As far as explanatory statements from musicians go, this one by Relient K frontman Matt Thiessen about his band’s new album, Five Score and Seven Years Ago, sort of takes the cake for general awesomeness:
“We had already come up with the title of the album, so I decided to write some lyrics about John Wilkes Booth. I hope people don’t think it’s a concept record about Abraham Lincoln or anything like that.”
Gee, why would anyone think that? After all, there are tons of albums out there that nick their title from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“Four score and seven years ago …”) and kick off with a song about the assassination at Ford’s Theatre … and none of them are concept records about our 16th president.
“You’re honestly the first person to bring all that up,” Thiessen laughed. “I mean, the significance of the title is that it’s our fifth album, and our last album came out seven years ago. And now we have five guys in the band. So we just thought it would be fitting or something. But, no, it’s definitely not an album about Abe Lincoln. Because that would be a little weird.”
Weird, yes. But out of the question? Not entirely. Because with Score (due March 6), Relient K are clearly gunning for their own piece of the “artistic cred” pie. Though the LP still maintains a level of the “aw shucks” humility fans have grown to love from the Ohio group, there’s obviously something bigger at work. Produced by Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge), packed to the gills with additional instrumentation (piano, banjo, lap steel) and concluding with a gorgeously maudlin, 11-minute long rumination on death, it’s the kind of album bands make when they’re either following up a commercial breakthrough or flush with major-label cash.
Though neither of those statements are entirely true when talking about Relient K.
“The way our career has gone, each of our records slightly outsells the last one. It’s been a really steady progression,” Thiessen said. “And I’m not saying anything bad about them, but look at Fall Out Boy: They did a pop-punk album, and it did OK, and then all of a sudden they blew up, and so now if their new album doesn’t blow people away, they’re cursed.
“Whereas with us, if we keep doing a bit better, we’re not gonna be as huge as Fall Out Boy, but we’re building a career,” he continued. “And that’s why we were able to make this record. And do it exactly the way we wanted to do it.”
That’s certainly the approach Thiessen took when he wrote the album’s first single, the beyond-saccharine love song “Must Have Done Something Right.” He freely admits to upping the cheese quotient (sample lyric: “We should get jerseys/ ‘Cause we make a good team/ But yours would look better than mine/ ‘Cause you’re out of my league”), and he’s more than aware that a lot of longtime Relient K fans might be slightly worried when they hear the tune. But that’s exactly what he wanted.
“I wrote ‘Must Have Done Something Right’ at like 3 in the morning as sort of a ‘Ha ha, this is so happy’ type of thing. But it ended up turning out all right,” he laughed. “I know some people are going to hear that song, and think, ‘Uh oh … where are these guys going?’ because I know it’s a little bit cheesy and kind of sugary. But when people get to hear more of the record, they’ll realize that it’s not a Sugar Ray record, and it’s not all pop and happy — and it’s not supposed to be played in a T.G.I. Friday’s.”