Matt Thiessen - Relient K

November 23, 2004


Photo Credit: www.myspace.com/relientk

Tell me a little about your band.

We're called Relient K and we started back in 1997 or 1998 writing songs. Then we got signed to a record label, to a developmental deal, and just worked on developing our band until 2000. We started touring and putting out records and now we're on our fourth one and still touring.

You guys have been busy.

Yeah, we're actually taking a break right now over the holidays. It's really the first break that we've been on where we're not writing songs or practicing in probably five years. Pretty crazy.

In other words, you're just sitting around on your ass.

Yeah, pretty much. Actually I'm not though. I'm doing a bunch of other stuff like side projects. I've got to produce a band out in San Diego in January. The other guys are doing that stuff. They've got wives so they're allowed.

What got you into producing other bands?

I don't really know if I can yet. This will be the first thing I've ever done and somebody just asked me to do it. My friend owns a record label called Mono Vs. Stereo and he wanted me to do it so it will be interesting. We'll see what happens.

We'll find out if you're going to become a world famous record producer.

I can assure you that I will not. There is no need to try and find that out.

What kind of positive attitude is that?

Oh, I have a positive attitude. I also have a realistic outlook on life. The two mixed together.

Yeah, I guess so. So how did your previous three albums do?

They did really good. Our first one is awful. It's really bad. It sold I think 150,000 or something like that.

It can't be all that awful.

It really is. I would wish no one to hear it. If I could make them all disappear I would. It's bad. I do have a positive attitude, I'll tell you this. Our second album, I'm not really into that one either and it sold 100 something thousand records. Our third one, I'm not really super stoked on that one either but I'm more into that one than the other two. That one is getting pretty close to going gold too. They've done really well. I don't really understand it all. I just view it as a blessing.

What do you think about Mmhmm?

It's my favorite. I want to stand behind it and say I support this record. Vote for it next election. That's what I say.

Until the next one comes out and you say "you know..."

Maybe but I feel like it's the first time it's been done and I feel like this is fine. This is going to be cool. I'm not going to regret a lot of this stuff.

What makes this record seem better to you than your previous three efforts?

The problem with the other records was, we started writing songs when we were 15 years old. We're just little kids and we'd write these songs and that's 1998. Then the record doesn't come out until...well, I think it was even earlier than that. We're 15 or 16 and the record didn't come out until I was 19 years old. That's a big difference in time. When the record came out, you're like "oh yeah, we did those songs" but they're not really who you are at the time when they come out. Then the same thing happened with our second record. It was done and then it came out nine months later and the third record came out eight months after it was done. By the time the records come out, you just have some regrets and you think a little differently because that's just part of growing up. Yeah, I'm totally cool with all of it. I think it's all a learning experience. This record was done two months before it came out and I think it really encompasses where we're at as people in the band.

Every record that you do is going to be like that.

Yeah, exactly.

Tell me about a little about Mmhmm.

We have a lot of pop/punk influence but we're also influenced by Ben Folds and The Beach Boys. There's a lot of piano on it. I like melody a lot so I always try to make sure there's plenty of melodies going on. I think about the lyrics a lot. I like puns and double meanings a lot so I try to think through my lyrics quite a bit before they go down too.

In other words you put some thought into your lyrics.

Yeah, but I don't want to say it like nobody else does either. I'm sure everybody does. I guess I do. I actually try to think a lot about them.

So why did you call the album Mmhmm?

Our last album was called Two Lefts Donít Make A Right But Three Do, then the album before that was called The Anatomy Of The Tongue And Cheek, and so those are really long, dumb album titles. We needed a really short, dumb album title so we just had a bunch of one word options and that one was really annoying to say so letís just do it. Kind of bug people. Funny things happen like some girl said she was at the store buying our record and this guy said didnít this just come out last week? Heís like mmhmm and she just starts laughing and said the guy looked at her like she was an idiot. Stuff like that happens with the album titles. Itís kind of fun. Weíre dorks.

I read your biography and got a kick out of where you were forbidden to watch MTV as a kid.

Yeah, it was funny.

When did you get to sneak in your MTV viewing?

I don't know. I guess I would all the time between cable and stuff. I'd just make sure my mom wasn't home. It wasn't until junior high that I started really getting into music and at that point my favorite band was Aerosmith. It wasn't until my sophomore year in high school when I started getting into bands like MXPX and stuff like that and that really ended up molding what our band became.

Your first one sold 900 copies, the next one sold 9,000, and the next one sold 30,000 first week copies. How many have you sold of the newest one?

The new one first week is 51,000 I think. It was cool. It was 15 on the Billboard thing so I went and bought one. That's about it. We were excited about it and very surprised.

When you make it on Billboard, you made it.

We'll only be on there one week so we made it for one week.

Have you guys done a lot of touring for this album?

We did a lot of touring last year and then we're taking a break right now until the New Year. Just because we're going to let Christmas help our record out and market that. Then we're going to hit the road really hard this next year.

Everybody at Christmas time buy this record.

Yeah, hopefully. It makes a great stocking stuffer.

How long has the CD been out?

It came out November 2.

In the New Year, do you have any idea where you'll be touring?

I don't know. Actually if it's the winter time, I'd imagine that we're probably going to play the West coast and we're probably going to stay a little bit south. We're probably be coming to Dallas. You guys cater to January more so than Ohio does.

Yeah, some winters we don't get ice and some winters we do. When you write your lyrics, what goes through your mind?

Our new record is kind of thematical I guess. I write a lot about just making mistakes and trying to find a positive way to resolve things that I do wrong. It seems almost pessimistic at first but it always ends up being optimistic so we try to be a really positive band. I write a lot about relationships but not so much necessarily with girls. Just relationships in general like with just the people around you. Sometimes it is girls but I write about that stuff I guess.

Do you do the band full time?

Yeah, we do this full time. Actually this break that weíre on is the first one weíve had in a really long time. Like five years. Itís been crazy so weíre just having some time to breathe a little bit. We sell out the Tea Room every time we come to Dallas. We do okay.

Tell me about some of your favorite tracks on the CD.

When we started, we were really pop/punk and weíve tried to add to it. Become more ourselves through it. This new record still has a lot of that flavor to it but as I said itís probably a little more piano oriented. My favorite tracks are usually the ones that arenít like that at all. Thereís two mellow tracks on there, I think itís the ninth and the 14th tracks and those are probably my favorite. Then the eighth track as well. Itís got some banjo in it so I like that one too. Itís a dark song with banjo in it. Youíd have to hear it I guess to understand.

What exactly is that song about?

That song is called ďWhich To Bury; Us Or The Hatchet?Ē and it is a weird song. Itís about something my mom told me when I was little. I used to get so pissed at my sisters because theyíd be tormenting me. My mom told me you have to love everybody. I told her I didnít love them and she said I had to love them but I didnít necessarily have to like them. That happened with some friends this year. Just some stuff went down and I felt really betrayed. The whole song is basically like I still love them. Iím not going to deny that but right now I really donít like them. I really donít like what theyíre doing. That song is just about the relationship. Should I bury this relationship or should I bury the hatchet?

In theory itís good to love everybody but sometimes there comes a time when people do things that are so morally bankrupt or fucked up that you really have to say ďyou know, I canít be around you.Ē

Yeah, exactly. Itís an encouraging thing to try and see the best in everybody and to realize that people sometimes lose it and sometimes they make huge mistakes but who are we to judge that? Weíre all capable of some pretty bad stuff.

How did you guys meet up?

We grew up together. Our bass player just quit so he was in the band. Iíve known our old bass player and our guitarist Matt ever since we were in first grade. We just grew up together and started playing guitar at the same time. We were all into the same bands so we all hung out and went to the same shows and started writing songs together.

You guys have been in the same band since Ď98 and are still good friends and donít want to kill one another.

Exactly.

Whatís your secret?

I donít know. We donít do things to make each other angry. Itís like brothers. If you have a good relationship with a sibling, you can be around each other all the time. You can live in the same house and not necessarily want to kill each other. Thatís what our relationship is like. Weíre brothers. We get annoyed with each other but weíre not ever annoyed to the point where we donít like each other.

That loving each other thing comes into play again.

Yeah, exactly.

You released your first three albums on Gotee Records and Mmhmm was jointly released with Capitol.

The record was done. It was probably three and a half weeks before it was going to come out on just Gotee and I think Andy Slater over at Capitol heard it. He called our record label and said that he enjoyed the record and would like to be a part of it. Weíre stoked about that. A lot of kids are like ďyou were on an indie label. Now youíre on a major label. Youíre going to sell out.Ē The fact that the label came along, that Capitol came along after the record was done, it just means that we werenít planning on it. We didnít write the new record to sell out or get on the radio.

I get tired of that term. Yes to a certain extent, you have to hope you get your shit played on the radio and yes, you have to hope that you get your video played on MTV. You have to hope a major label picks you up because you want to do this for a living and the only way people are going to come out to see you is if you can actually afford to do this for a living. Itís not called selling out. Itís called eating and paying your rent.

Yeah, there are certain levels to it though too. I donít want to go naming names but thereís a punk rock band that I really liked and I was really excited for their new record and it was coming out on a major label. Obviously they wrote all their songs up to that point but then all of a sudden they started teaming up with other writers. Itís one thing for Avril Lavigne to do that but when youíre a punk rock band, you got where youíre at because you wrote your own songs. Why donít you just continue to do that instead of trying to team up with somebody just so you just blow up and get a lot of radio play. I feel that thatís just not being yourself so much as catering to the game.

Something else people donít realize sometimes is, when youíre a band itís not like you have health insurance and the kind of things people rely on when they work a 9 to 5 job. Youíre basically paying your own way for everything so the more money you can make, the better off you are.

Yeah, kids on message boards donít really look into it or think that in depth. Youíve got a good point.

Now people will know. Any other thoughts or comments?

www.relientk.com and www.mmhmm.com.

Relient K