Nine Lashes rocks radio

Nine Lashes has seen an impressive run of radio success after signing to Tooth & Nail

Photo by Tooth and Nail

Nine Lashes is a five-piece Christian radio rock band from Birmingham, Ala., formed in 2006. The band caught the eye of producer and musician Trevor McNevan (of Thousand Foot Krutch) when it independently released its first album, Escape. It was McNevan who brought the group to the attention of Tooth & Nail President Brandon Ebel, who, clearly valuing its sound, signed Nine Lashes to a deal. The band put in its time doing festivals and touring for the bulk of 2013 behind its second album, World We View. And now, with the push from its upcoming record, From Water to War, dropping in late January, the band is poised to have a big 2014. Here, I was honored to get to know vocalist Jeremy Dunn a little more, sharing some of the band’s thoughts on its rapid rise.

I noticed some of the guys had nicknames in the band. Do you also have a nickname?
Dunn: No. We never got one to stick. One time, (one) almost stuck. It was “Diesel.” … I tried to put diesel in the car one time. Being on the road, I got so used to pulling in to the diesel pump and sticking it in and everything. When I got home and I started driving my own car around, habit just took over.

That was a disaster.
Luckily, they make it so they don’t fit. If it was the other way around, it would’ve been disastrous.

Can you tell me anything about the band that they wouldn’t post in their “About me” section on a social media site that you’d like people to know?
We’re really spiritually focused. Our No. 1 thing is sharing the love of Christ with people. It’s just who we are.

I see that portrayed in the stuff that I read. Speaking of, what kind of music do you listen to? Is it also Christian rock?
I mean, I grew up on rock. My taste in music has evolved over time and grown to a lot of different genres, but that’s the one I grew up on. When we started this, it was the one thing that really connected to all of us – we all share a similar taste in music and it was rock. Then we also had a passion for Christ and our faith. Those two things go hand-in-hand and they kind of make sense.

Nine Lashes is a pretty interesting band name. Can you elaborate on how this name came about?
The name is actually a reference to the cat of nine tails, the name of the whip they used to beat Jesus with. It serves as a reminder that the punishment we deserved was taken by him. He took it for us. It’s a good conversation starter, too.

You’ve got your people who like the underground music and then you’ve got your people who always listen to mainstream radio, so trying to hit different people right where they’re at, you really have to be willing to explore new directions.

What are some proud moments that you all have experienced while making the new record?
Actually, one of my proudest moments was writing the lyrics to a song called “Surrender.” It’s so different for me because I grew up on metaphors and similes. Whenever I write, I try to be visual with it and really paint a picture. It’s in my style. But I wanted to branch out and write some lyrics that were more straightforward, and I found it to be a really big challenge for me because there’s that fine line between safe, cheesiness and straightforward.

You’ve got your people who like the underground music and then you’ve got your people who always listen to mainstream radio, so trying to hit different people right where they’re at, you really have to be willing to explore new directions.

It was a personal challenge for me because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. I was just like, “Man, it’s going to be complete cheese and I’m just going to hate it when I get done with it.” But it was actually a proud moment for me when I got done and I could read and feel confident the lyrics felt real. There was substance there. It was a cool, real experience.

It’s always a proud moment when your work is portrayed how you wanted it to be.

It’s always interesting to find out the things that inspired the band during your writing and recording processes. What do you say are things that inspired you creatively from all these tours?
On the first record, World We View, our biggest single was “Anthem of the Lonely.” It had an intro, a little electronic element to it and we walked away from that album thinking, “We need to add more of that.” From that record up until the beginning of the production of this record, we’ve just dabbled in this, dabbled in that as far as production and recording music is concerned. We’ve messed around with different things and we’ve ended up where we are. I love it, personally. It was super inspiring reach in new places, listening to music that incorporates, and exploring new ways to incorporate it. Really just doing what you want. Having a blank canvas and not having to stick to this formula, that formula.

The new album is basically inspired by your journey?
It’s hard to pinpoint it on one thing. “Journey” is a perfect word, because one thing just stacks on top of another.

How do you think this release has evolved lyrically and sonically from the World We View album?
I think a good word for it is “advanced.” I’m a science fiction kind of guy. I read the “Star Wars” books and everything.

We were a local band. And God just decided that He wanted us on a little bit larger scale, and so He crossed our path with Tooth & Nail by crazy circumstances only He could orchestrate. It was a massive leap.

That’s the good stuff.
If you picture your world in the future and you imagine the music there, that’s kind of how I imagine our (newest) album (to sound) from our last album. A step in that direction.

With that sound, Tooth & Nail seems like a well-fitting label for you. How has this transition from working independently to working with a structured label affected the band?
Everything stepped up a notch when we joined Tooth & Nail. It was a pretty quick adjustment, as far as that’s concerned, emails coming back and forth, managers to deal with and everything. It’s a different world.

You have independent bands that sought out their own managers and had booking agents and everything. We were a local band. And God just decided that He wanted us on a little bit larger scale, and so He crossed our path with Tooth & Nail by crazy circumstances only He could orchestrate. It was a massive leap.

Being local is a whole different ballgame than being signed to a label where you have people doing things for you you’re supposed to be doing. It makes it easier.

That’s awesome. You guys must be super psyched to release this album. Are there any special tracks or favorite tracks you have?
I can’t speak for the whole band, but for me personally, one of my favorite (tracks) is “Cover Your Own.” And it’s my favorite for a personal reason.

I think that’s the track that stood out to me the most. (If) it’s the ending track, it is because (that one) slows down and gets more personal. It kind of pulls out the album.
Yeah. That’s a perfect description. It’s about my journey. I grew up without a dad. Since I’ve joined the band, I’ve actually gotten to meet him and so we know each other now. We have a relationship now. But this song, it’s about my journey up to the point before meeting him. It’s about how God brought me to a place of forgiveness without ever having to have a single thing explained to me as to why or as to where he was – without knowing anything. God brought me to this place where I wasn’t bitter. He actually flipped it. Now I’m looking back, I can’t imagine it being any different because I am who I am because of it.

We know from the previous album rock seems second nature to you guys. Have you guys experimented with any other sounds for the new release?
I would say definitely. Our goal from this album was to expand our sound. Because, like I said earlier, my taste in music has evolved. I grew up on rock. I even went on a metal stage. But as I got older, I started loving all kinds of genres of music. I’m a huge Coldplay fan.

With the band, I really wanted to bring those other tastes into our music. Because why do we make music? Why would we spend our time making music if we didn’t love it? What’s going to make us love it even more is being able to incorporate every aspect of ourselves into it, instead of closing off part of ourselves in order to adhere to the genre.

Seeing how successful songs like “Anthem of the Lonely” were on the charts, do you have any predictions or aspirations for this record?
“Break the World” released on the radio, and it’s at No. 2 right now on the Christian rock charts. Next, on the rock side of things, we’re going to release another single. We just released a lyric video of “Surrender.” It’s kind of the ballad on the album. … I think it’s going to go for radio ads in January and see how that does. I’m just praying. I pray to God to take it where He wants to take it.

The album artwork that posted, that’s pretty cool looking stuff. Can you tell me how…?
Yeah, Ryan Clark.

How does the artwork relate back to the album? Was there a message you wanted to relay?
Well, the whole From Water to War concept was a symbolic expression of baptism because you first get saved and you’ve met the Lord. You’ve met God. You have a new friend and everything is great. You get baptized.

But then as you grow, you start to learn there’s this condition of things and that everything isn’t as it should be. There are people who don’t know Christ. There are people who’ve never had the opportunity to give their life and have never experienced the freedom of knowing him.

So you start to realize that when you were baptized and you were brought into this thing, you’re not only rescued and given new life, but you were also given a mission. It was really the concept of baptism: The old has died and now we’re this new person. We’re thrown into this new conflict where we’re trying to, for lack of a better phrase, rescue the world.

I was actually looking at “Star Wars” now as you explained it. It was pretty neat.
Oh, yeah. We wanted the artwork to really capture that cinematic vibe, to really capture how large of scale this thing is.

I can picture that. You guys did a great job; it’s really captivating.
Thank you. He’s super talented.

What are some of your favorite things to do while you’re on tour, the things that you enjoy most about being on the road?
If any of us bring airsoft guns we do like to shoot each other. That’s always fun. Other than that, we’re down for pretty much anything. We love to sightsee. I’ll never forget seeing the Grand Canyon. It was great. We went and stopped on caves and everything. It was awesome.

Can your fans expect anything different from this tour?
Anything different? Well, new songs for one. That would be great. Other than that, hopefully we’d like to step up our last show. Bring some new stuff there. It’s just going to take work. How about this, they can expect a surprise. We’ll just give them a surprise. How about that?

That’s great. Have you taken any of the new songs out on the road yet? Have you played any live?
We’ve played two live: “Break the World” and “Never Back Down.” Both got great responses. We were happy to see that.

Most bands would say that every record they make is better than the last. Does that hold true for this album?
I would say so for sure. If nothing else, it was more rewarding than the last to make. I think everybody is going to agree that it’s better than the last record. But just in case there’s somebody that doesn’t agree, I will say it was definitely more rewarding to make.

Rewarding in what way?
In the whole exploration thing, being able to venture out musically and do different stuff, to not adhere to a certain pattern or certain genre. You get to write what you love and love what you write.

In the band’s career this far, what do you think has been its greatest opportunity?
That depends on what you’re talking about. Business-wise? Spiritually?

It can be whatever you want to talk about.
Okay. Well, we got to go on the Red tour, and that was awesome. We saw a lot of growth from that. As far as spiritually, there’s so much stuff that God does on a day-to-day basis. There are so many times I’ve been reminded by God. And the way things work out, it’s like He looks me in the eye and says, “If you would trust me,” you know?

Yep, I’m not playing a Red tour or anything, but I’ve been there many times.
It’s the most rewarding thing when you trust God and it pays off. You see God come through in a big way. It’s awesome. He comes through every time, but a lot of times you have to look to see it. But sometimes – when you don’t even have to look – it’s obvious and no one can deny it. There’s so much growth that takes place in those moments. It’s awesome.

Cool. I feel like you look at it in more of a spiritual opportunity as being the greatest advantage.
Yeah. Hearing the stuff that people write to us on Facebook of how they were feeling a certain way and it was in one of our songs and we helped them, or they were thinking these thoughts – maybe suicidal thoughts or something – and they changed their mind when they were listening to one of our songs and it helped them. It’s super rewarding.

Yeah. It’s always cool when something so personal takes form and saves somebody. I think that’s really neat. Is there anything you wanted to add to the interview? Maybe something we haven’t discussed.
I can’t think of anything. But you said you have everything you needed?

Yeah. I think I’m good. I’m good on my end.
Before we go, would you like me to pray with you about anything?

Actually, I would love that. That’s an awesome way to close on an interview man.

Let’s see. I don’t know. The holiday season; let’s get through this holiday season.
Alright, I’m going to pray real quick. Lord, thank you so much for this opportunity for Nine Lashes. Thank you so much for HM Magazine to take time out of their schedule and space out of their magazine to help us out. Lord, I pray that you help Chelc make it through the Christmas and holiday season. Lord, I don’t know if she’s broke like me, but she could use some help. Maybe she needs some family time. Maybe she needs some alone time with you. Whatever it is Lord, I pray you help her and be there with her and give her joy. In your precious name, Jesus. Amen.

Nine Lashes was posted on January 6, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by .