Project 86 hails from Orange County, California, formed in 1996. The band has released ten albums, two EPs, two DVDs, and one live album. Their music is considered by most to be a rock/post-hardcore/alternative style. Frontman Andrew Schwab‘s poetic and introspective lyrics have addressed a wide variety of topics such as conformity and emptiness. Last year Nov. they were part of the tenth anniversary of Brainstorm Festival (Netherlands) where they played an amazing show. A month later the band released their tenth album “Sheep Among Wolves”, the album is well received and gets good reviews by the press.
Recently we did an interview with founder and frontman Andrew Schwab, he talks about past & present of the band, his biggest fear, musical background, key principles, the new album, and much more:
TMR: Hello Andrew this is The Metal Resource from Holland, how are things going there in Orange County, CA ?
Andrew: Nice and warm and sunny. But we are always missing Holland!
TMR: Will you Introduce yourself and the band please.
Andrew: Andrew Schwab, Vocalist.
TMR: How did you get into hard-rock/metal?
Andrew: The very first rock album I ever listened to was Kill ‘Em All by Metallica. I loved the song “Am I Evil?” I loved the aggression, and the fact that the mere act of listening to the “evil” music was an act of rebellion against my parents. I also connected to the music in a very deep emotional way. The more I explored heavy music as a young teenager, the more I found it was like therapy for me.
TMR: What is your musical background ?
Andrew: The first album I ever owned was a 7” of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” I grew up listening to Classic Rock…Led Zeppelin, etc. That was the music of my parents. In my teen years, I gravitated toward hip-hop as well as metal. Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, Slayer, Iron Maiden, etc. As I got older I always had two sides of my musical tastes…Hip-hop and heavy music. It wasn’t until I actually started a band that my tastes became more nuanced and eclectic. I share this because my desire to make music has always been born out of being a music fan, first. I always found that I loved music moreso than most and became more attached to artists I loved than my peers. Whereas most kids loved certain songs and bands because they were trendy at the time, I actually researched the bands I loved, studied the lyrics, learned everything I could about the music and artists I related to. This led me to want to make music at a very early age. I sang my first demo-a cover of various Led Zeppelin songs-at age six. I started my first “band” at age 14. By the time I was in college, I was more than ready to start something serious…and I did with P86.
TMR: Tell us the brief history of Project 86.
Andrew: Founded in 1996. I decided in early 1994 I wanted to start a heavy band. It took me two years to find the right lineup, the right mixture of guys to form what would become Project 86. At first, we had straightedge/hardcore influences, but after we heard bands like Rage Against the Machine and Deftones, we decided to go a little different direction. We signed our first record deal in 1997…Tooth and Nail Records. Our first record dropped in 1998, and we had a good amount of sales and success. Our second record created a real excitement for the band, and we moved to Atlantic Records for our second and third releases. The band toured with Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, August Burns Red, and many others along the way. We have sold nearly 600,000 albums throughout our career.
TMR: Why the name Project 86 ? Is there a story behind it ?
Andrew: The idea of being “86-ed” means to be rejected, removed or separated. Our initial motivation as a band was to have our own, unique sound and voice, no matter what…even if we were rejected we were going to do this thing our own way, by our own rules.
TMR: What are some key principles or phylosophies that you hold onto as foundational stones as who you are as a person?
Andrew: Emotional honesty is the most guiding principle in the band’s music. To be emototionally honest is to portray the whole of the human experience without a filter. In my experience, life is measured in our response to discomfort, pain, and trial. You know who someone really is not when life is great, but when things are difficult. So this music documents many of highs and lows of my personal journey with emotional honesty…and hopefully others can relate to this. This music is, largely, for those who are experiencing difficulty in their lives, and hopefully they can find both therapy and comfort from the songs.
TMR: Is there a highlight you will always remember, since the beginning of Project 86 ?
Andrew: The first time we came to Europe in 2001 was amazing. It was a show in Germany, and it opened a whole new world to us as a band. Since that date, our goal is to continue to play in Europe as much as possible, and we have!
TMR: And the worst thing were ? (if there is one)
Andrew: The worst memory in the history of the band? That’s tough…recording our third album (Truthless Heroes) was very difficult because of all the pressure.
TMR: The band has done a couple concept albums (Truthless and Knives), how does writing those compare to a regular album of separate songs? During the writing process, where does the inspiration come from? Do you find it more difficult to write/record albums or write/publish books?
Andrew: When you have a concept you have to plan out the ebb and flow of the songs with a predetermined song arrangement most times. This can get very complicated if the best songs are in the wrong places. With every other album you sequence the songs where they make most sense in terms of strength. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but is mostly guided by life experiences…relationships, life difficulties, great victories. I am also influenced by the books I read, the films I watch, and other music I listen to. It is much easier to write books because you are not confined to a limited number of syllables, which is what happens when you write a song.
TMR: What is your favorite drink and food ?
Andrew: Chicken Wings! French fries from street vendors in Amsterdam with mayonnaise and curry sauce!
TMR: So what makes you laugh?
Andrew: Ironic humor. Dark Humor. Key ‘N Peele. Chris D’ elia.
TMR: What is your biggest fear ?
Andrew: I always have the same nightmare. We are playing a show. My band starts playing the first song. I am somewhere backstage and can’t get to the stage to hit my vocal cue on the first song. This doesn’t sound very scary but for some reason it is when I wake up in the middle of the night.
TMR: In Nov. last year, Project 86 played at the Brainstorm Festival in the Netherlands. The last time you were in the Netherlands was in 2008 (at the Flevo Festival).
How did you experience the show at Brainstorm ? And why did it take 9 years ?
Andrew: The show at Brainstorm was amazing!! Such a great crowd and they really connected with the music. The only answer is that no one in Holland booked us during that time.
TMR: How do you prepare for a show?
Andrew: We usually listen to awesome music in dressing room and have a dance party. My personal Favorite is Run the Jewels.
TMR: What is your favorite song to play live (old or new)….what would be your favorite Project 86 song?
Andrew: Favorite song live at the moment is “MHS,” the first song on the new album, Sheep Among Wolves. It’s just…a mad jam. I don’t have one favorite song…that’s like picking a favorite child! I love them all for different reasons.
TMR: If you had to pick two songs to describe the band, what two songs would you pick.
Andrew: “Stein’s Theme” from Drawing Black Lines and “Fall, Goliath, Fall” from Wait for the Siren.
TMR: What are some of the things you like to do away from the band?
Andrew: Snowboarding, Graphic Design, Calligraphy
TMR: Speaking of recording, your new album “Sheep Among Wolves” has been released on Dec. 5th. Can you describe the recording process for Sheep Among Wolves? How about the writing process…for the songs, was it lyrics first and then music, vice versa, combination of both?
Andrew: Combination of both, but typically the process involves writing the music first then writing lyrics which reflect the emotion of the music. We recorded the labum primarily in Nashville, Tennessee at several different studios. The unique aspect of this album is that we recorded one song per month to deliver to fans as a part of our Pledgemusic campaign to celebrate our 20th year as a band. So, basically fan got one single per month for almost a year, and those fans were able to hear the music as we wrote it which was a huge incentive for everyone involved.
TMR: About the cover artwork. Do you think it is as important as your music? Does it visualize the lyrics of your songs or what’s the actual story behind its concept?
Andrew: I designed our album art this time around, and the idea behind both it and the album title is the fact that sometimes the ones you think are sheep are wolves, and vice versa. At the core of the record is the idea that everyone wears masks in their lives…and when you see people for who they truly are, many times it is shocking.
TMR: Project 86 has recently signed a deal with Desert Rose Agency from the Netherlands, what exactly does this mean ?
Andrew: They are booking shows for us in Europe moving forward…and hopefully many of them!
TMR: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked?
Andrew: What’s your favorite food? 😉
TMR: How do you promote your band and shows ?
Andrew: Primarily via project86.com and our social media.
TMR: Tell us about the hard-rock/metal scene in your area please?
Andrew: I wouldn’t say there is a prevalent “scene” per se at this juncture as it relates to our band. Although we came out of the Orange county scene when the and started, anymore our scene is more of a global community of fans, thanks to the web and social media. We are just as apt to have an insane show in Europe or Australia as we are in our home town!
TMR: What is the most embarrassing music on your phone or in your collection and how do you justify it to others?
Andrew: Lana Del Rey. I am an avid Lana Del Rey fan. And not ashamed of that fact, though I probably should be.
TMR: Most unique concert bill you were part of and how was the crowd for that show?
Andrew: We once played a ten-band ska bill in Orange County back in the late 90’s. It was as you would imagine: lots of staring and confusion from kids wearing checkered Vans.
TMR: If you could pick a band to tour with, who would it be? And where would the tour go?
Andrew: I’d love to tour with The Mars Volta on a reunion tour. It would travel all over the earth, minus super hot places. I don’t like super hot places like Florida.
TMR: As a band today, what do you think is the biggest challenge you face?
Andrew: People don’t buy music anymore, so therefore it is not a viable industry. There is no music industry anymore. Streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify have bled the last remnant of this business. If you support the band, please BUY the music, as that is the only way bands can stay afloat. Visit us at project86.com to get merch, digital music, cds, vinyl and more!
TMR: Any plans for the near future ?
Andrew: To tour Europe as much as possible and come back to Holland once a year.
TMR: Andrew thanks for your time and the interview. We wish Project 86 all the best for 2018… Is there anything you wanna say at last ? [any final statement ?]
Andrew: Please check out our new album SHEEP AMONG WOLVES and please purchase it at Project86.com
Andrew Schwab – Vocals
Darren King – Guitars, Keyboards
Cody Driggers – Bass, backing vocals
Abishai Collingsworth – Drums
“Project 86” (1998)
“Drawing Black Lines” (2000)
“Truthless Heroes” (2002)
“Songs to Burn Your Bridges By” (2003)
“…And the Rest Will Follow” (2005)
“Rival Factions” (2007)
“Picket Fence Cartel” (2009)
“Wait for the Siren” (2012)
“Knives to the Future” (2014) [review]
“Sheep Among Wolves” (2017) [review]
Friday, July 20 – Joshuafest, Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds, Quincy, CA
Saturday, Sept. 15 – Shippensburg Fairgrounds, Shippensburg, PA
Lyric Video for ‘MHS’
Video for ‘Fall, Goliath, Fall’
Video for ‘Evil’ (A Chorus of Resistance) (live @ Brainstorm Fest 2017)