Sanctus Real is not a new name to Christian Music. We caught them on the See Spot Rock tour in 2003 when they burst into the national scene with Say it Loud. We sat down with them again in 2004 to talk about their second release Fight the Tide that garnered a GMA Dove Award for Modern Rock Album of the Year one year later. Two albums and band member changes later, we talked to them once more. This time we met a well-seasoned band with much more experience than our first meeting. Read on to hear about their latest release, experiences at GMA week, and more.
GMA Week April 2008
Chris Rohman – guitar
Dan Gartley – bass
Pete Prevost – guitar
inReview: The first time we interviewed Sanctus Real, it was 2004. At that point, the band was an independent band longer than a band with a record deal. Now you have been a band for a while, some having been more national distribution and some more local/Midwest. What has been the difference between the two?
Chris: For me, there is an excitement when you go out west and you go to these different cities that you have not been to before and people know your music. I mean it is incredible to see just the variety there is out there of just good people. And getting to meet all those people on the road and getting to hear stories. I mean it is quite an experience. Big cities. I mean growing up in northwest Ohio, I did not really travel a lot growing up. And here we are traveling all over the country all the time. It’s an incredible thing to be a part of. It’s really exciting.
inReview: Obviously there are a lot of changes going on in the music business. People are trying to figure out what to do. What keeps Sanctus Real going?
Dan: I would say for us, we feel like we’ve made the best record we have ever made so far. And with me being kind of newer, and with Pete being newer, we feel like we have finally arrived as this unit where we are all getting along really and we all like the music we have been making. Just having new songs to play and we enjoy it. We are able to pay our bills. But that’s about all. We can do that. And the fact that, I guess this is probably the most important part, that we feel called to do it. We love it, and we really do believe it is a ministry and that it is what we are called to do. Until God says it’s time for something else, we will all probably just keep doing it.
inReview: How will you know that God is calling? I mean it is not easy.
Chris: We are in the middle right now of making a lot of decisions as a band. A lot of behind the scenes kind of stuff that are not always the exciting things to deal with that you face when you are an artist. I mean we really seek God on all of those decisions and pray about it and talk it over and weigh it all out. Because if God is not in those decisions, you are going to look back and just feel terrible that things maybe didn’t go as you had hoped just because you did not really lay it down before God. That is one thing we have always tried to do as a band for eleven years now. Just always seeking that and making sure we are where we are supposed to be. And it is not always easy. It might sound easy to say that, but it is just a lot of difficult decisions to be made. We love each other and so we just need to rely on each other for that accountability to make sure we are really seeking God.
inReview: [sarcastically] You mean life as a band is not just all glamour?
inReview: What song on your latest album surprised you with the reaction you received when you played it live?
Pete: One song that we have been playing a lot live is “Sing” off the new record. And it might end up being a single. It is not yet. Man it is just a great song about unity. It is kind of a worship song though it was not planned to be that way. It is one of those moments of the show where everybody will turn up the lights in the house. It has a simple chorus. You feel there is a presence and unity in the room. It’s just really cool because I feel that is definitely like right now our most interactive song in the set where the crowd just seems to get it. It’s just like we are all what the song is about – getting back to where it started and we are all just worshipping the same King.
inReview: What are your favorite part of GMA week and your least favorite part of GMA week?
Chris: That’s easy for me. Honestly the least exciting thing is getting up early and feeling tired all day. I mean, that is the thing. Being in a band, your schedule is always wacky anyway. But coming here, you have to do interviews and sound halfway interesting, even if you are really tired, like right now. So that is a difficult part. I mean, there is a lot of good things, though.
Dan: We don’t really have to pay for any meals during GMA a lot, so that is kind of fun. It is cool to get to see a bunch of band friends and radio station friends and you and stuff like that. So it is cool to be all in one place and get to hang and see people in a different element than you usually do. It is fun.
inReview: Now we are going to talk more about the album. What was the purpose of the special guest appearances?
Pete: Well, the band has never actually had any guest appearances. And it was not really planned at all. “Half Our Lives” is one song. This girl is a local Nashville singer named Katie Herzig. When the song was written, we were [thinking] this was a folksy kind of vibe, and it needs a girl vocalist on it, too. And we kind of searched around and got her contact info and called her up and she was like, “Yeah I’d love to come down.” And she came down to the studio and recorded it and did amazing. And while she was there, we were like, “Can you sing background vocals on ‘Eternal’ too?
And then the other one was “Turn on the Lights.” And that one, we were trying to figure out what to do there. And we had a few different ideas. But we kind of jokingly asked the President of our label, Peter York, if he would come and do the guitar solo. Because he has this great history. He has played with Phil Keaggy and he was with Second Chapter of Acts and he is kind of a legend to us.
Apparently, he has not played on a record in twenty years. And we were just kind of joking, “Hey, come play a solo,” and he was like, “Hey, I am just waiting for the call.” And we still thought he was kidding. We did not think he was serious. Apparently he thought we were kidding. And luckily our producer called him up and was like, “Hey, are you going to come do it?” and he was like, “Yeah!” So he came and recorded the guitar solo on the first track, “Turn on the Lights” and it is awesome and we love it. I feel honored. I get to play it at shows. I am pretty excited about that.
inReview: I remember when I first heard the song, I was like, “What is on this that is different?” Then I read the PR stuff and I was like, “Oh!” So [looking at Pete] why add another guitar player after so many years of a band?
Chris: Why? Just getting to meet Pete, we wanted him to be in the band. It is a pretty incredible thing to meet somebody and just know that it clicks. And mean, Pete and Dan both. When we were looking to replace an empty void and to fill in something when we when we never had it. It was just cool how God brought them to us. Before you are in that position, you are just kind of scratching your head thinking, “There is not going to be anybody who is going to want to sit in a van for hours on end and not get paid much and be away from home and all this stuff and actually to be able to play good and be cool. And boom, here we are, these guys show up. It’s an incredible thing. And God has always been doing that stuff in our lives when we just let Him. As far as another guitar player, we just kind of wanted to fill things out a bit. And man it sounds so much better now live. And even in the studio just having a fresh ear, a fresh sound in there is really cool for us after doing it for so long without one. It is great.
inReview: Are you pleased with the response from [the album] ‘We Need Each Other’?
Chris: Yeah. You put a record out like that, one that you really believe in. It is a little nerve-wracking wondering what people are going to think about it. I feel like our records have been different [for] every release. We did not know what to expect from Face of Love. I feel like overall we got a great response. Then there were those people that thought, “This doesn’t sound anything what they used to sound like. I don’t know if I like it.” So I think with this record we had that fear again. But deep down it’s like we knew we wrote songs from the heart and songs that we enjoyed. And the response that we have gotten thus far has been overwhelming just from people that have followed the band. You can tell they are being very sincere when they have said, “We really feel this is your best yet,” and, “Thank you for sticking with it and thank you for continuing to out music that you really believe in.” We are humbled. And we only hope to like really expand upon it this year as we go out on tour and play new songs.
inReview: Have you ever read a review of one of your songs that was completely off?
Pete: One song on the record that we love as a band, and it is not ever going to be a single or the catchy song is “Half Our Lives.” It was just fun for us to all do different things. Like I play lap steel on the song. It was just like fun. Dan did some accordion on it. And the song may not be a smash hit. But we knew that it was a cool song. It is like a throwback to childhood. It is about being a kid again. There was one review that someone wrote online. I don’t think he was a legit review guy. But he posted a review and you could tell this guy was more of an old school Sanctus fan that liked the rockin’ stuff. He was not happy about this mellow song that we played. All the rock songs, he was like, “Great song!” And then one that was kind of half-rock, he was like, “This is decent. It’s pretty good. I like the lyrics.” Then he got to “Half Our Lives” and he was like, “This is just not a good song. Sorry Sanctus.”
inReview: Where do you see the music industry going in five years?
Chris: That’s a stressful question, really. I mean, T-shirts and headbands. No really, I don’t know where it is going as far as the current model with labels and the way things are working right now. I see a lot of bands like us continuing to make music, but having to find new ways to connect with the fans and find new ways to keep them engaged. It’s a crazy time. It really is, right now with the model with record labels and everything. So I don’t know where we will be or where record labels will stand after all of these changes. But I know that hopefully we will still be making music and some way or another we have got to find a way to get it out there.
Pete: Like Chris said, you have to be like really on top of it these days to get out and make your presence known. Because selling records is not what matters any more. It is not even relevant, really. So we are trying to connect with our fans and let people see a side of us that they would not normally see. We started a website called Sanctus Reality. And we have our own blogs. We are doing stuff like that. So you have to do different things. We are doing podcasts right now which is a lot of fun for us. Maybe someday hopefully we will have our own sitcom. That’s what we need to do – pitch a pilot episode.