January 26, 2018 Interview – Andrew Schwab of Project 86
Styles and trends come and go, but what is the true key to longevity in music? Simple, be yourself! Well, it is really not as simple as it sounds, but thankfully for Project 86 their consistent stance on being themselves has keep them going for twenty years. Led by Lyricist/Lead Vocalist Andrew Schwab, Project 86 arrived in the late ’90s, flourished in the 2000s, and continues to do so as we close in on the 2020s. Creating their own sound year after year with albums such as 2002’s Truthless Heroes, 2005’s …And the Rest Will Follow, 2009’s Picket Fence Cartel and beyond, Project 86 defy genre classification. Now on the heels of releasing their 10th studio album, Sheep Among Wolves, in December 0f 2017, Schwab and company prepare to make more noise in the new year. Recently we caught up with the energetic Schwab to talk the wild ride of Project 86, remaining true to himself, their latest album, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Project 86 has been going strong for over twenty years now. Over the course of ten studio albums, along with regular touring, the band has really built quite a following. First, tell us, what has the journey of Project 86 been like for you?
Andrew Schwab – I could write a book. Wait… I already did that! (2004’s It’s All Downhill From Here…) I could write another book about everything since then. Truly, it has been such an amazing journey and I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me at age 12 or 14, or even 18, that my entire adult life post-college would be touring the world with my Rock band. More highs than lows, for sure… but there have been lots of each. I am one of the lucky few who can actually say my job is to make music, and I owe it to all of our supporters for that!
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it has been a blast. Perhaps you should publish a new book. The band broke into the mainstream with 2000’s Drawing Black Lines, but in the eyes of many fans, Project 86 truly distinguished themselves with 2002’s Truthless Heroes. A masterful concept album, over fifteen years later, what are your thoughts on Truthless Heroes?
Andrew Schwab – It was a really difficult album to make because everyone in our camp wanted to please the label and write a more poppy record. I wanted to go the opposite route and make an even heavier record. They won (Laughs). The only real tragedy is the song order and the song choices. If we would have had “The Spy Hunter” as track 1 (which was the original plan), I think our career trajectory would have forever been altered. I needed to have the courage and wisdom to make that decision back then, and didn’t. It turns out that song didn’t even make the album, and we released it on the next one!
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting how it all went down. Truthless Heroes paved the way for more success and further development of the band’s sound with records such as 2005’s …And the Rest Will Follow and 2012’s Wait for Siren. How would you describe the progression of Project 86’s style through the years?
Andrew Schwab – Every record is a little different from the others. That has always been the goal. That is what keeps it interesting and possible to keep making music on our end. We started as more of a radio Rock/Nu Metal band and have evolved into a Post-Hardcore Rock band. I hate genres, of course. The real goal is to defy genre and sound like… us.
CrypticRock.com – Project 86 certainly has accomplished that. One of the key aspects of the band’s distinguished sound is your voice. Unmistakable, you have built a foundation on a mixed array of emotions with your voice. How have you gone about developing your approach to singing?
Andrew Schwab – Man, I wish I could say there was some magic formula. It was a lot of trial and error in the beginning to find my own voice, rather than just emulate my influences. I guess, the further I went, the less I thought about it and just… sang. Or shouted. Or screamed. My voice sounds like my voice and I think everyone has a unique voice if they can just get out of the way and relax. Stop worrying and stop trying to sound like someone else!
CrypticRock.com – That is some good advice to offer. Additionally, the lyrics of Project 86 are boldly a focal point in what makes the band who they are. Not afraid to attack various social topics such as consumerism, individualism, and religion in your music, does your inspiration change album to album?
Andrew Schwab – It definitely changes from album to album no doubt, and that is intentional. I am a music fan first, so I am constantly looking for new music to listen to and be inspired by. Sometimes the other guys I work with show me bands or artists I end up loving. Other times I discover new music on my own. I am hard to please when it comes to being a music fan, but when I find something I like, I try to absorb it completely and immerse myself in it. On the previous album, there were a few classical film scores and soundtracks that inspired most of the album. This time around, I was listening to a lot of Brand New, O’Brother, and some other Rock bands.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, it is always really special when you find a piece of music or an artist you connect with like that. The band recently returned with their 10th overall studio album, Sheep Among Wolves. This record is really a quintessential Project 86 album – marrying all sounds that make up the band’s vast discography. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Andrew Schwab – My guitarist, Darren King, and I wrote and recorded the album together. I say “together,” but he really contributed so much to this album. He really is a talented guy and I enjoyed working with him so much. Of course, I was guiding the process and writing music, lyrics, vocals, etc., but we teamed up together to make some really cool songs. I am happy with it… but of course, I am biased! No joke, though, I believe “Mhs” is a song that is top five in our whole catalogue. There are some other really strong tracks in the context of our whole career. I love that we can do this ten albums in.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and there are some really powerful tracks throughout the album. For example, “Cooper Wish” and “Metempsychosis” are truly haunting pieces. How important is it to you to creative a balanced, yet musically diverse record?
Andrew Schwab – Diversity is the only thing that would motivate someone to buy an album, instead of adding two songs to a Spotify playlist. You have to keep the listener engaged with ebb and flow of emotion. Over the years, we have gotten better at writing different types of songs – not just the heavy ones. It’s important for me to have those softer moments because it makes the heavier moments more impactful.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly helps and drives the roller coaster of emotion. The band has been working primarily independent for some time now. Having been a part of labels in the past, how would you differ the experience of being an independent band?
Andrew Schwab – When we started, labels actually spent money to market the band. That was the justification for them taking most of the money – they were going to take the risk to “break” the band. That doesn’t happen anymore. All bands are independent, really, except for the largest of the large, because the labels don’t have any money to spend anymore because no one buys music. That being said, we ask that if you are reading this and support our band in any way, please buy our music. Don’t just stream it, because the bands make literally nothing off streams. Visit us at project86.com and you can get the music in every format. Lossless, Mp3, CD… and we even have vinyl at pledgemusic.com/projects/project86.
CrypticRock.com – It is really tragic what the music industry has become. Hopefully there will be some sort of resolution that balance the scales again. Sheep Among Wolves has already received a strong reaction from fans over the last two months. Can we expect a full tour in its support in 2018?
Andrew Schwab – We are currently looking at touring options. Stay tuned to our website for details on shows.
CrypticRock.com – That is exciting to hear! Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either or both genres, what are some of your favorites and why?
Andrew Schwab – Some films I dig in those genres: The Witch (2015), The Descent (2005), It (2017), Blade Runner (1982). I would also like to add the new Star Wars, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), is absolute garbage.