With four albums already released, Red is still offering us more. Their newest album, Of Beauty and Rage, which is going to be released February 2015, has 15 new titles. As a rock band, Red has been performing for over 10 years and counting.
Michael Barnes, Anthony Armstrong, and Randy Armstrong started out as a small alternative rock band and slowly climbed their way to the top. With performances all across the country, the band is known for their overly- eccentric style. Their first album called, End of Silence within the first year had already earned them a nomination for best rock album at the Grammy Awards. A second album called, Innocence & Instinct, another instant success. Both albums together had earned them two Grammy Award nominations and had the top of the charts on the Billboard 200.
Having a unique style of music alternative/hard rock with not so subtle hints of Christianity allows them to gain access to a wide variety of different people. There live performances are nothing to miss, with their high energy and spirit, their shows are theatrical, explosive and memorable. One o f the primary reasons for there strong and dedicated following. They are constantly expanding their reach and on February 18th, doing so again.
Their music and their performances are inspired by real life events with each of them having a unique style and theme. They have performed over 30,000 live show all across the country for only four albums. With this fifth coming up, they will be making an ever increasing number of live appearances.
The Levity Ball spoke with Anthony Armstrong to get more insight on the band, the music and what’s in store nationwide:
The Levity Ball: Red talks a lot about the emotional connection between the music and the fans. Can you tell me a little bit about what that emotional connection means to you?
Anthony Armstrong: It means everything, I mean if you have that connection with your fans I feel like you’re gonna…your music is just gonna have that much more of an impact. I think that when we write we just try to have that…I mean if we’re pouring our emotion into it, we’re just like everybody else. I think that’s what makes us easy to relate to. It’s that we’re just saying and talking and singing about the things that people want to talk about themselves but can’t, you know sometimes they’re afraid or they’re kind of in a box about it and I think that music just frees them ultimately. So if we can give them that outlet and use that outlet, you know selfishly on our own, you know we’re using it for the same thing. And it’s just cool that we can connect that way and it spawns all different kinds of conversation and interviews, you know, all that stuff that gives us an opportunity to really talk to people and connect rather than doing the stock ‘Hey love your band blah blah blah’. You know it’s like you have a kid come up and say, ‘Hey man I just want you to know what this song means to me and I’d love to know where you guys were at when you were writing it.’
TLB: Who inspires you as a guitar player? And when did you first pick up and learn?
AA: Man I started playing when I was…I’d say sixteen years old. I just picked up a little student guitar in our music room in high school. And you know I got into college and I played a little bit…I think I played a lot my freshman year and almost flunked out of school, just skipping class and playing guitar. Ultimately it paid off, at the time my parents were pretty upset with me, I almost flunked out of college and that would have been a bad idea, but I kind of put it down for a while and I didn’t really get too super serious about it until we moved to Nashville about ten years ago and what’s crazy about that is when we got here we were really trying to pursue making a record and we did and it was great and amazing and all those things, but it was…things got kind of stagnant for a while and it took us five years before we just started meeting the right people. So working a full time job and all that stuff kind of played into it and trying to make time to play my instrument was tough, but I think once we really started focusing on, you know, this is an EP that we want to pitch, and a guy that found us and was interested in working with us at the time ultimately signed our band and I think that point was right around 2004 or 2005 that I really started getting serious about playing and now it’s all I do.
TLB: Music today is more reachable by fans than ever before, how has the growth of digital music changed the way that you operate as a band when you’re working on new projects?
AA: I think…well I would hope that any band would not let the digital age change them, because I think a lot of bands have become jaded by the fact that their music is pirated so much, and they see it as well why put all that effort into it if I’m not going to see the payoff. And I think that’s…there’s a fine line you have to walk, you know? There’s obviously money involved in this but I think a lot of guys are doing it just for the love of the music, just because of the fact that they love what music does and what music is. But ultimately in order for you to get your music out there, it’s that catch-22, you have to tour, you have to be able to make money. So it’s really nice to be able to see those yielded dividends from all of that hard work and all the sacrifices you have to make to make it happen, and I think digital has been cool because it’s given many more people access to your music. But you know, it’s like I said, it’s tough because it also allows people to basically steal the art. And you just kind of have to take the good with the bad, unfortunately. But I think the music industry is honing in on ways to make sure that artists are getting paid, because if artists aren’t getting paid they’re not gonna be able to do what they do and music is gonna change even more and you’re not gonna be able to see as many live shows and there’s going to be a very limited amount of that happening out there. We want to keep it alive and well and make sure the artists are being taken care of the way they should be.
TLB: A lot of your albums seem to follow a theme, is that a conscious decision or something that comes out in the creative process organically, does that just happen or is it planned?
AA: I’d say it’s both. It’s definitely organic but there’s a bit of it in the planning process too. I’d say that it’s planned because from the very get go we always felt that there should be a visual element to music and I think if you bring that visual element along with just the music itself, it adds that much more of a punch to what you’re doing. And Red has always just had a very theatrical theme and a very cinematic type sound, and why not do both? Why not give them a double whammy? Let’s make sure the live show is just something very interesting, and sensory overload too, you know, to a point. And being able to do that is just really cool because pretty much…it’s left up to your own imagination. You can make your stage look anyway you want, put your show together anyway you want, and add that extra visual element. So the themes behind our records just lend themselves to that. You write a song called “Feed the Machine” it just conjures up all different ideas in your brain when you hear the word ‘machine’. So we turned our whole stage into a gigantic factory and it blew people’s minds. With this new record it’s obviously the same thing, we’ve got things we’re gonna do with our new live show and we’re really looking forward to seeing the look on people’s faces when the lights come up.
TLB: The album cover on Of Beauty and Rage it’s just amazing, it alone sparks the imagination looking for a story. What is the theme behind this new album, from your personal point of view?
AA: The theme I would say is…I think it would just literally be focused on the struggle of life in general. Like the struggles that the four of us, or well the three of us now in the band and working with Rob. You know we’ve always been such close friends and worked so well together and the chemistry’s been amazing, I think in the last few years we’ve just experienced so much actually hardships and tough times inter-personally and things that have gone on in our lives as individuals. And it’s just so cool how we were able to harness all that emotion and that rage and turn it into something. And kind of have a…the title came along, it’s like we’re harnessing this rage and frustration and anger and turning it into something beautiful. And that’s kind of where the name was birthed, it just…you find the beauty in the rageful moments and times of difficulty and struggle and ultimately learn something from it. So I think that’s kind of what we’re going for if you read between the lines.
TLB: Michael eluded to just what you said, talking about how well pain can motivate change and that it’s the pushing through those hardships that make you stronger.
AA: Yeah, there’s a lyric in one of the tracks called The Ever, it’s like a poet without pain it’s like how does a guy write such beautiful poetry without experiencing anything in his life that’s worth…that’s noteworthy and difficult, and it’s just so cool what those hard times can actually birth and bring to a person’s ultimate change and if you go through life and you’re kind of skipping along and nothing’s going wrong, you’ve always been told you learn more from losing than you do from winning and I feel like we lose a lot more than we win and those losses and that dark time is that…like I said man, the four of us have had a rough go at it the last few years. And I guess it’s all relative but it’s…if you were inside of our lives anymore than beyond being in the band I think people are gonna experience that emotion on this record and see how dark things really have gotten and how we’re trying to get out of those very areas.
TLB: Alright, what’s it like working with your brother?
AA: Haha, It’s a love-hate relationship sometimes. It’s cool because we’re the kind of twins that have always gotten along really well, I mean we’ve been attached at the hip since we were born. I mean we went to the same high school, we went to the same college, we were roommates for four years in college, we lived together, we moved to Nashville, he got married before I did and moved out and we’re in our own relationships and have families but it’s just…we get to spend the time on the road together. It’s weird, when we get home we kind of go our separate ways but ultimately we’re excited to get back on the road and tour. There’s just something to be said for having a brother in the band, not just a brother, but a twin brother. When things get hard out there, at least you have each other to bounce emotions off of and keep each other kind of centered. It’s fun.
TLB: Red has been able to transcend genres alongside non-Christian bands in the past. Do you think this helped break down some barriers?
AA: Yeah I think so, I definitely think so. Those barriers are still alive and well, there are people who just…I think it has a lot to do with…it’s just people have a hard time believing in something that they can’t see and ultimately can’t feel and I think that we’re just out there doing our thing and being ourselves and showing people that, you know what, this works for us, we believe in our hearts that it can work for you, what that we believe in, things that are in our hearts. But ultimately it’s…sadly it won’t be that way for everyone. And so in order for us to get out there and do those things, it’s not really about us recruiting believers and recruiting quote en quote Christians, it’s just about us being real with people and showing them that, you know what, there’s stigmas about Christians and who they are and what they are and they’re alive and well, but they’re known more for hating than loving and that’s just sad. And we just want to be a band of Christians, not a Christian band. And we want people to just respect us for our music and respect us for our art and what we’re able to do, and let that be the seed that people dig deeper. It’s like wow these guys have a great band and they’re good guys and they’re not jack-offs or anything. And they don’t sleep around on their wives and they’re not into drugs and they don’t wanna do all these crazy things that seem to be out there and so they dig deeper. They’re like man, I gotta know more, because how can you guys be this much fun and this cool and not be idiots, you know? I feel like a lot of the time it’s one in the same, you know? It’s like people that are out there and they’re in bands, it’s just like they’re party animals, their music’s great but offstage they’re a mess. We just don’t want to be that way.
TLB: What keeps your music relevant to the ideal fan today? What are you hoping to give them?
AA: I think we’re gonna stay relevant as long as we still like doing this, if we just keep connecting. If we can keep writing music that people can relate to. I think that’s what brings relevance. I think obviously the way you sound is a big deal to people. You know they want to be able to move their head to it, they want to be able to feel something with the music. But I think ultimately what we have to say and the lyrical content for most people is what drives that and what motivates them to listen to our music.
TLB: Yeah I think you definitely get the message through which is…
AA: That and the live show man, I mean there’s nothing more exciting about a show, you go see a show and it’s not just a group of guys with instruments in their hands just playing their show and acting like they don’t care, just making their money and getting off stage. It’s about entertaining people too, you know.
TLB: Red’s been called a career artist, what do you think has made you hang around it and stay with it for as long as you have?
AA: Focus. Focus I would say focus because there’s so many things out there to help you unfocus and not be more focused on just your career in general, your band, your music. There’s just so many things out there that can turn you away from it. We just try to say as focused on the point of what we’re truly doing. And I think that that’s going to give us longevity. I don’t think we’ll even fade away, I think we’ll just call it quits and kind of leave our legacy so to speak and be done. But we don’t want to burn out and we don’t want to fade away. We just want to stay relevant and stay in the forefront of everybody’s minds. And I think if we’re just focused on working hard and people can see that focus and that hard work and that we’re not just a group of guys that walk on stage and are jerks and just have everything handed to them, they actually see us working hard, blood, sweat and tears for what we do, people are going to invest in that. And we welcome that. We just try to show them that through video blogs and interacting with fans and showing them hey here we are, we’re out here scrubbing our bus and we’re out here building our new set and we’re here throwing all of our new set away at the dump here in Nashville and getting dirty and sweaty. We’re not just sitting in our million dollar mansion sipping coffee.
TLB: You have a very nice tour coming up starting in February?
AA: Yeah February 18th.
TLB: What are you looking forward to on this one?
AA: Touring again. We’ve just been off so much at the end of that last recording cycle and making the new record and we’ve had roughly around five months off so it’s been more time than we’ve ever taken in the last ten years. We’re motivated because we feel like we’ve got a great record out of the whole thing and we feel like the fans are really gonna connect with us in a way they never have. It’s gonna be bigger and better than ever. So to get back out there and play is the only thing we’re looking forward to.
TLB: I love it, very cool. I’m sure I’ll be at the Gramercy when you guys hit NYC.
AA: Oh cool very cool, I’d love to meet you at the Gramercy.
TLB: I will definitely try and get back there to say hello and again thank you, you guys are truly amazing.
AA: Thanks. Take care.