, and maybe offer some hope amidst those emotions. “Misfit Toys” is about being broken, then restored, and is loosely based on the original from Rudolf. It’s also a reminder that the true spirit of the holiday is lost in all the peripherals sometimes.
You recently released two more fantastic Christmas songs. Was there anything specific that lead to you adding to your Holiday collection, or was that just something that came about organically with the season?
The fans requested more, so we wanted to give them more! We now have 7 Christmas songs in our catalogue. “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” and “Christmastime” are the two new ones. They both sit well alongside the previous EP, and we have been playing “Midnight Clear” live. I am personally very excited about “Christmastime” because Merry Christmas Charlie Brown is my all-time favorite holiday special. Our version is a little bit more intense, of course.
Do you have any plans on making another EP or a full length album of Christmas tunes?
You never know. Right now, fans can get the two new Christmas tunes for $2.00 wherever digital music is sold, or for free with a purchase of the new album, Wait for the Siren. Just email us your receipt (to firstname.lastname@example.org) from Best Buy, iTunes, or anywhere else and we will email you the songs!
I saw some fan input questions on your Facebook page, but what lead to the selection of the two Christmas tracks that would ultimately see the light of day?
I guess I already answered this one above.
Aside from the music world, you’re also a pretty accomplished writer. You’ve just released your latest work The Tin Soldiers. Talk a little bit about the concept behind this new work.
I’ve met a lot of hurting guys over the last decade and a half. I have had thousands of conversations with these guys, and we all seem to be dealing with similar issues….isolation, addiction, purposelessness, apathy. And the Church in general has written off guys 17-40 as largely lazy, unfocused, and a lost cause. I say that this is because the Church offers little in terms of leadership or authentic efforts to bring guys together.
I felt like I had to write this book because 1) I am a guy who dealt with similar things, and 2) I can’t stand the fact that so many of my brothers are just being…written off as a lost cause. The book is organized into ten chapters of short writings on the ten issues we face the most. It’s written with the thought in mind that many of us don’t have the time to sit down and read a book cover to cover. You can read just one writing at a time on whatever issue you are dealing with and hopefully glean some spiritual direction from it for your day.
I share a ton of stories and pop cultural references, so hopefully it’s entertaining as well as encouraging to read. The ultimate goal is to remind the reader that our identity is found first in foremost in our character as it relates to our faith. From there, all the other question marks in life should fall into place.
The synopsis for your book says that it “offers direction for the drifter, purpose for purposeless, and a practical template on how to find what our generation has never had: An identity based in Righteous Character.” Talk a little about what spurred you to tackle this topic, and what your inspirations were as you wrote The Tin Soldiers.
Who we are will dictate all that we do in life. And who are we as a generation of men? For the most part we are a collective of guys who have lost sight of character as an end in and of itself. We define ourselves by the external–how we “look” to others, rather than who we really are. This has given rise to many men leading double lives. It’s a huge problem, and it won’t change until we begin coming together as men, taking our false fronts off, and really letting others see who we truly are. There, healing and purpose can be found in genuine connection to others in faith.
What is it, do you think, that has robbed this generation of the opportunity to find a true identity in Righteous Character?
It’s a combination of factors, in my opinion. The internet has really injured our ability to relate to one another. Guys in general are not as relational as women, and it has become exaggerated by all of the time we spend locked up in our man caves, surfing the web and playing video games. Our culture has also become increasingly obsessed with “every man” fame, and we all seem to be competing with one another to look impressive. The result is a generation of guys who puff out their chests, but who feel alone and purposeless on the inside.
In addition, the previous generations handed us a world of prosperity – a world that they worked very hard to build -and many of us have grown up with a sense of entitlement because of this. We want to be people of great significance, but many of us aren’t willing to work hard enough for it. We want our dream jobs, career, and everything else in life to simply fall in our laps. But few of us can articulate our true passions, giftings, and goals. There is much more to it than that, but I think that’s a starting point to the discussion.
You’ve given the fans some excerpts from the book on your website (www.andrewschwab.com). In one of them, you talk about how we’re affected by idolizing humans rather than giving our worship to God. This seemed to be an undercurrent in Fame is Infamy, as well (though perhaps from the opposite side?). Talk a little about how you see our “American Idol” society and the effect it’s having on people.
We aren’t satisfied with being the every-man any more. We all want to be people who are recognized as important by our peers. But the problem with this mentality is that recognition from other humans doesn’t breed any sort of contentment or purpose in our lives. It is only in being recognized by our Creator that we will find fulfillment in life, and this is the opposite message that we see being embraced in the culture around us. Meaning is found in our souls only through love, servanthood, humility, and submission to a power greater than yourself, not in becoming someone who is famous or “important.”
For those who are more familiar with your music than your writing, could you give a quick run down on what fans will find in your broader collection of writing?
I have written five books on a variety of topics. Fame is Infamy explores our culture’s fixation with fame. It’s All Downhill From Here is an autobiographical journey through the music industry. We Caught You Plotting Murder is a collection of poetry and other creative writings on the subject of individuality. The best way to learn more is to visit my website at www.andrewschwab.com. I have some samples posted there from the new book.
Do you feel you express yourself differently through the various mediums of print vs albums/concerts? What changes do you notice between how you interact with the two mediums?
There is more mystery surrounding music, simply because you must use fewer words to make your point, and it is set to instrumentation. I like painting pictures and telling metaphorical stories with music, rather than spelling everything out literally. With writing I try to take the opposite approach, and be as candid as possible. It’s two completely different hats, and they are equally fun to wear!
Andrew is one of the best songwriters of our day, and his responses above do nothing but prove that. Be sure to check our reviews for both of the most recent P86 albums here on IVM, and then head over to Andrew’s website for more amazing insights and samples from The Tin Soldiers.