Chatting with Sameer Bhattacharya (Flyleaf)

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I love how you play your guitar with a cello bow during your live shows! How did you come up with that?

I don’t play a cello or violin or anything cool like that, I got the idea from watching the Smashing Pumpkins video for “Stand Inside Your Love”. There’s this shot of James Iha using the bow, and it was just so elegant, you know? Like the camera shot was coming up and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. In the song he doesn’t actually use a bow, they just did it for the music video, but visually it was so compelling that I had to try it.

That’s a really cool idea, it’s so majestic.

Majestic! That’s a really good word, yeah. (laughs)

Would you ever consider taking up those instruments now?

Yes! Absolutely. I really wanna learn to play violin and cello. There’s something so beautiful about it, there’s so much depth in the notes.

Has your songwriting process changed as the members of the band have shifted? Was it different writing with Lacey [Sturm] vs Kristin [May] and their different vocal styles?

I think something that’s changed is that Lacey is very rhythmic in her melodies and in her parts, and Kristen is so melodic. She uses all the notes in very tasteful ways, which is awesome.

What’s your usual songwriting process?

There isn’t really a set way that we write songs. Pat, Kristen, or I will bring a full song to the band, and sometimes it gets to you. In the case of “So I Thought”, “City Kids”, or “Ship of Fools”, which Pat wrote, we just used the song in its entirety without really changing much. But then there are songs like “Home”, which was like three songs that I’d written, torn apart, and put together, and then Kristen added a verse, and that turned into a song. And then there are songs like “Green Heart”, where Jared just came up with this riff, and the entire song is built around that. So there’s no set way that we write music—when it comes, it comes. You can’t stop it!

Yeah, it’s cool when it’s spontaneous.

Yeah, absolutely. If you force an idea, it’ll sound that way. So its very important that songs come about naturally. Cause if we’re harping on some idea and it’s not really working but we’re really pushing for it, the end product’s gonna sound really forced.

Do you still identify as a “Christian band”?

I don’t think we ever really identified ourselves as a Christian band. Our faith is definitely the most important part of what we do, but for me personally, I really feel like using the label “Christian band” is kind of using the name of Jesus as a marketing tool. That’s weird to me. Even the term “Christian industry” is an oxymoron, you know, people making money on Christianity. They’ve made a business of it, and I don’t think its right.

But your faith has influenced your music.

Absolutely. I think that if we didn’t have that faith as our base, I don’t think our songs would mean as much. I don’t think our songs would impact the lives they have impacted if there wasn’t that message of salvation, you know?

What is your favorite song to play live?

“Head Under Water” is at the top of my list right now for songs to play live. Just the energy of it and the message of it—of being torn down and told you’re something, when you know in your heart that you’re something better.

How has the audience vibe been on this tour so far?

It’s been good, I feel like in some venues they’ve been a little… I don’t know what the word is… I think they’re just really cold! (laughs) Cause like in between songs they’re like “Yeah!” but then during songs they’re just kind of watching it, you know. But everyone’s been very attentive, which is awesome. It’s almost like when we first started and we’d start playing and people would stop what they’re doing to watch. And I feel like it’s that again, which is very very cool.

That’s really cool actually, cause usually I think it’s weird when people don’t dance during shows.

Yeah, cause I’ve noticed that people are dancing less and less. Is that just something that’s happening?

I’m not sure, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people are holding up their cellphones, but I think that should definitely be brought back. People should be able to dance at shows. There doesn’t have to be a hardcore mosh pit—

Yeah, like some garage band or something.

Cause I was dancing, but a lot of people were just standing there.

It’s like they’re spectators, like they’re just watching television instead of engaging in the show. I don’t know, I guess times have changed. (laughs)

But that’s a cool way to think about it– that people are really paying attention to everything.

Yeah, it’s not like they’re just like hanging out and talking to their friends while the show is going on, everyone has been engaged on this tour and it’s really cool.

Do you have any crazy tour stories?

I do have some crazy tour stories. A couple of tours ago, [my tour manager, Katy, and I] were butting heads pretty badly, mostly about scheduling stuff. I was being very rebellious. She’d round us all up and she’d call us all saying, “Where are you… be here… it starts in 10 minutes, blah blah blah.” And I’d walk up like seconds before set time. Walk up, grab my guitar, and go onstage– cause I was always wandering around somewhere, but I’d always make it right in the nick of time. And I would get so mad, I was like, “What, you think I’m gonna miss the show?”And she said, “Okay, fine.” And so the next day I’m sitting in the bus and our merch guy calls and he’s like, “Hey man, what are you doing?” And I say, “Hey, I’m just playing guitar and hanging out on the back of the bus, what’s going on?” And he’s like, “We’re two songs in”. (laughs) I missed two songs on the first day!

I’m really into your look! It’s really contrasting from the stereotypical “rock star in all black” image of a lot of hardcore bands. Do you have any style inspirations?

I don’t know! Let me think. I like Elijah Wood’s style, it’s relaxed but it’s not bummy. Everything fits, you know. I like clothes that fit. I can’t wear anything too baggy or too tight. And its very difficult to find clothes that fit because I’m a really tiny dude and its hard to find men’s clothes in my size. And then I try to shop in the boy’s section, but if it’s the right length, its too wide, and if it’s the right width, its too short!

Well, you look really put together!

Thank you! (laughs)

Any final sentiments?

Just thanks to all the fans for supporting us over the years, supporting us through the crazy transitions. I really hope that “Between the Stars” will speak to them on a very deep level.

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