“We’re not trying to fight God’s battles, because we can’t. But things need to be said, so we said them…” TJ Harris, Decyfer Down.
From the beginning of their existence, scarecrows have served but one purpose—to keep things out. By definition they are not welcoming or attractive. They exist to repel. In 2013, there are scarecrows everywhere…erected by hate, discrimination, fear, apathy… In every political, social and, sadly, religious institution, there are those whose sole purpose has become that of a scarecrow—to keep others away. Those who are different are kept out. Those who don’t wear the correct uniform are ostracized. Those who have been beaten down by life and humanity are further pummeled downwards by those who have redefined themselves in terms of superiority and piety.
And it is there—at the intersection of duty and contempt—that Decyfer Down must raise their voice. “People are scaring other people away,” shares TJ. “All of the tension and persecution is wrapped up in a lot of hate.” As the men of Decyfer Down have watched people in their own communities push others away, they refuse to watch in silence anymore.
Armed with truth, defiant against injustice and guided by love, they have channeled this battle cry against hypocrisy in their first studio project in five years…aptly called, Scarecrow. “This was in God’s timing,” shares TJ. “We just wanted to create music that really resonated. The point is to glorify God through the gifts He’s given us.” That singular focus comes across in each track on the record produced by Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down, Sister Hazel), who also produced their previous record, Crash. Thematically and stylistically, Scarecrow is clearly at a new level of musical and spiritual maturity.
“The Crash record was all about worlds colliding within our spiritual walk,” TJ shares. “Whether it was addiction or other things we deal with internally, this record is more than what’s within us. This is more about what we see in our churches, the politics that are played, the way people use God’s name in vain. This record is about becoming refocused, reenergized to bring awareness that this is not the way it’s supposed to be.
“God really set us up for the entire record,” TJ continues. “We’re saying exactly what He wants us to say.” While statements like that aren’t rare in Christian culture, Decyfer Down backs it up by allowing their lifestyle to reflect not only their pursuit of God, but also their obedience and honor in His presence. They aren’t singing about the church because it’s an easy target. They’re singing about the church and home and community because that’s where they live. That’s where God is schooling them day in and day out.
“We’ve done everything from touring like crazy and experiencing the highs of going to the Grammys to coming off the road and reestablishing ourselves within our community and families,” TJ shares. “We’re building that network again and getting plugged back into our communities and families. That inspired a lot of the music and a lot of really cool things, but also brought out some darker things we had to deal with.”
Darker things like the story behind the song, “Say Hello,” which tells a chilling true story of an argument gone tragically wrong and an innocent victim landing at the receiving end of a bullet. “This is straight from God’s point of view,” shares TJ. “This girl shocked an entire town, but we’re called to love her still.” Stories like this aren’t told for shock value. Boundaries like loving the unlovable aren’t crossed for the sake of crossing them. Rather, these boundaries and emotional land mines are breached because God has led them to do so.
“We’re not trying to fight God’s battles, because we can’t,” says TJ. “But there are things that need to be said, so we said them.” Things like the folly of societal rules and tradition that have nothing to do with the truth of love and of God…yet too often become monikers for our culture in a world already scorched with skepticism and seething with contempt.
“A lot of people hear something from their pastor but don’t ever see what God actually said,” says TJ. “We get hung up on man-made rules and decisions that scare people. ‘If you do this or don’t do this you’re going to hell.’ People can live in fear their entire lives. God came to set us free…not bind us in fear.”
And that is the heartbeat of this project and this band. All too cognizant of a worldly culture of hypocrisy, self-indulgence, apathy and neglected family structures…Decyfer Down has seen it all. Very often the target of contempt from Christians who don’t buy into the idea of certain styles of music and God going hand in hand, they have walked both fields—those who misunderstand and those of the misunderstood.
Suffice it to say, that realization has come home. No longer satisfied with silence, Decyfer Down is stepping boldly into new territory… challenging a generation held too long in the vice of comfortable, damaging piety to wake up to truth. To wake up to love. To wake up to the fact that they’re missing it. Driven by passion more than agenda, Decyfer Down knows what they’ve been called to do and hope others will hear the heartbeat of God pulsing through each song.
“People need to listen to this with an open mind,” TJ says. “This is deeper lyrically, different stylistically, but it’s exactly what God wants us to do right now. People are living in fear, but God came to set us free. That’s what this is all about. We’re not bound in fear. We have to live in victory.”
While the band’s clearly been able to embody its artistic calling, its brand new breakthrough CD Crash almost never happened given a near tragedy that found the foursome literally fighting for their lives. In addition to the basic perils of the road (including two robberies that resulted in missing equipment), the guys faced an even more alarming accident. While a fender bender could easily be forgotten, it’s been much harder to shake visions of the group’s tour van veering off the road during an icy snow storm, colliding with a parked car, spinning across three lanes of traffic (with trailer in tow) and crashing against a guard rail.
“After the accident, we all questioned what we were doing because that was just another factor in it being such a big sacrifice to be on the road,” guitarist Brandon Mills recalls, also citing the fact that the guys miss their families when they’re gone. “When we posted a blog on our MySpace page explaining what happened, it was so encouraging to see a whole page full of prayers and support from people all over the country—and other countries as well—plus people who told us how much our music meant to them. That really helped us see that God’s called us to do this, and even though we still run into obstacles, we’re a better band because of it.”
In as much as Crash is a metaphor for Decyfer Down’s ability to rise above its most straining circumstances, it’s also a call to action for anyone downtrodden to bounce back from whatever hurdle may hang between where they are and what they hope to achieve. “It’s an impact of our ideals and beliefs in today’s culture and it’s why we have named our album Crash,” continues drummer Josh Oliver. “Our values and life experiences have lead us to where we are right now and circumstances that once affected our lives can no longer control us. This is just a way of expressing and illustrating the scars and the breakthroughs in our lives.”
Not only does the disc overflow with ambition, confidence, and overall creative excellence, but the aggressive endeavor also finds the players digging in an even more mature lyrical direction that simultaneously meets listeners of any association exactly where they’re at, while challenging them to make assertive strides towards increased spiritual fulfillment.
“As has been the band’s tradition, Crash is certainly capable of connecting with the Christian and mainstream crowds, if only for the unflinching degree of honesty within the lyrics and the overall vibe of the album,” notices fresh faced front man TJ Harris. “As a band, our hope is that listeners will be inspired to explore their faith to even deeper degrees and that’s an energy I continue to feel every time we deliver these songs on stage.”
From a strictly musical perspective, Crash comes under the production helm of Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down, Saliva, Sister Hazel, Skillet) and further amplifies the band’s bone crunching execution, razor sharp riffs, and monstrous melodies. As a result, Decyfer Down maintains a remarkably relevant spot within the active rock scene, evoking the likes of Sevendust, Shinedown, Alter Bridge, Theory of a Deadman, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Hinder or Seether, while still maintaining its own alternative and inventive stamp.
“We wrote a ton of songs going into these sessions and Paul helped us narrow them down and shape the direction of the disc,” shares Josh. “We gained a lot of influence from the bands we were listening to and playing with, plus touring as much as we had really gets you excited about getting back in the studio. The results are some of the hard rock stuff and some of the more ballady stuff, but it’s all stepped up into a new level of artistry for us. Paul really stretched us and helped take our musicianship and songwriting to the next level.”
The new album is a constant highlight reel of strong songs that help define the group’s current direction on their own, but are also remarkably cohesive as an entire body of work. “We worked hard to not have any fillers in this record and we want each song to be as strong as we could possibly make it,” Josh confirms. “We come right out in the beginning of the record with some great rock songs and some intimate ballads that come from a very honest part of our lives. We trust those that listen to our record can find hope and purpose for their lives.”
After exploring the twelve-track sonic and thematic exploration, it’s clear that Crash will once again find footing with faith-based audiences and seekers wanting to get their lives on track no matter how derailed it may appear. The group credits spiritually centered bands like P.O.D., Switchfoot, Skillet, Flyleaf, and Red for helping break down mainstream barriers, while also inspiring an optimal quality level and sincere lyrical dichotomy to truly stand out from the class of relative newcomers.
”Beyond the maturing process on this record, we want to influence culture with our beliefs more than ever before,” echoes Josh. “The way we write songs is based on the things that have inspired our lives the most, which often times has to do with our relationship with Christ. The songs throughout Crash speak on a lot of topics that we haven’t addressed before and we hope to take a walk through your life—your triumphs, your struggles, maybe even some of your addictions—and confront those to the point where you find yourself being impacted by love, grace, and a clear vision of how to move forward.”