By: Anthony P. Hanna
Date: August 04, 2004
First off, for those who may not know,
could you tell us a bit about TSATS, like Maybe how you formed as a
They Sang As They Slew began as another project under another name that was sort of an outlet for stuff that I was writing outside of my contributions to Luxury. I had a handful of songs that I recorded with help from a guy named Andy Lemaster, who is now in Now It's Overhead (Saddle Creek). This handful of songs
turned into several more songs, which in turn eventually became a band. I never had any intentions of starting a real, active band outside of Luxury, but as Luxury drifted more into the background due to life changes, the band that eventually became TSATS moved in to fill the gap. And so here we are with a new
record on Northern Records and the anticipation of big stuff.
What inspires you to write and record music?
If you are simply asking "why do you do it?", then the answer is
simply "Because I love to write and record." My passion is music, and by passion I mean that aspect of me that relates to my deepest desires, and therefore that part of me that most needs to be subdued. Music has always been an intrinsic part of not only who I am, but what I am made of, meaning that if there is a genetic disposition towards musicality, then I have this disposition.
But if you are asking what sources give me inspiration to write (and I am thinking more in a lyrical sense here, though this is intrinsically tied to my musical writing), my first answer would be relationships, second would be what I read, and third would be the music that I am listening to at the moment. Books and music are great for giving you a sense of direction in your writing. I may
run across a great-sounding phrase in some passage of a book, on a church sign or some sort of advertisement somewhere, and a lyrical idea will just click in my head. For example the first two song titles from "Get Well" are "Her Left Hand Rocks The Cradle" and "Her Right Hand Rules The World". I took these two lines (modified, of course) from a small counter-top advertisement I saw at a jewelry store. Concerning music, a favorite album might provide me with a different way to approach how I want to
record the drum tracks on a recording, for instance.
But most inspiring for my writing is relationships and issues that
revolve around people. The relationship dynamic provides a lot of
"writing room" and it's something that is common to us all, whether we
are talking about love, grief, loss, joy, lust, dispassion or holiness.
What's the songwriting process for you guys?
Probably half to two-thirds of our music is stuff that I've worked up at home and brought in to practice, where it is brutally re-worked until it is something that reflects the band as a whole. The remaining half to one-third of the songs are generated through the band simply "jamming" and working on parts that we might come up with between working on other songs. Regardless of how a
song idea is generated, it is ultimately the band that makes or breaks it, as opposed to just one of us calling all the shots about how it is to be written and performed.
"Get Well" is a excellent album. Do you have a favorite song on the album and if so could you maybe describe the writing process of that particular song?
Thank you very much for the compliment! We are quite proud of this record. I have several personal favorites, so it's a hard choice to make. "Get Well" actually reflects several years' worth of writing, so there is a bit of history in this album. If I had to chose, I would probably select "Palace Arms" as my favorite. We had actually abandoned this song altogether during the early stages of recording the album because we just didn't like it. Before we dropped it, we had tracked the drums, so one evening I decided that I was going to go ahead and add guitar and vocals to the drums so that I could hear if the song had any potential. As I was working on the song and adding more to it, I realized that the song wasn't too bad. By the end of that night, I was convinced that "Palace.." was a worthy tune and proceeded to take it to the rest of the band to finish out, and so it made it on
to the record.
What made you decide to sign with Northern Records?
We were looking for a deal, when my brother Lee suggested looking at Northern. He had agreed to put out his first All Things Bright and Beautiful on Northern. So I sent Eric some of our stuff, and he liked it and offered us a deal. I have known Eric and Andy for quite some time, and I know that they are good eggs, therefore I felt like I could trust Northern with my band. They have been terribly encouraging and supportive, I might add.
What do you think of the Christian market?
I used to have pretty defined and strong opinions about this topic. Now I am rather disinterested in the so-called Christian market. The tendency in "christian" music has been to follow trends for the sake of the dollar, rather than lead by taking risks, which I find to be rather sad. I have pretty consistently stated in other places that I don't think that there should be such a thing as a "Christian market". But this is just pointless because marketing seems to be more about defining your product (in this case a genre of music) for the purpose of selling something to a target audience (in
this case "christians", or at least western, protestant, evangelical
christians), which in and of itself isn't wrong or particularly "bad".
What has become wrong is that we equate "christian music" with
"good" or "acceptable" or even "safe" music, which it absolutely is not.
What I mean is that the tendency among my peers is to discriminate
between "secular" and "christian" music, choosing
"christian" music because "at least I know I can trust it to be
safe to listen to". Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world with fallen people, and the church has become a fractured and divided thing that teaches all sorts of opposing ideas, and so-called "christian" music is far from exempt from teaching a flawless doctrine or theology. "Christian" music should be treated like that which it is: ideas that need examining in the light of what the one, true Church teaches, just as all ideas should be examined. TSATS, being made up of four people who claim to be christians, is
not nor will ever be a "christian" band in the traditional sense.
This is more than mere semantics to us. Music is music, and cannot be made "christian" or "secular". Rather, it should be something that draws you toward reflection, revelation, joy and growth and should allow you a glimpse into the divine regardless of it marketing definition. Maybe I should retract the first sentence of this answer.
How do your live performances compare to your studio recordings? Are you satisfied with how the songs are performed live as compared to the CD?
I could say a lot about these two very different areas, but it would be too tempting to ramble on about something that is of interest only to me. What I will say is that I am never fully satisfied with our live performance (believing that perfection is our ultimate goal), and I am ten times as hard to satisfy when it comes to our studio work (the band will gladly confirm these facts). Comparing the two, I would say that it has never been the prime priority of our band to emulate our recordings in a strict or exact way when we play those songs live. They take on a life of their own as we get better at performing them.
Where do you think the future of TSATS
is heading and what do you think we can anticipate from you musically in
TSATS has been continually transforming since day one. It is hard to predict where the next few months will lead us. I have already started writing for the next record, and the band has been taking these tunes in a more brooding and atmospheric direction than we have previously gone. But then some of our writing sessions have produced some very catchy upbeat direct passages as well.
So it is anyone's guess where we will go next. I have suggested that the next record be called "There Will Be No Rock-and-Roll In Heaven", if that gives you an indication of where our heads are, so to speak. In a more practical sense, you can expect to see us do some limited touring in
the next few months, mainly around our the eastern half of the continent.
What cd's are in your current rotation?
Over the last month or so I have found myself listening to Sigur Ros quite a bit (isn't everyone these days?), as well as Dove's "Last Broadcast", Depeche Mode's "Catching Up With...", I love Iron and Wine's "Jesus the Mexican Boy", I got a new copy of The Church's "Starfish", The Jealous Sound is perfectly awful emo, but I keep listening to their new one, and I am in love with the "Lost in Translation" soundtrack. I could listen to that thing over and over. As I type this, I am listening to Father Thomas Hopko's lecture called "Sin: Primordial, Generational, Personal". Now, doesn't that make me sound quite
In closing, is there anything you would like to say to those who will be reading
Simply that we would love for everyone to visit us at theysangastheyslew.com and drop us a note (email@example.com) and tell us how life is treating
you. Thanks for the excellent questions.
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