Interview with Randy Armstrong of Red

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I had the chance to speak with Randy Armstrong, bassist for the popular rock band Red, about their new album Of Beauty and Rage out February 24th, their upcoming tour, and more. Check out what he had to say!

Of Beauty and Rage is your fifth full-length album; how does it differ from your previous releases?

Every album I guess is a little bit different. We took a departure from the sound that made us popular on our fourth album, so this album is definitely a revisit to the sounds and elements that made us popular. A lot of people are comparing what they’ve heard to our first two albums, so I think overall this album is just a step up from what we–what made us popular as far as our sound and writing goes. It’s a more mature effort as well.

 

What would you say are a few of the best songs off the album?

That’s a tough question. If I had to choose, the best tracks for me would be “Shadow and Soul”, “Darkest Part” and “Part That’s Holding On”.

Your tour with 3 Years Hollow and Islander starts soon. Any dates in particular you guys are excited for?

For me I would say all of them. We’re playing some venues that we’re used to playing a lot, like the Machine Shop [Flint, MI], and the Gramercy Theater in New York City, and there’s a couple different places we haven’t played yet and i’m interested to see what that’s gonna’ be like. There’s a couple places we’ve never been before, so touring is always exciting, especially around the album release. We’re very excited to get out there.

 

What songs are you excited to play live off the new album? 

All of them. [Laughs] All of them.

 

Which song do you think will be a fan favorite off the tour?

I’d say different songs translate live as opposed to just listening to them in your headphones. I think my favorites will be “Darkest Part”, probably “Take Me Over” and “Shadow and Soul” and the heavy ones are always fun too so. There’s a lot of material for us to choose from, and we of course when we were making the record we kept in mind too that we were going to have to play these songs live, and we wanted them to you know, translate to the stage well so. The first tour we’re going to be playing for a bunch of guinea pigs so [laughs]. We’re looking forward to seeing what actually people get most excited about.

 

What were some of your music influences growing up? Perhaps some notable albums that got you into music. 

I just appreciated you know, songs that made me feel something, or lyrics that I can relate to. There was the 80’s, all the hair bands, and the you know, Bruce Springsteen’s and the Tom Petty’s and even some Guns n’ Roses or Metallica. I just gravitated towards anything that made me feel, feel something or inspired me and that’s what we try to do too. It’s a long list but, it’s made me part of who I am today and i’m thankful for the bands that had an effect on my life. That helped me get through tough teenage years, and sports, and things like that.

 

I noticed you guys are from Nashville which has a huge music scene. What is it like on the inside as band living in that area?

We played the local scene for about a year before we started touring nationally. The rock scene you know, it’s underground but, it’s here. And of course there are country acts, and your pop acts if you will. Overall, you go in anywhere, a restaurant, anywhere like that and chances are  there’s a budding artist as your waiter or waitress or someone working behind the counter that wants to make it in the music industry or who’s going to school for it. It’s definitely saturated with music. It depends on who you ask. There are some people that aren’t here for the music and can find it annoying but, the people that are here for the music, this is where you wanna be for sure.

Your brother Anthony is the bands guitarist, what’s it like working alongside your brother?

Well we’ve never really done anything apart from each other. We even went to college together and roomed in college together. I’ve told people many times that I don’t know if I could do it without him sometimes. We definitely look to each other for strength and support, and we’ve been close our whole life so it’s awesome to look across the stage and see him there. I couldn’t imagine doing it with anybody else.

You guys are a Christian Rock band, tell me how your faith has influenced this record?

Can you tell me what a Christian Rock band is?

I would assume that a Christian rock band would input some of their faith in the lyrics that they make. So not that their music sounds any different, but that they just try to inspire a different message with the lyrics to their songs.

Okay. I was just curious because I get asked that a lot, and you think about other artists too, like sting for example, I use him a lot. He’s a buddhist, and I imagine he puts things in his music that are related to that form of religion and people don’t refer to it as “Buddhist Rock” or “Buddhist Pop”. The tag that people put on music for me sometimes can be annoying because it sets forth an agenda, is what it does. I mean, for me i’m just as guilty as anyone else. If somebody told me “this is satanic” I probably wouldn’t listen to it because I don’t believe in that stuff. So people put a tag on Christians or Christian music–first of all, the three of us are believers, yes. We all believe, we all consider ourselves Christians. But at the end of the day, we’re musicians. We write songs about our lives, we write songs about what our fans are talking to us about, we write songs about our kids, we write songs about you know, everything. And all those things are intertwined with our faith. And you know there are songs that are a direct reflection of our faith, and some experiences that we’ve had and that can’t be denied of course. But the uh, the tag of course is something I feel like sets a limitation upon the band and all bands in general.  I believe there’s your genres which those make sense, but to kind of specify you know, “what kind of rock is this”  or “what kind of pop is this” sometimes can be frustrating because people do that to make themselves more comfortable. And especially in a situation with you know “this is a Christian band so I can listen to it so it’s safe”, well, Justin Timberlake is not a Christian band but, he’s a believer, and his songs are what they are so, you can argue different points all day long but at the end of the day, to answer your question, we are, yes. We are believers, and we have a relationship with God, and yes, we do intertwine those things to our music.

 

So from what you said, would you prefer that fans not refer to you as a Christian Rock band? 

Well i’m not gonna’ answer that question because it will get me in trouble, but what I would say is that with music, with art, with anything, people ask us to tell them what the song is about, and we don’t write songs for us to tell people what they’re about. We write songs for people to gain their own feelings towards something. I’m not gonna’ stand up and say “tell me what I‘m supposed to feel”, I wanna feel something for myself, and that’s what we encourage people to do. And if they feel the same things that we felt writing it, that’s awesome. But we’re not going to encourage an agenda. We don’t tell people that “we’re perfect”, and “we don’t make mistakes”, and “you need to believe everything we believe”, you know those things. I would hope that people would no matter what they hear, give it an honest listen, and an honest chance, and let them decide for themselves.

Anything to say to Red fans?

What can I say? I mean, they’re incredible. Just from day one, they’ve been so passionate about the band. We have some pretty loyal followers and they’re the kind of followers that if someone had something negative to say, they pounce online. Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t because that’s not very classy but, at the same time, I can understand if somebody said something negative about somebody that I was passionate about or felt very strong for, you know, I would wanna get involved and let them know that they’re out of line [laughs]. You know all bands say that they have the best fans in the world, and we’re kind of a band that believes that “Red Nation” or “Red-Heads” are amazing. They give us the opportunity to keep making music and as long as they’re doing that, we’re gonna’ keep doing that, and we’re gonna’ keep touring. They’re the ones that are supporting us, you know from day one we’ve made ourselves as successful as possible, and we’ll continue to do that.

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