By: Tom Westerholm
“I hate New York,” Ryan Saunders grumbled, “with absolutely everything I have.”
Saunders is the vocalist for These Hearts, a Christian screamo band. Recent signees to one of the biggest independent record labels in the country, Victory Records, These Hearts combine singing vocal parts with metalcore breakdowns, forming a sound that has helped them gain popularity across the nation. They have been touring the entire US since the release of their debut album “Forever Ended Yesterday,” from the West Coast to the East Coast and all throughout the Midwest and South. And apparently, New York isn’t to Saunder’s liking.
“It’s so crowded all the time,” he continued, making a noise of disgust. “Bumper to bumper.”
Perhaps it’s Saunders’ home that brings out his intense dislike of the biggest city in the US. These Hearts’ hometown, Fargo, ND, is much smaller, calmer and cleaner than the Big Apple. A billboard just outside the city on Interstate 94 has a picture of an open road with the words “Rush Hour Traffic” emblazoned along the top.
Some of the inhabitants of North Dakota are also the inspiration behind These Heart’s newest single, “Romans 15,” which begins with gang vocals chanting “We, the strong, have to bear with the failings of the weak!”
“I read that verse and it just kind of stuck out to me,” Saunders said. “Growing up, I went to a lot of parties but I didn’t really drink. A lot of my friends starting drinking and sort of lost themselves as the years went by. That inspired me to write the song.”
Now, many years later, Saunders and his bandmates still hang out with lots of people involved in the party scene, and like before, they continue to be both a part of the scene and apart from it.
“We just hang out, we can still be social with them without [partying] too,” Saunders said. “I feel like a lot of people have the wrong perception of what a Christian should be. No matter if you are around non-Christians or whatever, you just need to love on everybody no matter what. You can’t judge someone for not being a Christian.”
The tour on which These Hearts were embarked when we spoke was their most successful thus far, averaging about 150 kids per night, but ranging from 50-500. As the vocalist, Saunders has been attempting to use These Hearts’ music as a vehicle to reach the people at his shows with the message of Christ.
“You have that one shot to give the God speech between songs,” Saunders said. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot more. We’ve been getting more reaction on this tour than ever before. Pretty much all positive. If people have something bad to say, they’ll probably just go trash us online.”
And as for the temptations of the road? Not a problem.
“Honestly we are pretty much used to it,” Saunders said, with a laugh. “As long as we all keep each other accountable, and we all have the same core and beliefs, we really don’t struggle.”