An Interview, Joey Testa of Yours For Mine

If you didn’t know already, the indie rock/metal-based band Yours For Mine has returned! I (William Wachter), caught up with my close friend, Joey Testa of the band to bring you all an inside look at what the band is up to these days.

Yours For Mine, originally from Woodstock, Va. you all started the band in 2005, correct? Or when did that begin and tell me how it formed? 

Joey: Yes, early 2005. Most of us were living in the Edinburg/Woodstock area when things got started. Chad Altenberger, Stephen Minnick, and I all played in the high school band together (my tuba talents have yet to be incorporated into YFM). 

I remember Chad saying that there was this guy from Winchester (Jon Woods) that he wanted to start playing music with. Originally, it was me, Chad, and our friend Tyler Dowdy that played with Jon, under the name Each New Day. We quickly changed the name to The Red Letter Days. Our friend Tyler exited the band and Stephen joined. That’s when we changed the name one last time to Yours For Mine. (Tyler still ended up designing most of our merch and is actually the one responsible for the art on this new project). Eventually, Benjamin Cooley joined on guitar, making YFM a five piece.

So nearly 13 years since the last original music for Yours For Mine has come out, take us through this journey a little bit.. What are some things that have changed and things have maybe stayed the same about the band and its direction? 

Joey: A lot has changed! We all got married. Most of us have kids now. We honestly never intended to get back together after things fizzled out, all those years ago. The reunion show in 2017 was supposed to be the last hurrah, but that night reignited our love for the old “cabin songs” that we never got to finish. We agreed from the beginning that it would be fun to just record them well and give them away for free to the handful of folks that still care. That eventually developed into the idea that we could use this project to help raise funds for people with mental health issues who are struggling to afford therapy. Although the world around us has changed quite a bit, our calling to love our neighbors has not.

I know maybe what a lot of people don’t know about Yours For Mine is that, even as small as band as you were before reforming, that, you all would perform with bands like August Burns Red and Haste The Day, what was sharing the stage with some of your idols like so to speak?

Joey: We did get to play with some really fun artists over the years. The guys in ABR probably don’t remember us by now, but the impact they left on me was huge. We hit up the local IHOP after our show with them and just hung out. Just sharing a table with those guys was great. They were so nice and down to earth! I didn’t detect an ounce of that big headed rock n roll celebrity attitude that often takes over the bigger names out there…the shows with Haste the Day, Listener & Me Without You were also great. That said, as cool as it was to share the stage with some big hitters, most of my favorite memories are some of the smaller scale shows we did with local acts like us.

Cool, well I know that you all were originally on Blood & Ink records, which of course for those listening that might not know they were and are a fairly big independent label in the christian music scene… Now you all are coming out and doing a sophomore album self-released… Tell me what things were like being on Blood & Ink, and also tell me about the decision on putting this album out on the band’s own terms? 

Joey: Blood & Ink was really kind to us. I honestly didn’t handle any of the interactions with them directly, so I can’t say much more than that, but they were super helpful in getting our name out there. I don’t think we would be against partnering with a label on this new project at all. We just understand that a label collaborating with a band that is pretty “inactive” is a stretch.

During the Yours For Mine reunion show, the band performed 3 new songs calling them “the cabin songs”, this has been a working title for you all dating back to when these songs were created… So I have to ask, will these songs be on the upcoming album, if so how much have they changed if anything from when they were originally created? 

Joey: Yes! All three cabin songs from the show (“Not by Force, Not by Strength” & “Break the Teeth” & “Forgive, Act, Repay”) are part of the album. They are the only songs that were mostly completed before the band’s hiatus. Surprisingly, we barely altered any of the original lyrics, as they still fit directly into the larger story that this album will tell. There were some hefty changes made from a structural standpoint on the music, but the original message weaves perfectly into the bigger narrative that came much later.

And how many songs that were unreleased from the cabin songs days will be on the new record? 

Joey: The album has 12 tracks! It is 10 “cabin songs” that are bookended by a prologue/epilogue.

So I’m curious about the album title “How Dark The Night”… it’s very interesting.. Not just the title, but, that this is also the first time fans of the band including myself are seeing this album name for the first time… So what does the title “How Dark Is The Night” mean to you all as a band, and why did you all pick the name? 

Joey: Great question! So we decided to go with the name “Yours For Mine: How Dark the Night” for both the album and the book that accompanies the music. The songs and chapters are all connected and tell a story about a young boy named Habit who runs away from home. On top of already struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts, Habit eventually finds himself enslaved in a mysterious town called “Seduction”…

The overall story is an allegory. It wrestles with what it is like to grow up in a world where you are told that God exists…that God is good…that God is love…and then you look around at all of the terrible things going on around you and within you and wonder…has God forgotten us? The specific name of this project comes from a chapter/song towards the end of the story

I do want to say of course as I’ve expressed to you Joey, the new songs “Head In The Clouds” & “We All Hide” lyrically grabs the listener by the throat and takes us through this journey of what you have gone through and they are absolutely fantastic tracks and the transparency in the lyrics is so visible which is great… But I have to ask, what would you like for the listener to take away from these tracks and the upcoming album if anything else or just in general? 

Thanks Willie! I’m glad you liked the two singles. I think there are three main things I would love for people to take away from this project:

#1) You’re not alone. People with mental health issues often get pegged as the weirdos…the “crazy” people, right? But take suicide, for example. That’s just one of many things that somebody could be wrestling with. Every 2 seconds, somebody is trying to kill themselves. Every 40 seconds, somebody succeeds. It’s heartbreaking. It might even be unexpected in a lot of cases. But it isn’t crazy. Something that happens every 2 seconds on the earth is far from crazy. It’s common. If you aren’t struggling, you’re in the minority. I’d like to see a culture that is more open to conversations about mental health.

#2) It’s okay to have faith and still ask a lot of questions. Just like I would love to reverse the many stigmas that surround mental health issues, I would love to see more churches that encourage questions….churches that are intentionally trying to reverse the misconception that asking questions is indicative of an inferior faith or no faith.    

Questions have the potential to create a more robust faith. I think God is big enough to handle your biggest questions towards Him.

#3) There is hope.

Very cool, so do you do vocals on the whole album or just part of it? Because you know, in the first album you were doing unclean vocals as well as drums and Jonathan would do lead vocals and drums as well. 

Joey: Not one drum was harmed (by me) in the making of this album. We pulled the old switcheroo. Jon did all the drums, and I did most of the main vocals. 

Stephen and our old friend Ace Cosner have some leading vocal parts throughout the album. For people invested in the story arc, you’ll notice that each of our voices are often associated with a particular “character”

I know that you had hinted at possibly doing a show after when the new album comes out in conversations we’ve had… Is that still a possibility that’s on the table? Maybe even some touring? Of course, when the pandemic is over! 

Joey: We all agree that at least one more show makes sense! We are thrilled with the way this thing has turned out and would love to perform it in person. The logistics make it hard enough to say that it isn’t for sure, but I wouldn’t rule it out!

What art, people, bible verses or anything inspired you most in the writing of this album? 

Joey: In a span of just 7 years…my dad died. My wife and I lost 3 kids to miscarriage. My childhood best friend died. My grandfather died. I almost saw my wife die in front of me. My grandmother died. I had a major mental breakdown and ended up in the hospital and therapy. And then my uncle died. And then my father in law died. 

Without getting into all of the gruesome details, a lot of those events were pretty traumatic for me. The lyrics and the story come from a genuine place of struggle…a place of life and death…hope and despair…almost all of the words were written in between my first few therapy sessions, towards the very end of 2019.

The biggest inspiration from any biblical text was the story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus told in Luke 15.

I guess that could lead into my next question, Yours For Mine has always been a christian band and I know, you, Joey are very outspoken with your beliefs, how has your relationship with God changed since the last album? Could you maybe touch on that a little bit?

Joey: My relationship with Jesus, like most, has had its ups and downs. I think the last few years of my life have been the hardest, and with that comes change, for sure…but the most comforting thing is that it hasn’t been Jesus that has changed. He is changing me. God is the only thing that has been constant throughout the good and the bad times. 

I think the biggest thing is that I’m truly learning to live through all of the things that I was taught as a kid…like, I was always taught that God is with us in the storm, but now I’m actually feeling it. It’s easy to ask where God is hiding when everything is crumbling. And it’s easy to give an answer when you’re not the one going through it…but now my knowledge of God’s love for us has moved more from cerebral to experiential.

I don’t fully understand a lot of things. My faith is still a work in progress. But I know enough to know that Jesus is the only one to fully satisfy my soul. All pain points to the cross and the cross to the empty tomb and the empty tomb to our soul’s deepest longings.

I always find this interesting with bands because what we listen to musically has a huge effect on when the music is being made and in the studio… so, what were you listening to on your own time when the album was being made? 

Joey: For the first time in my life…almost nothing. I went through the longest period of time where I was solely fixed on this project. I didn’t want to listen to anything else but Yours For Mine for months on end haha It sounds weird to hear myself say that…like, I don’t wanna sound a certain kind of way, but it’s the truth. 

I wanted to be fully immersed in this story, so I would listen to the music to write a chapter of the book or vice versa. I would read a rough draft of a chapter of the book to come up with lyrics. 

This project has been super therapeutic for me, so on really rough days, the music/book was all that kept me going. So yeah, I would come back to YFM:HDTN on the daily.

That said, some of my biggest personal inspirations, musically, would have to include He is Legend, the Chariot, and Imogen Heap.

So I have one last question, what can we expect with the new album if you’d like to talk about it? Any trumpet work, or similarities, or maybe even big differences? And is there anything you’d like to say to fans of the band or anyone that will read the interview? 

Joey: Expect a lot of different sounds and a lot of different emotions!

We hope this project helps you heal…helps you hope…and even if you don’t agree with us from a religious standpoint, we love you.

William: Well, that’s it folks. I want to thank you all for reading and if you haven’t already, check out the newest single below “We All Hide” by Yours For Mine from their upcoming second album How Dark The Night. They have also released another single called “Head In The Clouds”, be sure to check that out (on Youtube) as well if you would like. Their first album “Dear Children” is also available to stream on Spotify or Bandcamp (and Myspace if you still use that, haha).

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