by Tracy Darlington
Article One Interview
I had known I'd be here today, I would have paid a lot more attention
in choir and spent a lot more time practicing the guitar!"
Article One’s Nathan and Matt Piché didn’t really have a choice when it came to pursuing music. Unlike a lot of families, their parents were both music teachers. In addition, Nathan and Matt’s dad toured as a solo Christian recording artist and served as a worship leader. “He traveled a lot around Canada, so we were exposed to Christian music from a young age.”
Now as Article One, Nathan (vocals, guitars, piano, bass) and Matt (violin, mandolin, vocals) along with Dave De Smit (drums, vocals) are using the skills they honed early on to follow in their dad’s musical footsteps, albeit with a more current musical approach.
We caught up with Nathan and picked his brain on how the band began, what
they hope people will come away with when listening to their self-titled
debut, and much more.
Tracy: When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician?
Nathan Piche: I think I’ve always wanted to be a musician. When I was growing up, both of my parents were music teachers, so there was always lots of music at home. Also, my dad used to perform a lot as a solo musician and later as a worship leader at our church, so I had his example to look up to and realized that being a musician was pretty cool. After taking music lessons and then performing in other groups for years, I finally realized I could be a full time musician when I was in high school. However, I didn’t make that decision until Article One had formed and our touring schedule was starting to seriously interfere with my schoolwork!
What bands or songs have had the most impact on your life?
In a musical sense, I always like to say that the two bands I admire the most are U2 and The Beatles. I love the fact that Bono is not afraid to sing and speak about what’s on his heart, and I really believe The Beatles were one of the most creative and musically intelligent bands in history. I would also say that, for some reason, I’m often drawn more to the story behind something more than the actual event, band, record, etc. In that sense, U2 has been a real inspiration because they have been able to work together for more than 25 years and still make great music.
Also, when you read interviews by other people, you will often hear them describing U2 as a family who are incredibly loyal to one another. When you add in all the amazing work Bono’s doing for social justice in Africa, I really believe they’ve created an amazing template that bands like us can look up to and admire. At this point in my life, it’s looking like I’m going to be in a band for a long time, and they’ve set a great example (and yes, I will admit they’re not perfect) of how a band can operate.
How did Article One come to be a band?
Article One formed three years ago when Matthew (my brother) and I decided to start our own group and began writing and recording an EP. Back then we were called Appertain Display, which was really hard to remember, and there were even a few times when announcers called us Aspartame Display! Anyway, at that point, we used to hire out a backing band to play live, but after one year we met Dave De Smit, who joined the group and is still our drummer and backing vocalist. Almost a year after Dave joined, we decided to change the name, and in the spring of 2006, we officially became Article One and went full-time with the band. We’ve always spent a lot of time praying about things, and it’s been really amazing to see God lead us along one step at a time. There have been numerous occasions where we have prayed about certain problems, and in the midst of these situations, doors have opened to amazing opportunities and relationships.
Where does the name Article One come from?
Article One comes from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” After the questions above, it should be no surprise that we thought of this right around the time we went to a U2 concert in Detroit.
How did you end up signing with Inpop records?
Shortly after finishing our first tour of Canada, Dale Bray (the president of Inpop Records) contacted us and said he would like to have a meeting. Within a few weeks we got together, and he offered us a recording contract. It was a rather straightforward process. Dale is a really great guy and a really great businessman, and we’re very proud to be working with him and the staff at Inpop.
What’s special to you about your debut album?
The whole album is very special in the sense that this is our first full-length album. The entire process was new to us, and while that posed some challenges, there was a huge amount of excitement with everyone involved, and we’ll never be able to make another debut.
What is your favorite song on the album and why?
That’s a very tough question, and I think it almost depends on what day you ask. Anyway, one of my favorites is “Slow Down.” The song talks about searching for God’s will, and I really feel we came up with a good hook that’s catchy.
How would you describe your music?
I like to say we have a unique sound that incorporates Matthew’s violin playing and our three-part harmonies, while remaining accessible within the pop/rock genre. Your readers can hear a number of songs on our website at www.articleonemusic.com and our myspace page at www.myspace.com/articleonemusic .
When someone listens to your album, what message do you hope they receive?
When people listen to our music, I really hope they can relate to our songs because our music talks about different experiences and the lessons we’ve learned. Our music is very uplifting, and the messages in the songs are as well, so our hope is that people can resonate with them and be encouraged in their own lives as a result. At this point, I would say we don’t feel called to preach, but called to teach, and it’s really awesome, yet humbling, when people come up to you and say that your songs have helped them through a tough time.
Tell us about some of your classical music training and how it influences your song writing.
I studied classical piano for fourteen years, two of which were done at the university level where I majored in theory and composition. The classical training has really helped me in two ways when it comes to songwriting. First of all, it’s given me the tools to analyze and understand music at a deeper level. For example, why does some music make you feel good, while other songs put you on edge? Oftentimes, it’s the harmonic choices, and because of my training, I can talk and articulate what I’m hearing very clearly, which is something I enjoy. Second of all, I learned a lot about orchestration while I was at school, and when we did our album, I was able to write out a lot of string parts because I studied it at university. Obviously, there are tons of guys out there who are better musicians and orchestrators, but it’s nice to have a good understanding. I should also mention that I have yet to include any twelve-tone atonal music in the Article One repertoire, and I don’t think I ever will!
What do you know now that you wish you’d know when you first started in music?
When I was first starting out, I really wish I’d known I’d be a lead singer and a guitarist in a band! When I was growing up, I always dreamed about being a producer and spent time playing the piano and bass. Then, after playing in a number of bands and getting tired of being stuck in the back playing bass, I decided I needed to sing if I wanted to do things my way, and then if I was leading the band, probably the easiest instrument to do that with would be the guitar. If I had known I’d be here today, I would have paid a lot more attention in choir and spent a lot more time practicing the guitar!
Where do you do most of your song writing, and what process do you take in writing a song?
I do most of my songwriting at the piano. I’m quite a perfectionist, and it usually takes a long time to go from an idea to a finished song (and even then, sometimes I still wonder about certain lyric choices). Anyway, I usually start with an idea about what the song will be about. From there, I usually write the chorus and then work backwards to the verse, and the bridge and the intro. Once I feel confident that the song is good enough to take to the band, which usually means I’ve drafted a number of copies, we work on the song at rehearsal and see if it sounds good. If it makes it past that stage, we usually demo the song in my basement so we have a record of what we’ve done.
What kind of music would you love to write someday, but haven’t yet?
I love listening to slow, acoustic alternative music (some of Ryan Adams’ music fits this genre). I think it would be a lot of fun to write an album of slower introspective songs that are done with very sparse production. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be a hit with Article One fans because we have very energetic performances, and this music would probably put them to sleep, but someday, maybe it would make a fun side project. Actually, from a songwriting perspective, I really have a lot of respect for the guys who write country songs. It is a very competitive market and some of the songs are so clever. In fact, I do have one song in my back catalogue that’s really good, but definitely too country for Article One. If anyone knows any big time country music publishers, or Keith Urban or Rascal Flatts, I might have a song for them!!!
In your opinion, what’’s the biggest difference between the Canadian and American music scenes?
The biggest difference is easily the size. Comparable markets in the United States are usually about ten times bigger there than here. As a result, it seems like every band dreams of going to the states, and it’s often seen as the “land of opportunity”!
Who are some authors you enjoy reading?
If I’m in the mood for a quick read, I really like John Grisham. If I’m feeling like something more challenging, I’ll usually ask my girlfriend’s mom for a recommendation, and her choices are varied but have often won awards and are usually very good. I’m also a big fan of guys like Dr. Tony Campolo and Donald Miller. I believe both those men are excellent intellectuals with hearts for God, and it’s fascinating and challenging (and in the case of Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, very entertaining), to read their works.
When we’re on the road, I’ll often download podcasts if we’re missing church services due to our travel schedule. Dr. Tony Campolo and a Canadian pastor named Bruxy Cavey (who pastors The Meeting House) are two of my favorites and again, I really like them because they’re great guys with hearts for God; they’re great communicators, and they’re people who really seek out Jesus and what He has to say about life.
I’m sure you have some fun road stories. Can you share one with us?
On our first trip out west, we were driving through the mountains and noticed what looked to be a great shortcut on the map. Using the legend, we determined that this was going to be a paved side road, which would easily cut off an hour or so, as the main highway curved a lot to get where we were going. When we saw the exit, we turned off and within a minute the road had changed to a gravel surface, and within two minutes we were down to a two-lane dirt road that was so narrow there was no way to turn around. Also, at this time we realized our gas tank was at about an eighth of a tank, and we were miles and miles away from any town or resemblance of civilization.
Anyway, what proceeded was the scariest hour-long drive of any of our lives, as we inched our way up and down and around these mountains on this horribly uneven dirt path (at one point, we were leaning to the left and there was a HUGE drop off) in the middle of absolutely nowhere, where we even came face to face with a bull and a herd of cows as we passed through a valley. It felt like a movie. When we finally made it back to the highway, we were on empty but had twenty kilometers (maybe twelve miles or so) of downhill driving so we coasted all the way into the first gas station we saw! Rule of thumb - don’t take shortcuts through the mountains in western Canada!
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m lactose intolerant and love the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
When you’re not singing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love hanging out with my friends, whether that’s taking over a booth at the local restaurant, watching movies, or doing nothing. I also love going to concerts, and in the summer, I love fishing at my cottage.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Scrambled eggs, toast, and strawberry jam.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Mayonnaise, soy milk and eggs.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
I’m ordering a dessert and saying, “Why am I here? I hate coffee and this brownie is overpriced!” lol
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Right now I’m listening to Mute Math and Gordie Sampson (a Canadian who wrote the song “Jesus Take the Wheel” for Carrie Underwood) because I’m going to see them later this month. I’ve also really been enjoying some of Robbie Williams’ earlier stuff that he wrote with Guy Chambers.
When was the last time you cried?
I have no idea! I tend to talk to people if I’m upset about something rather than cry.
Anything else you’d like to say to TitleTrakk.com readers?
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.