Origin: Canton, Ohio
Genre: Christian Rock
Years active: 1998–present
Matt Thiessen – lead vocals, piano, rhythm guitar (1998–present)
Matt Hoopes – lead guitar, vocals (1998–present)
Current touring members
Dave Douglas – drums (2000–2007, 2014-present)
Tom Breyfogle – drums (2013–2014), bass, backing vocals (2014–present)
John Warne – bass (2004–2013, on hiatus)
Jon Schneck – rhythm guitar (2005–2013, on hiatus)
Brian Pittman – bass, vocals (1998–2004)
Todd Frascone – drums (1998)
Stephen Cushman – drums (1998–2000)
Brett Schoneman – drums (2000)
Jared Byers – drums (2000)
Ethan Luck – drums (2007-2013)
Relient K /rɨˈlaɪ.ɨnt ˈkeɪ/ is an American rock band formed in 1998 in Canton, Ohio, by Matt Thiessen, Matt Hoopes, and Brian Pittman during the band’s third year in high school and their time at Malone University. The band is named after guitarist Hoopes’ automobile, a Plymouth Reliant K car, with the spelling intentionally altered to avoid trademark infringement over the Reliant name.
The group is associated with the contemporary Christian music culture, most notably the Christian rock and punk scene. The group has also performed alongside secular artists. The band has reached critical success with mainstream pop punk and alternative rock. The band’s sound incorporates piano and acoustic elements. Since its formation, Relient K has released nine studio albums, seven EPs, two Christmas albums, and one collection of rarities. The band has received numerous awards including a Grammy Award nomination in 2003 for Best Rock Gospel Album and two Dove Awards.
Relient K is best known commercially for their two studio albums which peaked in the top 15 of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. After signing with Capitol Records, they broke into the mainstream in 2004 with the release of Mmhmm, which debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200. In 2007, their fifth album, Five Score and Seven Years Ago, brought the most success for Relient K, debuting at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and selling 60,000 records in its first week. The band has sold over 2 million records, with three albums being given gold certification by the RIAA. The band is also highly successful throughout the Christian albums and contemporary Christian music charts. On October 4, 2011 they released a cover album Is for Karaoke. On July 2, 2013, their seventh full-length album, Collapsible Lung was released.
All Work and No Play and Relient K (1998–2000)
After Relient K was founded by Matt Thiessen, Matt Hoopes and Brian Pittman in 1998, Todd Frascone joined for a short time in 1998 as a drummer. However, Frascone left the band after recording the demo All Work and No Play. The demo was recorded by Mark Lee Townsend, the former live guitar player for dc Talk. Townsend had met the band members because his daughter, Danielle, was friends with the band. Danielle eventually married guitarist Matt Hoopes.
All Work and No Play caught the attention of dc Talk’s Toby McKeehan (tobyMac), who later signed the band to his label, Gotee Records. With the label Relient K released their debut EP, 2000 A.D.D. in 2000, with Stephen Cushman on drums. Soon after, they released Relient K, their first full-length CD. It was distinctly Christian rock and featured lyrics with a wide range of pop-culture references. Cushman left later that year to join the Christian metal band Narcissus. Brett Schoneman of Christian rock band Philmore filled in temporarily, followed by Jared Byers, drummer of the Christian rock band Bleach, until Dave Douglas joined in December 2000.
In an interview, Matt Thiessen said that when the band started, he was the only one who sang, but he knew Matt Hoopes could sing as well. Hoopes was reluctant, but Thiessen said he “got it out of him”. As a result, Hoopes became the primary back-up vocalist.
The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek (2001–2002)
The band released their second album, The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, in 2001. Though there were still plenty of pop-culture references on this album, it contained many more softer songs and slightly lighter guitars. They would continue chords through tracks in order to fluidly transition in between songs, a trend that continued on their later albums.
Anatomy landed them in the Christian rock limelight, and Relient K was offered a clothing deal with Abercrombie & Fitch in 2001. Gotee, their label, accepted the offer on Relient K’s behalf; Pittman recalls, “The choice was never really given to us. The label made the choice.” After significant pressure from conservative Christian organizations such as Focus on the Family, Gotee backed out of the contract.
Relient K was then asked to do a rendition of the popular VeggieTales song “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” for the 2002 feature length VeggieTales movie Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie. The song was released on three different albums, two in single form. The first version also included their song “Breakdown” being sung by Larry the Cucumber. There was also a promotional version which included the original version of “Breakdown”. A cut-down version (missing the bridge) was included on the Christian rock compilation Veggie Rocks!. This song mixes the sounds of The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, and their third album, Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do.
Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do (2003)
In 2003, Relient K released Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do. The album had multiple covers of different colors, each depicting a vehicle in some kind of wreck. As pop-culture references became less specific, sound and vocals became far more defined. Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do (often called Two Lefts by fans) combined the soft, meaningful songs of The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek and threw in fast-paced songs with deep lyrics. It was nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Rock Gospel Album” and won the Dove Award for “Modern Rock Album of the Year” in 2004.
During this time, Relient K also released a limited edition red vinyl EP entitled The Vinyl Countdown, only released in one printing. The EP included two versions of the song, “Five Iron Frenzy is Either Dead or Dying.” The album was dedicated to Jesse Alkire, contest winner and friend of Matthew Thiessen, who inspired the song “The Vinyl Countdown.”
Since Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do was released in March 2003, Relient K released a bonus disc for Christmas, entitled Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand. The album was packaged with Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do from November 2003 to December 2003.
Matt Thiessen (left) and Matt Hoopes (right), two of the band’s founders, performing at Purple Door in 2005.
The group released their fourth album, Mmhmm, in late 2004. Pop-culture references were even less specific than on their third album, if present at all. The album was significantly more on the serious side with very few of the silly songs the band was known for. The album had the band experimenting with their sound a bit more, which included incorporating piano, hardcore punk and some pop music. In July 2005, the album was certified gold for shipping over 500,000 copies. It is reported that it has sold approximately 796,000 copies. Driven by newfound recognition from Mmhmm, Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do was also certified gold in spring 2005. Also, it was announced in 2006 that their second record, The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, had reached the Gold rank as well as certified by the RIAA.
Shortly before Mmhmm ’s release, longtime bassist Brian Pittman left the band, citing that he was tired of touring and wanted to start a landscaping company. He also joined Christian metal band Inhale Exhale shortly afterward. Matt Thiessen announced Pittman’s departure in fall 2004, saying: “After almost seven years of being in Relient K, our cherished and lifelong friend, Brian Pittman has decided to move on to other things. That IS crazy, huh? Brian decided to leave the band in July, so we’ve had plenty of time to let the initial shock die down. We’re aware that a lot of you already knew, so we apologize for not announcing this sooner. There were many reasons. He thought long and hard about his decision, and he came to the conclusion that he would like to do other things than play bass for the band. We respect him for it. We’d be lying to say that we’re not all completely bummed that Brian won’t be a part of Relient K anymore. And though we know things won’t be the same without him, it must be said that we have always valued our friendships with him more than our on-stage relationship.
Relient K, live at the Christian rock festival, Purple Door 2006
“Anyway, all of us still hang out, and its like nothing is different at all. I feel like that’s how you know that you’ve made a friend that will be there for the rest of your days. We want to thank Brian for all the years he gave the band. You’re the best, buddy.”
Pittman reunited with the band for one final show, which was the release party for “Mmhmm” at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio on November 1, 2004. John Warne, lead singer and guitarist of Ace Troubleshooter, filled in as bassist for the remainder of 2004 and became full-time bassist in 2005. Also in 2005, Jon Schneck joined as a third guitarist, as well as a banjo and bell player, to create a fuller, more distinctive sound. This was also because the band planned to add more piano, and having another guitarist gave Matt Thiessen the freedom to do that.
Relient K performing in 2005
Relient K provided the first track, “Manic Monday” originally recorded by The Bangles, to the various artist CD, Punk Goes 80’s, released on June 7, 2005.
Mmhmm features two Top 40 hits which both made it on MTV’s Top Ten. The music video for the track Be My Escape entered MTV’s Top Ten, and landed them an appearance on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. “Be My Escape” is also featured on Now! 19, a popular secular and quasi-annual compilation series. It was classified as a gold single in October 2005. The music video for “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” has also made its way onto the Total Request Live countdown, many top 40 radio stations, and was included on Now! 21. Mmhmm was awarded a Dove Award in 2006 for the “Rock Album of the Year.” The band was also nominated for “Artist of the Year” and “Band of the Year” at GMA Canada’s 2006 Covenant Awards.
Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)
Matt Hoopes (left) and Matt Thiessen (right) performing at the Sonar in Baltimore, MD in 2007
Recording sessions for another studio album, Five Score and Seven Years Ago, started on June 18, 2006 and continued for parts of July and August. Some tracks on the album were produced by Howard Benson, (The All-American Rejects, My Chemical Romance, P.O.D.). “Four score and seven years ago” is the first line of the Gettysburg Address, the famous speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Thiessen had said that the title of the album comes from the fact that it’s the band’s fifth album, it is the first time all five of them are on a record together, and it has been seven years since they made their first record.
While the band hoped for a November 2006 release, the official release date was announced as March 6, 2007. The album is considered, by the band, to be their happiest record to date. On March 2, 2007 the entire album (except the last track, “Deathbed”) was made available for streaming on the band’s MySpace. Five Score and Seven Years Ago debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling about 64,000 copies in its first week.
The band’s first single from the album, “Must Have Done Something Right,” was released on the iTunes Store on November 28, 2006 and to radio on January 9, 2007. “Forgiven” was the first radio single directed at Christian stations. “Forgiven” was the most added song on Christian radio and entered Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart on January 11, 2007. The single received enough airplay to be the fourth most played song on Christian Hit Radio (CHR) stations in 2007 according to R&R magazine.
Matt Thiessen performing with Relient K at Purple Door in 2007
The second single from the album, “The Best Thing,” was released to radio on April 10, 2007, taking the 7th most adds in its first week. Thiessen has said that “The Best Thing” is “the anti-Daniel Powter “Bad Day” song. It’s straight-up positive.” A video was filmed for the single. The second single released on Christian CHR radio stations was “Give Until There’s Nothing Left”, which was the 20th most played song on CHR radio stations in 2007.
In the early morning of June 28, 2007, Relient K’s bus caught on fire from an oil spill from the engine. Everyone escaped safely, but the band lost many instruments, laptops, cameras, phones, iPods, clothes, and merchandise. Matt Thiessen said he lost a laptop that had roughly 100 unfinished songs on it, and Dave Douglas lost his Battlefield drum set. In the midst of it, the band still laughed at the situation, calling it “cinematic”. On a blog post on their website, Matt Thiessen stated that the next day after the fire, the band went to view the damage of their van and found that while 85% of their gear was intact, Douglas’s drum kit set was not salvageable. A member of the Switchfoot forums first announced it, asking everyone to pray for the band. The band had just played Creation Northeast, and had to cancel their appearance at Cornerstone Festival in Illinois, which the band has named as one of their favorite shows to do. They did, however, play their next scheduled show in Greeley, CO on June 30, 2007. In the months following, the band played more Christian rock festivals.
The band released Let It Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer, a Christmas album, on October 23, 2007. The CD contained all of the tracks from Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand as well as six new songs. This Christmas themed re-release was met with a peak of No. 96 on the Billboard 200.
Relient K, Switchfoot and Ruth recorded a song together, “Rebuild”. It is available for download on Switchfoot’s website; fans can choose between paying for the song (with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity) or downloading it for free.
Matt Hoopes (left), and Matt Thiessen (right) performing with Relient K
On October 18, 2007 drummer Dave Douglas announced his departure on good terms on the band’s website due to a desire to pursue his side-project Gypsy Parade with his wife Rachel. He played his last show with Relient K on December 29, 2007. On February 12, 2008 it was announced that Ethan Luck, former guitarist of The O.C. Supertones and for Demon Hunter, would be replacing Douglas as the band’s new drummer.
Luck and Warne were in a short-lived band together called Guerilla Rodeo.
“The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” which was originally recorded for Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, was also used in The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie.
The Bird and the Bee Sides (2008)
The band performing at a concert during the Warped Tour in 2008
On July 1, 2008 Relient K released a double EP. The double EP is contained on a single disc and contains the The Nashville Tennis EP and The Bird and the Bee Sides. The Nashville Tennis EP included 13 tracks of new material that allowed the band to explore their sound a bit by allowing other band members, besides Thiessen and Hoopes, to compose/record a few tracks, as well as adding some influences from country and ska music. The Bird and the Bee Sides contained tracks that had previously been released on hard-to-come-by records. The Bird and the Bee Sides won the 2009 GMA Canada Covenant Award for Modern Rock/Alternative Album Of The Year. In turning in the EP, Relient K officially fulfilled their contract with Gotee Records and subsequently signed to and now manage Mono Vs. Stereo (an imprint of Gotee Records).
Jon Schneck (left), Matt Hoopes (center), and Matt Thiessen performing with Relient K in 2008
In November 2008, the band released three bonus iTunes tracks for a re-issue of their 2007 Christmas album Let It Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer. The tracks were later pulled from iTunes, but have since then been released on Gotee Records’s 2010 Christmas compilation album: ‘Tis The Season To Be Gotee.
Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)
In early 2009, the band began to write music for an album to be released later in 2009. Thiessen stated that they were keen on finishing the album for a 2009 release and had begun recording the new album with their “favorite” producer, Mark Lee Townsend at Dark Horse Recording Studio in Tennessee. After recording a few tracks, they stated that they would travel to California to record some more tracks with John Feldmann. Webisodes released weekly via the band’s MySpace and Facebook pages show the recording progress in the studio. On May 8, 2009, Thiessen announced on Twitter the album’s title,Forget and Not Slow Down, also noting that ‘Forget and Not Slow Down’ is the name of a track.
Jon Schneck performing with Relient K at a concert in Ontario, Canada in 2009
Forget and Not Slow Down was available for pre-order, with the option of having a faux VIP-Pass signed by members of the band, and T-shirt, and a poster featuring the names of all who pre-ordered the album. On September 29, the album was made available for stream off of AbsolutePunk. It was released on October 6, 2009.
A bonus song was offered to customers who bought the album from Amazon.com’s MP3 store. The song is entitled “Terminals” and was produced by Owl City’s Adam Young. The song is now available for download without purchasing the full album.
In May 2010, Relient K released a triple-compilation collection CD entitled The First Three Gears. It included the band’s first three studio albums with various “EP exclusive” tracks attached to each CD, according to their approximate release year.
In October 2010, the band contributed an original song—”What Can I Do”—for Family Christian Stores’ exclusive compilation album Freedom: Artists United for International Justice Mission, created in order to generate funds for International Justice Mission in fighting modern-day slavery.
Is for Karaoke EPs (2011)
On April 11, 2011, the band posted on their Facebook page that they had entered the studio to record a cover album. On June 14, 2011, Alt Press reported the EP would be called K Is for Karaoke and displayed the album artwork. The band revealed one album song per day on their Facebook page. The first album, Is for Karaoke EP, was made available for download on June 28, 2011 through the Amazon MP3 store. It was also available through iTunes or as a physical CD on the Vans Warped Tour and Rock The Universe at Universal Studios. On October 4, 2011 they released a second EP, Is for Karaoke EP, Part 2, and also the full-length album, Is for Karaoke, which features all the tracks from both EPs.
Collapsible Lung, departure of Ethan Luck and 10th anniversary tour (2012–present)
In several interviews on YouTube, both Matt Thiessen and other band members stated that they had planned to enter the studio in November 2011 to write and record an album, which they hoped would be released mid-2012. However, due to a record label swap, the album was delayed. RCA Music Group announced it was dissolving Jive Records along with Arista Records and J Records. With the shutdown, the band (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) would release their future material on the RCA Records. In May 2012, it was announced via the band’s Twitter that recording had begun with producer Paul Moak. On February 22, 2013, Absolutepunk.net posted that the new album was finished and that details were coming soon.
On February 4, 2013, the band released a single via YouTube, in the form of a lyric video: “That’s My Jam”. According to the group, the song was used in the background of a Pizza Hut commercial. Later, the track was redone, featuring Owl City, as a iTunes bonus track for Collapsible Lung.
On March 30, the band announced at Easterfest that the new album would be called Collapsible Lung. The song “Don’t Blink” was released in the form of a lyric video on their YouTube channel. On April 19, they announced that the release of Collapsible Lung had been postponed to July 2013, and the specific date of July 2 was confirmed, along with the album cover artwork, on May 17.
On April 21, drummer Ethan Luck stated that he is no longer a member of the band. He became the on-tour guitar technician for the Cold War Kids. He and the Jo(h)ns had earlier posted that they would not be appearing on the next tour.
On May 29, the band released a second lyric video for the album on their YouTube channel entitled “Lost Boy”. This was then followed on June 29, by a third lyric video for the title song “Collapsible Lung”.
On July 2, 2013, Collapsible Lung was released as expected. The album charted well on many of Billboard’s charts, most notably topping at number No. 16 on the Billboard 200.
In June 2014, the band contributed two cover songs to Gotee Records’ twentieth anniversary album, Gotee Records: Twenty Years Brand New. They performed a cover of “Body Be” by Johnny Q. Public, as well as a tenth anniversary version of their own “Sadie Hawkins Dance”.
In July 2014, the band announced a 10th anniversary “Mmhmm” tour slated from October 30 in Louisville to December 12 in Nashville. Shortly after the tour announcement, drummer Dave Douglas announced his return to the band for the 10th anniversary tour. Both Jon Schneck and John Warne did not join the band on this tour.