Face to face with Relient K

Last spring, Eastern welcomed Jars of Clay with Audrey Assad, Matt Maher and Derek Webb to the gym for a night of great Christian music. This year, Relient K and Sixteen Cities graced the stage, offering three and a half hours of high-energy sound.

Relient K, hailing from Canton, Ohio, has been together since 1998, when the members first met in high school. The band was named after a member’s car, a Plymouth Reliant K. They purposefully misspelled the name to evade issues with trademarking.

Although the band has a Christian background, it has performed with many mainstream bands. So far, Relient K has debuted six studio albums, seven EPs, two Christmas albums and a number of other random singles. Guitarist Jon Schneck says that “the songs have matured consistently along with the band” through the years.

In addition to his work with Relient K, lead singer Matt Thiessen has a few side projects of his own and has collaborated with other big name artists such as Run Kid Run, Deas Vail, Jon Foreman from Switchfoot, and Owl City.
Thiessen worked on Owl City’s album Ocean Eyes as a co-producer. Adam Young (Owl City) and Thiessen have become very good friends, and Thiessen has said that Young “makes me want to be a better person.”

Relient K just finished a mini-tour in Australia with Dashboard Confessional. Schneck described it as “really fun. We were able to back Chris up on some of his songs, and I really enjoyed that.”

The band’s latest CD, “Is for Karaoke,” debuted in July 2011 as an all-covers album. “Karaoke pt. 2,” an EP, was released in October 2011 and is now packaged with its predecessor as a full length album. Thiessen has said that the upcoming album will hopefully be available by the end of the summer.
As for the band’s future, its members only hope to keep making more music and playing more shows. As Schneck says, “I don’t think any of us had really high hopes of being able to do this as long as we have. We just sort of take things as they come and hope that they keep coming.”

Saturday night’s show opened with the band Sixteen Cities. From Portland, Oregon, the Christian band was excited to work with Relient K, as the group shares their Christian values. They appreciate that a band like Relient K has had such a long and thriving musical career.

During the performance, the Sixteen Cities bandmates proclaimed their love of Christ through original songs and covers from David Crowder Band (“How He Loves”) and Hillsong United (“Mighty to Save”). Their performance was high energy and got the crowd excited for the rest of the evening.

Relient K came on stage shortly after Sixteen Cities finished, and the crowd was ecstatic. They opened with one of their hits, “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been,” and subsequently covered all their bases with new songs, old songs and even covers like “Africa” by Toto and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The performance reached every generation present. Thiessen even accepted a flower from a member of the crowd and kept it tucked behind his ear through a song.

After a false ending that had the audience chanting for an encore, Relient K came back out for three more numbers. They ended the night with their 11-minute track “Death Bed,” leaving the crowd on a high note (but, of course, wanting to hear more). The only thing that could have made the ending even better would have been Jon Foreman popping out from behind the stage for his part in the end of that last song, but hey, we’ll take what we can get.

Hopefully, next year Eastern will host another band as talented and entertaining as Relient K.

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