“We’re probably going to learn stuff about eachother!” So said guitarist Scott Grenon as I sat down to interview him and his bandmate-brothers in A Common Goal.
A Common Goal is not your typical punk band. Drummer Jason Autrey says that their goal in writing music is “loving everyone and creating relationships,” and the group finds common ground in their shared Christian faith. Mike May (vocals/guitar) and Jason already knew eachother, and things moved quickly after that: they came up with the band’s name on their first day of practice, and immediately said, “We need to find Scott!” to join in, first as a bassist, and eventually as lead guitarist. The band was completed by bassist Brett Ennis.
Dying Scene (Gina): Tell me about your backgrounds in music.
Mike: I grew up listening to Pennywise, Social Distortion, happier West Coast punk. I taught myself to play guitar when I was 22, by plugging chords into a tuner and hitting the notes on a fretboard.
Scott: He has a hard time playing covers, but his style gives a unique sound.
Jason: He plays in the weirdest way!
Scott: I picked up guitar my senior year in high school, and soon after that, I won a classical guitar competition.
Mike: He’s the Beethoven of the band.
Who are your influences?
Jason: Scott really likes Hootie and the Blowfish and Rascal Flatts.
Scott: Jason introduced me to a lot of new sounds. I like everything except pop-country, but especially grunge. I like the Blue Bloods, and a lot of electronica [Scott formerly worked as a dj].
Jason: I grew up listening to MXPX, Five-Iron Frenzy, P.O.D., and some cool Christian bands, as well as hardcore.
Your songs range from the more abstract (“Cavalry”) to what sound like more personal life experiences (“Drag You Down”). What influences your lyrics?
Mike: All our songs are based on real experiences, faced head-on. We put it out there to challenge listeners. Lyrics are #1 for us; they need to be about real stuff.
Scott: Our lyrics are 100% right-on, how I believe and think.
Scott proved himself right that they would learn something about eachother that night, and apparently about their music, as well. Jason shared that “each verse of our new song, “Problems” [off of their recently-released album Blessings and Battles] represents one of us. We suck, too.” Scott looked surprised. “Really?! I never knew that! Which one am I?” Everyone laughs.
From there, the conversation delves a bit further into the demons that the band members have faced. Mike, a tall, tough-guy type, gets a little misty-eyed and pulls out his phone. He plays a voicemail message that he says he’ll never delete: we hear a man’s voice. It sounds like a man who was pretty strung out. The message was a simple one, repeated over several times: a thank you to Mike for creating lyrics that meant so much to him, and thanking him for helping him get through his days. It was impossible to not tear up listening to it, hearing firsthand the impact that music can have on the human soul.
Are the themes of your songs a little unusual for a hardcore band?
Jason: Our fan base is more secular than Christian.
Mike: We don’t want to play to just Christians. We’re well-received in the mainstream hardcore scene. We focus on community, humility, and meeting people where they’re at.
What reactions do you get to being so open about the power of Christianity in your lives?
Jason: We were wary at first, but now we’re not afraid to put ourselves out there. It turned out above-and-beyond [what we expected].
So, you did set out to be a Christian band?
Everyone, simultaneously: YES!
Scott: There is no other way I’d be in a band at this point.
Mike: We want to shout out our beliefs.
It was at about this point when we took a break in the interview, as 3 cell phones started lighting up with messages. Bassist Brett Ennis just sent texts that his wife had given birth to their second child. Outbursts ranged from “That’s so rad!” (Jason) to “Thank God he doesn’t look like Brett!” (Scott). It seemed like a good time to ask a few questions about Brett.
When and why did you decide to become a 4-piece, adding a bassist?
Jason: We split up for a year and a half, and Mike and I reconciled our friendship and started playing again in June of 2012. We were shooting a video and knew we needed a bass player!
Mike: Brett was our missing link. We had instant chemistry, and that brotherhood is as important as the music.
After shooting a video for their upcoming release during Brett’s very first practice, they headed back into the studio to work on Blessings and Battles. The album was released on May 1st, on Thumper Punk Records. If you’ve heard their first effort, “For God and Country,” you’ll recognize the same blue-collar grit in their hardcore-influenced punk rock, but with total refinement, more melody, and an all-around smoother and more cohesive sound.
How did Thumper Punk Records find you guys?
Jason: We played a show for Unified Underground [a ministry dedicated to helping people with addictions in “alternative” communities, such as punk rock] in Maryland, and got connected to the label’s owner, David Aaron, while we were there.
How was it to work with Thumper Punk?
Mike: They are amazing!
Jason: It was an absolute no-brainer. David Aaron works 24-7, getting us out there. He re-released For God and Country as a preview to Blessings and Battles.
Have you found any big differences between self-releasing and being on a label?
Jason: We’re now getting overseas exposure.
Are you a “Boston band”?
Mike [instantly]: YES.
Jason: The Boston punk scene is our family.
What are your goals going forward?
Mike: To keep projecting what we project.
Jason: Family comes first, but we would like to tour New England and New York.
What else do you want people to know about A Common Goal?
Jason: We’re friends more than a band.
Scott: The band is a bonus.
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