Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Q&A with Needtobreathe

Here is additional material from my phone interview with singer/guitarist Bear Rinehart last month from the band’s studio in Charleston, SC.

Is this the same studio where you demo songs for your albums?
Yeah, it’s become a real deal thing. It started out as a demo studio pretty much, but there’s a house here we wrecked and made into a studio we come home to. It’s great and in a neighborhood where nobody knows we’re here. We can spend all the time we want and nobody tells us ‘no.’

On the upcoming tour, the band will play some of its largest venues to date as a headliner. Looking forward to that?
We are. It’s been crazy. We always used to say that the funnest time in our career was going to be when we finally sold out all the venues we’d been playing forever. It seems like when you first start out as a band, you play certain clubs around the country on everybody’s tour list. You see all these clubs everybody’s playing. This was the first time we got the routing for a tour and I didn’t recognize half the venues...I think we’ve always taken the live thing pretty seriously. It’s the backbone of what we do. So we’re taking out more lights and production stuff.

You’ve played large venues as an opening act and at festivals. Which do you prefer?
I think we like the intimate thing. There’s a lot to like about both obviously. I think we’re definitely in our element as a headliner. We can’t play 3 or 4 songs in 45 min. We grew up playing in sweaty clubs and we feel a little bit like that’s home for us. When you open and play festivals, you find yourself playing for 10,000 people. That completely changes the dynamic. I think it’s something that if we do ever get to that level, we’ll really enjoy and embrace it. We’ve had that funny story where we’re opening for a band in front of that many people and we have to put all our amps really close together because our cables won’t reach. There’s a growing up process as you get to bigger venues. We’ve really enjoyed it every step of the way.

When I caught the band live last summer at Fish Fest at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine, Calif., you managed to make that place seem intimate, which isn’t easy. Is making a personal connection with fans the best part of performing live for you?
I think it is...That’s been something we’ve always tried to build on. I think live, certainly, we feel like we’re making that connection with them because they can see our faces. You’re giving them another dimension of you. They’ve heard the records, but when they see me singing it or Bo playing his guitar, it really puts 2+2 together. It's music they may have already liked, but just played in a completely different way.

In June, the band plays Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. Are you stoked about that?
We are. We’re very excited. Obviously, the lineup is ridiculous. We’ve never been to Bonnaroo and have always been out on other tours. We’ve been off for a couple months and [rarin'] to go. We’re chomping at the bit waiting to get back on the road.

‘The Outsiders’ was one of my top 10 albums of 2009. Now that it's been out for several months, are you happy with how it turned out and has been received?
I am. We did a whole tour of the record already that we feel was on a whole new level of musicality for us. A lot of the songs on there really translate live well. The record’s doing well and we feel like we’re just getting started too. “Hurricane,” our latest single, is going to alternative radio, which we’ve never been at before. We just shot a video for that.

How did the recording process go?
Atlantic Records have given us a lot of freedom. I feel like we’re an independent band on a major label. They don’t check in too much or give us too much trouble on things. That’s been really cool. They’ve tried to create a situation for us to make music we want to make and do it the best way we can. We’re in love with the old model of making music. Back in the day, they had an old studio at Atlantic Records. Ray Charles would come in, play four songs and that was the record. We really like that kind of idea where you’re on the road and say, ‘I’ve got some songs. We’ll come and record them right now.’ That’s something we think is important. You can do anything these days in the next minute. We should music be that way? Having to schedule some guy to come in the studio, take months off. It’s a cool thing that we can capitalize on our excitement whenever we feel like it.

How would you describe the video you and your brother directed for “Hurricane.”?
It was an absolute blast, man. We’re definitely going to do more. Atlantic was really cool and gave us the money to go do it. It’s a live thing. We’re in a theater…We kind of used Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” as a [template]. It’s sort of a cross between that and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.”

The band was embraced by Christian radio first. Was that a surprise or expected?
We’re always happy to hear our music is being played on the radio. We’re not so arrogant to feel we need no help. Our songs are never written with radio in mind. It’s something we can’t control, but we don’t look down on it either.

Did you attend the Dove Awards ceremony when you won recently for Rock/Contemporary Song of the Year with "Washed By the Water"?
No, it was a surprise. I was out in the back with the barbeque when someone called and told me.

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