Here’s my interview with Ryan and Nate from the promising young band out of Minneapolis, Minnesota known as Blank Page Empire.
Give me a who’s-who of the band.
Ryan: Nate plays guitar, I sing, Jeremy (Becky) plays bass, and Tim (Tool-Man) plays drums. We also currently have a fill in second guitarist, Zach.
Alright, so what’s the back-story of the band? How did everybody meet?
Ryan: Nate and I came from a former band and wanted to keep goin’ at it. We posted “the blind lead the blind,” right away along with a legit myspace background and pictures. We wanted to start off on the right foot immediately. Nate and I being the music dudes in our former band had to figure out the business end of music. It was rough at first but we got the hang of it. We met up with Jeremy through his wife, who basically is the reason Becky’s in the band. So, thanks Tracey! Tim answered our blog about a guitarist at the time. The minute he walked in the room, I had a man-crush on him! We found out he was an amazing drummer. And right now Zach is filling in until either he becomes a permanent member or we find someone who will stick.
Nate: Essentially Ryan and I were in Nihilio and as the foundations of that band were crumbling we decided we really felt called by God to make music together. We always had a certain vision for the music we wanted to make and how we wanted to make it, and it seemed like in our previous band there was always a power struggle over the direction of the band. So Blank Page Empire gave us the opportunity to start from square one and actually play the music we really wanted to play, which is something we feel is absolutely imperative to be a successful band or artist. From there I just started writing until I had settled on a quintessential sound for what would eventually become Blank Page Empire. After I had completed a few songs I turned them over to Ryan to start writing lyrics and melodies. Once we established our sound we started auditioning members and the process was easier than expected. Jeremy aka Becky was someone I knew because our girlfriends are really close friends. And Tim contacted us through myspace and everything really clicked with both guys.
What’s the story behind the band’s name?
Ryan: I wish we had a story behind the name, but honestly it was the only name Nate and I agreed on. We had a couple of names before it that weren’t sticking, until we realized that all the songs on “How To Start A Fire” by Further Seems Forever were all for the most part great band names. Blank Page Empire was the best, and my personal favorite song on that record.
Christian band, Christians in a band, or other?
Nate: We view this band as a ministry. We feel that God called us all individually into music ministry and we really want to minister to people through our words and music. Not necessarily by preaching onstage but more importantly by our actions on and off stage.
Ryan: I always dread this question. Mostly because its kind of a double negative. If you say Christian band, your implying that Christianity can be a genre. I know what most bands mean by saying they’re a Christian band, but to your average non-believer it comes off as saying that God is a genre or sales-pitch. And if you say Christians in a band, Christians usually call you out for not representing Christ; both of which we’d rather not use to represent this band. We are a ministry, but our ministry, at least for right now, consists of hanging out with kids after we play and straying from preaching with words as much as we can without misrepresenting Christ.
Share a little bit of your personal testimony.
Ryan: I don’t know how to answer this question, but if I could sum up what I’ve learned about being in a band and being a Christian as an individual, I would hope that I practice sincerity. This record lyrically, was written about how I felt like the prodigal son for the past two years. I was so, I guess, dry and apathetic about things. And I was really fed up with how the church was representing Christ. Probably as everyone else is that’s in a band. The problem was I was just stewing in my depression and in my own thoughts that I kind of got trapped. And even now, I’m struggling with my own mind. But music is like God’s therapy to me, a way for me to get it off my chest. And in the process I feel I can relate to people a lot more than if I had it all in order.
How would you describe the band’s style of music?
Nate: I’m really terrible at describing the sound of my own music, but I guess I would have to say we are trying to be a really heavy indie rock band. We take a fairly progressive approach to our song writing and a lot of our songs have linear structures without verses and choruses. Instead we try to incorporate musical motifs to tie multiple parts together and in some cases on the record musical motifs will reoccur in several songs. With all of our songs we try to tell a story and we’ve been trying to make our record as a whole sound very emotional and very dynamic.
Ryan: Progressive Rock
What are some of the band’s influences?
Ryan: As Cities Burn definitely. Thrice, Chasing Victory’s “fiends” record.
Nate: We all have very different influences but I’ll outline some of the big ones: Thrice, The Mars Volta, Misery Signals, Death Cab For Cutie, Bon Iver, Further Seems Forever, Taking Back Sunday, As Cities Burn, Edison Glass, Journey, Manchester Orchestra, Emery, Norma Jean, Explosions In The Sky, Sigur Rós, and so on. I think you get the point, ha ha.
What are some of the band’s inspirations?
Nate: Honestly the thing that inspires me the most is the TV show, Lost. I know it sounds weird but after watching Lost I just want to write music. That really goes for any really great epic movie as well. It just inspires me in a way that nothing else can. A few other big inspirations are Ted Dekker novels, which always blow my mind, and some virtuosic instrumentalists like Eric Johnson and Chris Thile.
Let us in on a stand-out moment where you just thought, “Thank you, God”.
Ryan: Cornerstone was the only place where I literally felt God say “well done good and faithful servant.” It was then I knew I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Or playing in front of 1,000 people at Sonshine (at which we’re playing this year). That was intense!
Nate: It’s because this band has only been around for a few months now, but the thing that I am so grateful for is how God seems to always encourage me when I feel discouraged about band related things. When I’m feeling doubt about what we are trying to do as a band and whether or not people are going to enjoy our music and our shows, I always find some encouragement in some way. Whether it’s something someone says to me or how people react at shows, it really helps me keep faith in what I feel God wants us to do.
Fill us in on the direction that you believe God is taking the band?
Nate: Right now we plan on touring full time starting in June in support of our first record. We have all been praying about it because it’s a big decision to quit jobs and leave girlfriends and families but we really feel this is what God is calling us to do.
Share your heart for a moment. Why do you do what you do?
Ryan: I’m doing what every Christian who ever picked up a guitar wanted to do. Spreading God’s love through music. The question is, will it be what I’m supposed to do. And I believe that all depends on if God’s involved with this project. And from what I can tell, I believe he is.
Nate: I started playing drums when I was about 12 and since then I have always had my heart set on being a musician. Once I started playing guitar a few years later and started listening to Weezer, the only thing I’ve wanted to do since then is play in a band. The two most important things in my life have been music and faith and being in a Christian band is the best way for me to combine them and express myself.
What do you hope a listener will come away with after listening to your upcoming cd?
Nate: I guess I haven’t really thought about what the desired reaction to our record will be. Honestly, I won’t really have a good idea until I have heard the record in whole. There is a lot of new material and new transitions on the cd that none of us have heard in its entirety yet. So that’s exciting for us to actually hear what the end product sounds like. This is the first full length record I’ve ever done, so that is also something that excites me. And the thing about this album as a whole is that it’s not very long. We really tried to write songs that were shorter and more concise, but still have very memorable parts that make the listener want to restart the song as soon as it’s over. So I suppose I really hope that after someone hears our cd they say “Whoa, I need to listen to that again!”
Ryan: I hope they understand that they’re not the only ones who go through loss, doubt, lust, envy, etc. And I hope they realize that God’s love is unfailing.
What have been the best and worst venues you’ve played?
Ryan: Oh man! I feel if I answered this question I’d get in trouble, being the booking agent for this band. Pass!
Nate: I really enjoy playing at Club 3 Degrees and there are a bunch more venues that I love to play like The Fuel Café and The Warehouse in Willmar. One of the worst shows I’ve ever played is The Mosh Hall in Oklahoma.
What was the most encouraging and/or humbling thing(s) to happen at a live show?
Nate: Someone recently came up to me after our set and said they where so emotional during our last song that they started to tear up and just worshiped with us. For me that’s why I write music, to emotionally connect with people.
Ryan: Encouraging… every time I see people singing what I wrote in the crowd. I eat it up! Humbling… when we first played with our new member line up with our good friends Hands…at a live video shoot no less! All I can say is… it was awful!
Nate: Whenever I play a bad show or have technical problems I get disappointed, but I also try to keep in mind that sometimes I need those moments to keep me humble and keep my pride in check.
In what ways do you feel that the band has grown and matured since it’s formation?
Ryan: We’ve learned that no matter what we think, things will never be what we planned. But God will, and has, always provided! And that needs to be enough for us. And I think it is.
Nate: I think we are really still growing. A lot of maturation came from spending time recording in multiple studios, doing preproduction, and trying to perfect our songs. But I think we have a lot of room to grow and mature even more. We really started being a band in October 2009 and with a few months under our belt I think we are ready to grow musically and grow spiritually as brothers in Christ.
If you could say one thing to a young person struggling with purpose and direction in life, what would it be?
Ryan: Probably nothing at first, I would listen. Then I would hope the Holy Spirit would let me know what to say.
Nate: My mother always says to me that “God has a plan for us, but he can’t steer us unless our ship is in the water.” And that always hits home with me when I forget that God can’t lead me if I’m not at least striving for something.
Any last comments you would like to leave the readers with?
Nate: I hope people really enjoy our new album and if not I hope they come to a show and hang out with us either way.
Ryan: My answers are long enough! ;)
There you have it, boys and girls. Watch for Blank Page Empire’s brand spankin’ new CD coming soon. Peace.