Conspire is a spoken-word metal band from Tampa, Fl that released its first CD The Scenic Route earlier this year. I was instantly taken with their message, and had the honor of sharing my thoughts on the CD, resulting in a great chat with lead vocalist Parker Armstrong. When he invited me to his CD release party, I had no reservations about making the four hour drive to watch him deliver this brilliant piece in person. After the show, Parker was kind enough to sit down and answer a LOT of questions his provocative content had raised.
Shockwave Magazine: Everyone has been talking to me about you tonight: your dad, your friends, they’re all super proud of you. There was all this information coming at me at once, but I’m going to just jump in and hopefully it will sort itself out. I understand this is only your second Tampa show?
Parker Armstrong: We’ve toured a little bit, but with the lineup we have currently, this is our first Tampa show. Our first show was in July. It was at a skate park at Tampa called Transitions, but it just closed down. So, our first show ever was that venue’s last. That was pretty meaningful that we got to open that up, and nobody knew who we were. It was a lot of heavy, beat-down bands that are really sick. The reception was kind of odd because nobody knew our songs and we were performing with a spoken word kind of genre. It was cool though because even a lot of people I met from that show, I saw tonight. They came out for the second show. It was a lot bigger and better than expected.
You switched drummers during the show. Tell me about that.
Scott was up there for nine of the ten songs. He joined up before we went on tour earlier last month. Our original drummer Ryan, he kills it. He’s awesome, did great in the studio. That was almost two years ago we recorded, so he’s been a part of the band for a long time, and it feels like a lot more than one show. He [Ryan] decided to focus on school and didn’t necessarily feel that touring is a part of his life currently for what he wants to obtain. Scott has a big-boy engineering job, and his job is just like, “Yeah, totally cool, go tour.” That was a real blessing. Him and Ryan Fabian, our guitarist— everybody has been longtime friends, but they knew for a long time they were supposed to be playing music together. Ryan Fabian plays a lot of worship type ambient music in the church primarily. Scott has drummed in church as well. Their biggest band inspirationally is August Burns Red, so they like to play heavy music, but also make ambient thought-provoking songs. It was a good transition; there’s no hard feelings with our other drummer. He’s still our close friend. We’re just thankful that Scott could hop on board. He learned the songs in all of five days, it was ridiculous. But, you know, we never doubted anything. There’s been a reoccurring theme of uncertainty, but we don’t really sweat anything; we just take it as it comes.
Do you feel like you have the band put together that you want now? Do you feel like you guys are solid and ready to push forward?
Yeah, absolutely. Currently, we’re a four-piece as our bassist couldn’t go on the last tour, and he’s focusing on finishing school right now. So we’re moving forward as a four-piece. Ideally, I’d like to have the bass live just for the rock and roll aspect of it. I don’t like faking the funk by any means. It’s okay for the time being. Outside of that, I know that this is the core group. We shot a music video for “1971” and that got put out a little while ago. During the production the videographer almost, like, prophesied over the group. He was like “Yo, dude, just wanna let you know that you, Caleb, and Ryan Fabian, you guys are going to be like the main three that stick together. I think the drummer is going to leave, and I think that you guys are the three central parts to this to move forward.” Within a matter of months that played out. We’re here now and I’m pretty stoked on the current lineup.
Your dad mentioned to me that one of the schools you attending was called Thousand Oaks. So let’s talk about your first single, “Thousand Oaks.”
So the album title, The Scenic Route, is pretty much just a journey throughout the post high-school years. I had originally gone to Liberty University in Virginia. Ryan Fabian went there as well. He was a year behind me.
Is that where you met?
Yeah, that’s where we met. He was worship major there in the music school. We went to the same high school but didn’t know each other. I was friends with his sister and she told me her brother was coming. I got in touch with him and kind of said, “If you need anybody to show you around campus, hit me up,” and we ended up hanging out. At the time, there was no interest of making a band, but that came about later. We went to For Today’s show. We drove about three hours to Greensboro, North Carolina one night. This is the first show I’d been to since middle school that was a heavy show: For Today, Hundredth, Texas in July. That night I was like, “This is powerful. This is something that I want to get back into in some capacity, this scene.”
I got sidetracked talking about Fabian there. I was going to Liberty University and was definitely in the religious right community, and looked to further traditional values and Western ideology and principles. Anything I’ve ever been a part of, I feel like I’ve been genuine about it for the most part. I don’t just put my toes in anything. I want to be sincere about anything I pursue. So, I would say I was a bit of an extremist. I lived in fear of people across the world that I had no understanding of, of them, their culture, or the fear that they live in. And I let that drive me. I have always been told I’ve been a nice person, and a people person, but there was an issue where I wasn’t viewing everyone as equals. That, over a matter of time, kind of convicted me. I ended up leaving Liberty University and that entire subculture. I had a little change of heart, and I tried to stick around, but now I was a bit too cynical about how I was dealing with the change. I wanted to go to a little more open-minded atmosphere to where I wasn’t too alienated for accepting change and wanting to grow as a person.
So, I went to California and found a bible college there called Eternity. I just packed up my car and went out there and I ended up doing terrible in school. I really had no motivation academically. I was just kind of jaded by that point. Thousand Oaks was a little bit of a safe haven. My professor there for my first class, he said “I don’t know you. I think you have an interesting story that I’d love to hear.” Then without knowing anything about me, we went and shared a beer. It turned out he was writing a book on conscientious objection and pacifism within Christianity. I was able to share a bit of my story through that, and just being welcomed by a community, I really felt that I’d found the genuine place where I could prosper.
So, that’s “Thousand Oaks.” The Scenic Route starts with “1971,” which speaks about Liberty, which I love still. I love all the time I spent at Liberty and all my friends there. It was just time for me to move on. So, I went to Thousand Oaks and then, from there it just progresses.
I think I understand what you’re saying is, you can have faith and you can ask questions, but there are some places where questions aren’t accepted as a natural progression in faith. I think in your music you ask really tough questions. “Would you really put someone down? If you had the choice, would you really put, really put someone down there?”
And I think those are the things we fear asking. In that regard, you’re not telling me your faith was shaken; you just needed an atmosphere where you could explore and ask the tough questions.
Personally, I don’t know that there’s a right answer to any of those questions, but at least we can always ask. That’s what I love about the honesty of your lyrics and why they connect with people who have faith. I feel like there are Christian bands, and there are Christians who are in bands. Where do you guys fall in that spectrum?
That’s a very fine line to tow because you’ve heard of bands that claim or market themselves almost — I’ll use the word market because that happens sometimes — market themselves as a Christian band. They might sell a whole ton of merch with things that appeal to that crowd. But, they themselves either might not be devoted to that faith in particular, or they, you know — you change over time so …
You should …
Right. I just don’t want to put us in a box, basically.
I think that’s fair. I mean, what you feel, you think, and believe is always going to bleed into your music because it is honest. I think that it’s okay to say, “Look, I don’t really know where we are, and that’s where we are.”
Right, absolutely, like I said, our drummer and guitarist, Fabian and Scott, they’ve both played in the church setting and they currently do as well. Ryan has said at times that he definitely feels like he’s supposed to be doing this — somewhat of a calling he’s pursuing. I don’t necessarily call it worship. Like, I think you can worship in any capacity in life, so it just is what it is. I think that’s the coolest thing. Like tonight, there were so many people that have never been to a show like this or have even heard this type of music before, but I still — they still came up to me at the end of the show and told me that they felt, to my understanding, a little bit of what I feel when I am singing those songs. Faith in its practice is all about community. That’s the one thing I’m okay with being labeled as, as somebody that encourages community. Like we were talking about with growing, that comes about by asking questions, and just being open with one another. If we could encourage that kind of atmosphere, I’m okay sitting in that box.
I love that. That’s a perfect.
Check back tomorrow for part II of this interview, as well as photos and commentary on The Scenic Route release party on 11/25/16 at Local 662 in St. Petersburg, FL.