I wish people would stop comparing Momo and Chungha. They are both excellent dancers with their own strengths and weaknesses. Momo is strong at being technical in her dancing whereas Chungha is strong at putting expression into her dancing. And I wish people would stop downplaying Momo’s dancing because she’s been dancing for 17 years of her life since she was 2 compared to Chungha who’s only been dancing for 6-7 years. Yeah, Momo could work on her facial expressions when dancing more, but putting that aside she’s still a great dancer.
Rolling Stone: Needtobreathe Talk Christian-Band Stigma, Experimental New LP
South Carolina band on patching up differences, getting back to “garage band” roots
By Jon Freeman
Needtobreathe are something of an
anomaly in the current pop-music landscape. Despite an absence of
mainstream radio support, the Charleston, South Carolina, foursome has
built a massive live following and released increasingly higher-charting
albums. Their most recent LP, Hard Love, came out in mid-July and landed at Number Two on the Billboard 200 (behind Drake’s dominant Views), their strongest debut to date.
Hard Love also represents a distinct shift in style, taking the band from the anthem-heavy Southern rock and folk of 2014’s Rivers in the Wasteland
to decidedly more dance-influenced territory, as on the Shovels and
Rope collaboration “Great Night,” which bears a trace of Depeche Mode’s
“Personal Jesus,” or the soulful funk groove of “Money and Fame.” “Some
of our fans might think that some of the synth-y things, programmed
drums, stuff like that, is like a pop thing,” says singer Bear Rinehart.
“That’s not the way we view it. We saw it as like this new frontier
that we had never touched.”
Though frequently tagged as
a Christian-rock band because of their initial successes in Christian
radio markets, Needtobreathe resist that categorization because of the
challenges it presents to non-evangelical listeners. While there’s a
spiritual thread that runs through the songs of Hard Love,
whether in the uplifting gospel harmonies of “Happiness” or the
cautionary lessons of “Money and Fame,” the album ultimately scans more
as generally hopeful and joyful than anything resembling overtly
They day the band spoke with Rolling Stone, the
members were coping with the brutal heat of summer during tour
rehearsals at a cavernous Nashville production facility, coordinating
their dazzling light and video show with amped-up, full-band
arrangements of selections from Hard Love. Their Tour de Compadres,
underway now, features a stacked deck of supporting acts such as Mat
Kearney, John Mark McMillan, Parachute and Welshly Arms joining them for
more than 50 dates – including a sold-out stop at Colorado’s famed Red
Rocks. RS luckily found cooler environs to chat with Bear, his
guitarist brother Bo, bassist Seth Bolt and keyboardist Josh Lovelace
about the tour, their restless sonic experimentation and that pesky
“Christian band” label.
You started the Tour de Compadres in 2015 with a different group of guests. What was the original philosophy behind the tour? Bear Rinehart:
We wanted to take our friends on tour. We wanted to make a festival on
the road. Everybody in the business around us told us that was insane
and it wouldn’t work and it’d cost too much money to bring that many
bands, and you can’t play as long. Everybody has to get along I guess to
make it work, but it’s been the most successful thing we’ve ever done
and we have more fun doing it than any other tours we ever had.
Seth Bolt: We didn’t know if they’d say yes, because they’re all headliners in their own right.
everybody has to check their ego at the door a little bit. You gotta
play a little less than you normally would to make it work and you can’t
have quite as much production as you might normally have. We’re playing
each other’s instruments, which says a lot about the bands who come on
it and the community we have and how much we appreciate being out there
with people we love.
Do you feel like you can draw bigger crowds by combining all these talents on one package? Bear:
Yeah. The bonus of it has been we think of ourselves as a big arena,
amphitheater band – at least, we’ve always wanted to do things like
that. We’ve been just as comfortable in clubs, but we’ve always wanted
to have huge light shows and big screens and all that stuff, and you’re
always kind of limited by whether or not you can do that. But I think
this is giving us that opportunity, obviously playing places like Red
Rocks or the Greek Theatre or somewhere, you can bring a bunch of stuff
Bo Rinehart: You try and make the whole thing more of an event.
Your album Hard Love came out in July and features more electronic textures than your past work. What prompted the change in style? Bear: A lot of things … One, we made Rivers in the Wasteland
during a time when the band was fighting a lot. It was what we were
capable of at the time. We wrote some pretty heavy songs about our
personal relationships and what we were going through and we didn’t have
a lot of experimentation during that record. We pretty much got in a
room and played them, because we couldn’t stand to be in the room with
each other for longer than that. This record, because a lot of things
happened with us over that period of time – major reconciliation – we
spent more time experimenting like a garage band than we have since we
Bo: The separation that happened on [Rivers in the Wasteland]
forced us to write on our own, independently, so we weren’t going to
the studio. We weren’t spending time with each other. And just to get
the job done, we were going to the computer and trying out synth sounds
and whatever. In some ways for me, at least, it was a little accidental.
So the synth thing wasn’t like, “Oh, yeah, we want to be this now.” It
just sounded good to us. It felt good.
SB: Even though the
end result’s different, we were getting back to the roots of the way we
used to, like the garage-band way, where we’d break the rules and put a
bunch of crazy guitar pedals that aren’t supposed to go together and
that made a great sound that excited us and built the music underneath
Josh Lovelace: Now we have, like. a billion sounds at
our fingertips, which you can get on your computer and just cycle
through it, like, “Oh, this is inspiring to me,” or “This isn’t.” You
can pick your favorites and then build from there, which is kind of a
rare thing. It’s a new process for us.
Do tracks from Hard Love pose any challenges for you to recreate them live with a more traditional rock-band setup? Bear:
You’re free to do some different things in the studio and obviously you
take a lot more time with it. I think the whole idea of live is to have
more energy, at least for us, so the rock thing makes the most sense.
So probably anything we do on the records, even if we’re trying to make a
rock record, ends up more rock live. It’s gonna be guitars and drums
and bass. And then we add the other stuff along with it. … We’ve got
singers and steel and all that, but that’s the icing on top.
in mainstream press outlets tend to quickly designate you as a
Christian-rock band. You’ve never shied away from talking about your
beliefs, but does that term feel limiting to you? Bear:
Any label is limiting. That one in particular is especially limiting.
Because if you’re not a Christian or you don’t like Christian music, I
think when you read that you just think, “This band sucks.” To me, I
think people pass over the band all the time because they read that.
Why do you think that is? Bear:
I think there’s a million different things that people mean when they
say “Christian” – that word, much less Christian music. I was thinking
today – I got a direct message or something from this guy, and he said,
“I hate the new record. You used to be a Carolina band.” And I was like,
“I don’t know what Carolina band means.” We still are – we didn’t move
or anything. So for him, that must’ve meant acoustic guitar or
something. For me, that means something different. That’s the problem
with that term [“Christian”] – it’s confusing. But I think the reason
people probably think “I don’t want to listen to this band” is because
when they think of Christian music they think of Stryper or something
crappy; they think of music that’s not as good.
SB: And religion can be polarizing, but music is what brings us all together.
are artists like Sufjan Stevens and Tori Kelly who acknowledge their
Christian beliefs, as well, but they’re allowed to play outside that
space. What do you think the difference is for them? Bear:
I can’t say for other artists what their path has been. I can say for
us, we got into it innocently enough. We were raised in a really strict
home. Our parents would only let us listen to Christian music when we
were kids. So when it came time to sign a record deal, Christian record
deals came and we said no to all of them. Waited a couple years until
the right record deal came, which was Atlantic, which we’ve been on ever
since. But we just said to them in passing when we first started, we
want the records to be available to everyone, including those kids like
us, because it was tough for us to find music that we liked. And we
really started writing music because of that. We thought that music
wasn’t very good.
SB: We listened to every demo in the Christian bookstore because that’s the only place we were allowed to buy records.
We were listening to Christian metal at 12. It’s the classic story. But
that’s how it all started. But the thing that’s tricky, it’s like,
people don’t call Johnny Cash Christian music. He could make a church
record or a hymn record. People have the right to change their
religions. They have the right to change their feelings. Each record we
make reflects what we’re going through at the moment. Our faith is
really important to our lives and who we are and it definitely comes
through in the music, but trying to say that our faith is the same as it
was when we first started out is crazy to us.
There’s a spiritual thread running through a lot of your work, but it’s frequently not an explicitly Christian message. Bear:
The thing that’s tough for us to deal with is, one way to get away from
the Christian stereotype would be to be the opposite. They want you to
cuss everybody out, become alcoholics, whatever. It’s like, those things
aren’t mutually exclusive. We can be about good things. We can be about
charity. That’s something we feel like is important. We’re about
family; we’ve got brothers in the band. We’d like to be one of those
bands with brothers in it that doesn’t end up breaking up because we
fight so much. Those are positive things. Hopefully we inspire people
Those seem like decent, human aspirations that aren’t exclusive to any faith. Bear:
Our favorite thing by far to get from a fan is, “Hey, I’m Jewish but I
still really like your music – I don’t know if that’s cool or not.” I
respond to every direct message we get from somebody like that. I hate
the idea that they somehow feel like I didn’t make the music for them,
that we didn’t play music for everyone. The idea when you make music or
you write songs and whatever and you have an audience in mind, I would
say Christians are probably really late on that list, maybe last on that
list, I don’t know, but it never comes into my mind as a target
audience. I think that’s what Christian music is. I don’t think there’s
anything wrong with Christian music. I just don’t think that’s what we
are or what we do.