On August 5th, alternative rockers My Epic released their debut CD entitled, I Am Undone. The band, which has been compared to As Cities Burn, Thrice and Cool Hand Luke have crafted an amazing sounding, well-produced record. With decidedly Christian lyrics the band has intertwined a positive uplifting message with strong well written tunes that draw the listener in; and once there you will not want to leave. Whether you agree with their message or not, this is a record that is well worth the price of admission. The band took time out of their busy summer touring schedule to answer a few questions about their music and the tour.

By gaining a label deal at such an early point in your career it’s clear that record execs see a lot of potential in your abilities. How do you not let that sort of pressure get to you when on the road or writing new material?
My Epic: Well we have been playing as My Epic for almost 4 years but have only been full time for a little over a year. Our deal with Facedown happened so fast and with such perfect timing that we felt providence was definitely at work. We certainly feel an added pressure but mostly because we want to show our appreciation to our Facedown Family. Facedown Records as an entity is really composed of two families and we definitely feel this weight because they have placed a percentage of their livelihood on us. It really hit us as we were signing the contract that we were covenanting ourselves with another group of people. When you are an unsigned band, it all falls on your head. If nothing happens, you make a bad record, or plan a bad tour you just go home and pay your bills. But now others have placed themselves on the line and we want to do our part to make this partnership beneficial for them.

The interesting story behind our deal with Facedown is that we signed without ever meeting them, which was scary for us, and possibly for them too. Both sides trusted God and as far as I can tell, everyone feels at peace with the decision. We finally met Jason at Cornerstone this year, and in conversation one day, we finally asked why it is he signed us and his answer was far better than we could have expected or hoped for. He simply didn’t really have too much of a reason. He expressed that he enjoyed our music, but beyond that, he just had a peace that God would be honored with the decision to sign us. So I think he, as a ‘record exec’, would say he has faith in what God can do through us more so than what we as a band could do by ourselves. And that is where we find ourselves. I don’t know if I can speak for everyone in the band, though I am pretty sure they would agree, but I don’t feel like a musician, anything musically that people enjoy from us we can honestly say is only God. I guess all that is to say that in a temporal sense we feel the weight of our relationship with Facedown, but ultimately, the true pressure we feel on tour and in writing new material is that of being proper conduits of God’s love and redemption. That’s a weight that is often more than we would like to bear if we are being honest with ourselves, but in the end is the only weight worth bearing.

It is good to see a number of bands breaking away from the usual gore/horror, misogynist and anti religious themes. What prompted you to pursue this specific course in lyrical concept?
My Epic: Before I say much else, I want to make sure it is known that I do not wish to create a chasm between us and people who play for differing passions. Almost every night, one thing we like to say with our half hour or so of microphone time is that everyone plays from a passion, and if we or anyone else didn’t play from our deepest passion, it would be a farce. We respect everyone’s right to stand behind his or her opinions and beliefs and, as of this point, we have received the same respect. So the following isn’t to draw a line between ‘us and them’ nor is it from a heart that we are somehow better then people who we don’t align with.

I apologize if I misunderstand the question, but it seems as though you are asking about the specific course in I Am Undone. While all of our lyrics have the common thread of our relationships with our God weaving through them, I Am Undone is a far more cohesive album lyrically than our EP. This is due in part to our maturing and also our recent decisions to live life more intentionally and more intimately together. I won’t go into much detail, but we all moved into the same house in Charlotte, NC with a few other people. We definitely don’t have things figured out, but we are doing our best to live as we think Jesus may have lived if he was in the same situation. The experiences we have faced and the lessons we have learned over the last year are what molded the majority of the overarching concept behind the album. Aaron, who writes the majority of the lyrics, is currently working on his thesis, which is on C.S. Lewis and mythology. If you know much of Lewis’s work, this probably comes as little surprise. We owe a substantial amount of lyrical (and spiritual, if you will) credit to that man.

We’ve talked before about how there is nothing new under the sun, a theme heavy throughout one of the more influential portions of the Scriptures in my life. We don’t claim to be breaking new ground, but we are burdened with the charge to ‘sing a new song’, so we sing.

What is the hardest part about being in a touring metal band and what is the biggest obstacle your band faces?
My Epic: We are flattered that you would consider us metal, I am pretty sure this is the first time for that, but there is a first time for everything. I guess we just don’t usually see our musicianship as being deserving of such a title, but such titles are objective anyway. We are happy to see different people holding on to different aspects of our music and encourage people to seek out the facets of music they most relate with.

We have faced some difficult experiences as a band, none that have come close to ruining us by any means, but it sounds, by the wording of your question, that you are more looking for the hardest thing we face on a regular basis. That is usually something like the irritations of being in such close quarters with the same people for so long as well as trying to learn how to get alone time as well as how much and how often we need it. It is different for all of us, but it is essential. I am reading “Shadow of the Almighty” right now, which is essentially a compilation of the writings of Jim Elliot by his wife Elisabeth. In one of his letters, he urges his audience to find that ‘secret’ place. The secret place being more metaphorical than anything else, though it often helps to find that perfect hideaway. We are extremely blessed, we have only toured a fraction of what many bands have so we haven’t experienced much in this area, but we have found it to be very, dare I say, easy. At any moment things could become very different for us and we leave that to God to decide. Money can be tight at times, but what is that in the scheme of life?

Your brand new CD I Am Undone was released on August 5th. Now that it is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
My Epic: We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. We have watched a few of our friends rush their first full length out and live to regret it. We don’t want to do anything that isn’t to the highest level of our abilities. Plus no man knows how much time he has. We have no idea how many times we will get to do this so we wanted to do it the right way. We asked ourselves, if money and time weren’t issues how would we make this record. We decided we wanted to get away for the last two weeks before studio and do preproduction with our producer Andrew. We have known Andrew since before this band started and with the exception of one demo he has recorded every thing we have ever done. He is an amazing musician with a very critical mind and he has a very clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve as a band. We all hold his opinion as second to none in our musical books. He agreed to come spend two weeks with us at an old camp in the blue ridge mountains to fine tune the songs and make sure what we were creating was a record instead of just a collection of songs. It was extremely stressful but fun at the same time and we found our personal relationships with each other and God being put into the crucible. Nothing came early or late but the album evolved into being right on time. It stretched our faith. Who can decide they are going to write a beautiful melody or meaningful lyric? It just happens; all musicians know this is a spiritual experience regardless of how they categorize it. There were moments where it seemed as if we would finish early and other moments where we began to wonder how we would ever finish but in the end there was a beautiful temperance in how the process timed out.

The name of the band My Epic is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
My Epic: I wish we could say that there was a more impressive story to how the name came about, but it is fairly simplistic. We were in common agreement as to what we wanted the music to be, and the word we kept using to describe it was ‘epic’. We were throwing names around a bit and our original guitarist, Matt, brought up the idea of My Epic. The ‘my’ is not us, we more view it as God and we are part of the epic that God is writing. We were kind of pressed for time with a show coming up quickly, so we went with it, and over time it has been solidified as a name we are pleased with.

The artwork by Dave Quiggle is quite amazing. How is it tied to the albums title?
My Epic: We are so happy with the artwork. Dave went so far above and beyond what we expected him to do for us. We are so blown away by the effort people put into this album. I was somewhat in charge of talking to Dave about the direction we wanted to go with the album artwork. I was scared to have this responsibility. Who am I to tell Dave Quiggle what to do? Dave was so kind and patient and took my pathetic excuse of a description and ran with it. I’m really picky about art. I’m not good at it though, I just don’t like a lot of artwork people are doing these days, not much is moving me or invoking emotions in me that aren’t already prevalent. I was also worried about what I would do if I didn’t like that art. I can’t tell Dave Quiggle that he didn’t do well. He has a very distinct style that flows through most of his art, and nothing at all against it, but it wasn’t the direction we were hoping to go on I am Undone. I don’t think it is a secret that we don’t fit the majority of the artwork done for Facedown, but to our delight, he confessed he was excited to spread his wings a bit. When we all crowded around the computer to see what Dave had done we were blown away. It made us all the more excited about the album being released.

I got a little sidetracked there, but I just love the artwork so much, and many people have told us they feel the same way. I could write for pages on what I am undone means all throughout this record, but I will save that for another time. In short, we wanted the artwork to be elegant with a hint of devastation. Our lyrics hint at images of people physically coming apart at the joints and seams, so that is probably some of the inspiration for the artwork. After talking to him on the phone for awhile about the direction we wanted to go, he seemed excited and I was feeling more confident that he would blow us away. We decided it would help for me to send him the lyrics and a few rough demos of the songs, and we all feel he nailed the feel of the music and lyrics better than we ever pictured in our head. It is so cohesive with the record. Dave, if you ever read this, thank you so much, you are too good to us.

You guys played at the Cornerstone Festival earlier this summer. What was that like?
My Epic: Honestly this is going to be a tough question to answer. Cornerstone was a lot different than we were all expecting it to be. It was good in the sense that we got to see a lot of people we love, meet our label and label mates, and grow in interesting and new ways. Speaking of label mates, check out Thieves and Liars, we were blown away by their music, but beyond that, those guys are legit, we respect them deeply. We played three times and they went well, but that was not our highest priority in being there. Our main goal was to meet our label, which we accomplished and were so much more encouraged by than we could have hoped for.

It would be an injustice on our part to go without saying that aside from the few gems mentioned above and an occasional talk, we felt pretty discouraged the majority of the time. I’m sure I won’t be able to convey well the full extent of what we were feeling, thinking, and discussing, nor would I argue that we are far enough outside of the problem to be justified in calling others out. In fact, a large part of the issue was that it served to magnify areas in our lives we choose not to recognize often. The most blatant aspect that didn’t sit well with us was the onslaught of self-promotion and “look at me” tactics. I think Chad Johnson of Solid State Records referred to it as “attention-fest” during a talk after Life in Your Way and The Glorious Unseen. It wasn’t as though there was a clear line that was crossed the whole week, it’s more of an issue of heart, and we can’t judge that in other people, but our spirits didn’t have much of a peace about it. Again, we don’t want to come across as self-righteous, we are a part of the same problem. Aaron Weiss spoke one afternoon and made the comment that we are typically offended at someone else’s wrong because that same wrong is in us. That was definitely the issue for us. We wanted as much as anyone to be the “next big thing” a Cornerstone. The flesh so easily seeps in and deceives us. We must all take guard of this. A friend of ours once said, “If we think we are doing anything of value, we are being greatly deceived,” and Mark of Cool Hand Luke echoed the same concept with a barking illustration from his childhood, essentially saying we haven’t done a thing, God is just letting us lick the spoon. We must always remember that all we have and all we are his grace and mercy. It is by nothing other than God’s hand that I am allowed the opportunity to be in this band. But back to the Cornerstone thing, maybe I am way off and Jesus would have totally loved what was going on, I don’t claim to be an expert on these things, as we find ourselves quoting so often, this is just one fool’s opinion. All I can say is let us all search our hearts with fear and trembling. When all is said and done, Cornerstone is just a festival that will be irrelevant and forgotten one day, we will all be old, feeble, and eventually dead, our music will be forgotten, all that will matter is did we accept and share God’s story of redemption and love.

Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
My Epic: I’m not sure how much some of our influences actually show through in our music, but I doubt most are very shocking. As a band we are currently really influenced by bands like Thrice, As Cities Burn, Brand New (The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me), Sigur Ros, Foo Fighters, Saves the Day, and mewithoutYou. The list could go on for miles if we wanted it to, especially if you asked each of us individually, we definitely have widely varied musical preferences, which seems to be working well for us. One cool thing that most people won’t know unless we say something is that the Beatles actually really influenced one specific song on this album, and oddly enough, it’s our heaviest song, “You Know We All Love You”. We are always finding influences in different places and we are all evolving beings who go on different kicks at times, so this is just where we are sitting now. There are plenty of bands from our childhood that will have immeasurable influence on us as long as we are putting our minds and hands to writing music, to which we owe more gratitude than we will ever be able to show. We have said often that there is nothing new under the sun, we are all standing on someone’s shoulders, and to the bands who have paved the way for us, we thank you with utmost humility.

When you are out on the road anything can happen and often does. Can you think of any disastrous events that happened while out on tour? How did you solve the problem?
My Epic: Disastrous is a pretty strong word. We praise God that nothing worthy of that word has happened to us while on tour. We have had our share of ups and downs both as bands and as individuals, but nothing beyond what would be expected. We have loved ones back home that we miss, every once in a while things get a little tight financially, and we’ve been having some vehicle issues, but I feel bad even bringing these things up compared to what some of our friends have faced while on the road. God has been more than gracious with us and we do our best to not take that for granted, hopefully people we hold dear will keep us accountable to that. The toughest thing we are coming across, and we still haven’t necessarily found the answer to (I would agree no one ever does find the answer), is the constant struggle of how to live from day to day giving the most praise and least shame possible to our Father. Beyond that, I don’t even know how to phrase a sentence like the preceding one in a way that seems to properly communicate the struggle. It’s a difficult but beautiful journey.

Life out on the road can be very difficult. What keeps you going on those long drawn out tours? Do you have any inspirational stories that have taken place on the road that you would care to share?
My Epic: So far we haven’t really had any tours that have seemed very drawn out. Besides the tour we are currently on, none of our tours have been even a month long, so as for that, they have been very pleasant. The number one thing that keeps us going is learning how to be alone with God while in the presence of other people. You don’t get much time alone while on tour, and when you do it is important that you cherish that and hold it dear, but you need to learn how to pull yourself out of your surroundings and be alone with your Creator. It’s equally important that you learn when your band members are taking advantage of that time. It takes time to learn the people you are on the road with, but if you can stick out those difficult times of figuring one another out, it becomes a beautiful machine. We surely are not claiming to own this, but we have realized its importance and seek to respect that to the best of our abilities.

As for inspirational stories, we have countless tales that would easily make it into any number of Chicken Soup for the So and So’s Soul, but it is difficult to begin to put any of them into words. I feel I would do the overwhelming generosity and kindness of other people a serious injustice if I were to try to explain it in text. I don’t mean to short you on your question, so I will tell you that we have had several young siblings hand us their monthly allowance and lawn-cutting money, a mom say to her son concerning us, “bring the strangers home and bless them”, numerous people have given us priceless encouraging words that unbeknownst to them have proven to be a huge catalyst in all of our lives, and countless times people have said “keep the change”. We don’t take any of these examples, nor ones we didn’t mention, for granted and we are forever indebted to you all. You have embarrassed us with your generosity and we are humbled, thank you.

What is next for My Epic?
My Epic: This is a tough question to answer. On one hand, I would love to tell you what our upcoming plans are, but in all honesty we have talked much about the next step(s) we hope to take. If it tickles your fancy to know, I’m sure we will do what most bands do at this stage, finish this tour, and eventually begin writing with plans to release another album. On the other hand, we are always very careful to talk much of the future. As soon as we begin to, we are reminded of Matthew 6:34 and James 4:13-15. Simple statements, and ones that we would be hesitant to say conclusively tell us to never think of or prepare for the moment or season to come, but thoughts that definitely keep us on our toes. We feel we must be flexible with the ebb and flow of God’s leading. As of this moment we feel confident that this band is not only permissible for us, but something God Himself has led us into, and it is something we will continue to do until we feel that season is done. That could just as easily be tomorrow as it could be ten years from now. I’m sure this comes across as a fairly evasive answer and definitely one stereotypical of bands following the teachings of Christ (at least to the best of their abilities) but I am beginning to learn that many things which are cliché are prevalent for a reason.  [ END ]