Hard-rocking, Christian, and proud, Thieves & Liars pulled no punches on their debut, When Dreams Become Reality, a concept album based on the Old Testament story of Joseph.
Now they’re back with a more straightforward but still faith-steeped follow-up, American Rock ’N’ Roll. Guitarist Corey Edelmann and bassist Joey Bradford answered a few questions.
What artists inspired you to start playing music?
Corey: “I started playing piano at the age of five and played until I was in junior high, when I was teased by friends for not playing a ‘cool’ instrument, and so — wanting to be cool — I decided to start playing guitar. Initially I just started to learn the instrument and was not really influenced by any artists until much later, when I started playing in bands.”
Joey: “My older brother Steven has always been my biggest musical influence. He wanted to learn guitar, so I decided I did, too. He became a bass player, so I did as well. Then he showed me bands like the Beatles and Radiohead…that changed everything. Once I heard Pablo Honey by Radiohead, I wanted to write music. I’ve always been obsessed with creating feeling in my music, the way Radiohead gives me feeling with every track. Corey and Kyle [Rosa, T&L’s drummer] introduced me to Zeppelin and Floyd when I started jamming with them, and that was a total mind-freak to my writing. A song like ‘The Lemon Song’ by Zep gave me the direction that our band has been traveling the past five years. I’ve always wanted to give the listener that emotion and vibe that my idols give me.”
Has your style of playing changed over time?
Corey: “My playing initially was classically influenced, but when I moved to electric guitar I started playing with bands and started getting into metal, which was an easy transition because most metal is rooted in classical music. After high school I fell in love with the rawness of hardcore and played that for a while, but eventually I grew tired of its simplicity and lack of harmony and wanted to move on. After a couple more years playing with bands, I was in a position to start my own band and wanted to play rock and roll, and so I immersed myself in blues and rock and roll.”
Joey: “I think our style is changing now more than ever. We’ve given ourselves sort of an unspoken boundary with writing over the years for the purpose of keeping our songs as blues-based as possible. We recently started writing new material without those standards, and it’s making our band have a more unique-to-who-we-are vibe. I’m finally at a point where I feel who I am as a songwriter is getting to be apparent.”
Have the heroes of your instrument changed over time?
Corey: “I was always more of a rhythm-guitar player, and so I looked up to bands more than players when I was young, but when I fell in love with blues and rock and roll I definitely fell in love with certain players’ style. My favorite blues players are Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, and John Lee Hooker. My favorite electric guitar players are Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Jimi Hendrix, and David Gilmour.”
Joey: “I’ve never really had a hero on the bass. I mean, John Paul Jones is a guru, and I love everything he brought to Zep, but it’s the entire band that gets me excited. As far as vocalists go, I love dudes like Thom Yorke and Jack White.”
At what point did faith enter your life?
Corey: “Faith entered my life through youth group while I was in the seventh grade. I just knew that what the youth pastor was saying was truth, and I made the decision to follow Jesus. But it hasn’t always been an easy ride, as I was so hurt by people at church at one point [so] I stopped going for a while. And in my late teens I had a streak of rebellion where I learned the hard way why God has commandments. Eventually, like the prodigal son, I returned to my heavenly Dad, and I haven’t left my spiritual home since. These days I spend more of my spare time studying my Bible than anything else.”
Joey: “I was raised in a Christian household but did my own thing for a bit of high school. I was fascinated by religion most of my teenage years and came to the conclusion while studying religion as a whole that Christianity had no biblical flaws. People are what have flaws, but that’s the point of being a Christian. Christ died because we all fall short of His glory, and He longs for us to hit Him up again. That makes me stoked.”
Your favorite Bible verse?
Corey: “Habakkuk 3:17–18, Proverbs 3:5–6, and Philippians 4:6–7. Obviously I love the story of Joseph, and I also love the story of Job. Over the last four years I have lost my son, a good friend, my mother-in-law, my house, and my parents got divorced, so obviously the verses and stories that speak to me are the ones of perseverance. Those verses and stories help me remember that the key to faith is to believe that God is good no matter what happens in this life and to trust in Him even when it doesn’t make sense. Proverbs 24:10 says if we faint in the [face] of adversity, then our strength is small.”
How did the decision to make a concept album about the story of Joseph come about?
Joey: “Corey had the idea when I was 11 years old. He just waited for my mustache to grow in before putting it on tape.”