Flyleaf fuses rock with religion

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Limelight Magazine.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

While they do not market themselves as a Christian rock band, A&M recording artist Flyleaf definitely flirt with the line. In fact, religion and faith are very prevalent in the band’s lyrics. Their songs often focus on heavy issues, but always seem to involve the spirit of believing in a higher power to get through the turmoil.

“We are all Christians, we just don’t label ourselves a Christian rock band,” said Flyleaf bassist Pat Seals. “This may sound coarse, but we don’t want that label to stop people from liking us. Our music is for everybody. I hope our music does point them towards faith. I would hope they listen to it and become more aware of what’s out there in the spiritual realm. That is the goal of our band. It’s the only thing that holds us together and makes us really believe in it. I hope our band can stand through all the genres and the labels and just be what it is.”

Seals, who joined Flyleaf in July 2002, gelled perfectly with female lead singer Lacey Mosley, drummer James Culpepper, and guitarists Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann, who originally started the band in January 2002. The five of them got together when several local bands in the Temple, Texas, area broke up and members from different groups solidified to form Flyleaf. While Seals was with his former band The Grove, Flyleaf was in need of a bass player. They sought out Seals to fill the void.

“They called me up to see if I wanted to do it,” he said. “We just tried each other out and it’d been this way ever since.”

Over the last six years, they have been busy writing and recording albums and going on tours.

“We have one E.P. and one album,” said Seals, “The E.P. came out in 2004 and we toured on that for a short while and the album came out in October of 2005. Then, the record label wanted to add a little incentive for kids to buy our album, so they decided to re-release it with a DVD and a different booklet.”

To perfect their sound, the band worked alongside producer Howard Benson, who was a big help during the recording process.

“We were pretty intimidated going into it, but it was overall a good experience,” Seals said. “We were this baby band that was lucky to be there. We learned a whole lot and Howard is really a brilliant guy for songwriting. He works very scientifically and has a really good team of people working for him. He’s a cool guy. He’s very personable.”

But, Benson’s work alone was not the sole reason their debut album went platinum for sales of one million copies. Unlike some bands that have other artists write songs for them, Flyleaf writes all their own music and they do so as a team.

“Mostly, it is a collaborative effort,” said Seals. “Usually, Lacey or Sameer and sometimes myself will have an idea for a song – sort of a seed or a skeleton. We bring it to the group and they put the meat on the bones. James will add this or Jared will add that. We try to fit it together. It starts out on an individual basis, but the songs are written as a group. It’s a little old-school in that way.”

Seals, who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, and the Foo Fighters, prides Flyleaf’s ability to resist the urge to mimic what other bands did before Flyleaf became a group. They do their best to keep their music fresh and original and do not cite just one single band that motivated them to become musicians.

“We don’t have one influence that inspired us to do it as a band,” said Seals, who credits lead singer Mosley for giving their younger fans courage. “I’ve been on YouTube and looked up ‘Flyleaf’ and all these kids, mostly girls, will play our CD and record themselves singing along with the CD to the camera. It reminds me that what we do does influence people and a lot of little girls look up to [Mosley]. I think that’s really important. Lacey’s a good influence because she’s not selling what is being sold to children these days. She’s not trying to be this ‘it girl’ type person whose values are self-propelling. She stands for something more.”

Mosley and the rest of Flyleaf openly invite their fans to be confident, hopeful, and “fully alive.” They do this by never forgetting that their biggest influence is God.

“God gave us everything we have and it’s entwined in our nature to try to talk about Him and make Him known,” said Seals.

Interestingly enough, the name of their band even is a bit spiritual.

“I’ve come to really like the name because a flyleaf is a blank page in the front and back of a book where you sign your dedication,” Seals said. “If you look at your life like a story, that blank page is like a moment of clarity before you are born and after you die. It’s kind of your moment with God-a moment that touches eternity.”

Seals said they decided to call themselves Flyleaf after they were forced into changing their former name due to a cease and desist order.

“One of us saw ‘flyleaf’ in a dictionary or thesaurus,” said Seals. “We had been writing down words instead of practicing. Flyleaf was the last word on this list of words that Lacey read to our manager. We didn’t think it was cool or anything and she just kind of read it off, but our manager loved it.”

Another big decision Flyleaf was recently forced to make was canceling the last six shows they were scheduled to play on their tour alongside Seether because Mosley’s vocal cords had been bothering her for quite some time.

“She was feeling O.K. because they gave her a bunch of steroids,” said Seals. “But, she didn’t want to run the risk of damaging her voice when she couldn’t feel she was doing it. So, we just opted out of the last six shows of the tour and came home. She’s going well. She has a doctor in Pittsburgh that’s helping her re-learn how to use her voice a little bit. It’s not an easy thing to go through, but I think she’s going to be alright.”

While Mosley’s vocal cords heal, Flyleaf is keeping busy by writing songs for their upcoming album.

“We’ve got five songs written right now,” said Seals. “We have a long way to go, but it will hopefully be ready by the fall. As a band, we’re more than ready to get some new songs out there.”

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