Countdown To Creation Fest '16 - Written In Kings Interview
This is a chance to get up close and personal with yet another band who will be lighting up the Big Shed stage at Creation Fest 2016. Cardiff based rockers will be opening up Sunday night concert and One Man In The Middle sat down with them after their set at Creation Fest at Eden earlier this year and got quite an intimate interview…
I have to admit that I never quite know where an interview is going to go when I start one. Rather than have a set list of questions I like to respond to the answers given. So when I sat down with the boys from Written in Kings it started having a laugh together and got very deep, very quickly. It’s not just about the music for these boys!
I normally start off an interview by asking the band to identify themselves so I can try and identify voices later. These guys duly did with Josh starting off “I’m Josh and I play the bass.” When I got to Nathan he just said “Nathan, drummer” pointing out that he seemed to be a man of few words he replied “I’m really not actually” and all the rest of the guys started making jokes, calling him Animal (from the Muppets) and saying in mock cave-man voices “Me bash drum with stick!” Clearly the guys are all in a good mood after finishing their set at the CreationFest one-day event at the world-famous Eden Project.
So what is Written in Kings all about? Basically “Written in Kings are four guys in a band who love playing music,” explains Sam. “We’re all Christians in a band and we love playing Rock ‘n’ Roll music. We’ve been going for 4 years now and we all play our own music. Our music is our lifesong, it’s all about who we are on an emotional level, spiritual level and we hope that the music that we write kind of feeds into the people as well, that we are writing relatable songs.”
They are all from Cardiff, well they say Cardiff, in reality they are from places near Cardiff – Port Talbot, Bridgend and Porthcawl (technically nearer Swansea), but as Sam says, nobody knows Wales so they just say Cardiff!
Written in Kings is an interesting name and I am keen to discover the meaning, if any. It’s not a question any of the band seem to like answering, clearly they come across this often. Nathan mentions that Written in Kings sounds great which may be all the story there is. Then Josh explains “the name has new meanings as we go along. Something that popped into my head the other day was that it says in Revelation that God has made us priests and kings. We have been written into God’s story and into His purpose for our lives. So we are kings that have been written in – so Written in, kings. That’s the meaning to me.” The other guys are impressed and decide that this is the new reason for the name! – You heard it here first.
The band has grown from just Sam and John playing acoustic shows but they felt there should be something more. Sam explains “we used to play just acoustic shows, gigs and events, stuff like that and found a real kind of passion for writing our own music and having a desire to be something more than just what we were. Slowly but surely other people joined like Nathan who plays drums. We all kind of like came into this as beginners and have grown together. From then on my brother’s joined, Ben, and Josh has joined. Now this is the core group of us four.” John isn’t forgotten, he left last year to pursue other things. Sam is quick to reassure me that it was a clean break-up “we were gutted, but he’s doing his own thing now and we’re so happy for him, it wasn’t like one of those bad break-ups like Robbie Williams leaving Take-That.” He continues, “Since then we’ve been adapting, taking a new direction, trying to get a little more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll show going on, because that’s what we like to do, we like to have fun up on stage, but then we’ve still got that emotional toned-down thing that we do as well. So we’re at the point now where we are discovering new music with ourselves as well, new songs, new ways of writing and really excited about the future for the band as well.
Josh adds more to the story of them coming together from his perspective. “I’d met the band in the December at a worship event – I was playing in the worship band and these boys were playing as a performance band. The August after I had a message from Sam asking if I knew a bassist or if I wanted to play bass.” At this point Sam interjects “We were hoping for the first answer!”
Undeterred Josh continues “I didn’t play bass, but I was like, I want in, so I picked up the Bass just to join in really. I’d been praying that God would make a way for me to get involved in music and with a band, so it was an answer to prayer for me really.” Sam takes up the story, “It was definitely a God thing, if we look back through our lives individually as Christians as well as the band, and our faith God blows our minds every time – that was definitely a God thing like how that happened.”
“With our spiritual lives we have all grown up in church but that doesn’t mean that from day one we were Christians, we’ve all had our struggles along the way and come to faith in our own separate ways. Now, as well as our music progressing and Written in Kings is progressing, we find our faith is extended and pushed. We’ve become closer as brothers and closer to God as well. So we are accountable to each other, so it’s amazing to have that relationship.” Josh finishes off the thought saying “This band has taken us on more of a journey and we’re not just a band, we’ve grown spiritually and matured spiritually.”
Is the closeness of the band ever a problem? Nathan answers “For myself I always longed for brotherhood, I am an only child so I longed for that in my mates that I grew up with in Church and in school. I absolutely love those guys, I love them to bits, but there just wasn’t ever that accountability. Unfortunately we did a lot of stupid stuff together so it was really hard to stand in front of each other and to be accountable because you were doing the same stupid things.”
“So for me this band has been essential to my walk with God. So much so that I have to remind myself that it ISNT my walk with God. I need to be able to function in my walk with God outside of the band. My walk with God out of the band needs to be as strong as it is inside the band. Actually the band has almost become a crutch for my relationship with God so it’s kind of good to hold things loosely. The Bible says that we should hold things loosely, and I think it’s good that we all hold the band loosely – we have all held the band pretty tightly in the past, but it is quite low on our priority list. Josh and I are married and that comes first and foremost, right after God. God first, then our spouses and then everything else doesn’t really matter to be honest.”
“Another thing that has really stretched us is that we have a pastor as a band. He’s with us today and he comes everywhere with us, and he really, really stretches us and I hope he continues to stretch us really because I am really forever thankful to him for what he has done in my life. So I want it to go deeper if I am honest, the brotherhood and the accountability, I want it to go as deep as it can, because without it I would be a much worse off guy.”
This is an interesting concept to me so I want to get deeper into what this all looks like in a band dynamic. After some joking and confessions of drug addiction Ben starts to speak for the first time, but Nathan true to his statement earlier about not being a man of few words cuts him off. Eventually he lets Ben speak “I just think that the accountability is a massive plus of being in a band, sometimes being this close and in the publics face, so to speak, you’re on stage and people notice that. It’s hard to sort of run away from things that you get up to that you shouldn’t do, and I think the fact that we have got the four of us and our pastor is a massive blessing because you almost have to say what’s going on. It’s also trust and faith that whatever you come up with they are going to understand, they are not going to be jumping at you straight away because I mean everyone’s been in that position before. So for me it’s a massive blessing for just having that constant accountability, especially on the road in the van. It’s like those conversations that you can have with your wife, which I wouldn’t know because I am not married!”
Sam explains a bit more “The accountability can be brutal, but it’s got to be, because there’s obviously the brotherhood and the friendship because we obviously like each other, sometimes we have to like each other in certain situations, but there is the relationship there that we get on. Then there is also the reliance on each other because we have put a lot into this, so we have to have that faith and trust in each other that we are all on the same page. Yes, speaking from experience, it has been brutal, but it’s had to be. What we’ve been looking at recently is that we have to make ourselves vulnerable to each other as well as to God, and that’s just about being open and honest, even though it sucks, sometimes you’ve just got to take a deep breath. Half the time, with us all being boys around the same age, we’ve all been there, done that or all actually going through it at the same time.”
So as we near the end of our time together I want to know more about the heart of the band, what they want to see. Nathan is quick to answer “Revival” after some laughter Sam goes on to explain” Truthfully I want to see some crazy stuff in my lifetime. We are prepared to step out, we are a rock ‘n’ roll band and we love God, that’s as simple as it is. We try to worship God in every single thing that we do and truthfully we want to see this world changed, we want to see lives changed for the better, we want to see people healed, we want to see people set free from their chains, and we hope that the stories that we tell in our music…” at this point there is some laughter as a guy rolls past on hoverboard eating a sub sandwich – 21st Century man, well he did say he wanted to see some crazy stuff! Sam finishes off his previous thought “We want to see chains broken in people’s lives and we just hope that the stories that we tell through our music can help facilitate that.”