Christian rock band Sanctus Real has been pumping out heartfelt powerful music since they got signed in 2002, and now with their latest release, Run, they are ready to show the rest of the world what they are doing.
Founding member and drummer Mark Graalman was able to chat with the Christian Post about the new record, multiple tours, Dove Awards, the future, and hitting the studio.
The band just embarked on The Run Tour last week, which will run until November. Graalman said this tour is perhaps the most ambitious for the band because they will be incorporating a lot of different functions into the show. Ultimately it will be a unique fan experience.
"We come up with ideas on how we want the show to look. We set up at a rehearsal warehouse type place in Nashville. We bust through three days of rehearsal and make any changes in the set list we want to make," he said. "It's going to be a really different show for us … particularly in the area of audience participation. How do we make the audience literally a part of the show? … I'll just say people need to have their drumming skills brushed up on."
Sanctus Real says the album title of Run does not necessarily mean they are running from anything, but rather running forward and on to the future. The other meaning could be running to God as well, but there is no sense of running for escape.
When asked about the symbolism of the circles on the album cover having to do with the theme of running, Graalman said, "[The] circles look like they are chasing each other. It just felt like run to us," before explaining the cover was one of almost 20 that was offered to them. A woman named Sarah came up with the designs for the band, and the abstract circles were what they felt was best for the record.
Going with the second theory of the title Run, Graalman traces music back to God and our constant pursuit of Him.
"Music is the most powerful way to express any kind of message. I think music was created by God as a gift to us. A sort of language to use as a way to get back to him. Throughout the scriptures music was mainly used to worship God with. It's meant to bring him glory," he said before explaining he feels making music is a human's way of reconnecting with the Father.
Sanctus Real recently released their video for the track "Run," and Graalman said although the video was simple, they were looking more to make an impact on the listener, rather than have an elaborate sequence of events.
"We'd prefer to have some sort of storyline going with it. Tricky part is coming up with a storyline and then executing it. The goal … getting the message of the song to be as impactful as it can be and just hit that place in the heart we're trying to hit," he said.
The new album has also been nominated for a Dove Award. The band previously won in 2005, but things were very different back then. Sanctus Real had different members, a different sound, and their heads were in a different place.
"Obvious changes have been lineup changes. Matt, Chris, and I are the founding members. New bass player, added a fifth member. It's technically a different band in that record. We've grown a lot in our singing, and just trying to say what we want to say," he said, including that they are just trying to make art, and not hold themselves so high. "We were grungier when we were younger, and def have been all over the map since then. [We've] been able to experiment musically over the years."
Graalman said the band has been in a constant evolution in sound and in growth and maturity.
"When you're a young band everything is new and fresh. You can't help but evolve. Put out a record and do all these tours 200 days a year, and you are in this writing space and recording music. So you are constantly playing music, and eventually you just get better at what you do. You get a lot more practice and hours under your belt. Another big thing that changes is musical influences as you start to grow up. I certainly don't listen to the same stuff when I was 18 when the band started and now at 35. What you want to hear plays a big part for what you want to hear. People could hear us grow up."
Graalman says the band approaches song writing in generally two ways. Sometimes the band just gets together and jams out on one guitar riff and everyone adds a part.
"Matt (singer) will hear melodies vocally and just sing along to it, and for whatever reason that turns into lyrics. Themes pop into his head of what this music sounds like and what it's trying to say. Then he starts writing lyrics to what we're doing," he said.
In other occasions, Graalman said Mark Hammit will come to them with things he wrote at home. They have also worked sessions with a few other songwriters in Nashville.
He even hinted that Sanctus Real would be back in the studio after a winter tour to start a record in January.
"We'll go a week at a time and record three or four songs at a time and take a break. Always writing throughout. Hopefully by next spring or summer we'll have a new record ready to go," he said.
When asked how the band has anytime to write with such an extensive touring schedule, he said they are "really intentional with time." Between balancing life, and being married with children, they prioritize family over the band.
"Rock n' roll won't be there when it's all said and done-- family will," he explained.
Lastly, Graalman wants Sanctus Real fans to know about Compassion International. The band had always talked about joining the organization to see what impoverished kids live like around the world, and they were given that opportunity this year.
Hammit and Graalman went to El Salvador and met children they were sponsoring, and got to see what life is in third world country.
"It's a hard experience to see that there really are people who live like that … very eye opening. Puts your priorities in a better place," Graalman admitted.
He said his bandmate Hammit said it best, "It's help me so much to be able to see who we are fighting for."
Catch Sanctus Real on tour this fall and check out Run on iTunes.