Hope. It's a concept that is both elusive and fragile, both rare and powerful. So few dare to allude to it, and fewer still make it their mantra. After all, it is so much easier to sing of loss and regret than to push through it and persevere. Yet, the word "hope" is the very word that Josh Pearson, front man for the Chattanooga, Tennessee quintet NEVERTHELESS, uses to describe the goal of his band. True hope though faith. Their debut album Live Like We're Alive is the vehicle through which they want to make this one word known. They are far beyond driven to live for this purpose.
"You have to know what you are supposed to be doing, as well as know where you are supposed to be headed to play music today," says Pearson. "Without direction, passion, and a belief in our purpose, we would not be doing this. We don't want to just play for status or for a cool factor. We want every person who comes into contact with us to be encouraged."
It is this determination that gives NEVERTHELESS an asterisk amidst their contemporaries in indie pop/rock. At first listen they would fit nicely in the vein of such bands as Jimmy Eat World, Further Seems Forever, and Cartel, except for one difference: Their songs deal in as much spiritual substance as they do in relationship experience. On Live Like We're Alive, the band delivers diversity in emotion as well as depth in empathy, which are traits that are seldom found in the current rock context.
"These aren't just songs to soothe breakup sores or to feed the fires of crushes; they are also songs to mend deeper wounds. We chose to explore the entire spectrum of emotions on this record, not just teenage heartache. Records that don't have diversity are pretty boring to listen to, and there are a lot of them out there today. We want everyone to enjoy this record the entire way through."
At the heart of the album is an energy created by a dynamic between high and low, verse and chorus. Pearson's voice soothes as soft moments give way to explosive guitars and driving beats. Structure is simplified without being compromised, to complement songs as a whole, and in the end, the album as a whole. Each instrument is but one variable in a song. Each song is a variable in the album, and the album itself is a variable in the equation of changing the listeners that NEVERTHELESS touches with the music itself.
"Our producer, James Paul Wisner (Underoath, Dashboard Confessional) really took the songs to a higher place. It was also great to co-write with Kevin Kadish (Stacy Orrico, Rob Thomas, Jason Mraz) on several tracks. Recording the album was a process that really stretched us to our limits, but we came out sharpened on the other side. We have never worked so hard on anything in our whole lives. I feel like the process reaffirmed our reasons for doing this, because we had to give our all or go home."
It is these sentiments that give life to this record. The band embraces the challenges that have come their way and use these trials as real evidences of perseverance. Ask Pearson about the band's near break-up and he will shed further light on the subject.
"We were going to break up the band when I went away to college two years ago after high school," Pearson explains. "It was a very hard time for me because I had to let go of my one true love, which was playing in this band. But I kept writing music (as did my band mates) despite the miles between us. When I came home after that first summer we found something amazing had happened--our band was stronger than ever before. We began playing tons of shows and knew we had a tough decision to make. And though many around us didn't understand our decision, we all dropped out of school because we knew we had to pursue this full time."
Guitarist AJ Cheek and Pearson share musical and lyrical responsibilities on the album, as their words seep the aforementioned dynamic of emotions and spirituality. On the title track "Live Like We're Alive" they reference their difficult decisions as band and seem to come to a higher resolve: We're here only for a second, and then we're gone when we least expect it. So do more than survive. On "Time" the classic breakup issue is confronted with a new twist--the author(s) tell of a breakup with a love who never loved at all: You keep your distance. Like, for instance, when you told me we should take it slow. Time, you always needed more time. But all we've ever had is time. So now this is the last time, but I'll be fine. I've gotta get away 'cause I've had enough.
As previously mentioned, Cheek and Pearson aren't afraid to broach heavier issues. Faith vs. doubt is the subject matter of the first single on the record, "The Real." Pearson sings, Here I am tonight. I can't stand to fight this feeling of despair I hide. I wonder are you there sometimes. (Sometimes we all wonder). This is you; this is me. This is who we're meant to be. We are the real, but the truth is unchanging. This is a call to hearts that are fading. Finally, in softer moments like the track "Lover" the band takes the opportunity to show their vulnerability before God: You can find me here with my head against the wall, lost in my regrets and every time I fall - you catch me in your hands. You circle me like a wedding band.
With a charismatic live show and a touring base that continues to build, NEVERTHELESS is poised to continue onward towards building increasing bridges with new audiences. They recently completed a tour with labelmates Kids in the Way. The band has also shared the stage with Skillet, Hawk Nelson, Falling Up, Decyfer Down, Number One Gun, and many more. Obviously, touring a major part of any marketing picture today, and this band plans to hit the road heavily in the near future, including tour dates with new Maverick Record's band The Finalist. But touring just for increased sales? NEVERTHELESS has something else in mind...
"The moment we stop caring about the people who buy our records is the moment I hope the band breaks up. We are going to try to shake hands with every single person we come in contact with, and if it ever reaches a point where we can't we will come up with something else to let people know we care. we are here for others, to help people, to give them something that will see them through, not just for ourselves. There is something larger at stake. When you are dead album sales won't matter."
"Nevertheless' new record makes me a happy camper. Even when I'm not camping. The songs sound amazing, and they're well written. Kudos to the band for having such a strong debut". -Matthew Thiessen of Relient K