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Interview with: Matt Thiessen, Relient K

Previously published on popwreckoning.com on 6/24/2008:

Bethany recently got the chance to talk with Relient K‘s Matt Thiessen about their headlining gig on this summer’s Warped Tour and the new The Bird and Beesides EP due out July 1st. Check it out:

Bethany, PopWreckoning: Hello.
Matt Thiessen: How are you doing?
PW: I’m doing alright. How are you Matt?
MT: I’m doing well. Trying to fit everything I could possibly need for the next two months into to a suitcase right now.
PW: You’re getting ready for Warped Tour?
MT: Yeah I’m leaving this afternoon.
PW: So you guys have played Warped tour before right?
MT: Yeah, three years ago we did it with about half of it, a little more maybe.
PW: And you’re on for the whole time this year?
MT: Yep, we play every single show.
PW: So how’s Warped Tour different than other tours?
MT: Well, Warped Tour is really different than a lot of tours. It only happens during the summer so there are a whole bunch of weather factors involved like it’s usually pretty hot on stage. . .you’re usually pretty much sweating the whole time and It is hard to shower and you kind of operate like you’re at summer camp, which also makes it really enjoyable.
PW: Are you guys going to be playing some of the new songs on Warped?
MT: Yeah, I think so. We haven’t decided what songs we’re going to play yet, so I’ll find out that more as we start practicing and stuff.
PW: Yeah, you guys have what? Two weeks to start prepping before June 20th?
MT: I think the first show is a week from this Friday or Saturday, this Friday? Very exciting.
PW: That is very exciting. So on this new EP, how did you guys decide on doing two EPs kind of merged on to one record?

MT: We had a bunch of songs that we had released on EPs and stuff through the past seven years or whatever. And we didn’t know what to do with these songs and the kids couldn’t really get a hold of them but they would all make it online for download illegally or the few copies that sold out- you had to buy them on eBay.
We just had all these songs and we’re like we’ll put them all together and make a b-side record. But whatever we put out, I don’t know, I’m not into greatest hits or b-sides or any of that stuff, but my favorite type of record is when in the past bands I’ve liked have put out a b-side record. They put originals on it or newer songs, then I usually get more into it. We just wanted to put some new original songs on our b-side record and it turned out to be like 13 songs. So we just ended up putting a bunch of songs on it.
PW: So on the first part of it, the Nashville EP, those are all new songs, right?
MT: Correct.
PW: But one of them, “Catch a Thief” is kind of a new version of an old song?
MT: Yeah, we have a song on an EP called the Apathetic EP and the song is called “The Thief.” And we just started reworking it this year, we wrote a new intro and we played it a full band. It used to be just piano and vocals pretty much. So we sort of changed it around a little bit.
PW: Why just one song that you kind of changed around and the rest all original?
MT: I don’t know. That’s kind of the way it happened, I guess so, I liked that song “The Thief” and we never really did anything with it and I we couldn’t really play it live the way it was so we went back and changed it and we decided to rework it and tried to make the song have a little more substance to it. The guys liked it enough so when we finished tracking the new songs we decided to try the new version.
PW: Okay. There’s some other styles on this EP that I haven’t been hearing before like I’ve being hearing a lot more ska on it?
MT: Yeah, there’s a little bit of that on there, yeah. Well, our new drummer, Ethan, he used to be in a ska band. So on his new song that he wrote, there’s a little bit more of that. You know on “The Lining is Silver” it’s a little bit more of a reggae, steel drum feel to it. I like that stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Goldfinger right now and band’s like that.
PW: I also noticed on a lot of the tracks on the Nashville EP, you weren’t necessarily singing lead vocals. You guys switched it around a bit more than I’ve heard in the past.
MT: Well, I think every single person in the band sings lead on at least one song, other than me. And then I sing the rest of them. So, you know, we did it like this because I think it is fun to do that.
PW: Do you have a favorite song that you guys are really, really proud of? A potential single off this b-side?
MT: I wouldn’t say single, but my favorite song off this b-side record is called “Curl Up and Die.”

PW: Oh, that;s my favorite, too.
MT: Yeah, that’s my favorite song-genre.
PW: You say “genre?”
MT: Yeah, that “Curl Up and Die” song is a whole different feel to it than that faster rock stuff. That slower stuff is more fun for me to write because I haven’t really for the last ten years of writing whereas if you’re writing a punk rock influenced fast song, well we’ve kind of gone through that before so it’s more fun to write like that.
PW: And the second half of the EP, the actual b-sides and demos, how did you decide what made the cut for that?
MT: Whatever was performed, a lot of our older songs, or songs even written poorly at times, just you know, I know that I can sing a lot of the songs better than the way they were recorded, so just a lot of that prideful sort of thing. You look back at your old stuff and you say, “Oh man I wish I would have done that better.” You just have to pick the best b-sides: the ones that would be easy to listen to and make you not want to skip tracks a lot. The rest of the b-sides were just to make them available to everybody.
PW: I also saw that you guys were considering doing a digital album as well as those?
MT: Yeah, we were sort of looking at the album from a table scraps perspective and well we could only fit 26 songs on to the actual physical copy of the record, but we still got more and we wanted to up the value of the record. If you buy the record, we’re going to work it out where you get a code to get some more free songs out of it. That way we’re kind of getting rid of everything that we’ve got and for someone who is a real fan of our band they get a lot of extra songs to have.
PW: Yeah, that’s really cool. I’ve noticed that you guys have a really good interaction with your fan base. You guys blog and do podcasts and lots of picture updates for your fans.
MT: There are certain people that we’ve noticed sort of stick with us who have know us for ten years or eight years, there are people who have been with us the whole time and we try to acknowledge their loyalty, the longevity of their interest by giving them whatever we can.
PW: I heard a rumor that you guys might be doing like an online Easter egg hunt sort of thing?
MT: Yeah, we were working on an idea, I liked the idea, but someone said, “Hey let’s try to do some sort of scavenger hunt.” We’ll give you clues. We’ll try to give you songs on the website or my blog: maybe go here, you’ll get another clue to go here and then you’ll end up on somebody’s website where you get a free song for your effort from just paying attention and following the clues or something like that. So yeah there’s an extra five songs that will go out on that.
PW: Another song I thought was really interesting on your b-side was the “Bee Your Man” song where you guys just kind of breakdown and have some fun and do the buzz sound.
MT: Yeah, that’s the song that John Schneck, our guitar player, wrote and he sings the leads on the beginning of that.
PW: Was any of that freestyle, too?
MT: He just kind of wrote the song, he wanted to write like a country song. He’s been practicing country songs. So, he played all the guitar on that song. It was kind of a showcase for him. Because I think he was online studying country guitar licks and stuff, so he did pretty good. And it’s funny to hear him play all that stuff. And we liked the way it wrapped together the whole theme of the record. I mean there’s a couple of moments on the Nashville EP where it sounds like Nashville. It sounds like a little country and so for the last song to be country like that, it kind of ties the whole thing together. It’s fun.
PW: So you mentioned Ethan was writing some of the new songs. Is Ethan fitting in well with the band and contributing?
MT: Yeah, that’s the thing. When we decided that we were doing an EP along with the b-sides, I called up the other guys and I asked if they would be interested in writing a song for it just so we would have a few more songs. So they all wrote songs, and I ended up writing more than I thought I would, but that’s why we ended up with 13 songs.
But yeah, Ethan’s great. He was the first one done with his. He has been a friend of ours for a really long time, about eight years, and he was our guitar tech, he’s been my guitar tech for about the last year and a half. So it is not like there’s any trouble with him fitting in to the situation because he’s been a part of it for a long time.
PW: Has it been difficult for you guys to put this together since you’re all kind of dispersed now-some of you are in Nashville, some are in Ohio?
MT: We just try to have a plan. Right now I’m leaving to go to Nashville so we can rehearse and practice. Our bass player is flying in, so we’ll practice on Sunday/Monday before we go out to Warped Tour. You know. We got to have a plan, we can’t just jump on the road for a couple of shows. You got to practice and get together. But I like Nashville, so it’s fun to go there.
PW: I think that’s a majority of my questions, I have one last random question that a friend really wanted me to ask.
MT: Cool.
PW: Have you ever seen the show “Pants Off, Dance Off” on Fuse?
MT: Yeah, is the girl from “Full House” still hosting it?
PW: Jodie Sweetin? I think on occasion. My friend wanted me to ask, if you were on that show, what music video would you dance to?
MT: Okay, if I could take off my clothes to a song? Huh. I guess “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” by The Feeling. Have you heard this song?
PW: By who?
MT: The Feeling. They’re a really cool band. Check it out-their song  “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing.” Oh wait, no, no, no. Never mind–a Scissor Sisters song. I picked the wrong band. It’s a Scissor Sisters’ song. That would be the one. You’ll have to look it up, it’s a really cool song.
PW: Oh, okay, I’ve heard Scissor Sisters. Would Jodie Sweetin have to be the host?
MT: Yeah.
PW: I think that’s everything. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I’ll see you on Warped Tour.
MT: What show?
PW: I’ll be at the KC show in Bonner Springs, KS.
MT: Oh, cool. That will be fun. Make sure you come say “hi.”
PW: Will do. Thank you so much, Matt.
MT: Ok. Take it easy.
PW: You too, bye.


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