Project 86: A New Found State of Independence

Project 86 has returned with an all-out vengeance, this time pursuing music in the grand DIY tradition.  Their eighth studio magnum opus Wait For The Siren was fully funded by Kickstarter, with the participation of fans from around the world.  Wait For The Siren is thrilling addition to the Project 86 catalog, with front man Andrew Schwab  and company creating one of their most exciting and ambitious works to date.  The new album features guest appearances from the like of Bruce Fitzhugh (Living Sacrifice), Rocky Gray (Evanescence), Brian “Head” Welch (Korn, Love and Death), Andrew Welch (Disciple), Blake Martin (Plea for Purging) and The Wedding.

Here is a recent interview we conducted Andrew Schwab to find out more about the new Project 86 effort and their new found state of independence.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Project 86, and how long the band has been together.
Andrew Schwab, vocals/songwriter/co-producer. The band started in 1996, so 16 years.

What changes have you seen in the Orange County music scene since your inception?
I guess when we were first coming up there was definitely a “scene” of bands that played together and supported one another. These were hardcore and post-hardcore bands that were united by the music. On any given weekend you could find shows happening within an hour of OC with these bands. As the industry has evolved there are definitely more bands, but less of a “scene.” Bands are more competitive with each other simply because of declining resources. One other thing I would add is that it used to be “cool” and unique just to say you played in a band, now it’s almost cool if you are not 😉

How apprehensive where you to break away from Tooth & Nail and do this new album on your own with Kickstarter?
Not very apprehensive at all. We have a very loyal fan base who have supported us over the years, so we were confident they would show up when the rubber met the road. More and more, labels don’t market bands, they simply “put out” records.

What was the experience like working with Atlantic Records and would you ever want to sign with a major label again?
In some ways being on a major was great. Big budgets, lots of tour support and “perks” like paid living expenses, dinners on the A&R, large recording budgets, etc. I think one of the drawbacks for us was that we were never really a “pop” band and that was what Atlantic was looking for us to become. Times have changed. Majors don’t throw money at bands like they used to at all. I am sure if we were offered the right situation it would be great, but it wasn’t necessarily the right fit for us at Atlantic, at least with the team we had in place at the time.

At this point, would you consider Project 86 to be a Christian band? Why or why not?
We have never really gotten hung up on labels. We make music, and we try to make music that is honest. We are not offended by classifications, genres, labels, etc., but we don’t want anyone to be turned off to our music because they are turned off to the idea of God or faith.

What was it like touring with the legendary Queensryche and how did that alliance come about?
Man that was awhile ago! The shows were large and the guys were solid. But I think we flew over the heads of their fans a bit. There were a lot of stares and middle fingers while we played!

Is there any story or concept behind the title Wait For The Siren?
It’s a lyric from the tenth track on the album. The imagery is a group of unified infantrymen who are poised to carry out the defense of their city against an overwhelming army of invading oppressors. The “siren” is the horn that they are listening for which will tell them it is time to fight.

Please select two songs from Wait For The Siren and what inspired the lyrics.
Blood Moon” is the most mellow song our band has ever recorded. It tells the story of the birth of my daughter. She was born during a lunar eclipse, as well as on the winter Solstice, and on the night of the worst storm in southern California in the last 100 years. She nearly died in childbirth and was deprived of oxygen and blood for fifteen minutes before the doctors (via crash c-section) brought her out and revived her. She is 100% healthy, which was a miracle.

Take the Hill” is one of the heavier tracks on the record and tell the story of a conspiracy. A teen hears an extraterrestrial message through a shortwave radio which tells him he is meant for a distinct, unique purpose. He shares the message with friends, family and his leaders, who all tell him the same thing: the message wasn’t real and he needs to stop “dreaming.” Those in power try to silence him, for fear that that others may follow him and his “message.” The kid doesn’t give up, and won’t stop telling others about the “message” he was told. Eventually he is forced to leave the city he lives in, and is ostracized to the hills surrounding his former town. There, he finds he is not alone. Others have heard the message as well. Then, they form en masse to march back on those who exiled them, and remove them from power.

You had quite a few guest appearances on the new album. How easy or difficult was it to coordinate all of these schedules?
Not easy! The thing that made this record so fun was the fact that each day someone different was stopping by the studio, though. It was a blast. It was a very spontaneous atmosphere. There are more than a few moments on the record which were a direct result of this atmosphere.

Are there any tours in the works for Project 86?
We will be hitting the road with 12 Stones in October and will have more dates after that later in the fall.

Did you have any unusual reactions from people you wrote about in your book It’s All Downhill From Here: On The Road With Project 86?
Not really. Although I did make personal rule to never use proper names again!

Do you have any other novels or collections of poetry about to be released or are you working on anything?
I have a new book coming called The Tin Soldiers, which will be out in the early fall. We are about to start taking pre-orders on my blog at www.andrewschwab.com. It’s a book written to encourage this lost generation of guys who seem to lack purpose and identity.

Do you have any messages for bands just starting out looking for a record label?
You don’t necessarily need a record label anymore. Unless they will put in writing some specifics on how they are going to market you, you might be better off on your own!

Any messages for Project 86 fans?
Thanks again for all the support…

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

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