CELEBRATE KNOXVILLE – Music Review by Laura Long Martin. Decyfer Down’s 40-day tour stopped at The Underground/Cincinnati last night, with a bill that includes Disciple, Seventh Day Slumber, Spoken and Children 18:3. Decyfer Down is touring in support of The Other Side Of Darkness, their latest album released yesterday.
This high-energy rock band has already seen success – with Grammy and Dove Award nominations for their second album, Crash, a trio of best-selling major label albums, and seven chart-topping singles. And they view all their work as an expression of love, of faith in Jesus Christ. Celebrate Knoxville spoke with T. J. Harris, vocalist for the band, on the road to Arkansas this afternoon.
LLM: How was the show in Cincinnati last night?
TJH: Amazing! Haven’t been here since 2010, so it was good to be back.
LLM: Still listening to the new album, letting it sink in. My favorite cuts right now are the title track and Anchor Me, which is the best song for a circle pit, agreed?
TJH: Ha ha, maybe. Or Nothing More. Either of those.
LLM: How do you balance giving the fans that uber-rock anthem that they love you for already and giving yourselves some creative space to experiment?
TJH: When we’re writing, I think we just let ideas sit for a while and then come back to them later. We like the heavy, low, sludgy, swampy style, so we usually end up there.
LLM: Much of this album sounds retro, like you guys had a late night classic rock vinyl party and then went right into the studio. In particular, the title track, Other Side of Darkness has a blend of musical flavors – I hear Kansas, I hear Pearl Jam, and there’s that cool synth like Edgar Winter about two minutes into the song.
TJH: Yeah, yeah! We all grew up on 90s rock and we love that influence. With this album we wanted to return to what we were doing with our first album, return to our roots music but with more energy. That’s Brandon’s guitar, not a synthesizer. He has lots of pedal effects and adds those colorful, melodic pieces.
LLM: You’ve had tunes used major sporting events (UFC, WWE). how did that come about? Are you guys fight fans?
TJH: Not really fans, but if there’s a big event, we might all get together and watch it. The songs got shopped and “Fight Like This” really fit, so it found a spot.
LLM: You’ve played a double bill with Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch, who after he became a Christian, went back and mended relationships with members of Korn and even played some shows with them. Would you love to play more often with bands that are not faith oriented but have a similar sound or energy, like Foo Fighters, maybe?
TJH: We’d LOVE to play with Foo Fighters. Who wouldn’t? From a business point of view, that would be great for us, since they play much bigger audiences – our shows might be five or six hundred, and they play for tens of thousands. From a (spiritual) point of view, it would be great to tell an audience that big how good God has been to us.
LLM: On your web site, you guys said it is important to be real, even if that might make people uncomfortable, and rock and roll has always been dangerous.
LLM: Care to elaborate?
TJH: I think that quote was about our Scarecrow album, where we wrote a song criticising Westboro Baptist Church. We felt strongly that we needed to address their hate. They say they are a Christian church, but really they are just a cult. We don’t want anyone to be misled.
LLM: Do you guys actually counsel people at shows?
TJH: Yep, that’s part of our ministry. We pray with people, we encourage them to get connected to a local faith family.
LLM: There’s the serious side. And the showmanship and entertainment biz plays a part too, right? There was a great story on Facebook recently, with the headline “Holy Spirit Unable To Move When Fog Machine Breaks Down.”
TJH: Ha ha ha ha!
LLM: I know you guys have a sense of humor; I’ve seen your videos. And when you’re playing a show, you get a variety of responses, right, because some people are just there for the music and nothing else.
TJH: Yeah, and sometimes I look out and see people with hands in the air, worshipping, just lovin’ on God. Or there could be a guy standing there with his arms crossed who never moves but later says he liked the show.
LLM: A variety of responses, like that parable about the sower, where the same seed falls on different hearts. One is hard-hearted, so nothing grows. Another jumps in but when persecution comes, they crash. But then there’s that sincere heart that receives the (seed) message and bears fruit. So what’s next for Decyfer Down?
TJH: Finish the tour, which ends April 30. We’re businessmen too, and we want to sell records, but we are an independent band. We make what we love.
–Celebrate Knoxville, April 2, 2016.
Decyfer Down: TJ Harris – Lead Vocals, Christopher Clonts – Guitar, Brandon Mills – Guitar, Synth, Benjamin Millhouse – Drums, Percussion, and Chris Furr – Bass. Connect with the band at DecyferDown.com.