by Tracy Darlington
"Our mission as a band is to plant seeds. And then help them grow. If you're living your faith, unbeknownst to you, you're acting as a witness." --Lu Rubino
“We Are Not Alone.” It is more than simply an album title. It is a confession that pulses with a white-hot intensity through every song of St. Augustine, Florida-based rock band Storyside: B’s latest project; and courses through the lifeblood of each of its members.
Lead vocalist/guitarist Lu Rubino and drummer Jordan Mohilowski banded together in 2003 to win the band division of the Exalting Him talent competition. It didn’t take long for their unique sound and intense work ethic to entice Detroit native Ron McClelland to join the band on bass and keys. The irrepressible Texan, Preston Pohl soon added his stellar guitar chops to the mix. Since then Storyside: B has patiently honed their diverse backgrounds and musical proclivities into a unique and unified sound which has inspired a mad following of fans who have - in turn - propelled the band into the forefront of the Christian music scene.
I caught up with Lu to chat with him about We Are Not Alone, what motivates this band, how they got started, and much more.
Tracy: You guys got your first exposure playing on TBN’s “Exalting Him” talent search back in 2003, but it wasn’t until later when you met Tobymac that things really started falling into place. Can you tell us a little about the night you performed some songs in Toby’s bus?
Lu Rubino: After we played that competition we decided to start working with a management company. The company had us release one of the songs we wrote and produced ourselves to radio. It was “More to This Life”. We released that song independently, and based on the little bit of success it had, we started doing showcases. When we met Joey Elwood, the president of Gotee records (who’s Tobymac’s cousin) we were just like, “Wow, this guy is a real guy.” He’s a very professional businessman, but he just exudes integrity, generosity, and a spiritual nature. So we thought, “If this is any indication of what Gotee is like, then that’s where we want to be.”
We hit it off with Joey immediately. About a week later our manager called us and said, “Toby’s coming into town on tour with Third Day, and he wants to meet you tomorrow night.” So we brought our acoustics, drove there and saw his set (which is a great concert) and then went backstage while Third Day was on. They’re a super loud band, so we could barely hear each other. We ended up going out onto his bus. We brought our acoustics out there and did some stuff we had been recording. We ended up hanging out for three hours. It was awesome. We just hit it off, and in no time we were officially Gotee artists.
Were you at all nervous?
There comes a point where you have to put the nerves aside and say, “OK, if this is what God’s will is for me, then let’s just roll with it.” Being nervous isn’t gonna help.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician?
When I was six years old I remember being able to sing harmonies, not even knowing they were called harmonies. They were just another note that fit. MTV was a big part of my life, back when there was actually music on MTV. I used to stand in front of the tv when I was young and play air guitar. I just loved it. It inspired me. When I was 14 I started playing guitar, and I was fortunate enough to have a high school that is very arts oriented, so I started taking a bunch of music classes because it came very naturally to me. I knew before long that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I started doing it professionally by the time I was 17. Actually playing and making money. I was like, “Wow! I can do what I love to do and make money!” Then when I figured out I could actually have a higher purpose and glorify God and encourage people through music, it was a no brainer for me.
I come from an old school, stereotypical, big, Catholic, Italian family. I’m the first person in my family to be born in the United States. I always had that traditional, sacramental, somber idea of spirituality, and I still draw from those experiences. But when I was 14 I learned that there is a great experience in celebrating the joys of being with God and having a personal relationship. To me at that time, I hadn’t been reflecting that. Then in my later teenage years I got sucked into worldly things like drugs. I still loved God though, and I started researching other religions, like eastern philosophies such as Buddhist simple truth and proverbs. I found a lot of meaning and wisdom from those things, but I still yearned for that personal relationship. Finally, I gave my life back to the Lord. Almost immediately I started writing with somebody, and we came up with our first song, “Miracle”. That was our first radio single. I’ve never looked back.
How does your new album We Are Not Alone compare to your debut album?
Musically, our first record was just me and Jordan [Mohilowski]. We pretty much wrote every song except for a few where other writers had some input. It had more of a mid-town, melodic rock sort of vibe. The lyrical content was taken more from personal experience. I’d been through a lot growing up going back and forth in my faith, and I took from those struggles to write those songs.
For our second record, we have two more guys in the band, and they had a lot more to do with the writing. Musically we have a wider variety of influence. Since we had toured for almost two years since our debut and met so many people . . . everybody from your average white kid behind the picket fence to your 38-year-old convicted felon. Women who are struggling to find a good Christian man for a husband. Children who are going through all of the difficulties of adolescence, and trying to be a Christian on top of it. Lyrically we drew from all these common threads. Everybody is a unique expression of God’s love. We are not alone.
What’s your favorite song on the album and why?
Every song is personal for me; I love them each for different reasons. The first one that comes to mind is “Be Still”. It’s a lighter song musically, but lyrically it speaks to me so much because I have a great love for the human race, and a compassion for what people go through. So many people are broken. I’m trying to speak to those people and explain that if you are seeking God’s will, you are able to hear the voice of God by just quieting your mind and listening. It’s so powerful. Then you’ll realize we’re not alone in the body of Christ. We have a responsibility to encourage each other and not break each other down by judging and putting other people in a Christian box. God doesn’t judge our flesh. God judges the content of our hearts.
“All Along” is musically a song that gets me really excited, ‘cause it’s the kind of song I really loved listening to when I was younger, like Police. It’s more progressive musically. And I love the melody in it. Then there’s “Don’t Let it Go”, which is a total rocker, and I’m a rocker at heart. It’s a fun song for us to play live too ‘cause it’s got a lot of energy, and it’s a little bit darker.
Then there’s a song on the record called “Sister” which speaks to women who are having a hard time finding a mate. They’re thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find a husband?” Well, there’s nothing wrong with you. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be right now, and God has created you perfect. You have to be still and know that God is preparing the heart of someone for you right now. Just be patient and keep seeking His will.
You’re quoted as saying, “Storyside:A is what people see on the outside; Storyside:B is what’s on the inside, our hearts and our relationship with God. That’s what this album is about” Could you expand on that?
The record is really diverse; we’re able to be relevant to a wide range of people. Our album takes you through a lot, musically speaking. Lyrically it has a common thread. We Are Not Alone--God is with us all the time. Not only God as our Father in heaven, but if you’re open to God’s love, you can see it everywhere you go. In a friend or an intuition you may have, or a simple coincidence. You might hear a song that is exactly where you are. The more you stay open to those things, the more you realize that cosmically you are not alone. We have a universal connection with everyone. It gives us purpose to provide service for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the whole world.
What is Storyside:B’s mission as a band?
Ultimate world domination! (Laughs.) The first goal is to remain faithful and in God’s will. If we seek God first, everything else will trickle down. We want to encourage as many hearts as possible. We love what we do.
We also want to keep growing on the business level so we can keep doing this as a career that provides for our families. Being in the Christian music industry is not always very lucrative. It’s really difficult to do what we do. We have a high overhead, and it’s hard to make ends meet sometimes. But the main purpose is to do what God wants us to do. When we see the response we’ve been getting from “Be Still”, where people who have never heard the song before lift their arms are in the air and sing along with us, and the floods of Myspace messages about how people are encouraged by that song. That is validation that we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do. It’s wonderful and humbling. You realize it’s so much more than four guys sitting in a room writing a song. God is using us.
What has been your most unusual or embarrassing road story?
I got a chance to fly in a stunt plane last week. A radio promoter friend of ours hooked us up with a stunt pilot in Illinois. He took us up, and he actually let me take off and land the plane. It was a 1956 Cessna 172. It was so fun. While we were up there, he did all these barrel rolls and crazy stuff. It was nuts! We’ve got a video of it on our Myspace.
Why do you think music is such a powerful force in people’s lives?
Music is a language that knows no barriers. It speaks to everyone’s heart, whether they admit it or not. It resonates in our bodies, minds, and in our souls. It can change your mood. It can take you from a bad day to a great day. It can make you sad and wanting to cry about something. It can dig up old feelings and insecurities you’ve been harboring for a long time. It can do so many things. Then when you add lyrics, not just positive, it can encourage people to break the law. As a musician, I take it as a great responsibility to do something positive with my music, because there are so many negative alternatives out there. I want to be the lighter side of that.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you or the band?
We just got into this sport called air soft. It’s kind of like paint ball, but they’re like BB guns. We run around and shoot each other with these BB guns. We have a really good time doing that. You try not to get hit, ‘cause it’ll break the skin! I got shot between the eyes, and it bled. That wasn’t fun! I like it better than paintball because the paint is kind of messy. And actually paintballs leave really big welts and bruising.
You’re in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
I usually get a black and white mocha. It’s regular chocolate and white chocolate. It’s a little bit sweeter. I have a sweet tooth. And whipped cream on top.
What’s currently in your cd player or ipod?
I’ve been listening to a band called Aqualung. I’ve been loving them lately. Let’s see, let me look. (Pauses.) A band called Elbow. They’re both Brit rock bands. I’ve been into Brit rock lately. Maybe I need to go to London! I’ve actually been putting a bunch of music in my iPod because I’m going on vacation tomorrow. My wife and I are going to Belize. Three days in Guatemala to see the ancient ruins in the jungle. We belong to a sailing club, and we’re going on a 50 foot Catamaran along the islands of Belize. It’s going to be the most incredible vacation ever. We go snorkling, and we’ve done ship wrecks, and we’re going to dive at this place called Shark Alley. It’s a little scary, but I’m excited at the same time. My friend says there are hundreds of sharks everywhere, but they don’t mess with you.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Soymilk. I love soymilk. I’ll use plain for the cereal. I like vanilla in my Chai tea. Chocolate is also good. I eat a lot of hummus and salsa. And fish. I love fish. I eat a lot of sushi too. It’s not usually in the fridge, but I love sushi. You either love it or hate it.
Are there any musicians you consistently turn to for inspiration?
Sometimes I listen to our music. That might sound self-absorbed, but it’s not. It encourages me lyrically, but I’ll listen to something I’ve done and it encourages me to know I’m doing something. When I’m not being productive I sometimes struggle with depression. That depression comes out of me if I have a couple days where I feel like I’m not getting anything done.
I listen to Red. They’re friends, and we toured with them. But usually I just turn to the people who are closest to me. We’ve got a band pastor, and if I’m struggling with something I’ll call him up. And I talk to my parents about everything. I’m so blessed that I have a relationship with them where I can do that.
Let’s say you’re sitting across the table from a teen who’s really unsure about Christianity and God? What kinds of things would you say to them to encourage them to give God a try?
The approach I take is I don’t just talk at people. I don’t say, “You should try God in your life.” ‘Cause a lot of kids, especially kids, they don’t wanna hear that. Kids want to be validated. They want to know that they’re special, and that the emotions they’re having are real. So what I do is I ask questions and let them tell me where they are first. I think that’s more important. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. So after talking to a person you start to build a trust with them because you’re listening. I say things like, “Hey, I understand where you’re coming from and what you’re going through. And this is what worked for me when I was going through exactly the same thing. You can turn to me and I’ll always be here for you, because I’m your brother. You can trust me.”
Our mission as a band is to plant seeds. And then help them grow. If you’re living your faith, unbeknownst to you, you’re acting as a witness. Not just by knocking on the door and being a witness, but by being a character, who you are. People are going to see you are a Christian. On the other hand, they’re going to see our faults, too. You have so many people that say, “Aw, Christians. They think they know everything, but they’re just a bunch of hypocrites.” You know what? Yeah, we are a bunch of hypocrites, but the thing is we are trying to live a certain way. All of us fall short. There is no one who is without sin. But the point is, I’m not a Christian because I know better or because I’m better than anybody else. I’m a Christian because I need help. I’m not perfect, and I screw up just like everybody else does. But you have a choice. God has given us a choice, the option to recommit and rededicate our lives toward love and forgiveness. We have to forgive ourselves, too.
Is there a specific incident or story that has impacted your songwriting or the way you do a show?
We were on the road one day in between Arizona and California. Out there it’s nothing but desert, and driving through the desert you can go 100mph. There’s nobody out there. But one day we started to slow down, and there was traffic. We realized there was a wreck up ahead. I raised up the shade to see. There was a car that had rolled over and maybe even exploded because it was kinda blackened, and the windows were broken out. As we got a little closer I saw a big white sheet. Out from underneath that sheet was somebody’s arm. I saw somebody’s arm. Somebody lost their life that day. My drummer said, “I wonder if that person woke up this morning knowing this day would be their last.” Of course not. We never know that. So our song “More to This Life” is basically about taking every opportunity to reach into yourself and love and forgive. Life’s too short. There’s so much more we have to be thankful for than we do to be sorry for.
What type of music would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I’m pretty much in the middle of what I love to do. I love writing rock, doing hard rock guitar riffs. I also love orchestrating the string parts, like violins and cellos. I play cello now so I’m more orchestra minded. And I’m a producer. When we’re not on tour I’m at home working on the careers of other Christian bands.
For our first record I recorded and produced the whole thing. The second record we decided to hire a producer, but I still spoke into every part.
Anything else you’d like to share with Titletrakk.com readers?
My favorite part of what we do is being able to share and hang out after the shows. That’s when we really get to connect with the audience, and especially the young people. We love to hang out. We get to hear so many different stories, and we encourage people to give their testimonies. We build relationships. No matter how many are in the crowd, I love hanging out and building those personal relationships. You never know when you’re going to be able to encourage somebody and help somebody out of a tight spot.
We get so many Myspace messages from young people who are like, “I didn’t know who to turn to, and I trust you,” because I talked to them. I made them feel special, because they are. People will say things like, “I’ve been cutting myself.” Or “My uncle has been molesting me.” Or even, “I’m having a bad day.” Just being able to speak into their lives is the best thing. It’s service. I love being able to give that. You never know when that person at the show’s saying, “I’m having a really bad day” is really on the inside thinking, “I want to end my life today”. You never know when you will be able to talk that person off the ledge, so to speak.
We’ve got some really fun touring coming up. We’re doing Shoutfest in the fall, which is three months long. It’s going to be a lot of fun hitting major cities on the weekends. On the off days we’re going to be touring with Building 429 and the Afters. I’m actually playing bass for the Afters, so that’s really exciting for me, too because before I was a guitar player I was a bass player.
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.