Theandric began as a solo project when I was in my twenties, but I’ve been making music ever since I was in grade school. After several years of imposed and torturous piano lessons, I convinced my parents to buy me a bass guitar. I was about 12 years old when I began taking regular bass guitar lessons at the local music store, and later I picked up acoustic and electric guitar as well. As a teenager, I was a big fan of hard rock and heavy metal, but later my interests broadened to include a wide range of music, including jazz, classical, and world music. With regards to the name “Theandric”, it was a theological word that I heard used in a homily once. At the time I didn’t know what the word meant but I thought it sounded cool! I thought it would make a great band name. After I learned the meaning, I found that it was the perfect word to express my musical philosophy, which is essentially to allow my human nature to cooperate with the divine nature in the creative act. Even though Theandric started as a solo project, I’ve always had the vision of including more musicians under the Theandric banner, and we’re starting to get there with the addition of the talented Elizabeth Esqueda to our group.
As for influences, there are a few artists and composers that I would consider my favorites, and you’ll see that they are quite diverse: in terms of rock music I really like Genesis, King’s X, Iron Maiden, and Juliana Hatfield. In terms of classical and sacred music: Messiaen, Arvo Part, and Sir John Tavener. In the Christian music realm I really like Fr. Stan Fortuna, Tori Harris and the acclaimed guitarist Phil Keaggy. In particular, the guitar playing of Phil Keaggy has had a tremendous impact on the development of my acoustic guitar playing.
2) You have a new album out entitled "The Door of Faith". It has a very different sound than your previous metal album "Up the Irons". Was this intentional from the beginning and can we expect more of the same in the future?
The EP “Up the Irons” was really my first experience in making a professional sounding recording and releasing it worldwide. The music style was in tribute to one of the my favorite bands, Iron Maiden, whose music I’ve enjoyed since I started playing guitar almost 25 years ago. But it really wasn’t meant to define all my musical intentions - it was just a fun musical idea that I had and needed to put to rest. There is one song on that EP called “Adoro Te Devote” which was part of my original vision for Theandric, which was to utilize elements of Gregorian chant within a heavy metal framework. But over time I felt my musical interests shifting, and I believe that the shift in sound and approach of the songs on “The Door of Faith” was really a response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I had been working on the song “The Dream of Joseph” about St. Joseph’s experience of the announcement of the birth of Christ (Matthew 1:18-25) and I found I really enjoyed writing in a stripped down, acoustic style, where the melodies and intimacy take precedence over guitar riffs. Once I embraced this style of writing the ideas really started flowing and I knew I was on to something. For now, I intend to continue writing in this style because I feel it is the best use of my gifts to serve the Word.
3) The lyrics for this new album are saturated with references and quotes from Sacred Scripture. How has the Bible shaped your songwriting?
The Word of God has been indispensable for the development of my songwriting. Having a scripture passage in mind most often serves as a springboard for song ideas. As a songwriter and composer, I cannot think of a higher calling than to cooperate with the Lord in spreading His Word. I think every artist wants his work to be memorable and lasting, and the Lord reminds us that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” So for me this form of creativity is a way to connect with something eternal, which ultimately is the everlasting love of God. Also, writing the songs for this album has been a form of Lectio Divina for me, as it has allowed me time to contemplate more deeply into some of the personal experiences in scripture, such as those experienced by St. Joseph, St. Thomas, and the Blessed Mother.
4) My wife and I were just listening to the song 'Ave Maria' on our way back from Church recently. Could you talk a little bit about that song and the beautiful voice of Elizabeth Mihalo Esqueda who accompanied you on this track?
Elizabeth’s participation in this project was truly a gift of God’s Providence. She is a very talented singer, not to mention a humble and enthusiastic person. I had placed an ad in the archdiocese music newsletter and she responded to my search for a female singer to participate in the recordings. From the beginning I had envisioned a female voice being an important part of the songs, as I wanted the music to reflect more of the diversity of the Body of Christ, and the complementarity of the sexes. And of course, the Marian songs “Ave Maria” and “Annunciation” required that feminine sound and spirit to make them truly come alive. Elizabeth contributed an incredibly beautiful performance. She also really helped me in improving my Latin pronunciation! : )
5) Our Pope Emeritus Benedict called for this year to be the Year of Faith. What kind of influence has his example and writings had on you, both personally and musically?
Without a doubt I have Pope Benedict XVI to thank for the inspiration and initiation of this project. The announcement of the Year of Faith and the accompanying document “Porta Fidei” provided me with not only the album title but also the inspiration to do a full album’s worth of songs. I ended up consulting many of his writings while songwriting, such as Deus Caritas Est, The Spirit of the Liturgy, and Behold the Pierced One. I think I’ve also felt a particular affection for Pope Benedict as my own father’s name is Benedict. I’ve made a point of releasing both of my albums on July 11th, which is the feast of St. Benedict according to the ordinary liturgical year. Another bit of trivia: I had my wedding ring inscribed with the words ‘Deus Caritas Est’ as a reminder of my vocation. Truly I was really blessed by the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, and I’m grateful there is still so much more of his work to study and reflect upon to grow in my faith.
6) I know that Eucharistic Adoration is a big part of your spiritual life. How has it impacted your songwriting?
The most fulfilling aspect of the preparations for this album was the simple act of taking my guitar with me to the chapel to work in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Not only was it very fruitful creatively, but spiritually as well. I enjoyed being with the Lord to offer Him my creative gifts, but also I relished being with Him in the silence of His Presence. This has now become my preferred mode of composing, if the chapel is available and I can be alone with the Lord. And now that I think about it, this whole project has helped me appreciate more fully how the Lord is present to us in both Word and Sacrament. The Eucharist and the Word both nourish us and strengthen us, and they are inextricably linked. Also, another unexpected grace from Eucharistic Adoration has been an increasing desire to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This has helped me feel grounded and humble. Like many artists, I dream of playing before large crowds and having my music be known far and wide, but over these past few months I find myself longing more to be in the presence of just that One.
7) As customary for the last question, do you have a favorite scripture passage?
It’s so tough to choose just one! I’ve already mentioned 1 John 4:16, which pretty much sums it all up, but currently the scripture that has been hanging on my heart has been Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It was the first scripture that I taught my three-year-old daughter and we pray it together at bedtime. There is a haunting mystery in that beatitude that keeps calling me in a powerful way. I feel like I could spend the rest of my life just contemplating that one line.
Bonus Question: You are, of course, the genius behind the Catholic Bibles Blog Theme Song. Can we expect a follow up any time soon?
Yes, yes, I definitely want to do an updated theme song for the Catholic Bibles Blog! I know that the current theme has a “selective appeal”, if you will. I already have an idea for the next theme song which will utilize lots of Latin chant, scripture, and more cowbell…gotta have more cowbell!
Official Theandric website: http://www.theandric.com