Trevor McNevan – vocals, guitar, songwriter
Joel Bruyere – bass
Steve Augustine – drums
Just a year-and-a-half after Thousand Foot Krutch landed their second consecutive Hard Rock No. 1 and Billboard Top 10 album with the understated experiment OXYGEN: INHALE, the adrenaline-doused rockers are back to the aggressive side of the dial with the entirely new companion collection EXHALE. Not only is the experience loaded with arena-shaking anthems and bellowing battle cries at every self-assured turn, but the lyrics are some of the boldest and most uncompromising in the group’s history.
“I had gotten the idea a few years back of having an album called Inhale showcasing the lighter, quieter side of the band that's always been a part of our albums, allowing us the freedom to dig deeper into that than we have before. And then to have an album called EXHALE that drops the gloves and dives even deeper into the aggressive side of the band. We didn’t get soft on the last one! I promise!” laughs front man Trevor McNevan. “It was always meant to be a two-part story."
Besides bursting out of the stereo and ear buds upon the initial listen, EXHALE is also poised to rip off the roof in concert. In fact, McNevan, bassist Joel Bruyere and drummer Steve Augustine specifically crafted the collection to translate seamlessly between the two environments, rather than over producing the songs in a manner that would be impossible to duplicate.
“Lately my wife and I have been looking at houses and we’ve seen photos of places online that look amazing, but then when you actually go see them for yourselves, they look nothing like the photos,” he observes. “It’s basically a great photographer and not a great house, which is exactly what we don’t want to have happen when people come see us live. During the making of EXHALE, we spent more time on certain elements to make sure we can capture that accurately since live shows are such a big part of who we are.”
One instant point of connection from the studio to the stage is the lead single “Running With Giants,” which in light of being the fastest chart riser in TFK’s history, has thus far been met with feverish live reactions. And it’s easy to see why given its unapologetic, gate-charging bursts of infectiousness, paired with an assertive message to empower even the most unlikely underdog.
“If there was a song that best encompasses the ‘release the dogs’ symbolism of the new album’s title, it would be this one,” notices McNevan. “In life, everyone wants to put you in a box, and label you, but your value or success doesn’t depend on what others think of you. Follow your own convictions, dreams and inspirations, and don't be afraid to step over your fears. The faith steps in our lives define our journeys, and that's what this song is about."
That musical momentum continues throughout “Incomplete,” another unbridled riff rocker that just begs to be played at full blast with the top down. “It’s a song about our journeys in life, personally inspired by our journey as a band,” continues McNevan, laughing as he recalls the band’s early days of playing for pizza and having a hole in the van floor that was literally a portal to the open highway below as they drove. “No one sees behind the curtain in others’ lives; the sacrifices made, the obstacles faced, the mountains climbed, or the fear, faith and failure involved to stay the course. This song says ‘we’re not perfect’ and that’s ok.’ We’re not expected to be, but we’ll fight tooth and nail for the truth we know and the journey that’s before us.”
Indeed, there’s a whole lot of history behind that heart on the group’s remarkable expedition dating back to 1997, which has amassed over 1.1 million albums sales, ten Active Rock hits, countless soundtrack slots, plus a massive presence in professional sports. In addition to being regulars on ESPN, the Ontario-bred artists are staples of the NFL (including the Super Bowl), MLB, NHL, NCAA, WWE and NASCAR. All the while, TFK tallies about 25,000,000 monthly views in combined streaming across all of YouTube, and since going independent in 2012, have sold an astounding 350,000 albums, a million singles and garnered 54 million streams!
“This hasn't been an overnight thing for us, it's been a journey. We're like an all-terrain vehicle who rarely pops out on the highway,” laughs McNevan. “We're always learning, and that’s the beautiful thing about this ever-changing music industry that we’re in. The rule book kind of got burnt and we’re starting again. That’s not saying you’re recreating the wheel by any means, but you’re definitely recreating the vehicle. When we finished our deal in 2011, we had some big record deals on the table with more money than we’d ever been offered, so it wasn’t easy to go our own way. But even these themes on EXHALE come from those experiences of taking steps of faith and being willing to go to a place that isn’t comfortable. You don’t have to understand all the details because if we had to have the right business plan with every detail written down on paper, every move we made, we would’ve never survived in music for 20 years."
Even with all that experience, TFK have kept their feet firmly planted on the ground in their pursuit to press on despite the unknown, a concept that certainly plays into the pummeling “Can’t Stop This.” Rather than coming across as cocky, as the title might casually imply, it’s a true testament to their tenacity, unwavering commitment to their principles and refusal to ever let the roadblocks take them down for the count. “Maybe we have a few more tools to fight with these days,” considers McNevan, “but we still fight every bit as hard.”
Another interesting ripple surrounding EXHALE and the guys’ ongoing quest to utilize the cards they’ve been dealt is their commitment to pouring back into their audience. Long before the project hit streets, TFK gave away the second chances-themed rocker “Born Again” as a free download to thank fans for their support. Received by fans so plentiful that they spanned more than 120 countries, clearly the band’s reach continues to cross musical and cultural borders. Perhaps this is most evident throughout the album’s gritty yet uplifting centerpiece “The River,” which explores the idea of redemption through the universal metaphor of being “washed in the water.”
“Ideally I hope that the songs connect with people where they are at,” the singer sums up. “I hope they can relate to music and it can help them through the obstacles they are facing and also accompany them in their victories. I’ve learned through the years that if you write a song that’s honest to you, there’s a good chance quite a few other people can relate to that, even in totally different ways than you can imagine. I share stories with songs and listeners share stories face to face. Communicating together is like a two-way street and it’s the heart and soul of why we do what we do.”