Sanctus Real: Q&A with Chris Rohman
Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 19, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated April 18, 2013 at 11:19 p.m.
When Chris Rohman and Matt Himmitt founded contemporary Christian rock band Sanctus Real in Rohman's parents' basement 16 years ago, they never envisioned they'd one day garner GMA Dove Awards and Grammy nods.
In February, the band released its sixth studio album, "Run," on Sparrow Records, and its first single, "Run" is rapidly climbing the Christian charts.
In the past decade, Sanctus Real has achieved national fame and eight No. 1 hits, securing its place in heavy rotation in every major Christian radio station across the United States.
Rohman, 32, the band's lead guitarist, said members have been blessed to experience many successes through the years, but mostly, they're still content to play the music God puts on their hearts - whether accolades and sellout concerts follow.
Sanctus Real headlines at the Victoria Community Center on Sunday alongside JJ Heller and special guests Unspoken, Bread of Stone and Redeemed We Stand.
Rohman spoke to the Advocate about Sunday's upcoming show and how Sanctus Real continues to remain relevant in the ever-changing climate of Christian music.
Sanctus Real has been together for more than a decade. How does faith play a role in keeping you together?
It does play a role, yeah. We always pray before a show. When you're in a different city every day, it can be hard to get into a solid routine of that, but we always try to bring it back to God and remember why we're in that city and why we're there to play the show.
Did Sanctus Real get started with the intention of being a Christian band?
We were always a Christian band. We went to a Christian high school together in Toledo, and it was very conservative. They needed a few guys to play in the chapel band, and they weren't really playing Christian music like we would today. Our singer, Matt (Himmitt) and I jumped in. We were really trying to get them to let us add a few new instruments to the chapel band, and we convinced them to let us bring in a new sound. I was really into Weezer and Foo Fighters, which at that time were really big. And I listened to Switchfoot, which was new on the scene then. Matt grew up listening to more classic Christian music . but we were able to get them to let us add a new sound. That's how we started. We knew we just wanted to write songs to encourage the church.
So has your faith always been a part of your life?
My family always had a firm foundation in the faith. We went to a Baptist church, and I was in the church from a very young age. I was probably in junior high when I wanted to take it as my own. That's when I wanted to make a change and wanted to go to Christian school, and my parents allowed me to do that. I definitely grew up in a Christian home, and that's the case for most of us in the band. Our drummer, Mark Graalman, didn't grow up in the church though, and he has a pretty cool testimony of how he came into the church.
What surprises you about your career all these years later?
I don't think we've ever grown accustomed to any amount of success we've had. We don't have expectations, even after six records. We're excited if people just show up, and if they know the songs, it's even cooler.
We recently played the Poteet Strawberry Festival, and those are surprising shows because some of fans will know you, but a lot of people are just walking by and listening because they're at the festival. So that's cool when you get to share the gospel that way. We play the secular scene sometimes, but it's not really intentional. We should explore it more.
Do you feel the burden of being a Christian public figure?
I think there have been times I've felt that. When we first started touring I was in my early 20s, and I was fearful of people watching me all the time. I think I lived under that stigma that I had to be perfect. But our faith isn't about being perfect, it's about the grace that God offers us. So I used to carry that burden and probably a little more judgment than I do now. But at this point in my life, I don't think about it as much. I still think about how my decisions will affect my family, and as a leader in the band, how they will affect the band. So it does weigh on me but not as much as it used to.
Is there a song you never get tired of playing?
Who would you most want to write a song with?
My all time favorite artist is Tom Petty.
Do you guys ever talk about crossing over to the mainstream, or are you comfortable in the Christian genre?
It can be dangerous to say we're comfortable in any genre. It's great to know we've found a place in Christian music. People ask us all the time if we want to cross over. If it happens, that would be great, but where we're at right now is great. We're just making music, and whoever hears it, that's great.
What message do you hope your Victoria fans leave Sunday's concert with?
I hope they hear the heart behind the songs and reflect upon the stuff that's going on in their own lives. Maybe it will move something in their hearts. Ultimately, we want to sing about our faith. And ultimately, we want people to have a great time.