Matthew Langston is fed up with all the talk of pain, sorrow, and agony he hears every day on the radio. Over the past year, the music industry has been swept under an avalanche of self-pity and grief by recent trends in popular rock music. Though many of these types of bands have connected with today's youth, Langston, lead vocalist of Greenville, South Carolina pop/punk trio eleventyseven, feels it's time to focus his musical energy on something a bit more uplifting. And he's sure he's not alone in his sentiments.
"You get tired of being yelled at, hearing the same parallels drawn in every song," Langston explains. "Knives. Night. Pain. Winter. We have been put here to enjoy the blessings in life, not cry about the curse of our self-inflicted pain. We want to push people past their feelings, passions, and experiences...past their circumstances to see the big picture of God's creation. We want people to feel what He has done for us and wear a smile when they leave our concerts. I know that there are so many out there who need this message, and we have captured the spirit of these ideas on our debut disc, 'And the Land of Fake Believe.'"
Langston and his band mates, though barely old enough to vote, are very resolved about their purpose. They want to laugh whenever possible. They want to make light of themselves and their experiences. And they want the healing power of joy to infect everyone around them. Though this lighthearted mentality is similar to many bands in the pop/punk genre, it is the heart of eleventyseven that sets them apart; beneath the laughter lies a sincere passion to affect lasting change in the lives of kids.
"Our music makes fun of almost everything. I look back at experiences I've had, realize what a 'loser' I was, and I have a huge laugh. No one is really that cool, and we want people to learn to take themselves less seriously. But joking aside, we're very serious about our purpose. One of the major life themes adopted by this band is learning from our own mistakes. I have made many. And the weight of that is enough to drive me out of my mind sometimes. If I didn't laugh, if I didn't learn to live with joy in forgiveness, I would probably end up miserable."
The music is fast-paced and potent, with choruses that lift many songs on "And the Land of Fake Believe" into the category of certain memory. Though Langston and his comrades grew up on bands like MxPx and Blink 182, there are also subtle influences in their music from such 80's greats as Pet Shop Boys and Wham. A steady keyboard presence throughout the record merges tastefully with bass, drums, and guitar to add an extra layer of depth and substance. And a healthy balance between the nonsensical and the serious in the lyrical content provides a thought-provoking element that other groups lack. The result is a sound that sits well beside bands like Hawk Nelson, Green Day and Relient K, yet stands by itself. Pop/Punk with depth and integrity? Though it seems like a contradiction, eleventyseven accomplishes that very thing.
Langston's lyrical themes are broad, with necessary nods to teenage heartbreak as well as confrontation of specific issues in pop culture. "Nostalgiatopia" is a song inspired by the Brat-Pack films of the 80's, and reminds the listener to make the most of youth: "Cause I don't ever want to slow this down...We could throw away our cell phones and only answer calls coming from the stars. We could catch drive-in movies and let the hours pass, cause nothing perfect can ever last." On "My Space," he expresses the emptiness of Internet relationships: "Tell me about your favorite bands--how they're super-indie-neo-hardcore...Cause I could know everything about you and still know nothing at all." The crux of this band's message is perhaps best stated on track ten, "Reach That Far." In this song, Langston plainly states that his faith in God is the source of his motivation: "And tell me there is more to this life than only what my heart can see. Take all these fears, make them into more than who I used to be."
The band started playing shows during high school at clubs in their hometown, and it took several years to gain the attention of Flicker Records (Pillar, Kids In The Way). Though it was never eleventyseven's motivation to be a national touring band, the opportunity came naturally as a response to the genuine buzz surrounding them. The band wants to share with kids what they themselves experienced while listening to music as youth, and eleventyseven will take any opportunity to play anywhere as long as it gives them a chance to change hearts.
"I used to sneak rock music into my parents' house because I wasn't allowed to listen to it. But it was those bands, those albums that changed my life. Bands like the Ramones, Weezer, and Joy Electric. I remember going to shows when I was younger and how it made me feel. How those shows gave me such a great lift from my problems and concerns. I told myself that someday I would do that for someone else. If my mistakes or thoughts or a song we wrote can help kids see past the temporary things of this life to the truths of the Eternal, then I have accomplished everything I set out to do."