Interview: Rend Collective Experiment

This week saw the launch of the latest album from Northern Ireland’s very own Rend Collective Experiment, Campfire, and singer Chris from the band took some time recently to chat to me about what you can expect from the album, what it has been like over the past year touring across America, what happened when they played Matt Redman’s band at football, and also shares what happened when he went on a date with a girl who kept quoting Twilight…
The new album Campfire is out now – what can people expect from it?
Campfire is just a really raw authentic expression of worship. Whenever you are around the campfire I think it’s just natural we let our defences down and we start to unveil more of our personalities. I think that’s something that can get lost in big corporate worship where you have the big stage and flashy lights, but it doesn’t really feel like you are connecting person to person, soul to soul. So the album is all songs from our first two albums brought back to that kind of simplicity and we recorded a lot of the vocals live around a campfire at a beach in Ballyhome, Northern Ireland and its nice for us to get that sense of home-ness on the album as well.
What inspired you to record it on a beach?
The beach is our favourite place to be. We’ve always done a lot of campfires as part of youth groups and socialising, we have spent a lot of time on that beach, so we just wanted to do something that would be in an authentic place for us to hang out. And worship is at its best when it is incorporated in your real life rather than being some detached act that we do in church.
What song are you most excited to hear from the album?
Somebody who was with us on our last tour says he feels like his songs are his children and it is hard to pick a favourite, I feel a bit like that too.
The first album had 13 songs, the second had 11 – will this one follow that pattern and only have 9?
No, there are 12, right in the middle. We got carried away and originally were doing an EP, that then expanded into a 9 track album, but we enjoyed it too much so it is now up to 12.
For those who aren’t familiar with Rend Collective, how did the band first get together?
Rend Collective was formed in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Rend was the name of a student ministry that gathered together people in late teens to early 30s to come together to experience a really raw, authentic expression of faith, trying to read the Bible and take it seriously and live out the words of Jesus. It wasn’t really about music at that point – in the beginning it was a CD player that led our worship! But the spiritual connection and deep friendships we had are what we feel is the best place for worship to grow out of.
People sometimes compare your sound to Mumford and Sons – is that something you approve of?
I like Mumford and Sons. I think with 1 or 2 of our songs I can understand the comparisons. We experiment with a whole range of styles, they aren’t in my top 10 but I do appreciate what they do. We did get called the ‘Christian Mumford and Sons’ once which made me laugh, as I think some of the members of Mumford and Sons are the Christian Mumford and Sons…
If you had to pick one band to be compared to, who would it be?
I feel like it would be amazing if we could be some sort of mix between Matt Redman, David Crowder band and maybe Death Cab for Cutie, that would be a good mix…
On your song ‘The cost’ you sing about saying Yes to Jesus and no to our desires – how do you do that as a band?
Good question! I guess as far as experiencing the cost this year it maybe sounds on social media that we have had this whirlwind glamorous rock tour, but it so hasn’t been like that – it’s been a year on air beds and being away from families and loved ones. We really have carried that cost and there’s no way we would be doing what we are if we didn’t feel like it was the call of God on our lives, because that is what makes it worthwhile. So I guess we have said no to our desires for home and comfort. Not that we are experiencing real persecution, but in that small way I feel like it has been a sacrifice this year.
The song Build your Kingdom Here is a powerful anthemic plea for God to set our hearts on fire for Him and to build his kingdom here – how do we do that?
Generally I think what people tend to respond to is the energy of the song, so there are a lot of hands in the air and people jumping. I guess what is more important is that people leave with a renewed passion to actually change something in their lives and not just sing about it. The song is urging the church toward building the kingdom and it is encouraging to see people engage with the song and the lyrics but I would love to see it worked out in their non-worship music context.
Over the past couple of years you have done quite a bit of touring with various other artists – who is your favourite person to tour with?
We have made a lot of friends on the road. We have had the most fun this year with Tenth Avenue North, although with different people you have a different kind of good time. For example we’ve had a good time with Matt Redman as well, I look up to him and see him as a mentor so it wasn’t so much craic but definitely a good time. We had a football match recently with Matt Redman’s band and we don’t represent Northern Ireland well on the football front…
Where has been your favourite place to visit during your touring?
I really like coming back to Belfast, but as far as location wise I really love Colorado in the States with its giant mountains, it’s really majestic. And I’ll never say no to the beach, so anywhere on the American coast.
You have been playing lots of gigs across the USA and England – when can local fans get to see you again?
We will be touring the Campfire album in May, I’m really looking forward to that.
Beyond the live Campfire album what does the next year have in store for Rend?
More touring, Campfire album will be out and we will be working on album 4, we have already started writing for that, it should be out in early 2014, getting really excited for that and doing more tours in the states, Soul Survivor in the UK, hopefully Summer Madness in Northern Ireland – we haven’t been invited yet, but I’d really like to be!
What does living all4God mean for you as an individual and as a band?
Referring back to our song ‘The cost’ – it is about looking at Jesus, understanding what he represents and how much he is worth and what a treasure He is, and then just leaving everything else as rubbish compared to knowing Him.
And finally, the band has made a cameo appearance on a BBC3 documentary about Christian dating – any good dating stories from the band?
I could share some on other people’s behalf, but I think I’d be quickly ejected from the band! We had no idea that that show was happening at the time we were playing but I think it is one of the funniest concepts for a documentary I have ever heard. I went on a first date with a girl once with a girl who kept quoting Twilight to me for the whole two hours, needless to say that didn’t go very well…
Campfire is out now on iTunes/Amazon or you can order from their website here
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