An Interview With Jason Carson of The OC Supertones
Written by Brandon Jones for Indie Vision Music
Well now that “For the Glory” has been officially released to Kickstarter backers (and to everyone else on November 6th), I can quite honestly say the wait has been so worth it. “Comeback” is not a word to be thrown around lightly by every band but in The OC Supertones case this “Comeback” has been rightfully earned (and owned). This, my friends is an interview with one of my all-time favorite bands and a look into their inner workings.
BrandonIVM: So tell me a little bit about where you guys have been since your break up in 2005 and what have you all been up to?
Jason Carson: I left the band in 2000, Tony left in 2002, Darren in 2004, and Mojo outlasted us all and stayed till the end in 2005. Since then, we’ve all grown up, and we have incredible families and amazing ministries. For me, beyond Youth Pastoring, I love being a husband and Father to 4 young kids. Also, I recently have moved/ transitioned into leading adult ministries at my church.
BrandonIVM: What inspired your rekindled romance for making music together? What transpired that led to the reunion tour and ultimately the Kickstarter campaign? Can you elaborate a bit?
Jason Carson: When Mojo and I (Jason) started the band in 1991, we were 14 and 16 years old. We both loved music and almost immediately after getting saved, we wanted to play music for the Lord. The band had an incredible 15 year run where we sold over a million albums, did over 20 national tours, saw countless people come to Christ, and ministered to millions of people. We wanted to do one summer’s worth of 10 shows in 2010 and THAT WAS IT!!! But when we saw how God was using the ministry again and how much it was encouraging people, we wanted to stay open to God using us if the doors were open. So since then, we’ve been playing around 7 or 8 shows a year… And then we got REALLY foolish and agreed to a new album! This may sound cliche to people, but its the honest truth: This album happened because of the Spirit of God! How does this sound: 6 guys with full time jobs, all of us totally involved in our churches, 5 of us full time Pastors, all married, and 18 young children between all of us! Why, or how in the world, would a new album be a good idea to anyone?!!! Bottom line: we swore we wouldn’t do an album and I’m sure God was laughing at us saying “Oh really?… Do you have limits on what I want to do with you?” So The Lord started giving new songs to Mojo and Tony, and next thing we know, we have the best, most fun, most spiritual, most encouraging, and most purposed album we’ve ever put out… By a mile! God is so good and faithful!
BrandonIVM: You guys recorded this album with Josh Auer (Pax 217), what was it like working with him? Josh recorded all the guitar parts so how do you think he did? Personally I think it sounds incredible. Will Josh be touring with you in the upcoming months or Jesse Craig? Or Both?
Jason Carson: Yeah, Josh is really tough to work with. He’s always yelling at us and telling us how stupid we are, and then he gets his mood swings where he starts throwing chairs across the room and breaking windows. KIDDING!!! Truth be told: Josh is absolutely amazing! What a dear brother in the Lord! Hands down, the best producer we’ve ever worked with. He got great performances out of all of us and brought a ton to the table producing wise. He is so stinking talented it’s unbelievable. He plays every instrument and is amazing at singing as well. He always created a great atmosphere that was filled with tons of fun, care, and encouragement, but at the same time, when it was time to work and get things done, he ran a tight ship. We’re very thankful for Joshy-Boy! The funny thing about Josh and Jesse, is these guys have been best friends for the last couple decades, and they’re both in our band now… in the same role of guitarist, but we only need one guitar on stage. So we wanted to do something interesting like make them fight to the death, and the winner could be our permanent guitarist, but we thought that fans might be bummed out if we had a murderer on stage with us. …So we just decided to rotate them and use them both. Who knows which one you’ll see on the road!!! It’ll be a big surprise!
BrandonIVM: What are some of your favorite tracks on the new album, “For the Glory”? What significance does the name “For the Glory” hold for you guys?
Jason Carson: We love all the songs. This is the first time we’ve put out an album where all of us are very happy with every song on the record. If you look back at our other albums, there’s always multiple songs that you want to skip. We call those “filler” songs, because they just “fill” up space on an album. But oh mama, I don’t skip one song on this album. And it’s not like I just started listening to it. We’ve all been listening to every one of these songs hundreds of times each over this last year. But to answer your question (Yes, I’m a Pastor. I ramble and get off the point sometimes…), I think “Far More Beautiful” is going to connect with a lot of people- it’s a really special song. 3 of us are Youth Pastors and our trombone player had the idea for the song that we need to share with our youth group girls that God loves them just as they are and to stop listening to all the lies of the world about their identity. So Mojo wrote 3 verses off that concept, and talked about a young girl, a teenage girl, and a mother. The feedback we’ve already heard off this song is unbelievable. Several moms have been in tears and girls have been moved by the message of this song! I also love “All the Way Alive,” “All Glory,” “Down to the River,” and of course the Title Track: “For the Glory.” The title comes from the basic purpose and mission statement of the band. For the last 2 decades of over 1,000 shows, our singer has told every crowd we’ve played in front of that the whole reason the Supertones exist is “For the Glory” of God! And that’s our encouragement to you… Do EVERYTHING for the glory of God. If something doesn’t glorify Him, don’t do it. If it does, do it. Make sense?
BrandonIVM: Can you tell me a little bit about the meaning behind the song “Pretty Little Lie” and what it means to you guys?
Jason Carson: Pretty Little Lie is a real fun song that Mojo wrote about his life and upbringing. It’s a simple concept- he tried turning to things, money, fame, relationships, and significance, only to find that these things and all the promises that the world says about them, don’t satisfy. There’s only true fulfillment and satisfaction in Christ alone.
BrandonIVM: I notice that this album is drenched heavily in SKA, did you guys do this intentionally? Was their general consensus that you guys would record a primarily “Ska” album? What do you guys each think of “Ska” these days? Favorite “Ska” bands current or past?
Jason Carson: We’re a total ska band! That was one of the things we set out to do from the start- to make the best ska record we could. And people love it- there ain’t nothin’ like it these days! Several people have told us that the album brings them back to the Supertones Strike Back sound. I think that’s a pretty good thing for us! But the album has something for everyone on it. It’s ska. It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s slow. It’s meaningful. It’s For the Glory.
Hard to say which bands represent us- we hope that Jesus completely defines us. But the ska bands that are either our friends, or the ones we’ve listened to are Five Iron, Insyderz, Op Ivy, The Specials, Hepcat, Fishbone… there’s probably 20 more, but you get the idea.
BrandonIVM: Lyrically, this album offers a hopeful, spiritually “on fire” direction meant to challenge listeners and encourage a lasting relationship with God through ska music. Tell me a little bit about the lyrical direction on this new album and why it’s so important at this time to inspire others to lead the charge?
Jason Carson: We’ve been blessed. God has been shaping us for 21 years as a ministry. Our #1 desire is to lead people to Christ. We’re not trying to build a name for ourselves, we want to promote the name of the Most High. So for us, when we set out to do an album, there was a total intentionality that said, “Let’s write the most God glorifying lyrics and be as encouraging to the church as possible!”
BrandonIVM: Where do you think you guys fit in today’s music environment, a place that’s often filled with depressing and sometimes vulgar lyrics? Where do The OC Supertones fit with the weepy emo/screamo/metalcore bands of today’s world? Any thoughts on the oversaturation of some of these bands?
Jason Carson: AND… (Brandon… I cut and paste this question because I think I addressed it in this answer… so now its one BIG super question! Is that ok?)
BrandonIVM: Switching gears here for a minute. There was a rise and definite revival of hearts during the 90’s when all these bands suddenly became larger than life and the crowds were surging. When the year 2000 hit, things started to change and it wasn’t as much about saving lives as it was about making money and looking “cool”. How do you think this change of attitude, thought, and industry took place? Do you guys ever look back on those days of youth and miss some of the more fiery moments? Why do you think some bands have survived while others have turned to dust and disappeared with the changing of times?
Jason Carson: We decided to stop playing fun, danceable music altogether so we can start playing weepy emo- BAHAHAHAHA!!! Yeah right! The bottom line is we couldn’t play that music to save our lives. And we’re definitely not cool enough to look or dress that way- our wives would laugh their heads off at us! But seriously, the industry definitely looks different than it did a decade ago. A lot of the bands we’ve played with the last couple of years have had a much different mindset than a lot of the bands we played with in 1999 and 2000. There’s also quite a few bands out there that are clearly doing everything for the glory of God! But here’s the deal: God uses all things in all kinds of ways. Some are blatant, some are not. Some have pure motives, others do not. Some are leading people to Christ, some are leading people away from Him. But the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. We all are given life and various forms of His amazing grace. God’s favor is not something that can be boxed up in man’s terms. You could easily say that DC Talk was perhaps the biggest Christian rock group of all time… and they were totally right on, …and thus they have God’s favor. But by that reasoning, what would you say about some ungodly secular band selling more albums last year than anyone on the planet? It doesn’t make sense. But grace has never made sense. Grace is undeserved favor- and the Lord gives to whom He pleases. I’ve always thought that there’s not much value in looking at what other people are called to do. I know that for us personally, we take very seriously the call God has put on this band. We wouldn’t be doing this anymore if it wasn’t for the right reasons. Sure, we’re the old guys now. But I don’t care what age you are. I love to see the heart of worship. I love to see ANY band out there make that a priority. Hopefully our band will always stand for that and encourage others to stand for that as well.
BrandonIVM: We all came up in the scene as youth, heck I am probably near some of you guys in age as well. Now that we are all older and have families of our own, how do you guys continue to keep your music (and mentalities), fresh? How do The OC Supertones continue to be relevant this day and age and where do you guys see yourselves in the future? How will you continue to push yourselves and move forward?
Jason Carson: Every good and perfect gift comes from Him. Any time we take credit or act like we’re relevant, creative, fresh, or hip… it’s a joke! God is our inspiration and we simply desire to be obedient. The future is uncertain, but God isn’t. We don’t know, but He does. We’re not always right, but He is. So we wait on Him!
BrandonIVM: You guys have a rich history with involvement in the music industry with your members contributing to different projects over the years including Unashamed, The Dingees (in the very beginning), Grand Incredible, Mojo & October Light, etc. What has it been like to work on all these other projects and where do you feel your place is in the music “industry” at large?
Jason Carson: You tell us! But seriously, we don’t know… The Supertones have definitely been the biggest platform for us, and we’re very grateful for every opportunity. When we first came out in 1996, there was nothing like us. People were salivating over the idea of a Christian ska band. And our live show brought quite a bit to the table as well. We’ve played in front of 100,000 people at once, and we’ve played in front of 30. I hope that every show we’ve ever played has always had the same focus- that it was For the Glory! Are you sensing a theme here? Maybe we should name our new album that…. Oh wait…
BrandonIVM: What was it like working with BEC/T&N again and specifically Brandon Ebel? How did this “deal” come about and what words of wisdom would you share with the kickstarter backers who assumed you were going the “independent” route? I know it’s just a Distribution deal but maybe you guys could elaborate a bit for the fans that are left in the dark.
Jason Carson: Kickstarter was fantastic. We had such great support from our fans and they not only helped us… they made this album happen! We used every dime raised on this album. During the last month or so, we’ve been using our own money to finish paying for a lot of the kickstarter rewards, because we ran out of budget. So please be assured- we used every penny that people donated. Once the recording was done, we partnered with BEC to do a distribution deal. In the deal, they helped us do the layout, the packaging, and they’re going to put it in stores for us for a very small, fair percentage. We prayed and decided it would be way better to get marketed and distributed to all the stores in the nation instead of just doing everything independent, and only having it on itunes or for sale through our website. This is just another way to spread the message. We hope that people will rejoice with us on those details and not be skeptical or critical… It’s a blessing! And the Tooth and Nail guys are family. We’re so thankful for every opportunity they had given us over the years. Even now, Brandon, Jim, and the whole Tooth and Nail family have been a huge blessing to us to see this album get into as many hands as possible.
BrandonIVM: Some of you are youth pastors/pastors, can you tell me what that working environment is like on a daily basis and what continues to inspire you guys to do what you do? Where are your home Churches and where are you guys mostly located in these days?
Jason Carson: It’s funny how blinded you can get when you’re constantly in the spotlight. When you play on a stage in front of screaming fans, sign autographs for 2 hours a night, and everyone pats you on the back to say “You guys are so awesome- you’re my favorite band ever,”… Well, let’s just say it’s not the greatest industry in the world to understand the heart of Christian living: that it’s all about Him and not about you. Jesus told us if we’re following Him that we’d be persecuted and hated because the world hated Him first. But if you’re a rockstar, you’re constantly being exalted, not humbled. And Jesus wants us to humble ourselves SO THAT He can lift us up. But as soon as most of us left the band and became Youth Pastors and Pastors, the rockstar life died immediately! The life of a Pastor is messy, painful, and difficult. You don’t always get patted on the back for doing the right thing! Most of us are in Southern California (Orange County I should say!), our trombone player is in New Mexico, and our singer lives in Denver.
BrandonIVM: What are some of your favorite OC Supertones albums of the past and why? How do you think your new album stacks up against some of your past music? What are your all time favorite OC Supertones songs?
Jason Carson: I’m pretty sure we all agree that Supertones Strike Back was our best album. It had a real innocence to it and we really found our sweet spot. Musically, lyrically, and feel-wise, it represented the O.C. Supertones well. My favorite Supertone songs are Who Can Be Against Me, Unite, Little Man, Grounded, and Louder than the Mob. But since the new album was written, those songs take a back seat to about 9 of the 12 new songs!!! We all agree that this new album is way better than any of our other albums! It’s almost as if we all stepped away from the band for a bunch of years, grew up, learned what it meant to have and serve a family, learned some humility and perspective, learned what it meant to shepherd and minister to people in a daily environment, got our heads screwed back onto reality, and then came back together to do a reunion and make an album with purpose and mission. Oh wait…
BrandonIVM: What are some of your favorite bands of the past and present? What are you guys listening to lately? What inspires the music of The OC Supertones and continues to influence you guys in your music making?
Jason Carson: Switchfoot has always been a band favorite. Do those guys just keep getting better and better?!!! What’s their deal?!!! The reality is we are all very different guys and you’d get totally different answers from every guy in the band. I personally like listening to worship music, and that’s kind of it. Currently, I’m listening to Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons over, and over, and over, and over…
BrandonIVM: Will we see any official music videos from the “For the Glory” album? If so, what song and when can we expect it? Any chance you guys will be on MTV again 😉
Jason Carson: I doubt it. We’ll see.
BrandonIVM: What is your next single? Any chance for a general market radio impact or is this strictly Christian market stuff? I would love to hear you guys on mainstream radio, I think your message deserves to be heard by the world at large.
Jason Carson: Right now, radio is pushing Far More Beautiful (AC) and For the Glory (rock). From what we hear, All Glory, The Wise and the Fool, and All the Way Alive might get shots at being singles. And hey, we’d love for ANY radio station to play us. Let’s get the word out!
BrandonIVM: Everyone is asking, will there be another big SKA TOUR with Five Iron Frenzy and The Insyderz in 2013? May I suggest you guys take out the band Blood and Water with you next year.
Jason Carson: If I had a nickel for every time someone asked us if we’d do that tour… haha! The answer to the tour would probably be yes, except for the fact that we’re not touring. At all. We are literally playing around 5-8 shows a year (and usually not in a row). We played 2 shows this year with Five Iron (and had a blast!), and we’re playing 3 shows in a row with the Insyderz on November 9th -11th in Southern California. So come to those shows! It might be the closest we’ll get to this dream.
BrandonIVM: Will Matt record any guest vocals on the new Five Iron Frenzy record? How are you “ska” bands getting along these days? Is there a friendly relationship and exchange there?
Jason Carson: Matt was asked to sing on the new Insyderz record and he did. Not sure about 5 Iron. But I should encourage everyone to not focus on this stuff. People love to compare and criticize. When I pop in my Insyderz and 5 Iron CD’s, I don’t think they sound anything like us and we don’t sound anything like them. We love all those guys (and girl), and we have big hug fests every time we bump into each other, but the reality is we’re all in different states, different bands, different sounds, different musical and spiritual directions, different approaches, different live shows, different everything… It’d be like always comparing us to Michael W. Smith… “You guys both play Christian music… how come you don’t play shows together?” And our answer to that would be, “Because Michael W. Smith is TOO AWESOME for us!!!” …Seriously… big props to Smitty! But back to the question, we’ll play a show with just about anyone as long as God is calling us to. In the meantime, let’s let 5 Iron be 5 Iron. Insyderz be Insyderz. Switchfoot be Switchfoot. Smitty be Smitty. Underoath be Underoath. TFK, Kutless, Skillet, ABR, Hawk Nelson, Jeremy Camp, Red, Flyleaf, The Almost, Seventh Day Slumber, FM Static, Toby Mac, Fireflight, Gungor, All Sons and Daughters… these bands all have a calling. Let’s pray for them all. Let’s support them all. Let’s walk in unity!
BrandonIVM: Going forward, what can fans expect from The OC Supertones in 2013 (and beyond)? Will this “reunion” yield more future albums from you guys? Can we count on you to give us another new album in a few years now that you have a local studio guy?
Jason Carson: One day at a time, we want to be open to what God is saying to us and doing. We had said for almost 2 straight years when we were talking about getting back together in 2009, that we would NEVER commit to an album, and look what happened. So we’ll see. God’s on the throne. We’re not.
BrandonIVM: Well that about concludes my interview with The OC Supertones. Are there any last words of wisdom that you can offer fans and curious onlookers out there across the globe? How can us fans best support you guys and any prayer requests?
Jason Carson: All we can say is cling to Jesus- He’s all you need. The Lord is good. Come worship with us sometime!