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Embers In Ashes And Still On Fire
by Kelcey Wixtrom on 2014-03-19 14:05:01
Contributor Kelcey Wixtrom talks with Embers In Ashes' Jeremy Bates about the meaning behind the name, letting God take control, being in the Top Ten, and something you’re not supposed to talk about.

Kelcey: I love the meaning behind the band name, “Embers In Ashes.” Can you talk a little bit more about that concept?

Jeremy: Well, first, it sounds cooler than “beauty in ashes.” The whole idea is that God can take something so screwed up, so dead, so broken, and turn it into something that’s amazing and alive, vibrant, on fire. All it takes is a little spark to set a forest on fire. That might sound cheesy and cliché, but really, it’s that one little spark that God puts in there and makes all this death something alive and amazing.

Kelcey: How did you end up in music/how did you end up as Embers In Ashes?

Jeremy: It’s nothing too fancy. I felt that God was calling me to do music again, and I should try to get a band together again. So me and a buddy tried to get something together, and we put out an ad for musicians at Stanford University here in Birmingham. And one guy answered the call, Drew, our lead guitarist. But then my buddy who helped start the band told me that, you know what, I think God wants me to go on staff at our church, and I’m not going to have time to do this. And that was OK, because it’s what God wanted him to do. So then it was Drew and I, and we came up with the name Embers in Ashes, which is pretty much my testimony, God taking something broken and straight-up dead and bringing it to life.

So we looked around and found some folks. Brian was a roommate of Drew’s, Mike was a friend of Brian’s and it kind of went from there. Brian knew a guy that played drums, that guy was Andrew, and small world, this was the same Andrew that I grew with as a kid, it all kind of worked out. It didn’t all fall into place immediately, there were other people that came and went, but these are the guys that have stuck and it’s worked well.

So the short answer is through school.

Kelcey: Were you all majoring in music?

Jeremy: Oh, no. Andrew has his Master’s in Business, Drew has his major in Nonprofit Business, Mike has his major in Spanish and Arabic, Brian is a Philosophy major, Robert was a Geography major, for map making, cartography. (Which is really funny because he can’t find his way out of the bathroom, he gets lost in the mall. He went to school to make maps and he has to have a GPS because he can’t find his way anywhere.) And then me, I never finished school, I’m the unlearned one of the group, but I was going for music education, but I kinda stopped.

Kelcey: But that’s cool, because you all have kind of different perspectives.

Jeremy: Oh yes, we are all from different parts of the country too, Drew’s from Orange Country, CA; Robert’s from Louisiana, Andrew’s from Texas, I’m from Birmingham, Mike is from Huntsville, Brian’s from Atlanta.

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Kelcey: Your new album Killers & Thieves just came out a few weeks ago. “Into My Arms” is the latest radio single, correct?

Jeremy: Yes, it’s now Number 8! I’m so excited. For us, it’s amazing. We give God all the glory.

Kelcey: Is that your first “Top Ten”?

Jeremy: Yes!

Kelcey: That’s so exciting! Congratulations! So can you tell us a little bit about the background behind this song?

Jeremy: So the crazy part is this song wasn’t even going to be a single. So imagine the song with no keys, no synths, no dubstep,

Kelcey: It would be very different.

Jeremy: It would be boring. That’s what it started off as. When we started in the studio, the producer’s like, “I don’t like the bridge. You guys need to write another bridge.” Cuz that’s what producers do. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. We still get to write it, he just didn’t like what we had. [So I said], Ok, well we are going to do something different. Because this song isn’t going to be a single, it’s just a “filler.” (And I know that’s not something you’re supposed to talk about, the industry kinda frowns upon revealing their secrets, but I have nothing to hide.) So if this is a “filler” song, let’s put some spice in it. I want a dubstep breakdown. And they were like, that’s never going to work. I was like, it’s going to work, it’s our album, and I’m paying for it! It’s going to work!

So, we gave it a shot, and he said, this is going to be awesome! So we ended up writing through the whole song with the mini keyboard and it’s what it is now.

Kelcey: That’s one of my favorite parts, the “breakdown.”

Jeremy: I know! I know! That’s what I’m saying. It’s going to be awesome. I can hear it in my head. That’s how you write music, you hear it in your head and you know what’s going to be there. I could hear the whole breakdown in my head and I start making all these weird noises. They are looking at me like I’m an idiot.
The rest of the album doesn’t have anything else like that in it. But I love it.
We are actually even talking about doing some remixes.

Kelcey: You guys chose to include a completely instrumental track on the new album. What’s the story behind that?

Jeremy: We took a risk doing that. We are independent now, so being away from the label, we took some risks. We felt like this is what God wants us to do, so we are doing it. But that song is there because I promised our drummer for the next album, he could have an instrumental song where he recorded the guitars, the drums, the bass, the everything. He could have his own instrumental track. So when it came time to record, I told him, dude, I hope you have your instrumental track ready, because we’re doing one.

Kelcey: It adds a really cool element to the album.

Jeremy: I agree, it’s something different, and it’s something unique. I’ve had people say, oh you shouldn’t put something like this on an album, and maybe not. Maybe that’s not the industry standard. But God can use even an instrumental song to work in someone’s life. That’s the reason we do what we do. That’s why we exist. Our whole purpose in life to know Christ and make His name known through everything we do. We are just blessed to be able to use music to do that. There’s a million better musicians than I am. There’s a lot better bands. But God has given us this ability and put us where He’s got us, and we are blessed to be able to do it.

Kelcey: What has God been teaching you lately?

Jeremy: Honestly, nothing is in my control. I can’t control anything, I can’t do squat. He has been showing me that it doesn’t matter how much you manage, how hard you work, (He wants us to work for things, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t believe God’s going to just throw things in our laps, and magically - poof - its going to happen. We have to put forth an effort.) But, God is in control. He can make it, or He can break it; it’s His to make or break. That’s what he’s shown me.

It doesn’t matter how great we think a song is, He will do what He wants with it. We never in a million years imagined that this song [“Into My Arms”] would get to number 8. It blows my mind. The song that was supposed to be the first single didn’t even make it on the album. There was a huge technical snafu and we lost part of the song. It blows my mind how God says, “You know that you think you know what you’re doing, but you don’t know anything. I’m going to do it My way, it doesn’t matter what you think.” I totally don’t get Him sometimes, a lot of the time, all the time, but I just have to trust that He knows what He’s doing.

I look at David, who could say, Jesus is my friend. I love Him more than anything. Sometimes I talk to Him like that too, “Man, what are You doing, I totally don’t get this. You have to help me understand, or give me peace because I’m freaking out.” I prayed that the other day. I don’t get it. We were supposed to be on tour and it got cancelled. I know God has a plan, He has to. I can’t loose hope. It all fell apart for a reason, because He is in charge ultimately. There is a reason for it, maybe He is trying to teach us something, but he’s in charge ultimately. It’s up to Him.

Kelcey: Where can we catch you on the road in the next few months? Any tour plans in the works?

Jeremy: We have something in July with a band called The Naturalist, we will be in the Midwest from July 11 - July 27.

Kelcey: What kinds of merch do you have available, and would we be able to find it at your shows, or online?

Jeremy: Well, we have CDs in our online store. I don’t do T-shirts or anything like that because, well, we used to use BigCartel, and they are great, but we have to ship it ourselves, so until we get some touring stuff nailed down, we are trying to keep from putting it in the online store right away. We have tons of different T-shirts available at shows. We just got in a new baseball tee today. It’s awesome. I love baseball tees.

I don’t mean it to sound like we don’t have it all together. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I’m not pretentious, and I don’t think I’m the biggest and the best out there. I don’t want to be that guy that comes across as an arrogant jerk. He thinks he’s this and that. I don’t think I’m anything. I’m super relaxed. I don’t mean to come across unprofessional. Please don’t misunderstand my attitude, I don’t take it lightly, I love what I do, and I strive for excellence in everything. Because I do it as unto Christ. But at the same time, I try to be very open, be who I am. I don’t want to hide anything.

Kelcey: Honestly, I really appreciate that, and I have a huge amount of respect for people like you guys who are trying to do almost everything yourself. It must be so hard at times, I can’t even imagine.

Jeremy: It is difficult to the point of tears. You don’t know how many times I’ve literally been on my face before God, in tears saying why. Why can’t it just work out? But He’s been teaching me to let Him take care of it. But it’s not about me, it’s about Him, and trusting him. He’s giving me the faith to trust Him and not what I can do.

I’m working on booking my own tour for April, and we should be going out with a band from Texas called Finding Iris during the first two weeks of April.

I’m learning to look at things differently. God is teaching me to reshape my view of things. I’m blown out of the water every time I go somewhere and people know who we are. It humbles me and makes me feel really embarrassed. I had people in a Barnes & Nobel once want to take pictures with us. How weird is that? Like who knows what the band looks like? Seriously. It’s Creepy! Sorry to those of your in Barnes & Nobel, if you ever read this, I don’t mean to be mean. It’s crazy. But from all that, God will work it out.

Our whole purpose for our music is for people to come to shows, hear the music, and God to reach them through that. It’s not about us getting onstage and preaching. That almost defeats the purpose, because we are trying to reach the lost with the music He has given us.

But OK, I’m rambling again.

Kelcey: Well, it kinda of ties into my last question. What do you hope your fans will take away from your new album or maybe when they see you live?

Jeremy: Hope! That is what our band is about. Everything we do, everything we live for, we live to know Christ and make His name known through everything we do. The purpose of our music is to show the hope of Christ through every song we sing. I’ve had people say, well you’re not direct, you don’t say Jesus’ name in every song. Well, you know what, not everyone relates and can get up on Sunday and worship to praise and worship music that has Jesus name in every song. But our songs are written for Him. Some songs are prayers, some written from God’s point of view.

We have a song called “The Mirror” where it’s God looking at us. “I know you’re full of questions, you wonder why I’d leave. But the fact is you left, and you’d like to think it was Me.“ That whole song is about how God never left, we’re the ones who walked away. All of our songs have this resounding message of hope that no matter how much we stabbed Him in the back and nailed Him to that cross, He loves us. He loves us! He died for you, as an individual, even if you were the only person in the world, He would have died just for you. To see you saved. That’s how much He loves us. And that’s the purpose behind every song we sing. That fires me up. That’s why we do it.

Haha, I can get all preachy, but that’s why we do what we do. To spread the hope of Christ. To know, there’s more.

Kelcey: That’s so encouraging, just to know that perspective behind the music.

Jeremy: Well, and like I was saying, even if God never blows us out of the water with some amazing tour, and we can look back and say, “Those few months of struggling were all worth this!” Even if we get to play for just one person, if they are reached, that’s why we did what we did. Then we have fulfilled our purpose. If we only ever reach one person, and they come to know Christ because of this, then we did our job. It’s about the individual, and it’s about the relationship. Christ came to start not a religion, but relationships with individuals.
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