Sanctus Real : 2003-05-10Saturday, May 10, I interviewed Sanctus Real prior to the See Spot Rock concert at the Fillmore in Denver. There were a lot of unexpected complications, but my thanks go to Relient K road manager Scott Cannon, promoter Rob Marshall, tour manager Denny Keitzman and the Fillmore's Steve Allen for finally working everything out. Due to some of the complications, my photographer (daughter) was unable to attend the interview, so we just shot a couple of pictures outside first. I finally got the interview transcribed two months later. Oh well...
Sanctus Real is Matt Hammitt, lead vocals/guitar; Chris Rohman, lead guitar; Steve Goodrum, bass; Mark Graalman:drums.
Randy: I'm here with Matt and Chris from Sanctus Real. Thanks for taking the time, guys.
Matt: You're welcome!
Randy: First, how did Pillar get on the tour without a frontman named Matt?
Matt: Hah! They broke the rules.
Chris: Yeah, they totally broke the rules. It's kinda crazy.
Randy: It's starting to look like the "Matt Rocks Tour" or something.
Randy: My youngest son's name is Matt, so he thinks it's really cool. I wouldn't let him come tonight because I figured it would run too late.
Chris: You can tell him all about it!
Randy: Was Festival con Dios the first major tour you guys hooked up with?
Chris: Yeah, it was our first major tour that we actually had a label behind us and all that stuff. It was a total learning experience for us. We drove it all ourselves...and how many cities was it?
Matt: It was like 35.
Chris: Thirty-five cities from east coast to west coast, and ending up down in Florida. So it was new territory for us, but it really prepped us for what was ahead. We did the Bleach tour this January and now we're on the See Spot Rock tour and it's almost done.
Randy: Do you have anything pending?
Matt: Festival con Dios again in the fall.
Randy: So that's going to be the same thing, a major multi-city tour again?
Matt: Yeah, I think it's 25 to 30 cities.
Chris: Newsboys will be headlining it this year.
Randy: You get a chance to try any of the fun stuff--motocross, laser tag?
Matt: Little bit.
Chris: Every once in awhile.
Randy: Matt, I've heard rumors you're kind of a Batman-type. You're good at jumping in the dark close to the ceiling...
Randy: Can you expound on that a little bit for our readers?
Matt: It seems like I always hurt myself because I'm always trying to do something that I think is daring. What you're talking about is, one of the most embarrassing moments I ever had on stage was in this little underground church/club, they call it The Underground, I think. Totally dark, black stage and I thought I'd do the biggest baddest rock and roll jump I ever did in my life. I ended up hitting my head on the ceiling, cracked my skin and I was bleeding.
Matt: Yeah, it was gross.
Randy: How far into the set were you?
Matt: Almost the end. A couple more songs. I finished it, but I was hurting! I tried to ride motocross with Steve (SR bassist). He's really experienced; I wasn't. Of course I get on a 426 and think I'm going to be able to ride it alright, you know. The second day we're out riding I just totally jacked up my shoulder, flew off, probably going about 20, 25. I hit this bump and just flew off. I just hurt myself frequently. I'm a sucker for punishment, trying new things!
Randy: Any guys in the band into sports?
Matt: If there's a game of basketball going on, Steve and I will usually hop in. I've been trying to go out and jog with the guys every once in awhile in the mornings. Chris does Frisbee golf.
Chris: I played baseball in high school. We don't really follow sports.
Randy: The Relient K guys said they like sports but it's too hard to keep up when you're on tour and the satellite never works on the bus and it's hard to pick up anything.
Randy: I really enjoyed when Play It Loud came out. I reviewed it back in December. I thought the paneling on the cover looked like my Grandfather's house.
Matt: Yeah, it looks like my Grandma's old house.
Randy: It's gotta be from the 60s. It was pretty funny--the kid on the cover. At first I was hoping it would be one of you guys; it was a bit of bummer to find out it was clip art, but it was still a cool cover.
Matt: Yeah, it was.
Randy: I love Pete Stewart. I loved his stuff from Grammatrain days. I have both Grammatrain CDs, his solo one, and his work with Tait. Talk a little bit about what it was like to work with Pete in the studio.
Matt: He was really cool. He was very forgiving and he was very patient. If we had to go over a part several times it wouldn't bother him at all. He wouldn't act frustrated. A lot of times in the studio he'd help us change up certain parts, guitar parts, whatever, just to make it a little more hooky or interesting. We were all really creative together. Sometimes he'd come up with something that would be kind of tricky or whatever, but it was really important for us to play on our record and play the whole thing with the exception of one or two parts that Pete did for fun.
It was a relaxed environment--we had a lot of time to do the album because Sparrow gave us a good budget; it allowed us to be able to just feel creative and not feel rushed, take breaks when we needed to and refresh our mind. Then Pete, like I said, was so creative; he'd get some great guitar tones. He makes it sound so good.
Chris: We have a lot of people say, "Man, I love the guitar tones on your record."
Randy: I love the little guitar lick on Inspiration. Did you come up with that one?
Chris: Yeah, pretty much. We didn't have it written before we went in to record the song. That song was one on the record that we didn't have the end copy of it until we were done recording it. That thing went through so many different incarnations. It was more like a ballad when we started, we rocked it up some. Then Pete came up with some of the heavier grooves guitar-wise. At that time I was into listening to the new Weezer record, they threw back a lot to that guitar rock--not metal, but riffs.
Randy: Bleach does a lot of that.
Chris: Yeah. Not fast licks but really cool licks guitar-wise.
Randy: That's what I thought of Inspiration. It wasn't very long, but it was real tasty. Nice vibe.
Chris: Definitely. Weezer has been one of my biggest influences, so when I heard that I was like, man I want to throw some cool lead that I would never normally do into a song and we then just sat there for awhile and note for note it just kind of came out. It just worked out right.
Randy: I like the results.
Randy: I had a little trouble figuring out Captain's Chair at first. Of course I read the explanation later on the web so I know the story now, but when I first heard it I was kind of thinking, now what are they trying to say here? because I'm thinking in terms of the captain tells the driver what to do. I'm going to put myself in charge and tell you what to do. Obviously I got it twisted around. I thought it'd be cool if you could explain briefly what Captain's Chair is about, a little bit of the history behind that song.
Matt: Chris came up with this idea to write a song for a friend of ours that kind of went a weird way. It's kind of a long story, kind of a hard song to explain.
Randy: We'll take the Reader's Digest version.
Matt: Chris had these hooks for this song and it was all about relinquishing control. Our friend would be driving the van with us. He and Chris would always be driving up front. It's kind of the same thing with relinquishing control to God in situations, like "Hey, you want to drive today?" We need to have God control our lives, take over the situations because we can't deal with some things on our own. We've got to just hand it over. We can't understand everything that happens to us, why people are our friends, or not our friends anymore, why they make weird decisions in their life. So we just gotta trust that God has an ultimate plan. That'll happen when we seek Him first.
Randy: Exactly. What's your favorite song to perform?
Matt: I like Audience of One. It's one of the songs that's kind of an oddball song on the record cuz it's so chunky. I just like it live cuz it's got a good vibe. I like to watch kids move to it; all the mosh kids really get into it. When that song comes up kids really get kind of pumped up. I really enjoy that one a lot. I get to jump in it!
Chris: I'd say probably Captain's Chair. It has a lot of changes that are fun to play.
Randy: Okay, what about favorite lyric that you've written; is there a song that stands out in your mind?
Matt: For me, the favorite lyrics that I've written are the verse--well, I really like After Today, what that whole song says--but in Inspiration I really like the bridge. It says
Seems we'll never do enough to tell / the world about God's love / but every soul is worth the fight / 'cause we can change the world / by changing just one life
For some reason I was really proud of that lyric. It's so simple compared to some stuff that I do but it was straighforward.
Randy: Have you heard of Compassion International, child sponsorship?
Matt: Oh yeah.
Randy: I did a lot of stuff with them. I was an area coordinator; one of the years our main theme was "We can't change the world, but we can change the world for one child." That popped into my head when I heard that lyric. You look at the whole picture you might get a little discouraged...
Matt: Yeah, start small.
Randy: You've got to focus on individuals. It comes down to one at a time.
Randy: You guys like to read at all? Do any reading on the road? Is it tough to find time?
Chris: It is hard to find time. I just went to the bookstore today and finally bought a book I'd be wanting to read, a C. S. Lewis book, Mere Christianity. I'll read magazines and stuff.
Randy: It's hard to get a good block, I'm sure.
Chris: It's hard enough to play guitar apart from being on stage while you're on the road. I think sometimes we focus on that, getting the acoustic guitars out and trying to write because we don't have much time to do that on the road.
Randy: Any word of encouragement that you'd like to share with your fans that read the interview?
Matt: For me the biggest thing is helping students understand that God has a plan for their life and a lot of times we don't understand that there is a specific unique plan that God has set out for us if we follow in the way that He has for us. It just starts by living a right life. I actually asked someone I really looked up to when I was younger, "How do I know what God's will is for my life?" He told me, "The ultimate will of God is to be in a right relationship with Him" and if you're in a right relationship with Him then everything else will follow. I think a lot of students are missing out on God's plan for their life because they're not willing to get close to God and really seek Him first.
Randy: Romans 12 really address that where it says "Do not conform any longer to this world, but be transformed...then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is."
Randy: It's right there. If you are conforming to the world you're not going to know God's will.
Matt: I think because of that kids don't believe they're special. As a result of that, we have students losing their virginity because they don't think God really has somebody out there for them. They're doing drugs because they don't think there's anything better to spend their time on. They partying with their friends, because what good is my life anyway? If they understood that God had a plan for their life, maybe they'd understand the importance of values and purity, so I really try to stress that.
Chris: I think that's a good point that Matt made. One of the biggest things on our hearts is to let kids know that they can use their talents to glorify God. We're just real people, there's nothing special about us. We're just people that God chose to use the talents we have to do what we get to do. So I think we just want to say, hey, do what you feel you're called to do, whether it's playing music or writing books. Whatever you do, just do it for God's glory. That's the ultimate reward. You'll find true joy in that.
Randy: Have you guys had a chance to play other countries?
Matt: Canada (laugh).
Randy: I'm from Canada. What part of Canada?
Matt: New Brunswick.
Randy: I haven't been there. I'm a Westerner.
Matt: We did a camp up there. On the way we stopped in, I think, Edmonton.
Matt: I'm sorry, not Edmonton. Moncton is what I meant to say.
Randy: Otherwise that's like saying you went to Miami by way of Seattle.
Matt: Yeah, I meant Moncton.
Randy: That's all right, we don't expect most Americans to know much about Canadian geography.
Matt: Edmonton's in Alberta, right?
Randy: Yeah. So, iPods or what?
Chris: Just got one. Ten gig. Now I'm wishing I would have gotten the twenty. I have it like an eighth of the way full. I've got 250 songs on it. Once I get home I'll transfer all my CDs on it. I bought it on the road. I was listening to it today. I walked all downtown.
Randy: I think I saw you mention it on the web.
Chris: Yeah, I love it. It's amazing to me that you can walk into a CD store and there'll be racks of CDs and all the CDs can fit on one tiny thing.
Randy: What about hanging with other bands? A tour like this obviously there's a lot of time where you're traveling, you get to know a lot of guys pretty good in other bands, build some lasting friendships, I imagine.
Matt: We actually have become really good friends with Pillar, we're on a bus with them, they also did Festival con Dios, so we've become pretty tight with those guys. I've gotten to know (John) Reuben really well and the guys from Relient K. The Supertones are actually a little older than we are; I think they have different interests. They've been on the road for so long...we've still gotten to know them, but not quite as well, but they're all great guys.
Randy: It seems Relient K and you guys are about the same age.
Matt: Yeah. But you really do get to know everybody, some people better than others.
Randy: So do you plan to get started on another album soon. Are you writing for another project already?
Matt: Yeah, we have a bunch of ideas. I'm pretty happy with some of the stuff we have floating around right now.
Randy: Was the deal with Sparrow for one, or is that a multi...
Matt: Oh no, it's almost impossible to get anything less than four. Ours is five.
Randy: So you know it will be Sparrow, you just don't know who will be producing yet and all that?
Matt: Exactly. So we're trying to figure out a producer and that...
Randy: How much leeway do they give you timetable wise?
Matt: They haven't put any pressure on us whatsoever yet.
Randy: When did Say it Loud release?
Chris: December 24, this past year.
Matt: We're going to (record) a new CD out I think probably in the spring.
Chris: We'll get the CD out in late fall, probably.
Randy: Thank you guys for taking the time.
Chris: Thanks for doing this!
Matt: Thank you. I appreciate it!