In part two, we talked a bunch about music and fans. In the final installment, we talk about God and music. Before proceeding, please leave behind any preconceived notions you may have regarding religious musicans.
Al: Do you decide as a group how much of your spiritual beliefs you will express on stage? Outside of the music itself, I mean.
Chris: Jim, want to tell him about the wet napkin?
Pete: I think we all want to be real people, and that is hard when the music is intense and spiritual. We are learning.
…I think Jim stepped out for a chai.
Chris pretty much carries the spiritual talking in the concerts. I throw in the odd story, but there is no set delivery of spiritual matters
Al: It must be hard, too, when part of your music comes from centuries-old tradition and there is a need to honor all that. I would think that there you are compelled to balance that respect with trying to be more of yourselves onstage.
Pete: That’s a good point. Sanctity and real life…how do they interact?
Al: In music! I sometimes feel bad for people of faith who don’t have a creative way to express that faith.
…I don’t mean that in a condescending way.
Have any of you ever had a listener express disappointment or negativity when they found out that the songs are about Jesus?
Pete: There are some people who want us to sing devotional songs to other Gods and they are somewhat disappointed when we respectfully tell them that we only sing songs to Jesus.
Chris: That’s mostly because they have absolutely loved the band, and imagine that it would be all that much better if the devotional focus would be where their heart lies. Say, Krishna or Ram for example.
Al: How many shows a year do you do in India? And how many elsewhere?
Chris: We don’t do many in India at all. The last time we were there was for the video shoot last September 1-15, and then we did three shows in Varanasi as a “thank you” to our hosts. Before that, it was January 2007, in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. There was one exception – a one of gig in Kolkatta a couple of years ago.
Al: The videos are stunning; professional and visually rich. What was your intention with them?
Chris: The original idea came from the fact that we had not professionally done music videos before. It developed from there when we realized our friend Ben Stamper had some amazing ideas for how to make music videos that were not cheezy in the band-persona kind of way, but really carried a message and a beauty that could be independent of the band’s persona all together.
Al: Did you make them with the intention of using them in some way to generate album sales? Artistic statements?
Pete: They were another way for people to connect with the music and hopefully get into the music, but also as standalone pieces of art.
Chris: Our hope was that they’d get massive YouTube hits. The first one is now up to 27,000. The idea of making a DVD and generating direct income came later. We’ve almost sold out of the first 1,000, so it turns out it was a good idea.
Al: How did your perception of the song change when you started to think of ways to express it visually?
Pete: I was trying to finish the musical side of things, so I will let Chris answer this.
Chris: Even now, I have a hard time separating the songs–when we perform them live–from the message of the videos. My intros to the songs speak almost more about the message of the videos than the direct message of the lyrics of the songs. The video images have really taken a pretty strong hold on me.
Al: Do you think about visuals when you compose music now?
Pete: We have not done any serious composing since doing the videos. It has been a busy touring year, but we hope to get back into it soon.
Al: Do y’all ever just rock out when you’re together with instruments? I know for a fact that Chris is a killer electric guitarist with chops to burn.
Chris: My killer electric guitar chops were deep cheeze-ass-80’s-spinal tap-esque. That was a long time ago, Al.
Al: Ah. Well, at the time, they were impressive.
Pete: We don’t rock out as much as we used to. Sometimes during soundcheck we will play around with musical ideas, but when we are on tour, we are usually driving or trying to get some sleep.
Chris: It has been very hard to just rock out, or jam together. I think as we get older, we’ve got to find specific times for that sort of thing, and have intentionality of composition behind it. We don’t live in the same city–or the same country–so just rocking out is a luxury we can’t afford.
Al: Speaking of cheese, I have seen your music labeled as “Christian Music,” but I can’t accept that. It’s too limiting.
Pete: That is truly a compliment!
Al: I’m going to go all gushy fanboy here and declare that Aradhna’s music is the closest thing to a musical conversation with God.
Chris: That means a huge deal to me Al. Thanks,
Al: When life gets tough, sometimes I’ll sing “Hey Logo.” …Except I make up the words because I have no idea what “ee sookie day” means.
Chris: Perhaps you’ll have some ideas for how we can remarket “Deep Jale” – we only sell, like, five of those a year now!
Al: I’ll pray on that.
I never did find out about the thing with the wet napkin.