Interview with Andrew Schwab of Project 86

Project 86 is a band that has ev­­olved noticeably since the time of its inception; the group has always managed to take its unique sound and propel it someplace new and exciting with every album release. Despite the band’s consistent transformation, they’ve maintained the raw power and brutal honesty that has separated its music and lyrics from those of other rock bands out there. Now, after 15 years, Project 86 is still going strong and pushing forward with the highly anticipated release of its eighth studio album. Their newest record, ‘Wait for the Siren,’ to be released on August 21, engages in sounds the group never experimented with before and includes quite a fantastic lineup of guest artists. In the following email interview, vocalist Andrew Schwab gives us a glance behind the curtain, detailing the progress the band has made up until this point as well as what exactly went into the making of ‘Wait for the Siren.’

No joke-everything you put out, everything you write is brilliant. Does this come naturally or do you have piles upon piles of song drafts lying around? Would you say the songwriting process has changed dramatically with the addition of your newer band members?

Thanks so much, seriously. I think the level of quality control in this band has always been high. We agonize over the finished product every single time because we don’t want to put out something we aren’t completely satisfied with. We don’t have very many unused finished songs, but there are plenty of unfinished ideas lying around. Usually, if an idea isn’t used, though, we don’t revisit it. The songwriting process has evolved a bit on this new record, as I worked to cowrite the songs with two of my friends, Andrew Welch and Blake Martin. In the past, the music has been more of a collaborative effort, but this time around it was quite a bit more on my shoulders from top to bottom.

With every album, your music and your lyrics have progressively gotten less dark and more victorious and optimistic. Is this due to the maturing of band members or a shift in life circumstances?

A little of both. The more you mature, the less selfish you become (hopefully), and the more you want the music to be about helping and inspiring others, rather than just reflecting on your own life.

‘Wait for the Siren’ gushes with what sounds like years of pent-up creative energy. How would you describe this newfound freedom? What held you back in the past?

I think it was inspiring to be more in control of the musical process this time around, personally. Whereas the previous records were a compromise between the creative tastes and influences of the previous members and myself, this one is much more closely linked to my own creative vision. You are correct. It does represent a long period of pent-up creative energy!

You guys have been together for around 15 years (congratulations, by the way). What has motivated you to keep making music for this long?

Thanks! A self-destructive streak that runs deep! Just kidding. I love doing this and love interacting with the people who appreciate our music. I love the challenge of writing songs and it is a great way to express emotions. Our fans have been very supportive over the years and have enabled this band to have longevity.

How would you describe the process it took for you to get to this point-15 years, 8 albums, an ever-evolving sound, a multitude of fans and people you’ve inspired, etc?

That’s a big question. I could write a book on that. The process has involved a lot of soul-searching, prayer, provision, agony, and triumph.

As far as I know, up until now you’ve had one guest vocalist, Sonny Sandoval, in the seven studio albums you’ve recorded…and he was on your first. Why the sudden boom in guest vocals? What led you to collaborate with Bruce Fitzhugh (of Living Sacrifice), Rocky Gray (of Evanescence), Brian “Head” Welch (of Korn and Love and Death), Andrew Welch (of Disciple), Blake Martin (of A Plea for Purging), and the members of The Wedding?

I’ve always wanted to make a hip-hop record. Those guys are all my friends and I thought it would be cool to work with each of them in turn. It created a very fun studio atmosphere, having a different guest come in every day. I really respect all the guys that participated in this thing, so it truly was a blessing.

Your belief in God is no secret and it’s really, truly inspiring. To what extent would you say your faith influences your music? To what extent are you hoping to influence your audience with your music?

Faith inspires everything I do. I think your worldview influences everything you touch. I have never tried to push my beliefs on people who listen to our music, though. That’s why I have always believed in writing on real life topics and referencing faith through the use of metaphor in many of the songs. There is enough room for interpretation in the lyrics that I hope people are inspired to apply their own life circumstances and imagination to make the songs their own.

A couple of your albums begin (and sometimes end) with songs that portray victory and even hint at spiritual warfare (for example, the first and last two tracks of your seventh studio album ‘Picket Fence Cartel’: “Destroyer,” “The Butcher,” “The Black Brigade,” and “To Sand We Return”; and now “Fall Goliath Fall” on ‘Wait for the Siren’). I’m wondering whether that’s been intentional and if there’s a meaning to it?

I wouldn’t say that each of those songs deals directly with that subject matter. Most songs are written either to tell a story or paint a picture of a specific experience, but a lot of the direct spiritual references are metaphors for other things. For example, the “Goliath” in “Fall, Goliath, Fall” references the obstacles this band has faced along the way, but it is meant to inspire anyone who has a an obstacle in their path that is keeping them from accomplishing their calling, vision, or dreams. In general, I try to write songs that leave the ultimate interpretations up to the listener.

After fifteen years of intense changes and challenges, one can only wonder: is ‘Wait for the Siren’ the mark of a new era or the epic end to an epic band?

That’s yet to be decided! We shall see. It all comes down to the impact that this record makes.

You’re currently touring and I honestly can’t wait to see you guys again. What are you most excited about for the upcoming shows?

Playing the new material has been a blast. It’s so fun to see people react to it so positively each night. It’s also very satisfying to have conversations with people who appreciate the music at each show.

Pick up Project 86’s new album, Wait for the Siren.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their official website.