At Revelation Generation Festival 2010, I had the opportunity to speak with Jason & Janell Belcher of The Ember Days about how the band got started, "signing" to Come&Live!, their new EP, and upcoming tour plans...
How did The Ember Days get started?
Janell Belcher: It started with Jason coming to America and meeting me. We met at Cornerstone Festival, and we got married at the end of that year. Then we moved to New Zealand and Jason had always wanted to start this band. And he basically just started it, he was like, "We’re gonna go to New Zealand; we’re gonna find the members; and start it." So that’s pretty much how it got started… through different friends- we have different friends who played with us; we went through a few members and stuff.
How did you come up with the name, The Ember Days?
Janell: It was paper, scissors, rock between The Ember Days and this other name at our first show- that’s how we came up with it. An old guitarist that we had discovered the name and really liked The Ember Days. So we had that one and the other one. It was just like, Okay, we’ll go with The Ember Days, since that one won.
What are some of you musical influences?
Janell: Dustin Kensrue is one of them, who we watched yesterday. Sigur Ros is one of our band’s musical influences, and Jimmy Eat World. Who else would you say?
Jason Belcher: I don’t know who this band is, but they’re awesome [referring to the music playing in the background].
Nicole (a friend of The Ember Days): It’s Fiona Apple.
Jason: It’s awesome.
Janell: I like listening to a lot of jazz, that’s only been in the last couple of years, like Etta James and stuff. And that’s really, definitely influenced me vocally. What else would you say? Explosions In The Sky?
Jason: I think there’s wide and ranging influences. From old jazz and Sigur Ros right through to a lot of hipper stuff, like Jordan really loves Advent and underOath- some of those real hard bands; I love them as well.
Jason: Yeah, and the artsy bands like MuteMath, Thrice, and Coldplay. I love a lot of mainstream stuff as well. We listen to a lot of pop in our car because our CD player doesn’t work, and we don’t have an iPod adapter, so we listen to the radio. I listen to a lot of Katy Perry [laughs]…
Janell: That’s not our influences though.
Jason: Well if you listen to it obviously it’s gonna come out somewhere…
Janell: … eventually, in our next album [laughs]
Jason: Yeah maybe I’m gonna talk about my “Teenage Dream.” [laughs] No, but from all sorts of pop right through to everything, and lots of instrumental music. I listen to classical music a lot on the radio.
How did The Ember Days get signed to Come&Live!?
Jason: We broke into Chad [Johnson]’s house at gunpoint and said, "We’re gonna steal all your money unless you sign us." No, but the true story is actually we came over here when Chad was still working with Tooth & Nail. And different friends of ours were putting in good words with Chad like, "Oh, you should check out The Ember Days," from different Tooth & Nail bands. I think he was a little bit curious already, you know, to check us out. So we were doing this show in Albuquerque, New Mexico with The Glorious Unseen and us, and man, it was awesome. It was at this hardcore show; lots of kids came to know Jesus. This girl’s leg got healed; it was all backwards when she was born, and it just healed up. It was pretty cool because Chad was like, "I dig these guys," and we dig what Chad was doing and The Glorious Unseen. So it was like, We’re all about the same thing; this is totally gonna work. Chad was just thinking about starting Come&Live! back then. He was still at Tooth & Nail, and he was like, "I’m gonna be starting this new thing soon, I really want you guys to be involved with it." And so, with Come&Live! you don’t actually sign a contract. So we’re not actually signed; although, we are on Come&Live!. It’s not really a record label, but they do help you raise finances, and they do support you and your ministry, and they really try to equip you in whatever you do. What you do sign is what they call the “artist’s creed.” And the artist’s creed is pretty much just saying, and I’m summarizing, "I’m taking my faith and my art seriously, and I’m gonna devote myself and my art to the glory of God;" and it’s got a whole number of practical ways to do that. And you sign that you’re gonna be a good steward of what God’s given you. Because Chad got really sick of… he was promoting bands that weren’t promoting Jesus, and that got really old for him. So that’s why Come&Live! got started, because he wants bands to be passionate about Jesus, which the bands he picks are.
The Ember Days recently released Finger Painting EP. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording process?
Jason: Initially, we were gonna do a massive double-disc. It was gonna be epic- an instrumental CD and this huge full-length as well. But there’s developments happening with Come&Live! right now, so we decided to not release everything right now. So we packaged an EP of a chunk of songs that we play live all the time, that work really well together. The whole EP flows and that’s what happens live, so it just made sense. It’s kind of a cool thing; those songs, although they sound a little different, they fit together really well. So, it’s sweet as a standalone EP. But we wrote this and our upcoming record, which will be out next year, last year. We did pre-production in Nashville in…
Janell: …August, in that hot church.
Jason: Over a year ago in August/September [laughs] Yeah, it was horrible. There was no air-conditioning, in Nashville summer heat. Inside, we were like in our underpants just about…
Janell: …except me…
Jason: …just sweating, guitars dripping wet from your sweat, and trying to concentrate on writing and being creative in that environment.
Janell: We’d do a one-hour sesh, and then we’d go take a break because there was air-conditioning in the basement.
Jason: Yeah, it was so hard to concentrate. And then we started tracking it with Kevin Bruchert in late November and early December. And then we did more tracking January, and more tracking February, and more tracking in March.
Janell: It was like a whole winter-long project. We were planning on dropping quite a few of songs, because we had so many; we had 16 songs that we were recording.
Jason: It started off with 25 or 24, and we axed 6.
Janell: Yeah, before we even got into the studio we axed 6. And then we had 16 and we thought, Okay, we’ll just work with these and see what happens with them, and the ones we don’t like as much, we’ll just drop those. But once we finished, we saw all the songs through to the end. We loved all of them, and we’re like, Okay, now we have 16 songs. So that’s when we decided to do the double-disc. But then eventually it ended up being an EP and a full-length. So our full-length is not already mixed yet, but we’ve already recorded it, so we have something to release next year.
What do you hope listeners take away from this EP?
Jason: I hope they have an experience with God; that’s all I really care about- something of the beauty of God in the music, something of the heart of God in the music. I just hope they are filled with the fruit of the Spirit when they listen to it- joy, peace, all that good stuff. I mean, we find that’s what people seem to experience from our music anyway. Even last night, we talked to this lady who was saying she would just put our music on, and she would immediately feel peace. And it’s just like the fruit of the Spirit, you know? That’s good; that’s what I want people to experience, is God. Music is cool too, but God is way better.
Janell: With this specific EP though (obviously experiencing something of God like Jason said, which is how we want all our music to be), but I think with this EP I really feel that God’s gonna do lots of healing in people’s hearts through it. So that’s my prayer, I guess for it. It’s kind of a little journey. Even the order that it’s in and its track titles and stuff; it wasn’t really thought out; it just kind of fit together. But it starts with hope and then goes to “It Is Well” (all about going through a lot of crappy times, but finding peace), and then there’s “Rest,” and “Finger Painting,” and “Simple Song”(it’s just this awesome praise song). I pray that God brings hope to people, and healing and restoration, so that after experiencing the goodness of God by the end of the CD they’re ready to give back and worship. And then our next album is gonna be like a ton of worship and prayer; it’s totally different.
Jason: The next record is gonna be a lot different, a lot more intense. This EP is like you could just curl up in a corner and go to sleep. The next record is gonna be like [smacks his hands together].
Janell: [laughs] Yeah, they’re definitely different vibes, but it worked out great.
The Ember Days recently shot a music video with the guys from Showbread (In The Boat Productions). How did that go?
Jason: We’ve seen one edit; we made a few changes, so I haven’t seen that come back yet.
Janell: It was fun.
Jason: They’ve been playing some shows, so they’re still in the editing process. But yeah, it was an amazing process. It was really fun. We love those guys; they’re so solid, such an amazing group of guys and girls.
What song is the video for?
Jason: The video is for “It Is Well.”
Any tour plans for the fall?
Jason: Yup, we’re in fall now, right? We’re touring from here to California, and everything in between on the way. After that, we’re going to New Zealand at the end of this month. We’re doing a welcome home tour in New Zealand. And then we’re doing a tour with a hardcore band called Saving Grace at the end of November in New Zealand. And then December we have off, do a little bit more writing, go down to the beach and write some songs. Then next year we’re gonna do a Come&Live! tour in New Zealand in January; it’s gonna be great.
To learn more about The Ember Days visit http://www.myspace.com/theemberdays
Also, check out their latest EP, Finger Painting at http://www.comeandlive.com/