Possibly THE BEST Metal-Injected CHRISTIAN ROCK BAND You’ve Never Even Heard About!
Christian rock no longer hides under a bushel, now that SPOKEN have embarked on their first major North American tour. Coming from the same central Iowa region as the sonically relentless Slipknot – Spoken caters to a much more sensitive lyric & melodic approach…but packs just as much attention-grabbing intensity, when it comes to embracing pulses of hardcore metal. Consisting of Matt Baird (vocals), Oliver Crumpton (drums), & Ryan Pei (bass)…the group resurrected a long seventeen year history with their current album “Illusion” (eOne Music)…& it’s brought the band into a “new light” for audiences looking for a fist-pounding thrust! Finishing up touring with VOLBEAT on April 11th, they have shocked new fans with the professional execution of a hardened rock act…& likable personalities that support good ethics, clear reasoning, & a deep faith that has prepared them for this journey in their lives.
“Our work ethic is something that’s really important to us.” vocalist Matt Baird confesses, as we wait for the concert to begin at Brandt Centre in Regina, “We feel like…this is why God created us…to be in a rock band. We do not take this for granted. This is an amazing thing for us…to be able to play music this long in the game.” When asked specifically what this band represents, he says – “This band represents a tonne of shows played…we’ve played well-over 4,000 shows in our career. We pride ourselves in touring non-stop. We tour eight months outta’ every year.” Now to some, 4,000 shows may not seem like a whole heck of a lot…but in the confines of today’s music industry, financing your own way & directing every aspect of your career, 4,000 shows are what can separate you from your rivals. And then you may ask…how can a band that has SIX full-length albums (now seven), & a “Greatest Hits” release, still remain so unknown? The fact of the matter is…Spoken needed to reinvent themselves to break away from the rap-injected vibes that were so popular during the 1996-2000 era, & they went through a number of lineup changes to try & incorporate new elements into their sound. Their themes took on topics about love, guilt, hope, fear, intention, absolution, & the deliverance from a world of spiritual warfare that haunts us all…& Baird has a keen ability to pull the raw emotions through a soaring wall of sound.
“Even before we recorded our first album, we had already started veering off towards the more melodic hardcore thing.” he says, as I comment on the powerful magnitude of the band having a likeness to IN FLAMES. He credits producer Jasen Rausch (Red, Disciple, Breaking Benjamin) for bringing out the best adaptability for their music, but admits that they spend a lot of time making sure the well-calculated parts have a good sonic direction. The crushing assault of songs like “Stand Alone”, “Beneath The Surface”, “Shadow Over Me”, “Accuser”, & “Illusion” rest comfortably amongst softer, pop-rock tones creating a revolving chemistry that is easily digested. Through It All, the band’s first & most significant single from the release, almost didn’t make it onto the album – due to a lack of lyrical direction. It wasn’t until a catastrophic event (The Joplin Tornado) hit close to home, & brought a surge of empathy to Baird. “We went back to the studio, & this was a couple days after the tornado hit…& I was like, ‘Ah, I’m gonna try this tune again…I’m gonna see what happens.’ I went upstairs, at the studio in Tennessee – I went up & started watching these YouTube videos of the tornado…& all this stuff of just the people, & the recovery process, & people coming from all over the country…to come, & to help, & to dig through debris…& to find survivors, & belongings, & all this stuff. I’m like…if there’s ever anything anybody needs right now, it’s hope…& that’s not just in Joplin, but that’s just like THE WORLD.” Casting themselves into others’ situations, & having an appreciation for human nature & all its frailties, has been crucial to the impact of certain songs – “Through It All” recently hitting #1 on the Christian Rock Charts. But their predominant spiritual views never seem to get in the way of diehard metal enthusiasts tapping into the explosive alternative innovation of the group. Punishing screams & scourging guitar-laden efforts are dispersed into the resilient choruses that support Baird’s more temperate vocal structures, constituting a great mosh-like vibe with anthemic sing-along appeal. In their stage show, they believe in being EVEN MORE AGRESSIVE & OPEN than what just their CD curtails. Those demands are high for any band, but Baird doesn’t accept anything less than perfection. “You hit it!” he says, “That’s what was written, that’s what was recorded, that’s what that fan is expecting…you hit it all costs. Don’t give a person a reason to walk away & be like…yeah, I like the record better.”
The duality of Spoken’s contrasting styles keeps all types of music listeners appeased by the group, but it’s their “MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE” stage performance that claims the fans. Crumpton signals interaction through every gripping facial expression, while beating his kit half to death…& Baird jumps over speakers, crawls on amps, even balances on the metal-clad railing of the barrier, while holding onto the hand of an awed spectator. The sight is quite astonishing, if you’ve never seen or heard of Spoken before…& attests to running out of sale CDs well before the Volbeat tour even ended. They are thrilled to be working with their new record label eOne Music, who has provided the necessary artist development in the successful re-emergence of the group…since their departure from the scene in 2007, & a self-titled album on Tooth & Nail Records. “The fact that they embrace our past, what we have done as a band…they embrace our work ethic…they embrace the fact that we know what it is that we believe, & what we live, & what we want to portray in our lives…they loved the music that they were hearing. They love our work ethic, that is current, & they love how accessible the record is. I couldn’t be happier to have someone behind us like eOne or XYQ Management. It’s been awesome!” Matt states, sharing that all their elements combined spawn from a natural love of music & the passion to never stop learning about the world. Choosing what segments to play heavy, & experimenting in how they collectively fuse together, has been a top priority for Spoken…while in the throes of trying to be creatively different. “It’s important for bands to never think they’ve got it figured out.” Baird adds.
SPOKEN have toured in the USA, Japan, Germany, Sweden, & can now add Canada to that list. They are often categorized as a “SOLD OUT” band, filling venues to capacity & even counting the smallest acoustic sets as an opportunity to reach out to new listeners. It is also important to the members that other bands recognize the time & effort that they put into what they do…& the past seventeen years show determination, dedication, & a survival instinct that often corresponds to their songs. “I believe there is power in the name of Jesus,” Matt rationalizes, “& I’m not gonna beat it to death, I’m not gonna say a tonne…cause there’s nothing I can say to a person that’s gonna just make them automatically have faith.” Through a tangible presence in their music, Baird wants all fans to know that they’ll be accepted into the Spoken family…no matter what they choose to believe, or how they live. After all, it’s not up to anyone else to judge. We discuss Calm The Storm – the group’s most vulnerable song on the release, & one that leaves the most resounding message on the entire disc. “CALM THE STORM is probably my favorite song on the record…the bridge of that song gets me.” Baird says, “Say you’ll never let me go, say you’ll never leave me here alone…that’s what everyone on this planet wants to hear.” While admitting that he’s never completely listened to the finished album from front-to-back, Baird’s amazed that it has been received so openly by so many people…in such a short period of time. Perhaps, it’s divine intervention…but I would be more willing to bet that it’s a combination of well-chorded rhythms with a centrifuge of palpable lyrics & a fierce, heavy emancipation of them – showing that Christian rock doesn’t have to be SPOKEN in tongues, it can be as abrupt as hell…leaving listeners down on their knees, begging for more.
Find the band at: www.spokenmusic.com/