Jeremy Post of Model Engine
April 13, 1997
In the tender new world of modern Christian rock, Jeremy Post at twenty-five is a grand old man. The head of a three-piece power band, Black Eyed Sceva, whose trademarks were blank verse and unpredictable time signatures, they toured relentlessly for the past two-and-a-half years. They toured so much, they named last summer's EP after the mileage they piled on their passenger van: 50,000 Miles Davis. Two-and-a-half years is a long time in your twenties, and this seeming eternity has brought about the inevitable: change. Early this spring, 5 Minute Walk Records announced a new name for one of the first bands signed to their label. Black Eyed Sceva is now Model Engine.
The Phantom Tollbooth spoke with Jeremy Post in Antioch, Illinois about the changes and passing of time while Model Engine was on tour with Dryve and Sixpence None the Richer. It was the last stop before the bands traveled to Nashville for Gospel Music Association Week showcases. As mentioned in the interview, it was obvious the poor planning and vehicle breakdowns that plagued the tour were taking their toll on every member of the entourage. The artists were pleasant and professional, but their exhaustion was affecting their performances. Model Engine and Sixpence None The Richer decided later that week in Nashville to abandon the second half of the tour.
Linda - You've been signed to 5 Minute Walk Records for over two years. I imagine . . .
Jeremy - A few things happened to the band, yeah!
Linda - Starting with your new name.
Jeremy - We have new band members, new songs, a new contract set up with 5 Minute Walk, new distribution, so it was time to get a new name. We didn't have to, but Black Eyed Sceva was not the perfect name for us. People mispronounced it all the time. In Europe they always spell it with a 'k' so they'd say, "Black Eyed Skeva." Black Eyed Sceva had a certain Biblical meaning, but even that got us into trouble; people would ask, "Why did you choose that?" This time we picked something that's easy to say and spell and doesn't have a deep meaning. It's just a name to identify the band.
Linda - Your writing has changed, too?
Jeremy - Totally. Life experience is our biggest inspiration for writing, and over the last few years, our life experience has changed quite a bit as a result of the band. We've done so much traveling and met so many different people, my perspective on a lot of things has changed, and that's reflected in the songs. I've learned a lot about God and this faith, and I've grown to love God more and religion less.
Linda - You never liked religion much.
Jeremy - (laughs) No, but I think traveling has been the best thing for me. It's nice to see how other Christians serve the Lord. God uses people in so many different areas and walks of life. If I just sit out in my house in California and that's all I see, I get a pretty limited view. So it's nice to go across the states, or go to Europe and see how Christians adapt to their environment, finding the different ways people serve.
Linda - Your new material has more graphic language. "Reeberbahn," for example, is about your encounter with a prostitute before going on stage in Hamburg, Germany. Why do you choose such harsh subject matter?
Jeremy - That's not something we've tried to do. I've been writing songs for a long time, and a lot of people considered the songs that ended up on our albums abrasive because of the things they talked about. What I thought was pretty nice and mellow, people thought was on the edge of being too graphic. As I've matured, I've come to think that life is graphic and abrasive a lot of times. If you're going to be writing songs about that, you have to bring those elements in or you're not being honest. That's why I appreciate Vigilantes of Love so much because Bill Mallonee writes so poetically about real struggles.
We definitely are in the Christian market. We end up playing with bands, though, whose thing is writing songs that are more at home in a church--talking about Jesus, praising the Lord with terms that are easy for the Christian community to swallow--whereas I would hope that our music praises God in a way that is real. I see life, I see the down side of it, and I go, "Wow! God's doing a work here?" If I can convey the way that I see God glorified, I think that will glorify God all the more, but it's not going to be cheerleading other people to praise the Lord. Our job, our calling is to say, "This is my life. This is my experience, and here's how God worked through this experience to change me." Hopefully, that will be reflected in our music.
Linda - Is that something that's developed over time?
Jeremy - Sure. It's going to seem abrupt when the album comes out. People are going to go from the last album to the next one, and they're going to say, "Whoa, what an abrupt change!" But it's been a gradual thing. People who have the last album can listen to that one minute and then throw this album in, but there are two years or so of experience between those two. There were issues in our past songs that I was dealing with that were more about religion, about church issues. Some of those songs are five years old. Now I'm much further along in my walk with God, and my songs have changed with it.
Linda - A lot of what you wrote in the past was based on philosophers.
Jeremy - Yeah! Because I was in college.
Linda - What are you chewing over these days as far as philosophy?
Jeremy - These days? I've been reading a lot of Steinbeck lately. He's not a philosopher, but he definitely has philosophies on life. I'm reading this book right now, Autobiography of a Yogi, and it's got a lot of Hindu stuff in it. I think learning about other religions helps me appreciate why I believe what I believe, and all the more shows me that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Unfortunately, I don't have a philosophy class anymore. That was so great to have all these philosophers thrown in front of me all the time. For me, it was just a hobby. I was never a serious student of philosophy; I was an environmental studies major.
Linda - And how do you apply that to your job?
Jeremy - (laughs) I should've been a social science major, with all the people we meet.
Linda - You put out an EP recently, 50,000 Miles Davis. Was the thought at that point that there'd be another Black Eyed Sceva album?
Jeremy - Oh, totally! That was just a little hold over before our next album, but we had some issues in that band that were causing us to be unproductive. Unfortunately, there is this huge gap between the EP and the thing that Model Engine is going to come out with. A lot of these songs were rehearsed with Black Eyed Sceva, we just never played them live. Brandt, our old drummer, will be familiar with most of the stuff that comes out on the next album.
It takes me a long time to write songs. I come up with the idea and then I sit on it. By the time the album comes out, I know if I'm going to like that song or not. I have friends who really enjoy throwing a song together in the studio and putting it on the album. You might like it at first, but then you sit on it for a couple of months, and you're like, "Oh gosh!"
Linda - And you're stuck singing it.
Jeremy - For the rest of your life! So we sit on them for a while, and I make little changes before they go on the album.
Linda - Do you think people will be able to listen to both of your CD's and identify them as two different groups?
Jeremy - It's hard to say. There's the quality of the recording; we're using a more professional studio, and we have the resources to do a better recording. That's our biggest problem with our old stuff. We like the songs, but the sound isn't that great. We're using the same producer on this album, it's just we're using a lot better equipment. I think they'll just see a band further down the road. We have a new drummer, we have a totally different style, we have a guitar player that's playing with us just for the album and he's got great hooks. It's going to be "now."
Linda - Is he touring with you now?
Jeremy - He's touring with us now, and he'll probably play with us whenever he wants in the future, but he's got his own thing going.
Linda - I hear you do covers (of Black Eyed Sceva).
Jeremy - (laughs) Oh, yeah, we do play Sceva covers. We know about seven Sceva songs. We have a lot of fans, and every fan we have is a Black Eyed Sceva fan. They know those songs. I know bands that have changed their name or whatever and said, "We refuse to play any of the old stuff," but we're proud of those songs and we're proud of what we did in that band, so why not? We'll continue to play those songs for a long time to come.
Linda - So this is not a bitter divorce?
Jeremy - No, not at all! Unfortunately, I think that's the cliche when a name changes--that it is a divorce, that the band had this huge fight--but that wasn't the case. There were definitely some issues that needed to be addressed, but there was nothing violent or harsh. We still live with Brandt, our old drummer.
Linda - You're listed in all the Summer festival ads as Black Eyed Sceva.
Jeremy - Oh, that's fine! We got into everything we cared to be in. That's great that we're able to do that. All the more, it's a great time to let people know that the album is going to be out under a different name. That's fine if we're Black Eyed Sceva. You never know. We might end up playing nothing but Black Eyed Sceva songs because we're still glad to play those songs.
Linda - Let's talk about the tour. Sixteen of you in one van today because the other one broke down. What do you do for fun on tour?
Jeremy - This tour hasn't been much fun. We've had more problems on this tour than we've ever had in our lives with any traveling. Pretty much every day has brought a new adventure. Your van breaking down once on tour is a big deal; our van broke down twice just yesterday. And it's broken down several other times on this tour. It's random stuff. I don't know how we could've prevented it, but luckily we're with Dryve and Sixpence. There aren't many bands that would've been able to hold together.
Linda - So there has been no fun on this trip.
Jeremy - Fun in the midst of disaster, so I have no complaints. It's kind of funny because we're so spoiled. Frank Tate (president of 5 Minute Walk Records) booked our tours the last few years, and we've had the most well-thought-out tours of anyone I know. I think there are a lot of people that are laughing at us now because there might have been a little envy about how easy things were in the past. Now we're paying our dues.
Linda - How many shows are you doing a year?
Jeremy - Last year, I think we did about 200. This year, I'd be surprised if it's half that because we've slowed down. Last year, we got really burned out, but we enjoy touring, playing live. That's really what it's all about.
Linda - What new projects in Christian music excite you these days?
Jeremy - The last thing that really excited me was that Vigilantes of Love compilation. I love that. They're my favorite band in all of Christian music. Anything that they're doing excites me. I haven't really heard anything recently. I used to hear a lot more. I know I wish that Sixpence would come out with another album because their new material, the stuff they're playing on this tour, is pretty darn good.
Linda - Anything else you want to tell people on the Internet about yourself or Model Engine?
Jeremy - Drop us a line if they have any questions, and we'll be glad to answer them; we answer our mail. And support the Vigilantes.