Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Protest For Pluto

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Protest For PlutoGood rock and roll is hard to come by. When I first heard these guys, I just knew I had to meet them. Not only do they produce some incredible tunes, with great lyrics to match, they also are doing it for the right reason. If you just look at them, you would never think that God is a major influence for them. Not sure I would classify their music as Christian rock, but it’s close. Just look at a band like Outer Sanctum. Those guys are just about as hard as this band, and they are classified as Christian rock. Either way, the guys in this band are not only incredible talented with all of their respective instruments, they are also just really nice guys. I had the chance to sit down with them a couple of weeks ago, and am extremely excited to introduce you to Protest For Pluto.

So I just have to know where you guys came up with the name.

That’s a question we hear quite a bit. How did we come up with the name? Our first name was Feedback. It was real generic. My dad would come home every day with a list full of names. We eventually just looked through the list, and found a name. Our fans just called PFP.

Did you know that Pluto is no longer a planet?

We are really upset about that. I don’t lose sleep every night, but it’s a little frustrating. It does make me mad. Now what is it?

It’s really frustrating. They demoted it to a moon. A space rock maybe? It’s just a big space rock. Speaking of space, Space Jam was a good movie. I used to have a toy of the “green one”. I don’t think they had names.

So you guys are “Christian metal/rock”. How can you be a Christian band AND a metal band?

See, I would almost call it hard rock rather than metal. People ask us about that all the time. Growing up, in a Christian home, Christian heavy metal didn’t exist. There are so many Christian hard rock bands our there. Red was just on Conan and Leno. Skillet is doing really well. The genre is really on the up rise. We are in it to connect with fans, to make good music, and to spread God’s kingdom with our music. We play hard rock music with Christian lyrics. There is no such thing as Christian music… its just Christian lyrics.

Hard rock music with Christian lyrics is the best way to describe it. We hope that we rock hard enough and have a fun enough stage show, that people who are not aware of Christ, that people still dig it. People expect us to be some weird gospel band. Some people can only be reached through certain channels. Some people might not like pop music; they need to hear the lyrics to know what they are about.

It’s not our job to change lives. We are just lucky to be God’s vessels to allow Him to change lives.

Who writes all of the lyrics?

Our lead singer writes all of the lyrics. Sometimes we set down and write lyrics together. That’s something I would like to do more often. Its fun to have the band’s input. When it comes to the music, we all write that together.

Someone will have a riff, bring it to practice, and keep “cutting the fat” until it’s a decent track. It’s a “learn piece of music” if you will.

All of you guys have nicknames. What’s that all about?

We all got them in weird ways. I am Shred. I worked at an automotive shop for a while. For some reason started calling me shred. It’s the long hair.

(Adam) I used to have a flattop for like five years. I went to a vocational school, for auto mechanics and our teacher gave us all nicknames. One guy would try to fix everything with a hammer… they called him ding. I’m serious; it’s a terrible nickname. That teacher just stated called me Sarge. Just picked out the flat top and started calling me that.

(Jarob) I whip my hair around like the Muppets. Do you remember the show Super Group? Sarge then started calling me a “savage animal”. Then Animal.

(TJ) I made mine stick. Jarob randomly called me Texas Two Step, and since I didn’t have one, it stuck. I was the only one without one. It was hard to find a nickname for me. He said that, I laughed so hard, and guys I am made it stick. I drove it into the ground and it eventually stuck. They all call me Texas or Two Step.

Our other member, we call him Sludge. He has a beard, dreadlocks… kind of sludgy. That’s a good adjective for him. It’s usually untrimmed.

Where are you guys based?

New Castle, Indiana. Or Middletown, Indiana. We all went to Shenandoah high school. We usually tell folks where New Castle is. We hardly ever play there, its just where we are.

Do you have jobs outside of music?

Oh yeah! Boy do we. I am a full time student at Anderson University. Three of us work at Buffalo Wild Wings. Our band manager also works there, as a manager. He runs our lives. He helps get shifts covered when we have a show. We get the days off we need. We have one that just go to high school. Great people work for it.

So you are from New Castle. Does that mean you guys like to drink New Castle beer?

I like it. I don’t drink it all the time. I think it’s a good beer. Some of us have never had it, but I have seen the bottle caps. I used to drink it in LA; it’s pretty good.

Speaking of beer, what are you drinking on stage?

Water. Warm water. (Laughs) Some of us like it cold, but mostly warm. Maybe room temperature. Hopefully the room is not like 90 degrees.

I have not had the chance to see you guys perform yet. What can someone expect from seeing you guys live?

For us, to give it our all. We have worked really hard, we have heard a lot, and want a great live show. We are a new school rock band. We believe in the old school vibe of rock and roll. We go as crazy as we can in that forty-five minutes.

We want to get the crowd on their feet. I believe that we bring real high energy to the stage. We do it because we want to. It’s more fun if you give it your all. You can’t help it; it just happens. I might bite the head off of a dove next week. That’s what’s next!

How do you think the Internet has changed the current state of the music industry?

It’s nuts. It’s all about a networking via social media now. If you are a band, and don’t have a Facebook, that’s just hard. That’s how people; even MySpace is becoming obsolete. Online music… you can buy one song, not the album. It’s getting harder for bands to sell physical copies. If someone likes one song, they can go online and get that one song. It’s a blessing… and a curse for bands that are trying to produce and sell a whole record.

That’s something we are trying to do with this new album. It’s going to be on iTunes and CD Baby. We are not sure that works yet. It could be a really big help.

What’s a typical Friday night look like for you?

Usually, if not playing, we most likely have a gig Saturday. Usually Friday we spend rehearsing for the show. Maybe recording. The weekend is always band time. Maybe watching a movie on Friday night. We always make a trip t a certain gas station, get some candy. We love having candy and watching movies together. We love hanging out. Sometimes practice on Saturday, pack up, and head out.

That’s actually pretty typical. Practice and a movie.

What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

3,000 maybe. Break the Grey; he goes to school in a certain county and does these assemblies. He has a big concert and it’s a big Christian revival. We were introduced to the event years ago, and he had us open for him once. We played at the New Castle Fieldhouse for like 3,000 people.

The smallest?

Oh, I got this one. Our smallest crowd was in a back yard. A preacher who runs a funeral home asked us to do the show. He was willing to pay us a lot of money to play for his youth group. We come to find out that there were five kids and a few adults. They all sat there in the grass… we played on their porch. It was very small, and we were playing next to a wooden swing. It was so weird!

One of us was wearing gym shorts.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

This will take a lot of time! Our biggest influence is God. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without Him. He gives us grace and talent to do this.

In regards to music, we enjoy KISS; classic rock. Then I got into hair metal. We love music and good music is… good music. Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, AC/DC… Avenge Sevenfold. They are fantastic and talented. The Beatles are also one of our favorite bands. Eric Karr, from KISS, the second KISS drummer, was really good.

Disciple, a Christian hard rock band, is another big one. They are good guys and good role models. Their stage presence… we want to model ourselves after that. The first band that got some of us into rock and roll was Def Leppard. Between those two, and Avenge Sevenfold.

Tell me a little bit more about Call Before You Dig.

We were on a walk one day, and at the time we were trying to figure a name for the album. I was talking with God, and I wanted to come up with some good names. I thought of a couple, went to tie my shoe… it was on a green electrical box. It said, “Call Before You Dig”. I put it down in my phone and told the guys. Everyone liked it.

The meaning behind it, for us, is before we play a show, or even before a meal, we all pray and we pray for a good show, good sound, and stuff like that. We call Him before we go digging.

We worked on this album for a very long time now. It’s going to be a lot heavier than our first one. That one was classic rock; pretty straightforward. We have been working on this one for years. We are really proud of the songs. My dad has been calling it Chinese Democracy. With that album, they finally did it, but it was fourteen years in the making. The mixing starts soon, and we are looking for a late spring release.

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

Oh man, that’s hard! Not sure we could all agree on one. I would have to say KISS. TSO was awesome. They are amazing. I would highly recommend seeing them. It’s fun if you are into music, into staging. The lighting and the stage show… its some of the best. But KISS or Disciple. It was the original KISS.

Boston was great; all the music sounded like CD. But the last Disciple show was amazing. So either KISS or Disciple.

Josh, you and Jarob are brothers. Does that ever get in the way of producing great music?

We see pretty eye to eye on everything. It helps. We have been playing together for years. We started off, and we were both playing at the same time… and we just jammed together. Our whole band is really tight and if something is a little off… all I have to do it look at him and he knows. It’s pretty cool. We only get in fights about stupid stuff; usually have nothing to do with the band.

Do you ever just use the acronym PFP?

Oh yes. I am trying to decide which is more common, PFP or Protest For Pluto. PFP might be more common. It’s just a lot easier to say. Usually when I say PFP, they say, “What?” They say it really fast. PFP works. If sounds really good as a chant, too. PFP! PFP! PFP!

You guys ever travel outside of Indiana for a show?

Yeah, we have played in Chicago. We have played down in Kentucky. Ohio. Michigan. We mainly play in the Midwest. We are planning a tour this summer. We are working with a booking agent and hopefully get us out there on the road this summer. We are really pumped about that.

You have some pretty sweet photos online. Who does all of your professional photography?

Lisa Hillman. She is actually my girlfriend’s mom. She just started taking photos of us years ago. She makes it to every show, and takes really professional shots. She works with other bands she takes photos of a lot of groups. Her main focus is on us though! She really loves doing it.

Our manager devotes a lot of time for us. They really believe in what they do. It’s awesome to have that support. Mark is always staying up late and helping us out. He’s not a WISE guy, but he’s a wise man. He always looks tired.

Do you ever forget the words to your own songs?

Occasionally, it’s happened. Usually not on stage. Sometimes at practice I will forget the word sometimes. It has not happened live for a long time. You feel really stupid if you do! Even if some of the new people notice if we do that. I try not to do that!

What’s the story with the graveyard? Was that just a cool setting for you or is there a deeper meaning?

It was based around “call before you dig” You know… Dig. Shovels. Grave. Death. Well, death has nothing to do with it. We are very blessed.

Who is your #1 fan?

Zach Shepherd. He has been with us for years. He is the unofficial sixth member. He is giving out autographs now. People want HIS autograph. He has been a great fan. He really gets the crowd going. We even ask his input on writing songs. We care about his feedback. He doesn’t play music; but he likes us and he will be honest with us.

Our parents have put a lot of stock in us too. We don’t deserve it; we are not helping them out. We don’t deserve that at all. They really have a lot of faith in us. They are our biggest fans.

Outer Sanctum recently appeared on a presents six bands for six bucks bill. How do you know those guys? I see you are friends with them on Facebook.

We played with them on a radio show over at WJCF Radio. It’s called The Freak Show; they play Christian rock and play the heavier stuff at night. They play our stuff, and Outer Sanctum stuff as well. They had a big show to celebrate The Freak Show , and we all played. They are just really nice guys. Good Christian guys to be around.

I see some tattoos in there. Who has the most?

Chase has the most. He does his own now. Got a gun and is going crazy. I bet he has ten by now.

You guys are all over the place. You are on Facebook, MySpace, ReverbNation. How do you guys keep all that stuff straight?

Lisa Hillman is our marketing manager. She doesn’t handle Facebook, the band does. Mark handles the ReverbNation. She does our website too. We are pretty excited about it. We have a newsletter you can sign up for. It’s pretty cool!

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

I think the worst is when stuff comes unplugged. I have seen guitars and microphones coming unplugged. Broken strings and stuff like that. Maybe the most embarrassing is when Jarob throws out sticks. In the beginning he thought you had to really fling the sticks pretty hard. He is throwing these sticks. He threw a stick really hard. It hit a kid. It was really scary.

Broken strings were an issue for a while. Nothing too crazy, though. God’s been really good to us in that regard.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

That’s a tough one. I just hope that we are praising God… if we are as big as a Nickelback… just doing what we do now.

God’s behind things and we are going really well. I think in five years we will be doing this, and will be on a grander scale. We just want to grow, whether in five years or not. I still want to be doing this in five years. The amount that we have grown… we have played with a couple of national acts… traveled to other states. In the last year we have grown a lot.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

That we were just… playing on stage, people love us, and that people just have to go see us perform. Talk to people. We want to be known for just good Christian guys that just like to have a good time and play a rock and roll show.

We want to entertain, reach some people, and bring the word of Christ to everyone. We want to be remembered for being fun, fun to watch, and just guys who gave it all to God. God is always first, but it nice to hear people say, “You are awesome musicians.”

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

I hope that you check us out. We love meeting new people. We love playing everywhere we can.  We hope that everyone looks into getting our new album too. Call Before You Dig was a long process. We have some shows coming up, check out our website… and if you have not seen the movie The Goonies… watch The Goonies. It’s a fantastic movie!

If we come to your area, please check us out our live show. It is really exciting, and we talk to everyone after we play. If you want to talk to us we will talk to you. Make sure to email us, add us on Facebook… not even as the band, but as friends. On our website we have our personal emails. If you want to talk… have prayer requests. We will get back to you. We want to be friends with everyone.