Letters from Home
It’s July 2014…and Guardian is finally to releasing their first full length album in over a decade. The album, entitled “Almost Home” is a Kickstarter-funded effort that was inspired by yet another of the band’s successful Latin America tours in 2011.
“Our Latin American experience remains the sweet mystery of our careers,” says bassist and founding member, David Bach. “Our Latin American following has probably been a key factor in us still even playing together as a band. Every time we get a chance to play there, we’re greeted by large enthusiastic crowds who sing along with every word. It blows us away every time, and after our last tour, we realized that we needed to finally make a new album.”
“It was not an easy enterprise to make this album,” adds vocalist Jamie Rowe. We all have crazy busy lives these days—both in and out of the music business—and our schedules…coupled with 18 kids between all of us made it a bit more tricky to pull off a full album as quickly as we used to in our more youthful days”.
“We talk about our Latin fans a lot…and they are amazing! In truth, it was our longtime US and European fan base that heeded the Kickstarter call and helped us fund this record,” says drummer Karl Ney.
The recording process was not without its problems. After the Latin American tour, the band members were all very excited and to go in the studio. However, there were definitely challenges in regrouping as a band after such a long hiatus.
“Over the years, our musical tastes have expanded beyond the core Guardian sound—which was always quite broad anyway—and it became a bit less easy to agree stylistically on the tone of certain ideas that we’re being thrown about,” adds guitarist Tony Palacios. “It just took longer to write the songs.”
These stylistic differences were compounded by the fact that Tony Palacios and guitarist-producer Jamey Perrenot had never really worked in a two-guitar tandem before. Palacios had been the only guitarist for the majority of the bands 30-year career.
“Tony and I get along great personally”, says Perrenot, “But we have different approaches to guitar sounds and recording and it took us much longer than we thought to find our creative balance in the studio.”
With production being driven by Perrenot in his home studio in Nashville TN, he soon found himself tasked with rejuvenating a veteran band.
“To be honest, I think I brought a fresh set of ears to the process…and some new things both stylistically and sonically. I was familiar with Guardian’s prior records before I joined but I believed that we could take the sound of the band to new places where they’d never been…and I think we accomplished that on this record.”
“Jamey Perrenot is one of the best acoustic guitar players I have ever worked with,” adds Palacios. There are some textures that he brought to the album that are unlike anything we’ve done together prior as Guardian.”
“We never thought it would take us two years to make a record,” adds Bach.”There were lots of stops and starts. Life kinda gets in the way sometimes. I know we really tested our Kickstarter-backers patience. Many of them thought that we would never finish this record. We hope they will think it was worth it.”
In true Guardian style, the new album is somewhat of a stylistic and conceptual departure from prior Guardian releases—with completely acoustic pieces coupled along side some metallic jaunts—with a few pop nuggets thrown in for good measure.
“Schizophrenic rock…just like we’ve always done” laughs Palacios.
“Many interesting themes emerged as we wrote the lyrics for Almost Home—some of them quite dark”, says Rowe. “As you get older, your perspective changes. We’ve all lived life to the fullest in our own individual ways…both good and bad. As you get older, I think you become more reflective on life. I think we made a deeply spiritual record but its a different perspective lyrically from much of the current form of commercial Christian music as it exists today.”
“We really just wanted to make an honest record,” says Bach. “Warts and all. We learned a long time ago that trying to pander to a fixed genre, or music industry trends, or even a certain perceived fan base gets you nowhere. It all comes back to attempting to make honest music from the heart and hopefully some people will like it. It’s really always been our viewpoint as a band.”
“It’s a diverse record…for a rock & roll band,” chuckles Ney. There were so many more songs that we had written and wanted to finish, but we knew we had stopped and started this chapter of Guardian long enough. It would still be great to finish some of those songs. Hopefully, the story’s not over yet.”
The band is currently in negotiations for the international release and distribution of Almost Home on their own G-Man Records imprint. It will also be available direct from the band’s website.
The core members of Guardian have played together for over 20 years. In 1991, the then-newly minted lineup of Rowe, Palacios, Ney, and Bach released the Christian hard rock classic album, Fire and Love. The response to the record was overwhelming and the video for the song “Power of Love” was included in MTV’s Headbangers Ball rotation. After extensive U.S touring throughout 1991 and a European tour with Stryper in 1992, the band then released their third album, Miracle Mile in 1993. The album was a departure from their first two releases as the band began to integrate R&B and acoustic elements into their music. The album was also a hit in the Christian market and quickly rose the charts and burned up the airwaves—eventually reaching the CCM Top Five.
After a new record deal with Myrrh Records, the band followed with an experimental acoustic album Swing, Swang, Swung in 1994. The album was recorded in still producers John & Dino Elefante’s garage and featured a stripped down, bluesier based sound. Also, the band’s first Spanish album Nunca Te Dire Adiós was released in 1995—rising the band’s popularity in Latin America.
The band then switched creative gears to veteran Christian producer/artist Steve Taylor, after sharing the bill with Taylor on his worldwide Squinternational tour. Under his direction, they returned to a harder sound and released Buzz in 1995. They supported the release with yet another worldwide tour—including extensive dates in Latin America. In 1997, the band released the Taylor-produced Bottle Rocket and their second Spanish album, Promesa.
With growing shifts in the Christian rock genre and their ever-growing families (Note: Palacios has 6 children. Bach, Ney and Rowe have four children each, for a total of 18), the band decided to take some time off from their grueling tour schedule and dedicate time to other personal projects. During this time, Bach temporarily stepped down as a full-time touring member and the band released a self-produced tribute to Stryper called The Yellow and Black Attack Is Back!. The album is a direct remake of Stryper’s album of the same name. The band continued to play dates in the U.S. and abroad with touring bassist Brent Denny. In early 2001, Rowe, Palacios and Ney released a third Spanish album called Dime. It featured nine songs written in Spanish exclusively for this album and one in English.
In the summer of 2001, Guardian (including Bach) joined other legendary Christian hard rock bands on the HM Stage at the Cornerstone Music Festival near Bushnell, IL. The show was intended to be a tribute to the Christian metal heyday of the 80s and early 90s, however Guardian made the show a reunion of sorts and performed songs spanning their entire catalog. The band continued to play sporadic dates worldwide for the next few years and a few live bootleg albums surfaced as well.
In 2006, Guardian made a rare live appearance at the ARPA Awards in Mexico City where they performed a medley of some of their Spanish hits.
In 2007, Guardian joined fellow Christian-metal veterans, Bride and Tourniquet onstage in Germany at the Legends of Rock festival—with longtime band associate and Tim Bushong filling in on guitar for Palacios—who had departed for a career as a studio mixing engineer.
In 2008, the band appeared at Rock & Vida in Buenos Aires, Argentina—playing before over 100,000 people with newly added guitarist Jamey Perrenot.
In 2009, with both Palacios and Perrenot handling guitar duties, the band released “House of Guardian” — a live video documentary—as well as complimentary album releases of the same name in both English and Spanish. Guardian again appeared in Europe at the Legends of Rock festival in Germany in 2010. The band most recently appeared live in a series of Latin American shows in Guatemala, Argentina and Paraguay in 2011—with all five current members. Plans are currently underway for an Almost Home tour in late 2014.