Oklahoma-based Pillar has lived up to their name on the rock n’ roll scene, becoming a hard rock standard in both the Christian and mainstream markets. Take some time out with lead singer Rob Beckley as he talks about the group’s latest tour and their critically acclaimed release,
So you guys just finished up the second leg of the Days of the Reckoning tour. How was this part of the tour compared to the first one?
It was a little bit different in a lot of ways. Mostly, it was just the venues that we were playing in. It was a very club-oriented tour, and we didn’t really go to any churches or anything like that on the tour. It was really good in a lot of ways, but I think it also really made us appreciate the Christian shows a lot more, and the staff and the volunteers and just the way the people are there to take care of you and serve you and be there for you. The club environment, they could care less. The promoters and the people putting on the show, they don’t even want to talk to you, they’re just there to make their buck. So it was definitely an eye-opening experience.
How did you guys get hooked up with Invisible Children on this tour?
Well, I had heard of the organization about a year ago - we were out in Soulfest in New Hampshire, and I heard a band mention the organization from the stage, and I had never heard of it at the time. But then we were out on the other end of the country, somewhere in California, and I saw the Invisible Children band, and I was like, “Oh, that’s who I’d heard about.” So I went over and met up with them, and they gave us one of the movies, and after watching it, we were really interested in supporting what they were doing and wanting to find a way that we could help. And for this leg of the tour, we thought, man, this is a great opportunity to help bring out a very disturbing but motivating cause, and kind of use our platform to get the word out about Invisible Children. So it was really cool, we were really stoked to be a part of what they were doing.
That’s awesome. It’s great to see you guys’ level of involvement with these kinds of groups, I think it’s a great use of your platform and exposure.
Yeah, thanks man.
Another aspect of this tour that caught my attention was the opening bill that you guys had slated, with Showbread and Tyler Read. Especially compared to the first leg of the tour with Kids in the Way and Day of Fire, the lineup on this one really showed me that you guys are now in that position where you can offer up and coming bands a big break on your tour billing. What are your feelings on being able to have that kind of ability now?
It’s pretty humbling, just thinking back about the opportunities that we had, and how we had to fight to get every slot we ever had. But at the same time, we’re not one of those bands who will put a lot of restrictions on the opening bands or whatever. We’re not really like that – it’s not about how cool we can look by making this opening band look not as cool. For us, it’s just like, let’s take out some bands that we like. Showbread’s always been one of those names that we’ve thrown around that we’ve liked to do a tour with, but it never really worked out. And now being able to take them out, they’re amazing guys, and I really really enjoyed getting to know them. And Tyler Read, we just thought it was a great opportunity for those guys to get out on the road and get their music out in front of an audience. They’ve got a vintage rock and roll kind of vibe, and it was just really cool to get to know them and to get to hear the set every night. I went out on the last couple weeks of the tour and even did the last song with them. But we’re done with that tour now, and we’re moving on to the next thing.
You guys are heading out for the festival circuit?
Yeah, we start next week, even, we start doing the big one off shows. We’re also doing Acquire the Fire and trying to swing in little church shows even in between. And then we’re also planning for a big tour at the end of the year. I’m not for sure what we’re going to call it yet, but the concept behind the tour – it’s a very ministry focused vision, but it’s not the typical raise your hand if you want to accept Jesus type of ministry. It’s going to be more of helping people to take the first step and being transparent, helping people confess their sins and confess secret lifestyles and getting stuff off their chest so that they can be rid of it, and we’re really looking forward to that tour. We’ll hopefully have a lineup set by GMA Week.
Talking a bit about the album, The Reckoning is definitely the most diversified record that you’ve put out to date, but at the same time, in listening to it, I felt like it was the most developed and solid album that Pillar has done also, in terms of the band’s sound and identity. How was the writing process for you guys for this album? Was it something more experimental?
For the most part, I wouldn’t say it was experimental, but I would say it was a lot more free. Everybody expected us to write another “Fireproof” or “Bring Me Down” or “Frontline,” you know, the big anthem songs, and to establish our career based on that. We’ve still got plenty of time to write songs like that, but we just wanted to write what we wanted to write without any expectations or without anybody telling us what do to. We wanted to do our own songs, and we didn’t have an agenda. When we were writing the Where Do We Go From Here
record, we thought we have to have another big anthem song, another Fireproofish type of anthem rock. And we wrote “Bring Me Down,” and we thought, whoa, that’s it. And it’s not that we can’t write them - we actually finished one that we didn’t put on [The Reckoning
], just because we felt like we’ve already been down that road, you know? We just wanted to try something different. In terms of some of those songs [that we left off], I would say a couple of them will probably end up making it to this next record. But we left them off this time because we really didn’t want to recreate the same record, so to speak. A lot of times, especially in Christian music, you find a formula that works and then you reproduce that record over and over. But we definitely didn’t want to put out Where Do We Go From Here Part II
I see. Another interesting aspect of The Reckoning that I found was a vintage rock sound that’s somewhat more prominent on the record. Why did you guys decide to take that direction this time?
Well, bands come and go. We’ve been doing this for a while now, and if you look at bands like Switchfoot or Relient K – Switchfoot was doing stuff for years before anything really major happened for them. And for us, we just wanted that easy simple rock sound for the simple American consumer that buys music. We’re not writing music for the person from New York or Los Angeles that wants the trendy cool flavor of the week, but for the person that just wants to pop a CD in their truck and rock out - the AC/DC or Lynyrd Skynyrd kind mentality. There’s a joke in rock music, people always scream out, “Play some Skynyrd!” - that’s a clichéd rock and roll statement, but there’s something to be said about it. Those are the things that have longevity, that last and that can reach a more broad spectrum than some artsy underground emo band.
So Pillar is definitely looking towards longevity.
Yeah. I think that’s kind of the goal of every band, to have something that sticks, not to put out the one hit wonder. There’s a lot of cookie cutter stuff going on in the Christian market, but there’s a reason that Third Day is able to keep doing what they’re doing. And it’s because they know how to write good songs, and they write songs based on the market that they know they’re going to sell in. For The Reckoning
, we didn’t really abandon who we are as far as our sound -Pillar is Pillar, it’s still going to be big rock and roll- but we took chances in terms of just the way that we went about things. We kind of removed formulas from the process, and the thought that certain songs have got to be done for radio. We just wrote songs, and then made the label decide what the singles would instead of us writing a record around a single like we’d done in the past.
Well, your efforts have certainly spelled success for Pillar, both in the Christian market and ever increasingly into the mainstream market, which the band has been heavily marketed to as of late. Are you guys concerned with your level of success in the mainstream?
I can say that we used to be, although we weren’t necessarily trying to make an impact in that area. It was just kind of what happened along the way. But I think we’re at the point now where it’s like, we don’t even really want it. The mainstream world - we don’t want anything to do with it, really. If something happens great, but honestly, I’m completely content with being a Christian band and playing Christian shows.
Right on. Thanks for talking Rob. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with you and what’s happening with Pillar
Yeah, thanks man. We’ll talk more later.