Relient K evolves, tackles new goals

By John Benson

No tricks and plenty of treats is how singer/guitarist Matt Thiessen describes his Canton-based band Relient K’s current club tour, which comes to Cleveland for a special Halloween gig Friday at the House of Blues.

“It’s going to be a good show,” said Thiessen, calling from Bolivar, Ohio, which is south of Canton. “The tour is called ‘The Uncle Fest Tour,’ so it has a slight Addams Family sort of monster theme to it. Hopefully people will come out dressed up. And Cleveland has always been our hometown. I’m a huge Browns and Cavs fan. I also love Pittsburgh. I used to go to Club Laga back in the day when it was open. We’d see a bunch of shows there.

“So there’s definitely a loyalty that we feel toward this area, but the local scene growing up for us was mostly Canton. Really the Pittsburgh and Cleveland venues didn’t play a role until later on.”

Now considered a national band, Relient K has become one of the more popular crossover Christian pop-punk acts with its radio-friendly tunes and energetic live shows. With more than 2 million albums sold, the outfit has enjoyed mainstream success with its 2004 album “Mmhmm” and 2007 effort “Five Score and Seven Years Ago.”

Before joining the Vans Warped Tour this past summer, Relient K released “The Bird and the Bee Sides,” a 26-song collection that included an assortment of B-sides, demos and rarities, as well as 13 brand-new tracks. What makes the compilation album somewhat odd is the inclusion of a large amount of new material. Thiessen explained the band’s thought process on burying an album’s-worth of freshly written original tracks alongside castaway tunes.

“We technically did release almost a full length of material already this year on the B-sides record, but we didn’t treat it as the next LP,” Thiessen said. “I think about 10 of them are serious legitimate songs, but it’s one of those things where we did that to put out some new stuff this summer and to keep our fans in the loop with some fresh material. At the same time, we didn’t get to spend enough time on those songs to really warrant being our next step in the future of our band.”

So that means up next for Relient K is a new album where the band will spend enough time with the material. The singer said he hopes it will differ from previous releases, which were more pop-ish in nature. In fact, he’s thinking the band should make a full-on rock album to begin its next decade. Considering 2008 marks Relient K’s 10th year together, Thiessen reflects on the group’s past and its future.

“Of course it was a surprise we lasted this long,” Thiessen said. “When we started out, we hoped to sell enough records to be able to tour for a year or two and have a good time. And if we had to hang it up after that, then we would. But we’re just trying to be good stewards with what we’ve been given and work our butts off to make sure our band gets to stick around and that we get to keep having fun doing what we’re doing.”

He added, “As far as how we’ve evolved, every record we try to do something we haven’t done yet. We try to get better at the writing and arranging. We just try to make a record that’s better than the last and sometimes it’s a challenge, but we feel like we’ve done that up to this point.”

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