Explain the writing and recording process for the new album, Portraits
David: The writing process was funny because Mattie was in Alabama with his wife and the rest of For Today was in Iowa, umm, without wives because we’re all…not married.
Mattie: Oh except for Mike! He was in Michigan, Alabama, and California. It was basically a webcam writing process.
Was that tough for you guys?
Mattie: Well David did all the drum stuff and Ryan and Brandon would write like the songs and then record themselves playing them. Then they’d send them to me and Mike so that we could learn them, and so that I could write lyrics for them.
David: Yeah, so every time we wrote it was like in a church. In the last couple of years a lot of people left the church that I grew up in, so they just gave us the nursery. So we just had all of our equipment in there for like 3 months and we’d practice like 3 or 4 times a week and write stuff. When we finished a song we’d webcam it on the laptop and just trust that he (Mattie) was getting it done and he did!
That’s pretty crazy! It seems like it would be an awkward writing process.
Mattie: Naw, actually it was pretty awesome. I mean spiritually, musically, professionally, this album is just 10 times better than the last album.
David: Oh yeah. It makes the last album look like an album for little kids.
Oh man, that’s big talk right there! The last album was so good!
Mattie: You’re gonna forget all about it when you hear the new one.
David: Well yeah, the last album I thought was pretty awesome too though, but this one…It’s just like a kick in the face.
Mattie: I’m so proud of myself!
No, I’m proud of you guys!
Mattie: Well we’re proud of you too.
(Laughs) Nice, that makes me feel fantastic! Well the last interview we (Mattie and I) did, you told me about a theme you were going for with the album. Can you reiterate on that for anyone that didn’t see that interview?
Mattie: Yeah! The album is called Portraits and every song is named after a character in the bible. All the songs are written from the perspective of the person they were named after. Umm, so like the song named “Emmanuel” is a song written so that if Jesus had a chance to like speak through our music, to the world, this is what he’d say. Umm, the song “Joel” is writing from the viewpoint of Joel as if he was in my position, what he would say.
I think it’s cool because there was this other theme that I didn’t even think of while we were recording the album. When I went back and really listened to it I think I found that the underlying theme of the album, or maybe spiritual theme of the album, is our identity as believers. I think that was kind of inherently destined to happen just based on the plan I had when I started writing the album. The whole album basically talks about what it means to be as a believer. It just speaks on how people who claim the name of Christ walk, talk, act, think, live and love. I fully believe that the true, God breathed identity of the sons of God will be grasped by the church, that the whole world is going to change. So yeah, I’m really excited about that. Hopefully the kingdom of heaven will be really advanced by the album.
Man, I’m so ready for this album. There’s just too many good things being said about it already.
David: Yeah I’m ready for it too! You know, we’ve got some pretty cool guest spots on it also.
Oh cool, like who?
David: Joe from Advent, who was also the guy that screamed for Beloved back in the day on Solid State. Pretty much all of For Today are die-hard Beloved fans. Umm, Dusty from Between the Buried and Me is on there. He has this great guitar solo on the instrumental. Umm, My Epic is on the record. All three of them came in and sang on the last song of the record. (To Mattie) Should we tell her about that?
Mattie: Yeah, I’ll tell her about it. It’s called “Talmidin,” which is the word the Lord would have used for the disciples. The way that it’s explained in the original context is someone who is becoming the imprint of the master of a trade or philosophy that is imparting his wisdom along to these people. Well yeah, it’s called “Talmidin” and it’s written from the perspective of the disciples of Christ. Umm, it’s basically just a worship song.
David: It’s soft.
Mattie: Yes, so very soft.
Well that’s a different side of you guys.
David: Yeah it is. It’s funny because the guy who we recorded with, Jamie King, is in North Carolina and he’s just got this great southern accent. So, when we were listening to it and getting all the stuff laid down I was like, “Man, I got goosebumps like six times listening to that song,” and he says (in a pretty hilarious mock southern voice) “Yeah! It gave me chicken skin!”
(Laughs) Wow! That’s too funny. I’m gonna try and bring that to California!
David: (in same mock southern voice) Yeah, but you gotta say it with a southern accent.
(Laughs) Oh I can so pull it off!
David: Yeah, he’s got a really deep voice too. He’s so awesome to record with. Like every time we’d go into the studio…well we’d always get there way before him, so when he eventually showed up-
David: he’d come in and go (in deep southern voice) “Wuzzup guys?”
(Laughs) Man, that’s so down! He sounds like a chill dude!
David: Heck yeah, he’s super chill! All he literally does is record bands every single day.
That’s so awesome! So, I’ve been meaning to ask you guys about your ink here! I love hearing tattoo stories! Would you guys like to share?
David: Sure! Ok I have one done by my friend Billy, he’s from Ohio and he’s in our top friends if you want some ink! Well its an angel with a sword, and in the other hand an impaled girl. It is NOT an anti-girl tattoo prior to popular belief, it just represents the angel destroying lust.
Mattie: Hhmmm, I have a lot of tattoos, but this one I have here (points to left forearm) is probably my favorite. The word Hephzibah, in the banner across the top, is from Isaiah 62 when The Lord is talking about redeeming his people and saving them from the dying world. He says that Zion will no longer be called desolate, but that it will be called Hephzibah because the Lord delights in you. Umm, the first time I read that was right after I got engaged to my wife and I was like, “Aww that’s cute! My delight is in Candice.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being married, it’s the incredible parallels between the way God loves us and the way I’m supposed to love my wife. Like God would refer to me as Hephzibah because his delight is in me, I would refer to Candice as Hephzibah because my delight is in her. Just like God gave us this cross because his delight is in us, I gave Candice a ring. So I got Hephzibah across the top, and a cross with a ring around it in the middle.
Aww, I love how well thought out both of your tattoos are and how they hold strong meanings and conviction. What words would you share with people who don’t understand the correlation between a person who is a Christian and them having tattoos.
David: We actually get A LOT of that. It’s usually from kids who are a little younger and not sure yet.
Mattie: Yeah, a lot of them say, “Well my parents said this or my pastor said tattoos are bad.”
David: Yeah, my dad’s a pastor and he’s like down with it. He understands. We actually get a lot of messages from kids asking what we think about verses in the bible that say not to mark your body.
Mattie: Yeah, there’s two verses that are important. Romans 13: 9-10 shows how Paul says that all the laws, every single one of the 10 commandments, is summed up into this one rule: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. It also says, Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Tattoos don’t, in any way, hinder our ability to love. In fact, they open doors for conversations about the love that we know.
Paul also said in 1Corinthians 2, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of the wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2.For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3.I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4.And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5.that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
So, as much as the church can get caught up in tattoos, piercings, or speaking in tongues, healing, or baptism, or whatever, one of the greatest evangelists in the history of the world knew nothing except for Jesus Christ and Him being crucified and that’s the only thing that’s important.
Beautifully said, man. So I want to ask you guys about your lives before the band and maybe even before finding your belief system. David, I know you were saying your dad was a pastor so did that always transcend into your faith as well? And Mattie, I have no clue what went on with you so feel me in!
David: Umm, yeah, so my parents are perfect. (Laughs) Yeah, I just have these crazy awesome parents. I never really realized it until I was out of the house actually. I mean I’ve always grown up in the church and never really had this like big falling out or anything. Not everyone’s story is like that of course.
Mattie: Yeah, we have David who’s a pastor’s kid and went to like youth conferences growing up, we have a guitarist who was like in and out of jail randomly and he drank himself to death one time and he had to be shocked back to life.
David: Yeah, we like grew up together and he was a church kid or whatever too, but he just kind of went off and did his own thing for a while. But yeah, he called me the next day and was like, “I’m in the hospital.” I remember, we were supposed to go see Underoath the next day and we STILL went except his face was all jacked up. What happened was he drunk so much he passed out and when he woke up he got in some huge fight and had alcohol poisoning so he had to go to the hospital and get shocked back to life. The thing is they shocked him like SIX times before he came back so that’s just crazy. When he called me he was just like, “Yeah, so I died last night.”
Mattie: And even our other guitarist and bassist, their parents are like addicted to drugs and alcohol and stuff. It’s just crazy. Like my father died when I was 8 and so my mother took me to church and claimed to know Jesus, but we didn’t go to church because she genuinely cared about knowing God or me knowing God, but it’s just what you do. We just went to church because people think you have it all together if you go to church. So, after a while I was just like this is stupid. How come my mom and can be like cussing and crying at me on the way to church, but when we get there and people ask her how she is she’s all, “Oh, I’m blessed.” That just seems so fake and so empty and hollow to me.
I looked into a lot of other religions and messed around with them. I messed around with promiscuous sex and the party scene for a while and just kind of doing whatever. Then, I got really into philosophy and reading a lot of books on religion and books like Plato’s Republic and books on Transgeneralism, Buddhism, etc. I was just really trying to look for what was true without question. Every time I would discover some like…eternal truth, I’d realize that Jesus said something really similar to what I’d found. Well one day I was reading The Gospel of Buddha and God was like, “Now is the time to come and find me.” I was like”…well alright!” So, I left all my worldly belongings in my car in a Walmart parking lot and hitchhiked around the country for like a month. I’m not gonna say I haven’t messed up since then, but that’s like where I found God in practice and not in theory. That’s where I found that God was real instead of just a fairytale we tell our kids.
Wow, there are some seriously amazing testimonies in this band. What advice would you give to kids struggling in households with less than great examples of what a man of Christ and woman of Christ should be?
David: Well personally, I’ve grown more in the last two years in this band than I ever did in like my high school years. I think it’s really about seeing and doing it for yourself. I grew up in a really conservative church. Not necessarily one that doesn’t believe in spiritual gifts, but a church that doesn’t like practice them and like healing and stuff. But when you see like peoples bones grow back or broken stuff being healed…THAT rocked my world. When we played Mexico, we just saw some crazy stuff. I really don’t care what anyone ever says, there’s no doubt in my mind that God is real because what I’ve seen is just that awesome. My family could get murdered, but I’d still bow to God.
Mattie: Yeah dude, God is good either way. What I would tell to those kids would be that you can follow your heart, because god made you. So many parents, including my own, would say, “you gotta honor your parents,” but then everyone in the church is trying to turn you into them. All these pastors or youth ministers or whoever aren’t trying to magnify who you are, they’re just trying to downplay who you are and turn you into someone else. God put his finger print on every single one of us when he made us, so every single one of us have a natural call to divinity, a natural call to perfection, and a natural call to righteousness in Jesus Christ. As much as it’s like weird to be out in the middle of nowhere when the other Christians you know are just under their close minded, judgmental parents, you can still follow your heart and find God I promise. I did it myself. I know it’s there. Along the way, you can also trust that God is gonna give you direction no matter if it’s through books, people, or whatever. Maybe your parents will start knowing what they’re talking about.
Amen. Well unfortunately this is where we leave each other, would you like to leave some parting words?
David: Umm, Portraits is out June 9th. Very exciting! Uh, well we’ll be on tour all year through out the entire world. Umm, we’re going to Australia in August-
Mattie: (To David) We’re going for sure!?
David: Yeah! We already bought the tickets (Laughs)
Mattie: Sweet! Well even if none of the shows are a go, we’re just gonna go worship!
David: Oh and also, we just ask for the fans to just keep praying for us.
Mattie: Definitely. Also, just because we have mics and a stage or whatever doesn’t mean we should be the only ones doing work and being Godly.
David: Yeah, gotta step up.
Mattie: Like kids are in high school RIGHT NOW, who can start revelations RIGHT NOW. People are in the cities they’re in, because God needs them there. People are in the jobs that they’re in, because God needs them there. People can look at dudes in bands or dudes on TV preaching all they want and say, “aww I really want to do that,” but until they’re faithful and glorifying God in what they’re doing and where they’re at now, it’s not gonna happen. So, we need them just as much as they may need us.