Thousand Foot Krutch, the Christian hard rock group, is quickly approaching their 20th year as a band since the release of That’s What People Do in 1997. But before they reach that milestone, they plan to finish what they started with 2014’s Oxygen:Inhale with the release of Exhale. It’s impossible to talk about one without the other because this two-year-long breath was originally envisioned to be much shorter.
“I just got this idea about oxygen and how you inhale and exhale and wouldn’t it be fun to do this record based on that and what it could look like,” singer and guitarist Trevor McNevan said. “And we started dreaming about and what it could be like. That’s kinda how it started. Originally, it was much more ambitious.”
Both albums were partially written supposed under the idea they would be one package until the large project was split in half, but the idea of breathing in calmly and releasing all the built-up tension by exhaling persisted.
“It got the point where if we were to do all that, the exposure of one of the albums was really gonna suffer over the other cause of the real-estate of music these days, McNevan said. “One was gonna kind of suffer after the homework we did. After putting so much work into it and wanting anyone who wants to hear it hear all the music, it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. So we separated them and put Inhale first and Exhale second. It was always intended to be a two-part story. It was always gonna [a] kind of a lighter end to a more aggressive side of each of our records. The idea of Inhale Exhale was kind [of] take some of the boundaries off and kind of inhale and dive a little deeper into the lighter side of the band with no parameters. Exhale is the even more aggressive side and it’s kinda leaning that way. It’s been a really fun record to make. We can’t wait to get this one out.”
“Anyone who maybe didn’t hear the story of what Inhale was intended to be, some people were a little confused thinking that we just got soft as a band and started making records that were all lighter. That was always the intention to have the two sides to it for anyone missed that.”
As one might expect, writing music for a double album isn’t the same as writing for a usual 12-track record. This was entirely new territory for McNevan and offered a new challenge to overcome.
“It definitely was a different animal that way,” McNevan said. “Normally for our records, just in general our music is pretty aggressive. There’s always been one or two ballads on a record, so there was a lot more to think about on a writing level of what do you want to say and how do you want to say it.”
TFK’s independence and support
An ambitious project like releasing a separated double album could never be done with the typical record label. While McNevan said he’s thankful TFK never had any issues with creative control, the freedom to create both Inhale and Exhale (and even give away free music from time to time) could only be achieved as an independent band.
“It was a big step to go independent at the end of that,” he said. “We had some great offers on the table and that sort of thing. We were at the height of our career at the time. It just really felt like it was the right thing to do that. We took that big step and our audience, thankfully, really showed up and supported us along the way and it’s been an awesome journey.”
Not only were the albums possible because of TFK’s status, but the releases also represent the band’s current freedom. And the freedom and enthusiasm to create the art you want is bound to be expressed in the work itself.
“The oxygen thing, to me, kinda symbolizes not a second wind cause in a lot ways we’re just getting started even after 20 years, but it definitely was a fresh breath, being independent and kind of taking this new journey and walk of life with our audience,” McNevan said. “And it’s been a good one.”
“It just felt that much more freeing to be like ‘all right, let’s just take all the fences down and run this way for a bit and then we’ll turn around and run the other way,'” he said. “It was a great process. It was a long one, but a great one. We’re really excited about how everything came together. I feel like, personally, Exhale is our best record so far and hope that other people feel the same way.”
Of course, McNevan is aware that the ability to create these albums was all thanks to the fans. Including Exhale, TFK’s last three album have been funded by their fans in one way or another. End Is Where We Begin earned more than $100,000 on Kickstarter back when the site was relatively new. Oxygen:Inhale was funded by Pledge Music campaign, while Exhale was funded primarily through fans paying a subscription to be apart of the TFK Army. It was a transition for the band at first, but it’s a method the band fully supports.
“At the end of the day, you’re asking for help, but you’re asking for money, essentially,” he said. “That’s what it feels like. Even though through the process we realized that it actually became a very special thing because it depends on the nature of the transaction, we wanted to make sure we could give our audience as much exclusive stuff as we could and we tried to get really creative with it. It ended up being this new, closer connection we’ve ever felt with our audience. It was just something where everyone was like ‘thank you for letting us support you.’ We just have never thought about it like that and it was a huge blessing to hear that. And we wanted to make sure we could keep embracing that and find new ways to connect.”
20 years on the horizon
Exhale was released on June 17. A coinciding tour will also take place during the summer in between some of the festivals TFK plans to play. After that, the sky’s the limit, because despite playing music for nearly 20 years, Thousand Foot Krutch doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon. They are grateful for all the support from their fans, which allowed them to be where they are now.
“We feel very blessed to have the career that we have and to have the audience that we have,” McNaven said. “We’ve always done our best to be honest with our music and our intentions and lyrically. When you get to do what you love to do and what you’re passionate about, it doesn’t get much better than that. We’re extremely thankful. It is crazy when you start to see the demographic of the age groups that come to a lot of our shows. It’s kinda all over the place cause we’ve been blessed to have some people grow up with the band, and now they have children and their children are growing up with the band. So it’s this cool thing that you never imagine happening.”
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