Portland, Oregon based Fallstar takes a unique approach to the heavy music genre, delivering ambient infused hardcore on the very non-traditional label Come and Live Records. Teaming with the likes vision fueled standouts such as C&L and Veil Arms Clothing, the members of Fallstar are giving their music away while still cutting albums, hitting the road and growing a devoted fan base in the heavy music scene. As crazy as it sounds, many bands, fans and businesses want to be a part of something bigger than money alone and in doing so find a way to survive with their art and mission intact. Special thanks to Jameson Ketchum of Cadence PR for setting up this hurdcore.com interview with Fallstar bassist Bryan Ratzlaff as the band releases their debut album Reconciler. Refiner. Igniter. on Come and Live Records.
So every band looks forward to being signed by a label. At any point were you guys thinking, “Yes! We’ve finally been signed by a label – wait, they want us to do WHAT?!”
Bryan Ratzlaff – Bass: Ha Ha. Yes, there was definitely a point where that was going through our minds. But honestly we never worried much about the concept of giving out music away for free. Of course there was the question of, “How are we going to make any money and live on the road if we give our music away as a gift?” In the end we all agreed to go where God wants us, and every one of us felt a heavy push in the direction of Come&Live! If God asks us to go into an organization that asks that we give our music for free then he will make a way for us to support ourselves financially.
What about C&L made this the right fit for you?
BR: The biggest difference in C&L! is that it really isn’t a traditional record label. We learned quite a bit about the music industry and how labels work through shopping out R.R.I. And we found that most times those labels are nothing that we want to be a part of. We as individuals and as a band don’t care about making excessive amounts of money, and for the most part every label we talked to cared a whole lot. Not that wanting to make money is a bad thing, we just believe that the vision of C&L! is much more in tune to the Fallstar’s vision. We want to spread the message of Jesus, and we want to do that by playing music, from the beginning C&L has always wanted to support us in doing just that.
How do you approach the aspect of your lives where you would like to be living off of the music?
BR: I personally am just taking that step by step. I think it would be unwise to count on making enough money to live comfortably just by playing music, but I don’t believe it to be impossible. For now everything that the band makes just goes back into the band, weather it be to pay for new merch, and recording, or paying back band members, nobody is pocketing anything yet. All the guys have some alternate way of making money weather it be a regular job, or selling their blood plasma. Maybe some day Fallstar will be able to pay all of our bills but for now we are all just excited to be able to travel and play the music that we love.
Reconciler. Refiner. Igniter. are all adjectives in reference to Christ, what about these particular attributes stand out to you?
BR: These three words are really the process in which we have seen Jesus come to the aid of people who want his help. First he welcomes us back to himself with open arms, erasing all the bad things we have done and makes us clean. This part is pretty rad, there is actually a physical relief when we come back to God, like you just dropped a set of weights you didn’t know you were carrying. Then we are refined by God, as soon as we come back he starts working on us, straightening out all of the kinks and dents we have accumulated over the years. And finally “Igniter” is describing the way God’s spirit in us reacts with our souls. It is very close to the way a fire consumes a pile of wood, but instead of using us up and turning us to nothing, when God ignites souls we see men and women become something that never would have surfaced without God.
Are you Christians who make music that happens to also be Christian in tone or do you purpose to use your music as an expression of your faith?
BR: We write as an expression of our faith. People usually write about what impacts them the most, many times that will be girls, romantic relationships, politics etc. But what we have seen in Jesus blows all of those things out of the water. We have all seen how knowing God heals hurting lives and fixes broken families and we can’t help but write about that. We would be doing ourselves and everybody a disservice if we were to write about anything less.
How has music been a vehicle for growing in your personal faith?
BR: For me being in Fallstar and playing shows has been my church. The experiences that we have had with other people, and being on the road are what have grown me the most. I worry about very few things these days. I’m not scared about how I am going to make money in the future. I’m not phased when a wheel breaks off of our bus the day before we go on tour. We have had more crappy things happen to us than I can count, but God always brings us out of us in better shape than we were in before. It has been proven to us that we are taken care of.
Did you grow up in church? How/when did Christ become something personal for you?
BR: I grew up going to church. Every single Sunday for 19 years I would go, but my faith only became really my own a few years ago. I wanted to see God for myself, I had heard all about him in church and from my family, but I never really saw or felt anything that I could say was definitely God. So a while ago I decided that I needed to see him for myself. Chris speaks a lot about how each of us in the band had to find God on our own, what I did was go into my closet with all the lights off and started praying, asking God to show up. I resolved that I wasn’t going to leave that closet until I got an answer, and I got one. That is when Jesus became real for me.
Do you remember the first album/song that sucked you into the influence of heavy music?
BR: The Agony Scene – We Bury Our Dead at Dawn. When I was 13 I got a Solid State records sampler when I bought a shirt of some Tooth & Nail band that I really liked. I put the CD in and was blown away. I had never heard anything that moved me the way heavy music does. The level of energy and passion inside of heavy music got me instantly hooked.
What were the events and circumstances that lead to the formation of Fallstar?
BR: Fallstar has a crazy story. There have been more members in the band than I can count on two hands, and looking back, the chances of the current lineup being in same band together are really very low. I didn’t even play an instrument until I joined Fallstar. Jason lived in a tiny town called Monmouth 70 miles away and was told by a mutual friend to try out. Cody met a friend of ours through Craigslist and was in 2 different bands when we met him. Somehow everything worked out to where we can all play music together.
Is there any significance behind the name Fallstar?
BR: The name Fallstar comes from a story about Chris’ and my dad. A few years back he learned some pretty horrible things about his past and his family and really wanted a fresh start. So he decided that he would change his last name to disassociate himself from those things. Our last name is Ratzlaff, which if spelled backwards is essentially Fallstar, which he now goes by. We saw that as a beautiful illustration of how Jesus takes us and changes us and gives us a clean slate to start over.
Fallstar (Hardcore/Ambient – Portland, OR) is: Chris Ratzlaff – Vocals; Jason Brown – Guitar; Justin Hagg – Guitar; Cody Carrier – Drums; Bryan Ratzlaff – Bass. Their debut full length album, Reconciler. Refiner. Igniter. is available now on Come & Live Records. Keep up to date with the band via their facebook and download their album for FREE at comeandlive.com.
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What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? - Jesus