On September 1st, Dreamt Music/Facedown recording artists Abel released their debut EP, The Honest Love. The three-piece band from New York has created a disc with a heavy Indie feel about it. After a summer tour, including a stop at the Cornerstone Festival in Illinois, the band is back at work on a follow-up CD. I caught up with frontman Kevin Kneifel and spoke with him about the band, the new EP and their future plans.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Kevin: “The way the songs come together in our band is always different. Most of the time, the lyrics and melodies for a song will be written either by Alex or myself. Those ideas get brought to the group and we work through the songs in stages, building and adding and changing things until we have something we like. There have been occasions, though, where we will finish a song, and then three weeks later, decided to rebuild it from the ground up. It’s all a process, but we think it results in dynamic music that means a lot to all of us.”
Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
“I personally have been listening to a lot of As Tall As Lions and Coldplay as of late and definitely was spinning a lot of Thrice during the time when these songs were being written – their music is always evolving musically and lyrically, and I love that. Interestingly, Alex listens to a lot of pop rock and pop punk, and John loves hardcore music – I think The Chariot and Norma Jean are two of his favorites. On tour, Underoath and Copeland made it to our CD player a lot, so I don’t think it’s really possible to pin us down, we are inspired by a lot of bands.”
Your brand new CD titled The Honest Love is set for release on Sept 1st. Now that it is complete, how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
“We’re very excited for people to hear this new record, especially because of how long it was in the making. Greg Dunn from Moving Mountains produced the record, along with our good friend Will Tendy. We think the production and feel of the album is fantastic, and we are proud of the songs we have written. We think this record has the ability to really affect people.”
Take us through the writing and recording process for the album. How many songs did you write in total?
“The album was written over the course of six months. In that time, we wrote about six complete songs – and chose five to record. Recording the album took a while though. We got the ball rolling in March with the intention of having the EP done by the end of April. Over the course of the recording process, we switched engineers, and went through countless mixing and mastering sessions to get the huge sound we wanted. By the time things were done, it was June – so we certainly took our time getting things perfect.”
Are there any songs on this disc that are personal favourites or that have good stories behind them?
“We are all big fans of the track “The World Sings” for a few reasons. Aside from being our closer when we do live shows, the breakdown at the end of the song was taken from a song my previous band was writing before we broke up, and I was sorry that it never got used. Alex was the drummer in that band, and when I introduced “The World Sings” to him and John at practice, we realized that the breakdown fit perfectly into the song both lyrically and musically. The part of the breakdown where we yell, “I’m not like Christ at all,” has become the band’s anthem of sorts.”
How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple of takes?
“We were lucky enough to work with amazing engineer and producer named Will Tendy for this record. Will really coached us through the tracking on the songs – and it is only because of his guidance that we finished this album so quickly. Advice for things as simple as how to warm up my vocals properly made a major difference in working fast without feeling rushed, and still feeling like we got the best takes.”
Do you decide on a suitable sound fairly quickly, or do you tend to tweak tones obsessively?
“In the studio, a lot of time was spent getting the right sounds for guitar and bass. We are tone freaks, and this was another place where Will really shined as an engineer. For the mixing, Greg was responsible for the huge sound of the drums and the atmosphere on the record.”
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
“Here, for me personally, I need to go back to the issue of doing proper vocal warm ups. Before being in ABEL, I used to lose my voice all the time. When we started this band, I tried to write vocal melodies that would not be so difficult to sing, but even still, I was having trouble. After some advice from Will, I started warming up my vocals properly before each set. It’s made a world of difference, and for the first time, I’ve been able to tour without worrying about blowing out my voice.”
The artwork is quite amazing. How is it tied to the album’s title?
“The artwork was meant to represent the feel of music, and I think that using the seasons as a theme in the design brings the whole thing together nicely. If you look closely, you will notice that the paint colors on the front soak through all the panels. I think it is pretty obvious from our music that the members of this band love Jesus Christ – and Christ’s love for us is a major theme in almost all our songs. “The Honest Love” is actually a song written for my current girlfriend, and if you wanted to make interpretations, you could say that the paint colors represent how Christ’s love has permeated all the seasons of my relationship with her.”
What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of The Honest Love?
“Not to sound cliché, but they can expect an honest expression of what this band is all about. We carry our faith on our sleeves, and that really shines through in the lyrics and music. I hope that listeners can feel our earnestness in the songs.”
The band keeps things interesting thematically. Can you talk about some of the subjects you tackle on this record?
“My Melody” and “Dressed Like a King” are probably my favorite songs on this record thematically. “My Melody” is about how we often try to use our gifts that are meant to glorify God to glorify ourselves. I think before this band, I had an understanding of what it meant to write music for Christ – but I think that was always underlined by this idea that music should be something I was successful at. Being in a band that “made it” or was popular and well liked was a concern that was always hanging out below the surface. When ABEL started, we did so with the intention of just writing music for God. I think it is interesting to see that with that attitude; we have done more in a short time than we did in years of touring and hard work in other bands. We’re so happy to be on Facedown/Dreamt, since we’ve been fans of the label and the bands on the label for a long time.”
What does the future hold for you guys as a band?
“We just finished a month-long tour with an amazing band called Deas Vail, and we’ve started writing songs for our next record. I think right now, we are just focusing on writing a good full length to follow up this EP. Everything about this band so far has been a surprise and blessing, so only God knows what is in store for us next.”