Relient K frontman Matt Thiessen has some advice for all his fans out there: Don’t listen to any of his band’s old albums. Seems he’s not terribly happy with them.
“There’s no way a lot of our early stuff should get any exposure. Ever since day one, we’ve been writing and trying to get better, but when you’re 16 and writing songs, there’s going to be some goofy stuff in there,” he sighed. “When you’re 24, you want to be writing about stuff that’s actually important. Our earlier influences were, like, MxPx and Less Than Jake — now I’m really into Rufus Wainwright and Paul Simon.”
Whether or not Thiessen’s feeling them, Relient’s first three albums — 2000’s self-titled debut, 2001’s The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek and 2003’s Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right … But Three Do — earned them a loyal fanbase, thanks largely to their goofball pop-culture references (sample song titles: “Maybe It’s Maybeline” and “Hoopes I Did It Again”). So when their fourth album, last year’s MMHMM, toned down the silliness, Relient K could only hope their fans would come along with them.
“We were hoping our fans were willing to grow up a bit with us,” Thiessen said. “We took a bit of a chance with this record, honestly.”
And it’s paid off. MMHMM has gone on to sell more than 300,000 copies and landed Relient on two big-ticket tours: Good Charlotte and Simple Plan’s Noise to the World Tour (see “Good Charlotte, Simple Plan Launching Joint Tour In May” ) and the just-completed Warped Tour. The album even birthed a hit single, the “TRL”-approved “Be My Escape.” And you’d think after all that, Thiessen would be pretty happy. And you’d be right. Mostly.
“Don’t get me wrong, we love everything that’s happened to us. But the success of this record has put us in some strange situations,” he said. “Like on the Warped Tour, I feel like most of the bands are a lot heavier than us, and we get up there and do some poppier songs, and the crowd kind of observes, rather than make circle pits and cut each other with razor blades. Also, we definitely have to deal with more people in the crowd flipping us the bird than we’re used to. But it’s kind of like an S&M thing — we kind of like it.”
As if dealing with a sea of single-digit salutes on Warped weren’t enough, there’s also the matter of the “Escape” video, with which Thiessen is less than thrilled.
“The video didn’t come out exactly like we wanted to. I mean, I like the concept, and it might just be because we were so involved with the video that it didn’t turn out the way we wanted,” he said. “We wanted a lot of animation, and all we got was a bit of animated clouds on a green screen. And then there were the moving walls, which we wanted to be a little smoother, but it was just a bunch of stagehands pushing on the walls.”
Currently, Relient K are writing new material for an EP due in stores in November. And they’ve just selected a video treatment for the second single off MMHMM, “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been,” uniquely presented to the band by Death Cab for Cutie director Jon Watts (see “Death Cab For Cutie Admit Magical Forest Video Is ‘A Little Weird’ “ ).
“He decided to do his treatment a little bit different. Instead of writing it down, he took a video camera and filmed himself explaining the idea of the video,” Thiessen said. “Basically I’m walking down the street, and I stop, everything around me stops. And when I start running, everything goes twice as fast. It’s kind of difficult to explain, but you’ll see. We’re all really excited to make it. So, I’m not complaining about everything. Everything’s pretty great, actually.”