Family Force 5 have played all but a few dates on the Warped Tour since it began last month. Their brand of Voltron-inspired electro-punk certainly makes them one of the more unique bands on the tour. I got the chance to catch up with guitarist Chap Stique to see how things have been going.
RnRnMN: How has the Warped Tour been treating you?
CS: It’s been incredible! Warped has seen the debut of the Family Force 5000, a 6 foot-tall, 760-pound drum machine that inhales electricity and exhales lightning. It looks like a giant NASA experiment that illuminates when you punch it. So the question isn’t, how as the Warped Tour treated us…” it’s really, “How has the Family Force 5000 treated Warped Tour?”
RnRnMN: What made you decide to join the Warped Tour this year? Has it lived up to your expectations?
CS: The catering rules, the crowds are insane, and the water comes in a can, so it was a no-brainer decision for us. Warped has certainly lived up to our expectations, but the distinct detail in our tank-top tans has been the most awe-inspiring part thus far.
RnRnMN: Are these the biggest crowds you’ve played for? How does it compare to playing smaller shows?
CS: No, our crowds were a bit bigger on the Van Halen, U2, Devo, Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones, and Family Force 5 tour. We headlined.
We have a blast playing anywhere. Three years ago, our band played a show in Pittsburgh for two people. We bought a bunch of He-man action figures and threw them around the club while we danced on tables and sprinted in circles. It was one of the most amazing shows we’ve ever done!
RnRnMN: Who is the best band you’ve seen on the Warped Tour this year?
CS: Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. Those guys kill it every day. They throw a football with the crowd and smash cans on one another’s faces throughout the show. Soul Glow sang with them sans shirt last night because Dallas (their lead vocalist) was sick. Crouton and I played air-guitar and stage-dove during the last song.
I also like Norma Jean, Cobra Starship, Story of the Year, and Katy Perry.
RnRnMN: There’s a lot of bands to choose from. It’s overwhelming when you get here and look at the schedule. Why should someone see you?
CS: Because we dress up in Voltron-esque spacesuits! We also have the biggest drum machine in the universe, and our lead singer wears silver hulk fists that glow in the dark. We have a professional dancer named Xanadu…nobody else has that.
Somebody once said, “Watching Family Force 5 is like watching 5 A-D-D kids who forgot to take their Ritalin and broke into the Red Bull truck.” That’s a pretty accurate description, except now it’s progressed to being like 5 A-D-D kids in the future that forgot to take their electrons, and their shocking the system!
RnRnMN: The Warped Tour has corporate sponsors like AT&T. How do you feel about that? Is it a good thing, a necessary evil or a sellout?
CS: Although a lot of Warped Tour kids don’t think it’s “punk” to create a partnership with a company (I respect and understand this stance), they don’t realize that without the help of companies like AT&T, Hurley, and Monster, their favorite bands aren’t able to eat. It’s definitely crappy when bands or tours become overly corporate and lose their identities or compromise their beliefs, but partnering with other companies is essential in an era in which record labels are dying and album sales are plummeting. Sponsors are the new labels, and without them, artists won’t be able to tour or record.
RnRnMN: You’re considered a Christian band, but your songs contain little overt Christian lyrics. Is that by design or just the way you write? Do feel like you can reach more people by keeping the direct religious references to a minimum?
CS: Christian music has pigeon-holed itself into a predictable formula, and we strive to break out of that mold. God is much bigger than JPM (Jesus’ per minute)’s and watered-down, cuss-word-free versions of mainstream pop music. We try to convey that in our message. Jesus didn’t simply give answers: he spoke in enigmatic parables that made people think. We feel that Christianity and Christian music should do the same.
Family Force 5 tries to be real and to be relevant. We have written a lot of songs about faith and spiritual experiences (“Luv Addict,” “Replace Me,” “Radiator,” “Face Down,” “Never Let Me Go,” etc.), but plenty of our tunes are about break-dancing and ex-girlfriends! Our hearts don’t desire to have big alter-calls. We’d rather hug a kid who might not normally get a hug than beat him or her over the head with a Bible. We don’t believe that statistics reach people the way relationships do, so we spend a lot of time writing our fans, hanging out with them, and giving them high-5’s. We find a lot of significance in these interactions.
RnRnMN: Christian bands have made serious inroads into both the punk and metal scenes. What bands do you think have done the most to accomplish that? How do you see your role in that scene?
CS: Stryper, DC Talk, and Jars of Clay were some of the first Christian rockers to gain acceptance from the mainstream audience. They paved the way for the next stream of bands like MXPX, Blindside, and Zao. Now, it’s becoming more and more common for spiritual bands to appear on tours like Warped, Ozzfest, etc. Underoath, Norma Jean, The Devil Wears Prada, Anberlin, and countless others are continuing to accomplish similar feats, but each in their own unique way.
Throughout this gradual growth, we have watched the purpose of Christian music change. It used to serve as a safe alternative that allowed kids to listen to music without foul language or explicit material. Now, we hope that it goes much deeper and follows an inclusive approach that allows people to connect on deep, personal levels. We want Family Force 5 to resonate with anybody, and to be relevant to people of any faith, race, gender, or galaxy. We don’t want to sound melodramatic, but we’re a part of a movement, and we hope that the movement will tear away the box that has been put around “Christian” culture and music. Family Force 5 would rather see the word “Christian” be used as a noun than an adjective.
RnRnMN: What should we expect from the new album, Dance or Die? When will it be available?
CS: Bombs, lasers, explosions, aliens, robots, and love. It’s available August 19 in Hot Topic, Best Buy, Wal Mart, iTunes, and hopefully many other locations.
RnRnMN: What are your plans after the Warped Tour?
CS: We start our headlining club tour (called Dance Rawr Dance II) on October 6. It will feature Play Radio Play, Ultraviolet Sound, and Danger Radio. We just had a production meeting for the tour last night, and it’s going to be crazier than a Kiss show!
See all of my coverage from Warped Tour date in Columbia, MD on July 16, 2008 here.