Red Singer Michael Barnes Talks "Until We Have Faces," Movies and Bad Flights
Wed, 23 Feb 2011 15:27:12
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"We almost didn't make it to Baton Rouge," exclaims Red singer Michael Barnes emphatically. "It was so foggy that the plane we were on was having issues landing. They had to circle the airport a couple times. We made it halfway through the clouds and we started to see how close the ground was. Everyone began freaking out! The first time we saw the ground, they pulled up really quick."
Luckily Barnes and his band mates made it just in time to play for another packed crowd. Nothing can stop Red right now—especially flight difficulties. The band's third album, Until We Have Faces, debuted at number two on the Billboard Top 200 and they've had one high-profile TV appearance after another in the wake of the record's immense success. It's completely deserved though. Until We Have Faces is a powerful, poignant, and poetic collection of enigmatic hard rock. Songs shift from an angelic vocal hum into gut-wrenching hooks, often within the span of one track. It's infectious, but it's also inspiring, positing an uplifting message that often eludes most of the band's genre peers. That's why it's not only Red's best album but one of the best hard rock records this year.
Red frontman Michael Barnes spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview about Until We Have Faces, some of his favorite movies and so much more.
Was there one overarching vision for Until We Have Faces, or did it come together song by song in the studio?
We did have an idea of what we wanted to do. As the songs started pour in, it magically connected in a way that we could've never done on our own. We wanted to write this record about finding somebody's identity. A lot of people go through their high school years wondering who they are and who they are in Christ as believers. In the band, we're all believers. We just wanted to write a record that's really going to resonate with kids that we've been talking to on Facebook.
The title fits that concept completely.
Exactly! On the album cover, there's this three-dimensional face that's pushing through. It's that person trying to find their face or identity. It's pretty simple and straight-forward. The other thing I like about this record is it's very uplifting. A lot of the songs are more positive than they maybe were previously on the last record. It's funny to think about. Since we've done three records, it's like a trilogy thus far. When you think of any trilogy, say The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, the middle movie is usually the one where something bad has happened or there's an issue you've gone through. That's how the second record was for us. The third album is triumphant and more positive.
What's the story behind "Watch You Crawl?" What does it mean to you?
We've had a couple of songs like that on past records. On the first record, it was "Wasting Time." It's that anthem song yelling at the devil saying, "You don't own me. I'm going to watch you crawl." It's really an empowering song. I love all kinds of music from the harder stuff to the ballad-y thing. For me as a musician, I don't like to go in one area such as hardcore screaming all the time. I like how there's a variety. It can get really emotional with the screams, and then there will be this soft, tender moment which will open up another whole emotional level for some people out there.
Did you always know that "Hymn For The Missing" would end the album?
On the first record, we loved a song called "Pieces." It was a really stripped down version of song with strings and vocal. "Hymn For The Missing" is just piano and strings. There are very tender moments in there. The song is just talking about somebody you may have lost—a loved one or somebody who had gone off to war and is missing. It's that idea of emotional yearning for finding that person once again. Kerrie Roberts finishes the song out and it really tells the story if you listen to it. She's in the realm of that person who's lost or missing. In the bridge, you'll hear my world and her world come together. There's a part where we harmonize, and it's like me reaching out to that world and catching a glimpse of it for one moment.
What fosters your visual sensibility as a lyricist? Do you regularly watch movies or read a lot?
We love movies, and we're all avid readers. Both myself and the twins in the band have sons. I have a daughter on the way. Randy has a daughter on the way, and Anthony has a daughter. Right now, I'm reading about nurturing children—particularly this book called Wild Things about raising boys. I'm getting into that emotional landscape of who they are and wanting to raise them up the best way possible. All of us are reaching out to those types of emotions. As far as movies go, we love epic movies. The twins especially love end of the world movies like Armageddon and 2012. I finished reading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. I read all of The Chronicles of Narnia books when I was younger. I haven't read The Screwtape Letters yet. That was really good. I love The Lord of the Rings (Film Series)-type book. I'm in the middle of reading this 13-book series right now. I'm on the fourth book. It's called The Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan. I actually like it a little bit better than Lord of the Rings because it delves into that realm a little bit more. It's a little more detailed. There's that, and the fact that it's 13 books. It's a huge series!
If Until We Have Faces were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
Braveheart! That's the first thing that came to mind [Laughs]. Braveheart is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It's a very emotional movie. When you listen to the record, it starts off really heavy with "Feed The Machine," and it stays upbeat for the first three songs. Then "Let It Burn" is that song that makes you think a little bit. "Buried Beneath" is that yearning or crying out for help like "Breathe Into Me." It fits nicely. On "Let It Burn," you're buried underneath that rubble. After you're crying out, "I need you. I'm buried beneath all of this," "Not Alone" is saying, "You're not alone. I'm here, and I'll lift you up." The transition of those first six or seven songs really tells a story. "Watch You Crawl" is about fighting off the devil. "On The Outside" talks about maybe you grew up in a family that was very abusive and later on down the road you say, "I don't want to be that person. I don't believe in their lies." "Who We Are" is the culmination of who we are as Christians. It's definitely a journey.
Have you heard Until We Have Faces yet?