Preaching to the Choir
Quiet Company sets its monster free
(Page 2 of 2)
Being able to spend more time with Harper seems to be the eye-on-the-prize for Muse.
"When we first found out that we were having a girl, he was not very excited about it," admits his wife, Leia Muse. "He wanted a boy to play with and sword fight with and read comic books to. Now, he's finding that he can have all of those things with Harper, because those are her favorite things. He plays with her all the time."
The birth of his daughter nearly three years ago was also the catalyst for Muse finally breaking from the faith he was raised in. Yet, he explains, it didn't start there. In fact, his struggle to accept that he wasn't a Christian predates not only the songs that make up We Are All Where We Belong, but also the very formation of Quiet Company.
"I'd been questioning it, and dealing with it internally – for years," he reveals.
After discovering authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins in his early 20s, he allowed himself to ask those questions more seriously. All of this came to a head, finally, when Leia was eight months pregnant.
"I got to the point where I hadn't really felt like a Christian in years," he says. "I hadn't been brave enough to pursue it any further, but once my parents started asking me questions about if we were going to start going to church once Harper was born, I realized I don't want her to go to church."
That's a theme that runs deep throughout We Are All Where We Belong.
"I don't want her to believe these things," Muse asserts purposefully. "I don't want her to be ashamed based on a 2,000-year-old book that has no relevance in our lives. It'd been a source of anxiety and depression in my life, because I wanted it to be true so bad, and I was constantly trying to force the square peg of religion into the round hole of reality.
"I didn't want that for her."
Quiet Company's Christian fans might see an irony to the way We Are All Where We Belong sounds. The quintet's first two discs are steeped in religious symbolism and Christian imagery. We Are All Where We Belong, meanwhile, is the first one to mention Jesus Christ by name if only to declare Muse doesn't believe in him anymore. Furthermore, the music he wrote to express the process of shedding his identity as a Christian is the most anthemic and joyful of his career. Shine Honestly displays none of Muse's internal conflict about religion in its quiet, almost pained contemplativeness. We Are All Where We Belong, meanwhile, treats its low-key moments as lullabies and its bombastic ones as hymns to the beauty of secular love. For Muse, that's not irony because casting off religion as he did has been a process of seeking joy.
"I see the record as this celebration of humanism and humanity," he confesses. "It's a triumphant record, to me. I'm not sitting around like, 'Oh, I lost my faith! Where is it?' I don't miss it at all. I'm much happier now than I ever was trying to make those pieces fit."
In 2005, Tommy Blank moved to Austin from San Antonio "with the specific intention of joining bands."
"I was auditioning for blues bands, country bands, cover bands – I was just trying to play with whoever I could," he recounts. "I ran into Taylor on Craigslist."
The dreamy indie rock that Muse was interested in was a little outside of Blank's wheelhouse, but he gave it a shot.
"I wasn't sure this was the style of music I wanted to be playing, but there was something to the songwriting – these were catchy hooks, and the lyrics were strong, so I branched out."
Blank and Muse are the founding members of Quiet Company, though the band has shuffled through other members in its various incarnations. The current lineup has been consistent for several years: Muse on vocals, guitar, and piano; Blank's keyboards and guitar; Matt Parmenter, whose home studio also serves as the band's base for recording, the bassist; Jeff Weathers on drums; and Cody Ackors as the full-time trombonist.
Ackors, Weathers, and Parmenter, like Muse, all honed their skill by playing in church bands as teenagers.
"All of us except this heathen [Blank]," laughs Parmenter.
While Quiet Company's Christian identity had faded by the time they all joined the band, the idea of having a number of Christian fans never seemed strange to them.
"I don't think it's weird that we have a Christian fan base by any means," Weathers says. "There's not even a line [between us], from my perspective."
"I feel like we all kind of shared the same perspective as Taylor about the songs and the feelings," Parmenter adds
So has Muse simply replaced his faith in god with a faith in his band's potential?
"Faith, to me, is believing in something in lieu of evidence," he counters. "I think 'trust' is a better word. We're five guys who believe in each other. We worked hard all the years of our youth practicing our instruments so that we're good. I get onstage and I trust those guys to perform well, and they trust me to write good songs. I don't think it's faith, because there's evidence involved. Probably the closest thing I have to faith is an admiration for humanistic ideals and the scientific method."
Quiet Company definitely performs well – in suits, ties, and beards that give them a stark, professional look. Muse sways as a guitar player, looking like he's about to start speaking in tongues. He carries a stage presence that speaks to all the time he spent in church. When songs call for their soaring choruses, Parmenter, Blank, and Weathers play the part of choir, Akors blowing the trombone rhapsodically. Watching Quiet Company onstage, it's hard sometimes not to use religious language to describe them.
How, exactly, does the scientific method play into this?
"It resembles faith in the sense that hope is involved," explains the frontman. "You're investing a lot in something you don't know for sure. A lot of good bands could use that argument and still not be successful.
"Just because the music industry has changed, it doesn't mean that success is less attainable. We just have to change our idea of what success is. I don't need a beach house in Maui. I just need to pay the rent on this one."