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Sometimes the best way to move forward is to go back to the basics, taking all of the raw energy and emotion of the past and channeling it into the present, coupled with all of the progression and knowledge obtained in the intermediary years. And that’s exactly what Thousand Foot Krutch is doing on the aptly titled No. 1 Billboard Hard Rock selling album, The End Is Where We Begin, which doesn’t just showcase the group’s thunderous musical pursuits coming full circle with its most cutting edge album to date, but also finds Canada’s favorite modern rockers voluntarily walking away from record label life altogether (even after a slew of profitable offers came along) to reignite the passionate DIY work ethos that first emerged over a decade ago.
“The End Is Where We Begin summarizes everything we’ve been through as a band, and where we are now- the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another,” confides front man and principal songwriter, Trevor McNevan. “We’ve been through every transition you could face as a band in the past year, aside from the band line up, and our entire team couldn’t be more excited. Against all odds, not to mention some pretty lucrative record contracts, we’re following what we feel is the right thing for us to do, and at the end of the day, that’s our responsibility. We’re very thankful to have the support and trust we do with our audience; they’re as much a part of our team, as anyone else. We’re growing together, and look forward to each new step we take together.”
For those who’ve been following the Ontario-bred players since their formation in 1998, it’s been a continuously escalating highlight reel that includes best-selling albums, top Active Rock hits (including “Let The Sparks Fly,” “War of Change” and “Light Up The Sky” from The End Is Where We Begin), plus a slew of soundtrack slots. In fact, the group has literally infiltrated every facet of pop culture, from ongoing ESPN appearances, to various NASCAR, MLB, NHL, WWE and NFL airings (including the 2010 Super Bowl), along with the “GI Joe” movie trailer, WGN-TV’s “Smallville” and EA Sports’ NHL 2010 and 2013 video games.
That trend is continuing at breakneck speed with the new project, which even prior to hitting streets, found the lead single “Let The Sparks Fly” and fellow adrenaline-infused rockers “War of Change” and “Light Up the Sky” picked up by ESPN. The tracks also serve as the ultimate tone setters for the sonic explosions contained within The End Is Where We Begin, which could be considered the ultimate Thousand Foot Krutch mix-tape showcasing a myriad of full-throttled personalities.
“If I had to use one word to describe the sound of this record, I would say ‘uninhibited,’” ponders McNevan. “From the beginning, the architecture of this record was different from the others. I knew this one was something special when I felt the need to go back- back to just sitting on the bed with a guitar with no outside voices- and being inspired by just the simple possibilities. The past songs and records have always been honest- that’s something very true to our hearts as musicians and always will be- but this was something different. There’s something that happens when you turn the sound down and just listen. I’ll never forget those moments.”
Throughout that period of simplifying and waiting for inspiration to arrive, McNevan popped in the band’s very first project, That’s What People Do, which echoed respected rappers like Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, cross-pollinated with the rhythmic grooves of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Those inspirations return throughout The End Is Where We Begin, alongside the group’s continuously marinating blend of towering choruses, razor-sharp rhythms, epic arrangements and stadium shaking rumbles.
“As a songwriter, Trevor’s always been one to keep his thumb on the pulse of what’s going on in music at any given time,” explains drummer Steve Augustine.
“This record in a lot of ways, is a bridge going back to where we came from, traveling all the way through where we’ve been, to where we’re going,” states McNevan, who has also written hit songs for TobyMac, Hawk Nelson, FM Static, Colton Dixon, Manafest, Nine Lashes, Waverly, Decyfer Down, The Letter Black and KJ-52, as well as co-wrote with Carrie Underwood for new country act Two Story Road.
One key sonic ingredient that runs throughout the album is a raw grit that mirrors the group’s unrelenting live sound. To capture that sound, Thousand Foot Krutch teamed up with good friends, producer Aaron Sprinkle (Deftones, Anberlin, Pedro the Lion, The Almost) and mixing engineer J.R. McNeely (Paramore, Underoath, MXPX, Relient K). Sprinkle co-produced with McNevan, as well as produced Masquerade.
“I work on a lot of the song arrangement/pre production in the writing stages of the record, and then get with the guys to add their input and work through what’s best for the rhythm sections of the song,” says McNevan. “Steve and Joel are two of the best players out there, so that part’s always a treat. Making the record, Aaron and I ran between his studio in Seattle and mine in Nashville, working on everything there and overseeing things remotely, while Steve and Joel tracked bass and drums in their home studios in Canada. It’s an interesting process, but seems to work well for us. We’re a very hands on group of guys.”
“We aimed for the sounds to be pretty raw and to reach back on purpose, like [2003’s breakthrough record] Phenomenon, which had a certain kind of energy to it that we weren’t able to find again until now,” says Augustine. “We wanted to do a raw record where we’re not replacing sounds or realigning parts to fix things, but going in with strong takes the first time around and having that translate towards more energy.”
The lyrical make-up of The End Is Where We Begin is just as urgent and insistent, while continuing in the group’s positive and proactive tradition. Hardly a moment goes by on the album where listeners aren’t being motivated towards a call to action, much like how the band literally risked its whole career to put its unadulterated artistic vision on display.
“Without trying, this record has a very militant theme to it, with songs like ‘War Of Change’ and ‘Courtesy Call’ painting more of a visual for that,” states McNevan. “There's an urgency to it and I think the timing feels right. This record's heart can be summed up by ‘Be The Change,’ the album’s lyric and phrase seen throughout the album artwork.”
Continues Augustine: “We’ve always felt we’ve made music for everyone, whether that be rock or whatever style we happen to be recording at the time. We try to make good music anyone would enjoy, but with a positive message that talks about what we believe and what comes from the heart.”
When it comes to Thousand Foot Krutch’s vast array of listeners, which includes over 923,000 Facebook followers from literally all walks of life, few bands can boast having such a loyal following. Not only do the guys make it a point to sign autographs after shows and stay feverishly connected on social networking sites, but they even provided a hands-on opportunity to get involved with the making of The End Is Where We Begin. Fans took literal ownership of the record after contributing to the group’s indie efforts via Kickstarter.com (a venture that allows artists to “fund and follow creatively”) and in return, the band provided an all access glimpse into the recording process.
“Since day one we’ve actually been uncomfortable with the term ‘fans’ because these people mean so much more to us,” assures McNevan. “They’re the friends and family of the band so to speak and I think they’ve grown to trust us over the years, which is something that’s been built between us and not manufactured…Teaming with Kickstarter allowed us to launch the idea of recording this record and open the door for anyone who pledges support to be a part of the process. It’s not just about asking for money, which would’ve made us feel pretty uncomfortable. It’s about being able to create packages with various levels of exclusives, from Skype calls with the band, to exclusive vinyl, handwritten lyrics and just a closer connection in general. We had no idea what it would amount to and if we’d even make our goal, but we ended up going quite a bit past it.”When it comes to the subject of surpassing goals, The End Is Where We Begin doesn’t just find Thousand Foot Krutch’s new career direction taking off like a tour de force, but also serves as a creative pinnacle that blends the most innovative elements of yesterday with the ground-breaking strides of today. “I think this is a step forward in a new and inspired direction for us musically and as a band,” sums up McNevan. “It’s everything we could’ve hoped for and we’re excited to head into this season. Sometimes we need to go back to go forward and remember where we came from, which connects on a lot of different levels. We hope to keep making music that’s honest to us and continue to grow together with our audience.