For Today have been a significant (at times, infamous) name in the contemporary Christian metalcore scene. Known for being rather open about their beliefs, Killyourstereo.com had the opportunity to speak with Mattie Montgomery, For Today’s lead vocalist, to talk about their forthcoming sixth studio album, religion and racism in America.
Hi Mattie, John from KYS here, how are you going?
How’s your week been?
Oh, it’s been awesome man, we’re not on tour right now, so I’m just at home, loving life, getting some rest – its good.
That’s good, you’re at home now – what do you do in your down time?
Well, I’ve got a wife and two little boys at home, so even when I’m not on tour I don’t have much downtime. We’re always doing something, we’ve got a pool that the guys wanna swim in six times a day so we do that everyday, we’re always outside learning to ride bikes and throw footballs – that sorta thing.
I’m sure it’s a kind of a happy exhausting feeling.
Yeah, exactly man, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
So let’s jump straight into it, you’ve recently switched labels, and have signed to Nuclear Blast? Why did you feel it time to change?
Because Nuclear Blast is the best. [laughs]. They’re just a global force man, and it’s such a cool, crazy thing to have a label like that behind us. We’re real thankful for it.
How does it feel transitioning from primarily Christian based labels (Facedown), to something a little more mainstream, has there been a dwindling focus change at all?
No, man. We’ve always set ourselves to be true to who we are, and hope that that’s the kind of thing that even if people don’t agree with us, it’s something they can respect, and that’s one thing that I really appreciate about Marcus from Nuclear Blast, he doesn’t share the same beliefs as us but he respects us as musicians, and he respects the fact that we do stand up for what we believe in, and I really do appreciate that. It’s funny how often people think we might be getting pressured to change our beliefs from a record label but you know the truth is, that’s who we are and generally people can respect and appreciate that and I really am thankful.
It’s good that you’ve found a place that can bring you into the mainstream and not change you at all.
Yeah, it’s strange that we’ve been able to find that niche, you know people told us it didn’t exist and it was impossible when we started out and you know there’s no way you guys can be open about your faith while also being respected as musicians, but we’ve thankfully been able to find that balance.
So, with your previous album, ‘Fight The Silence’, mainly revolving around the issue of human trafficking, what is the concept behind ‘Wake’, what is the story behind the hashtag ‘where is your vision’?
To be honest man, there’s not really an album concept behind this album, I think each song kind of speaks for itself, stands on its own. The ‘where is your vision’ thing is from the song ‘Broken Lens’, the first single, at the end of it it says, “broken lens, where is your vision?” And the idea behind that whole song, and the imagery behind that song, is the idea that you’ll never be able to see the world right if you’re looking through a broken lens, if our perspective is broke, then the world that we see is always gonna be warped, and the picture we see is always gonna be fractured and less than accurate, so it’s important that we confront that truth and make sure we’re not looking through a lens of selfishness or self-promotion, or we’re not looking through a lens of hatred or bigotry but that we’re taking an authentic look at the world, and that we’re allowing ourself to see the real thing instead of looking through a broken lens.
What’s the early reception been so far from fans, namely the reception to the lead single Broken Lens?
It seems like it’s been awesome man, that song is a bit different for us and it’s been really cool to see people appreciating it and people getting excited about it with us. I think it’s got about 75 or 80 thousand plays in under a week. People are sharing it, which is good.
The whole album has this heavy feel to it, when I was listening to it last night. What was it like working with Will Putney? You’ve worked with him before but he’s kind of getting a name for himself now as sort of the most in-demand hardcore producer around. Every band is trying to go for him, what sort of influence does he have behind you guys?
Well he’s a bro man, I think we’ve done like the last four records with him, and he just feels like part of the band now. We started recording with him before he even had his own studio, he was like an intern in somebody else’s studio and his career has really grown up, right alongside our career and its been really cool to see each other progress and help each other progress, he brings a lot to the table and he’s just a really smart and creative guy who has a lot of cool ideas out while we’re sitting in the writing process.
That’s crazy how someone can be such a smalltime producer and within a matter of years just rise into the mainstream like that.
Yeah, he’s doing great.
One of my personal favourites on the album was ‘Flooded Earth’, can you explain the concept behind that track?
Oh sweet man, thanks. That song I wrote kind of specifically regarding the issue of addiction. I’ve been real close to where there was a time that my wife was an alcoholic, that was before we got married but that’s been a thing that I sorta picked her brain at a lot, and having struggled with things a bit myself. That feeling I think is one of drowning, being overwhelmed, this desperate cycle where the worse I feel about myself because I made a mistake, the more apt I am to make the same mistake again, you know our guilt, we try to wash it away by feeding that addiction again, trying to forget how guilty we felt by the fact that we fed the addiction once. You know it’s such a strange sort of cycle that it’s easy to feel like you’re being pulled under.
That’s really heavy stuff man.
Getting to a different pace, what are your general views on how religion is perceived in music today; especially within metal/hardcore music?
Yo, that’s a big question – this may be a bit more than you were bargaining for, but I’m gonna give it to you anyway. I think religion is the most destructive force the world has ever seen, religion is a structure and a model of rules and regulations that seek to create essentially a uniform society of people that walk the same, talk the same, they think the same, they sing the same kind of music, they wear the same kind of clothes, it stifles creativity, it stifles free expression and it essentially stunts cultural progress. There’s no way culture will ever be able to evolve into new realms of discovery or advancement if we’re stuck in fighting to preserve the ways things are.
That coming from me needs an explanation. On the other side, what I believe in is a relationship with God, and your relation with Jesus. To me, what looks like a very personal thing and what I mean is the way that I express my love for God or my gratitude for God and for what he’s done for me is that I play in this band, and I share my story with people, this is all I’ve experienced. I’ve experienced him as a saviour, and as a father and as a friend. If we had the time I could tell you hours and hours of crazy stories of things that seemed impossible that I saw God come through and do for me; and that’s awesome and I’m thankful for this stuff, you know other people have a very different relationship with God than I do, some people wear suits and go to church on Sundays and work a job as an accountant, their life looks very different but they have the freedom to express their love for God in a unique and personal way and that is key. That’s the difference between a religion that tries to control and manipulate everybody and tries to cram everybody into a specific mould, and a genuine and authentic relationship with God, and that is that we are able to freely express our love for God as we work out that relationship, and that is the thing – It inspires creativity, it inspires exploration, it inspires discovery and adventure instead of stifling those things, and that is very important.
I think specific to the metal and hardcore scene, there have been so few people in this world that have had a relationship with God, that it’s really hard for this scene, or most of this culture to distinguish between the two, you hear anybody talk about God, or anybody mention the name Jesus and they think ‘oh God, this is just another religious person seeking to make me come to church and give them money and dress like them and talk like them’. That’s something that we hate man, that’s why we’re a part of this scene because we didn’t wanna be forced to conform to the image that somebody else had for our life. I think that’s awesome, that’s one of our strengths, so when I come and talk about Jesus, it bums me out because I think people think I’m trying to be this manipulative sort of religious guy, but the reality is, I just want to share my story and share something that has become really important to me and show them how you don’t have to look the way those old religious people looked, and you don’t have to act the way that they acted, you don’t have be close-minded and judgemental and hypocritical to know God and there really is a God who is alive and you can have a personal relationship with him if you want, and it’s something that’s very important to me. As much as it bums me out, I think a lot of people in the metal and hardcore scene are very closed off to it but I have to stay true to who I am and hope that they respect that even if they don’t agree with it.
Yeah, I think the ultimate goal is to think that in this scene, where you have a Christian scene and also, on the other hand, a majority of secular bands, all you can really hope for is that there is a mutual respect for the other’s beliefs.
So, because of that I respect their [beliefs] and I’m able to say that any sentient person has the right to choose what they believe and I can’t force someone to believe anything, I can share what I believe and if somebody wants to find out more about that, its awesome. But if not, it’s not something I have the ability to control or to force upon someone. So I have to respect people’s beliefs and people’s right to choose those beliefs and I would hope that they would at least extend the same courtesy to me.
You said in your journey with God, he inspires you; who else inspires you daily, as a musician, personally? Who are some of the bands that have been inspiring you, even since you were growing up and just getting involved in music?
One of the bands that I always look to, and thought was just genius was the band Zao. I just thought they were incredible for years and years, I really loved those guys. I really respect the music they put out over the years. To be honest man, one of by biggest inspirations when writing music is the fans we see at these shows, while I’m out there meeting people, talking to fans, taking pictures and all this things, I hear these stories of kids that are dealing with the loss of a loved one, or maybe one of their best friends committed suicide or people will come up with scars from when they were cutting and it really inspires me to write because I think, what can I do to help? How can I help these people? Is there a message or a song or a sound that I could help make that’s gonna help them with the things they’re struggling with, so that’s something that I’m always thinking about, wrestling with while I write, how can I represent them in a way that’s going to empower them? To give them the words to express whats inside of them.
It must be pretty amazing knowing that some fans truly admire you and see you as their hero, and you have to do it for the people.
Yeah man, it comes with a lot of responsibility, its a heavy thing.
So, approaching my last few questions, when you’re on tour, what do you miss?
Oh, the family man, I’m sitting right here on my back porch, watching my son splash in the pool and my dog just run around the yard, and you know I think this is it dude, like this is life. I go up to work and I love playing shows, it’s incredible, and if I’ve got to leave the family, I’m glad I’m doing something awesome while I’m gone but its definitely hard to leave this life, you know?
You just mentioned you had a dog, do you mind if I ask what breed it is?
Not at all man, he’s a boxer! Yeah, he’s the best.
Lastly, what’s one of the weirdest places you’ve stayed on tour?
Oh, good question. We once stayed… I’m not sure how much you know about racism in America, but we once stayed in the house of a… I guess there’s still a lot of tension because white people owned black people as slaves, so there’s some white people who don’t really like having black people around in the south and you know probably vice versa, but we stayed at a house years ago where we pulled into this house and I walked in as a black guy with long dreadlocks and everything, and these people had pictures of slaves all over the walls of their house, just black people with chains and stuff and some flags that sort of represented the states in the country that fought very hard to own slaves and they had a bunch of guns lying around. The guy had a rattlesnake in the yard and so I said hey, where’d you get that snake and he said [he] caught it, so we were all kinda like ‘yo, this is kind of a strange house.’ We never stayed there again but I’ll never forget that one.
I can imagine it was kind of a tense moment for you guys, at least you got outta there without any sort of terrible experiences.
Yeah man, they bought us pizza, and we just hung out. Like they didn’t say anything, they acted like their house was totally normal but that’s not normal.
Yeah, that’s definitely not normal, at least they could look past everything.
Yeah, maybe they didn’t notice, we didn’t want to bring it up just in case it was a sore spot for them and it’s like, ‘yo, did you know that I’m black or? Did that slip by you?’ I don’t know?
All right buddy, thanks so much for your time, It was really interesting interviewing you and I hope everything goes well for you over the next year. I’m sure you’ve got a big one ahead of you with ‘Wake’ just about to drop.
Johnny, thank you so much man, I appreciate your time.
Have a good day.
Thanks buddy, you too.
‘Wake’ is due out October 2 via Nuclear Blast.