Over the weekend I was able to swing by Passion Fest in Pottstown, PA to meet up with Andrew Schwab, lead vocalist of Project 86. Despite having idolized him throughout my high school years and having been told by certain people that Andrew is intimidating in person, he was surprisingly a normal guy, just hanging out, having some fun, and playing some music.
E: It’s been ten years since the release of your self-titled CD. How’s it feel to be around that long? Any celebration plans?
A: Man, I haven’t really thought about it that way, to tell you the truth. You know, we’ve been a band for twelve years, and yeah, ten since our first record, but it doesn’t really feel like it. When there’s always something short term coming up that you’re focused on, you sort of lose sight on how long you’ve been going. It’s like, if you’re a marathon runner, you would just think about the first mile and then the next mile and the next mile and the next mile, and pretty soon the race is over. So it’s hard to think about it that way, and it’s gone by really quickly. I don’t know, I guess we probably should [celebrate]; it’s a pretty rare feat.
E: Did you expect to make it this far?
A: I really didn’t know what to expect when we started the band. We didn’t really have any specific goals in terms of anything. I mean, we wanted to put out a record and play shows and just be happy with our live show and be happy with the music that we’re creating. And just one thing led to the next which led to the next, like I said. So yeah, it’s been an amazing ride so far and I don’t think we deserve it or anything like that. I just think we’ve been really fortunate.
E: You also have some of the most dedicated fans I’ve ever seen. How do you maintain that kind of loyalty?
A: I have no idea! [laughs] I have no idea. I don’t know what it is about what we do that keeps people coming back for more over and over and over. I’d love to say it’s just because we’re geniuses or something, but I just don’t think that’s it. I think it’s a testimony to the fact that there’s some sort of divine thing going on with us, you know, and God’s hand is sort of on us and has been from the beginning. And He’s somehow used us to build bridges with people that are lasting. I think that hopefully, what comes across is that we’re not just doing this because we wanna like, inspire people to bob their heads or scream in their cars or something. Hopefully there’s something a little bit more profound that we’ll leave people with if they hear one of our records or come to one of our shows that has to do with, again, with something a little more lasting. That’s what I would like to think is the answer, anyway.
E: I think it is. So I hear you’ve got new material on the way.
E: Can you tell us anything about the songs?
A: Well, it’s a little too early to tell. Really, I wouldn’t be able to say much accurately about anything that we ever do until it’s finished, because even at the last minute, certain songs don’t make it or certain songs turn out differently than you think that they would. Right now, we have a bunch of demos that we’re sifting through that are just music. I’ll probably start singing on some stuff in the next month. We have some plans to try to get some new things out before the end of the year. Also some more new things after that, early next year. So, I don’t want to announce anything specific yet because it’s not set in stone, but it’s looking good. It’s looking really positive.
E: From record to record, your music tends to change a lot. Do you know what kind of direction this one’s going?
A: We have some really, I don’t know… the word that comes to mind is creative things that are still, just from the music there’s some very very shocking moments that kind of come out of nowhere, that for me I’m like “Ooo, that part’s cool,” you know what I mean? Or this really heavy part will come in, that you didn’t expect, in a song that prior to that was real like ambient. So I think we’re experimenting a little bit more within songs having parts that take you in a direction that you didn’t expect. Whereas the last record, I think song to song it took you in a direction that you didn’t expect, but then this I would say that the songwriting is a little bit more epic at this point. So we’ll see. Again, it’s really too early to tell.
E: Yeah, no thoughts about album titles yet, release dates, none of that?
A: I have a couple ideas for album titles, but they probably won’t stick. It’s too early.
E: Okay. Any idea who’s gonna be drumming?
A: Ummm… I mean, it’s a short list. They guy who played on our last record did a great job. I think it was one of my favorite drum performances ever by him for sure, and definitely my favorite drum performance on any record of ours. And if it worked out that Jason Gerken could play on the new material that would be great, because we really enjoyed working with him. I think he brought something different, a higher level of energy than previous drumming.
E: Going to the last record, Rival Factions, the video for “Evil (A Chorus of Resistance).” Being from Pennsylvania I go to Purple Door every year, and the first thing I thought when I saw that video was the food fight reminded me of a certain mud fight a couple years ago.
A: [laughs] Right, right.
E: Was that any inspiration or just coincidence?
A: No, total coincidence. The irony is that we’ve been talking to Purple Door the last couple summers about going back, and they wanted to have us this year and last year, it just didn’t work out schedule wise. We have some European dates that we’re doing coming up, and they made us an offer and we were gonna do it and it fell right in the middle of those European dates, so we couldn’t do it.
E: So things cleared up with that then?
A: Yeah, yeah, I think things are cool now.
E: Okay, good. Maybe next year?
A: Hopefully, yeah, we really like playing Purple Door.
E: Can you give the full story behind the song “Caveman Jam”?
A: I think it’s more of a synopsis of a bunch of little stories rather than one specific story. It’s like, you know, we’ve been playing over the years, and verse one I believe is kinda like the kids who are at some show where there’s a wide variety of bands and we’re playing in front of them for the first time. And it’s kinda like teenage girls or something there for some pop punk band, and then we play. And they’re just kinda staring wide-eyed. And it’s like, for me seeing that on stage, they’re talking to their friends or joking about it and stuff, and while I’m on stage, I’ll go right to them. Because I want to get them to interact with the show, and sort of mock them at the same time for not getting the music, and then ultimately make them into a fan, you know, to be one of those kids who says, “Oh, I don’t know if I like heavy music, but I like you guys.” And then verse two is kinda like, you know, sort of a joke about people’s perceptions of me on stage, or what I’m like on stage versus off stage. And again, that applies to like people who aren’t diehard fans of ours that are being introduced to our band. So verse one and two are people that don’t initially connect with what we do but maybe become fans. And verse three is more about why we do what we do. The song’s real tongue-in-cheek of course. But verse three is like that meaning that we find in having a real connection with our fans, and that’s a special thing to us and it’s a special thing to those people, and we recognize that. It’s an interesting song, because I could hear it on like some, I don’t know, a Hives record or something. You know what I’m saying? It reminds me of one of those new rock and roll bands. We just had fun with that song. It’s totally off the beaten path, which is why we liked it. There’s no guitar in it besides the lead, then bass and drums. It’s kind of a stripped down song that I was kind of joking with a little bit, but within that trying to give a deeper message. And I mean, even with the vocal approach it was so tongue-in-cheek, you know?
E: Yeah, so different. After releasing The Kane Mutiny EP on iTunes only, how do you think that worked out? Would you do a digital only release again?
A: Um, I mean the iTunes thing was kind of difficult to deal with, just because they seem to operate on their own schedule, especially with the international stuff. I wouldn’t choose necessarily to do an iTunes only release again if we could help it, unless it was one of those situations where it only made sense, if that was the only option available. But if you’re asking if I would prefer that, probably not. But because of our record label, they wouldn’t permit us to print physical copies of the EP.
E: Why not?
A: They vetoed it. They did not want to press them. I mean, we wanted to. So in the future we’re gonna try to rectify that.
E: So after six full-lengths and one EP, what’s your favorite Project 86 song?
A: Song? Oh man!
E: If you can, I mean, some guys tell me that’s choosing their favorite child.
A: Yeah, it’s a very difficult thing, and it’s like, it almost changes from night to night. It’s even hard to pick a favorite record. Someone asked me that last night, and I said, “Well right now, it’s between Drawing Black Lines and Rival Factions, with Songs to Burn Your Bridges By number two as a close second.” But I mean, it changes. There’s no record I dislike, and there’s very few songs that we’ve written that I dislike, at least that are on records. I’d probably say one of my favorites on the new record is track three, “The Forces of Radio…” I really like the energy in that song, because I think it’s a totally different kind of energy for us. It’s really hectic. And vocally it’s just all over the place. And I really dug it, it feels really performed for me. It’s just one take, and I just ran with it, and that’s what came out.
E: What’s that song about lyrically?
A: It’s just kind of about revisiting, whether it’s a friendship or previous [romantic] relationship, in your mind, like contemplating going back to something that you said goodbye to a long time ago for the right reasons, but it’s about contemplating going back to that for the wrong reasons. I mean like, how could I put this? Let’s say you had a friend in high school, and you guys sort of grew apart, and then he did something to hurt you, to show his true character. And you had to cut off the friendship, and you didn’t talk to him anymore. And then years go by, and you only remember the good things. So you think about calling him again, and letting him back in to your life again. Even when that person’s probably someone that’s dangerous for you to be around. That’s sort of like a really vague example, but that’s kind of the idea behind the song. And then the imagery with it is with a VCR tape. Putting a VCR tape of your memories- it’s a tape, you know, not a DVD, it’s a tape- into a broken down VCR, and how it brakes when you put the tape in. So the old relationship is kind of like the VCR and the tape is the memory of it. And it turns into a snake, the actual tape inside the tape turns into a snake and it comes back to bite you. Make sense?
E: Okay, yeah. Got it. So in general with your music and your books, it seems your writing is less dark than in the past. How do you account for that change?
A: Just trying to grow personally as an artist and as a human being, as a Christian. After a while, it turns into dwelling, rather than reflecting for the purpose of encouraging or inspiring or whatever, and that’s a fine line. And there’s some pretty dark stuff on the new record too, it’s just against the back drop of some different kinds of music maybe it might not come off that way. But there’s also some really uplifting songs on some older records that people probably wouldn’t point to. But in general, as an artist, I tend to gravitate towards the darker, and I push myself to try to do more of a full spectrum. So not just the people who are in a cloudy place in their lives relate to it. Does that make sense? So yeah, it can tend to get a little heavy when you dwell on it too much.
E: You said in a recent blog that you’re in the editing process for your next book. What can you tell us about it? Title, theme…
A: Well it reads a lot like the last one I wrote, Downhill. It’s more narrative. It’s a lot of humor, a lot of personal stories. A lot more spiritual commentary though, like it’s definitely a book like you would read for spiritual encouragement, but it’s not so far removed from Downhill that it reads differently. There’s definitely some stories in there from the road and my experiences and things like that. In general, I’m trying to write a book that deals with a concept about God that I feel kind of strongly about that I think is kind of a unique take on how God works in our lives, and…
E: What concept?
A: Um, I don’t, uh…
E: Oh, you don’t want to say, okay.
A: As far as the editing process, I’ve probably written two total books, up to this point. The hardest part for me is getting every chapter to a place where I’m happy with it, to where I want to put it out. Because every week that goes by, I’ll write another piece of a chapter or a total chapter, and then like last week I deleted two chapters from the manuscript. So, I’ve been hovering around this certain word count, between forty and fifty thousand words for a couple of months. Not because I haven’t been working on it, but because I’ve been revising, deleting, rewriting. I’m three quarters of the way there. I’m probably two completed chapters away from having a finished manuscript that I can shop to publishers. I’m also, I have probably half of another poetry book finished. My priority has been getting this other one done, but along the way I’ve had a lot of other material coming out that I’ll be able to put into another We Caught You Plotting Murder kind of thing, later on down the line. So that’s in the works too. Just one thing at a time, new records, books, and all kinds of stuff.
E: What’s been the best book you’ve read so far this year?
A: The best book that I’ve read? Ooo…
E: In the past year or so, doesn’t need to be of all time. Or it can be of all time, that’s cool too.
A: Trying to think [pauses]. I don’t know if I can decide on one. I’m reading a book right now that I’m thoroughly enjoying, it’s by uh, uh… his name’s slipping my mind, it’s the guy who wrote… Nick Hornby! He wrote High Fidelity. I’m reading a book called A Long Way Down, it’s about four people in London on New Year’s Eve who go up to the top of a building independently of one another to kill themselves, and then they all become friends, and live. And I’m only half way through it, and it’s pretty funny, I mean, it deals with a pretty heavy topic, it’s about people who are at the end of themselves finding a reason to live. You know, it’s kind of interesting. I read another book that, I wouldn’t call it my favorite book that I’ve read, but from an ironic standpoint it was very enlightening. It was by an atheist called Christopher Hitchens, he’s a journalist, a pretty famous one, and it was called God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. And I read it because I’m pretty into approaching not only my writing but also my life, by taking into account other people’s perspectives on life, even people that disagree with me. It was a pretty interesting read.
E: Alright. Have you seen The Dark Knight yet?
A: No, not yet. I’ve been traveling so, when I get home I’ll see it. I’ve heard it’s really good. I can’t wait to see it.
E: Hm, alright, well I think that’s about it then. Anything else you want to say in closing?
A: Just whoever reads this, keep in touch with us online, obviously through the normal channels… via myspace, you know, myspace.com/project86. You can read my writings, etc by going to my website andrewschwab.com or myspace.com/andrewschwab. And yeah, we’d love to invite anyone who would read this to connect with us and form a relationship with us.
E: Alright, thanks.
A: Hey, I appreciate it.