Matt Hoopes and John Warne of Relient K
Relient K’s latest release, The Bird & the Bee Sides, is pretty much as good as it gets for a fan of the band and music fans in general. It’s called an EP but houses 26 songs, sounds like they’re setting the bar for other bands up there to step up to the plate! Offering up rarities, acoustic versions and new songs all on one disc, there’s a little something for everyone and then some. Giving music fans a taste of Relient K’s future while still holding on to the past seems to be the encompassing theme of the disc. Relient K fans are a passionate bunch and this EP is sure to keep them satisfied.
Fresh off or Warped Tour Relient K is currently out on the Uncle Fest Tour with Ludo and This Providence sharing the stage with them. If you’ve always wondered what Thiessen would look like as a vampire, here’s your chance to find out.
TWRY Staffer Lexi caught up with guitarist Matt Hoopes and bassist John Warne earlier this year at Warped tour to discuss the finer things in life – Harry Weinhards root beer and other guilty pleasures.
Interviewed by: Lexi Shapiro | October 2008
So, I have read that you don’t want to be labeled as a “Christian band.” How do you feel that you make that distinction between being an outright “Christian band” and just being Christian.
Matt: Well, actually, our official stance on that is that we like to just not really label ourselves one way or the other. All of us in the band are Christians, and so we kind of leave that as if you want to say that our music is Christian or isn’t, then that’s kind of up to your discretion. But, it’s not something that we try to say one we’re way or the other. It’s more walking a line of doing what you believe in and also being listenable to people that are not from your background.
A lot of people have some sort of epiphany or moment of clarity where they realize that they want to devote themselves to God more fully or for their faith to be a big part of their lives. What was yours for you guys?
John: I don’t know that I really had one.
Matt: I think for me… I mean, a lot of grew up in very supportive, loving Christian families, so none of us had the real bad experience with the church or any of that kind of stuff growing up. I think for me it was always like, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do. I want to make my parents happy.” I felt this connection with God, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I think I really kind of put it up against other religions, like, “Do I really believe what I say I believe? And, why do I do it?” So, it was really about academically deciding that I think that what I believe makes sense more than everything else in the world, and that I actually do believe it.
How about for you?
John: Yeah, I would agree that it was definitely around college… you start moving out and getting your own ideas about stuff where your faith or lack thereof will become more clear to you. And, it definitely did for me, but there was really no “jumping-in” experience or anything like that.
What do you consider some of your guilty pleasures or vices?
John: Hoopes has an unhealthy obsession with his fixed-gear. Coincidentally enough, we were just talking about…
John: He brings it up ALL the time.
Matt: Every time I get on the internet, I’m on it. It’s my new thing of the week, I guess. I have an unhealthy obsession with root beer. I’m a connoisseur.
Matt: Henry Weinhard’s. You ever had it?
No. I hate root beer with a passion, so…
Matt: You would like this. Do you like cream soda?
Matt: Yeah, you would like this, then, for sure.
John. It’s the real deal.
Matt: It’s real smooth, and it’s not quite as sugary-sweet as the other ones, but it’s got this real vanilla kind of… It’s really good. You can mostly only get it on the West Coast, but they’ve just started shipping stuff further east.
Perhaps you could revolutionize my thinking, then, on root beer.
Matt: Yeah, Henry Weinhard’s. And, they make a cream soda also, which is a little over-the-top sweet-wise for me, but it’s really good.
What about your guilty pleasures?
John: I’m kind of nerdy. I like electronics and stuff like that.
Matt: John always has the newest everything.
John: That’s not true!
John: A lot of times I’ll do it, and then a month later, Hoopes will outdo me. He’ll get, like, a step up.
Did you get the new iPhone?
*Both laugh heartily*
John: Do you have to ask?!
Oh, burned again?!
Matt: And, here’s me with my one-year old Blackberry!
John: Yeah, but in a month, you’re going to have the NEW new iPhone!
So, what are your guilty pleasures musically, then? What music do you listen to that you wouldn’t openly admit to unless coerced?
John: Are you coercing us?
I am coercing you!
John: Ok. I think my default answer is that song from Puddle of Mudd…
Matt: Oh, nice!
John: It’s… I don’t even know the name of it…
Matt: It’s a good song, though.
John: It’s a decent song, but it’s Puddle of Mudd!
Matt: Yeah, Blurry.
John: Yeah…that. I don’t know!
Matt: It’s like, real slow.
“Can you take it all away…”
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that one! It’s got this moment of sweetness in there for about five seconds.
What about your musical guilty pleasure?
Matt: I don’t know… I mean, every now and then you have to put on some Flock of Seagulls.
John: That’s the second time that’s come up today, as well.
Matt: Yeah, weird.
I’m just so in tune with you guys.
Matt: I don’t know. I don’t really like pop music.
No Hanson? No Spice Girls hidden on your iPods…or iPhones… new iPhones?
John: I’m not really riddled with guilt about anything that I listen to.
Matt: Our guitar player, Jon Schneck, he’s the pop guy. He’s got all the Christina Aguilera and all that stuff.
John: He likes superstars, in whatever category.
Matt: Yeah! Also, his vice is getting on TheSuperficial.com or Perez Hilton or that stuff, celebrity gossip, not to talk badly about him.
John: What was the first one? Super official?
Matt: The Superficial. Have you ever seen him on that site? It’s pretty funny, actually. It’s pretty much just this guy’s blog, and he talks about celebrities in the news and makes fun of them.
Relient K at work – Photo by Mary Ouellette
What about the other Matt?
John: I don’t know. He listens to a little bit of everything.
Matt: I think his thing is that he’s into these real small super-pop almost Jonas Brothers kind of stuff, but not Jonas Brothers. He was real into that Evan & Jaron record.
Aw! Crazy For This Girl!
Matt: Yeah, he was real into stuff like that, or pop stuff from the 80s.
What do you think is one of the most valuable lessons that you’ve learned or that someone has taught you in life?
Matt: Hmm. I’m trying to think of something in particular. Maybe, just learning humility.
John: My momma always told me you gotta shop around. That’s a HUGE one, especially once I got to college, once again.
Matt: That always helps. I think I learned a lot of stuff from my parents and just their example in life. I still really respect them.
So, is there anything in particular that you’ve had to overcome that has made you a stronger person?
John: Hmm…not really. We don’t get a whole lot of these questions!
Matt: They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so…
John: So, that root beer’s definitely making you stronger.
Matt: Yeah, and this iced tea.
John: *laughs* We’re not getting real in-depth, here!
Matt: Yeah, it’s not like we’ve had the horror stories of “Oh, all of this stuff happened to me at the same time and then my dog died.” I think we’ve all been pretty blessed in life to not have had to deal with a lot of tragedy and things like that. So, that’s really cool. It’s almost crazy when you hear other people around you, like when Casey from Hawthorne Heights died, because we were on tour with them just a year earlier, it’s just so surreal. It’s like, how could this happen to someone, and someone that you know? I think we’ve been pretty blessed to not go through anything like that.
Knock on wood, right?
Matt: Yeah, exactly.
Are you still involved with Habitat For Humanity?
John: Not on this tour, officially, or anything like that.
Matt: That was just kind of a one-tour-thing, but we were really impressed with how they run their organization, just even as far as where their money goes. You really feel like when you’re giving money to them, you’re really giving it to the people that need it. It’s not, like, going to all these other people that are just sitting in the back and making money off the organization. I feel like they’re doing a really good thing out there, and we might work with them again in the future. We have a non-profit out with us right now called Blood:Water Mission, and they’re giving clean water to people in Africa or people that need it by digging wells.
The Bird and the Bee Sides just came out, and for fans who have yet to hear it, what can they expect from the album?
John: It’s kind of a mish-mash of stuff, really. It’s not a very coherent album. It’s not one, big unit together, but it’s a bunch of… Well, basically, it’s like, thirteen new songs that we just recorded and thirteen B-sides that have been floating around for a while.
Matt: That’s pretty much it. The new songs, we’ve kind of taken more liberties on, as far as stylistically, and maybe put some songs on there that we wouldn’t have normally put on a record. But, we decided: it’s a B-sides record…let’s have fun. We were originally only going to write three or four new songs and it ended up being thirteen; we just kept adding to it. Some of the new songs kind of have a little bit of a country flair to them. We had fun with that.
It’s been ten years for you guys. How do you feel that your sound has grown and changed over the years?
Matt: The biggest, obvious thing as far as the sound is the piano, and doing the piano on the road. Matt’s been playing the piano. And, we added Jon Schneck who plays the guitar and covers that when Matt switches over, and also, he will play the bells and the banjo and the weird instruments, so we’ve kind of added in that way. I think that we still just like to be considered a rock band and like to say that we still have some similarities from our first record to this record. You can still say, “I can see how that’s the same band. They might have grown in different areas, but it’s still pop music, and it’s still rock and roll.”
Tell me about the scavenger hunt you have going on. How did you come up with the idea for it?
John: I think that was the label’s idea. We wanted to have some extra songs that didn’t quite make it onto the CD because we were kind of limited by how much stuff you can actually fit onto a CD. So, the idea there was just to make it available online, but you have to do some work to get it. *laughs*
Matt: Yeah. We were originally going to make it a double disc and put way more B-side songs on there, just really junky old songs, and we decided not to because we’d have to sell it then for $18 or $20, even, and we really wanted to keep it $10 or less as much as we could. So, that was why we decided to go to one disc. And then, we’ll try to continue to even put more B-side songs up there, so if people really want them, we’ll just give them away.
Speaking of making your fans work to get your album and your songs, in The Scene and Herd, one lyric says, “And I’m sorrowed that you probably magically got this song for free. I’m not sure if it bothers me.” What IS your opinion about the apparent death of album sales occurring in the music industry today?
Matt: I think the point of that line is that we’re still lucky enough to be able to do this as a job and we’re still out here doing that. You know, you can’t stop everyone from downloading, and so just the fact that we’re still able to do it is…whatever. Come what may, you know? You can’t really control what happens around you, but definitely we really encourage people to support any band that they really like. If you really appreciate what a band is doing, you should definitely buy their record, and I do the same thing.
What band or artist would it be a dream for you to work with, living or dead?
John: I know for Thiessen at this point, it’d probably be Kanye West.
Matt: Oh yeah, he is in love with Kanye West.
John: He would go crazy.
Matt: Yeah, I don’t know. Matt’s always talked about trying to get Ben Folds to produce a record for him, a solo record or something like that. There’s a lot of people. I know that Matt would have liked to work with Brian Wilson when he wasn’t completely on drugs and brain-fried. That’s probably another hero.
How about for you guys, personally? What artist would you love to work with?
John: I’d like to get a couple Lennon-McCartney-Warne songs happening.
Matt: Yeah, yeah! I think that could work. I can see that happening. John’s a big Beatles fan.
John: At our signing today, it was all Beatles.
Matt: Oh yeah, that was crazy.
John: It was awesome.
What’s your favorite Beatles album?
John: Probably Revolver or Abbey Road.
And, your favorite Beatle?
John: Beatle? I’m just going to go with Ringo, because he doesn’t get enough love.
Ok, I feel that. “Peace and love,” right?
John: *laugh* Yeah, there we go.
And, did Yoko Ono break up the Beatles?
John: Ahh, let’s not talk about Yoko Ono!
Matt: He doesn’t even want to, like, say anything!
And, how about for you?
Matt: I don’t really have any ultimate, like, “this is my ultimate music.” But, I think working with anyone that’s done anything just really classic and good, randomly get to work with someone from the Who or Pink Floyd or someone that’s done amazing things in music that’s really revolutionary at their time would be pretty cool.
So, perhaps someday, a Relient K-Roger Daltry-Roger Waters tour?
Matt: Exactly, yeah! There you go!
John: There it is!
And, Kanye West has to be on there, too, because you have to make everybody happy.
Matt: And, Kanye West! He’ll open up the show.
And, we will resurrect John Lennon, and we will bring him back for that too.
John: Ok! Alright!
What is one of the craziest things to ever happen to you on tour?
Matt: One time, before John was in the band, we were driving, and there was a big lane highway and a cop car was pulled over in our lane, stopped in our lane. So, we had to get over, and all of the sudden, our van was just spinning in the middle of this intersection, and we miraculously made it to the other side without hitting any trucks or oncoming cars.
John: You hit a ramp and flew over, is what I heard.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. It was kind of like Dukes of Hazzard, you know? *all laugh*
John: You paused midair and someone was like “Let’s see how the Relient K boys get out of this one!” *all laugh*
Matt: It was kind of like that. No, it was just like, you’re spinning like this in the middle of this intersection and you see cars coming and you’re like “Hooooly!” What do you do?! There’s nothing you can do. It kind of feels like it takes five minutes for you to go to the other side of the road.
Do you guys have any last words?
John: Well, we’ve got a new tour coming up for this Fall, so all of you East-coasters, beware! It should be a good time.
Matt: Everyone get there early to check out House of Heroes.
Matt: Best band on the tour.
John: Get their new record.
Better than you guys?
Matt: Yes. They’re really good. Their new record is not out yet and it’s amazing.