Hawk Nelson frontman and founder Jason Dunn is leaving the Christian pop/punk in May to pursue his own project. I had a chance to chat with Hawk guitarist Jonathan Steingard, who has been with the band since 2004, this past week about the band and what the future holds for Canadian punk rockers. Hawk Nelson is performing with The Rock & Worship Roadshow, which hits Colorado Springs on Sunday, Feb. 19 at the World Arena. No tickets required. $10 at the door, which open at 6 p.m.
Higher Note: You guys are all from Ontario. How did you get together as a band, and how long have you been with the guys?
Jonathan Steingard: I replaced the original guitar player, who departed right after their first CD, so basically I’ve been with the band since the beginning.
We all grew up in southern Ontario, and we were all in different bands at the same time. My cousin was actually in a band with Jason and I was in another band. We were all in high school just having fun and goofing off.
HN: Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch and FM Static, who is also from Ontario, helped you get started. How did that relationship start?
JS: Trevor McNevan was in group at the same time –TFK — and a few years ahead of us playing in the States. He really took the band under his wing — helping up with songwriting … He was hugely, hugely influential. We’re still friends; we call on him a lot. He’s genuinely a great person. He wrote a lot of the songs on our first two/three records.
“Jason’s personal journey is different than ours. … Jason is moving on, and we totally support him. Honestly, we don’t have the future figured out.” — Jonathan Steingard, Hawk Nelson guitarist
HN: You’ve been together as a band since you were in high school, how has your music evolved over the years?
JS: We are all approaching our 30s. It’s kinda different approaching 30. It changes the way you think about your music and making music. It’s funny, now a majority of our fans are younger than us. But we’ve been super blessed, and we are thankful we’ve been a band for almost 10 years, we fully realize that’s a long time.
HN: Can you elaborate on your music?
JS: Our music is more thoughtful. Our personal journeys are all different. The dynamic is different than it was when we were high school kids as to now as an adult. Justin (Benner) our drummer is going to have a baby here pretty soon.
As adults we are figuring out what it means for us as a group. What our purpose is and what we do. We don’t have the same motivations as we had when we stared. We were in high school, and we just wanted to have fun. Nothing more than that. Now we want to have more than just going out and having a good time.
Don’t get me wrong, we still have a great time. We’re a high-energy band and we adhere to that, but we have grown in new areas and want attain different things.
Jason’s personal journey is different than ours. We love him as a brother, and we aren’t fighting, nothing weird like that. Jason is moving on, and we totally support him. Honestly, we don’t have the future figured out We had hoped to have the future figured out a little more before it (Jason leaving the band) became public. The rest of us still have something to say, and we are still in the process of figuring it out. It’s definitely a change.
HN: Was it a surprise to you that Jason said he was leaving the band?
JS: It wasn’t a complete surprise, not entirely. We all have grown, and Jason is growing up in his own way. And that is something different than the rest of us. You can’t be effective as a band if you all don’t want the same things. We don’t want to go in the same direction. And we don’t want to hold Jason back at the same time. I really, really believe that God has a plan behind this, and I’m excited for the future things on the horizon. We have a lot to look forward to.
HN: What about the name? Will you keep Hawk Nelson, and where did that name come from?
JS: The name, I can’t speak to that because we are still figuring it out. I wish I could give you more answers. But these things kinda have a life of their own. … The name (chuckles). Jason played a lot of video games and whenever he had to make up a character it was Hawk Nelson. The night before they were to release their first album, they found out that there was another band with the same name (Reason Being). And literally they had 12 hours to come up with a new name. They just threw Hawk Nelson at the end for the fun of it and it stuck. And here we are 10 years later. The name becomes associated with you more than you with the name. It’s highly likely that we will continue with the name. I’m not certain, but it’s fairly likely.
HN: What was the first show after the announcement, and how has it been on stage?
JS: The first show after the announcement was in Chicago. Internally, we all knew this was coming. It was a gradual reality. We’ve had a bit of increase awareness. It’s goes quickly our set is only 20 minutes (on The Rock & Worship Roadshow tour). This tour is awesome. We have a lot of support. It’s like being out with family.
It’s a high-energy show and from the mental aspect we are really savoring our time together. The first few years we were touring and living out of a van, staying with friends and it brings you closer. We are like family, no it’s exactly like family. You love each other to death and other times … (chuckles). It’s definiatley like family.
HN: Who were/are the band’s influences?
JS: Pop punk bands Good Charlotte, Blink 182, Green Day, Reliant K, but your influences change as you grow older. We want to create something that is our own. You grow beyond your immediate influences. Daniel listens to really mellow music … sometimes thunderstorms. Jason listens to punk music. Justin and I listen to a little bit of everything. So we are drawing from more than one genre.
HN: How do you stay sane spiritually while playing in a band, touring and such?
JS: With any Christian band it’s a balancing act. You have a ministry and a business. On one hand you have a business that you are giving jobs to people, and the other hand you have a ministry. And as believers we are called to a different place in life. It’s important to tell people what we believe. It is life changing, we’ve seen it with our own lives. But we haven’t been a super ministry band. We don’t give a message in the middle of our sets. That has not been our strong suit — the preachy messages. That’s why we like to partner with other bands and tours that can fill in the blanks.
Especially with this tour (The Rock & Worship Roadshow). Disciple and us we bring high energy to the tour, where the other bands go deeper and talk about God.