I Am They is a six-member band that includes Adam Palmer on lead vocals and guitar, Matthew Hein on lead vocals and guitar and Stephanie Kulla on lead vocals, Justin Shinn on keys, Bobby Stiehler on bass, and Sara Palmer on drums. Together they've forged an organic sound that is fresh and inventive musically while serving up songs that are easily embraced in a corporate setting yet have the personal feel of one heart crying out to the Father.
They have just released their debut single "From the Day." On January 27, they will be releasing their debut self-titled album. We so honored to catch up with them for this exclusive Hallels' interview.
Hallels: Thank you so much for your time. Let's start with the most obvious: why do you call yourselves "I AM THEY"?
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! Ok, so our band name has kind of an interesting story. We originally had a different name, which was actually just the name of our ministry, but after seeing how many times that name came up in a Google search (i.e. way too many times), we decided that we probably needed to come up with a new name. We threw around a small handful of ideas and collectively landed on the name I Am They. The idea behind the name was birthed out of the Gospel of John in chapter 17, where Jesus is praying for His disciples and throughout the chapter He keeps referring to them as 'they'. Later on in the chapter, Jesus says in His prayer "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one..." So we thought it would be a cool personalization to say I am they - I am a disciple of Christ. The name is just as personal in the immediate sense as it is broadly inclusive of any disciple of Christ. So any follower of Christ can say alongside of us "I am they" too.
Hallels: How did the band start?
After playing and writing together for 4 years, Matt and Adam formed the band in 2008 with the intent of putting together a team of musicians from the local church community to lead out a 3 hour long night of just worship on Halloween night. We named the event "Solomon's Porch", and the band was made up of worship leaders and musicians from various local churches. In fact, of the 6 members of the band, 5 of us were from different churches.
We envisioned the night to be a single event and it was intended to be a unifying night of worship for the local church community. Well, it turned out to be so well received that when we asked people if they'd like to turn it into a regularly occurring ministry, the answer was overwhelming yes - and so we did. God has been using the ministry of Solomon's Porch for 7 years now, and it's still just as much an "event" for our local faith community each time as it was for the first one.
Hallels: How would you describe your sound and music?
Musically, if you take 2 parts folk, 2 parts pop, and 1 part acoustic driven worship - then mix all of that together - you'll get something close to I Am They.
Our sound is basically the byproduct of what we did out of necessity while trying to pull off the songs we were covering for those worship nights as just 6 musicians. So we have 3 part vocal harmonies, 3 lead singers that trade off leading songs and even sections of each song, group vocals, eclectic instrumentation and riffs, and multiple instruments played by most everyone in the band. When we were doing those worship nights, whenever there was a song we did that had an instrument we didn't have, we would make a point to buy that instrument and learn it for that song. Being that we are primarily an acoustic band, we have a lot of folk instruments that play a prominent roll in our songs as well.
Hallels: For our readers who may not have heard your new single "From the Day," can you tell us what the song's about?
'From the Day' was written as a salvation celebration song. We wanted to create something that felt both joyful and excited about meeting God and having the promise of eternity with Him in heaven as a result of that divine meeting. There are a few scripture references that we pulled from in writing it as well, one being Revelation 22:1-5, where it talks about there being no more night or need for lamps, because the Lord Himself will be the light. Another scripture that inspired the song is Isaiah 51:11, where it says, "So the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."
Hallels: One of the songs on the new record "Over and Over Again" is very personal to you, can you tell us about the story behind the song?
Sure. 'Over and Over Again' is a song that was birthed out of my (Adam) story of how I came to faith. Each of us has our own story with defining moments sort of sprinkled in throughout various chapters in it. For me, one such defining moment was when my oldest brother was killed in a drunk driving accident when I was 7 years old. It deeply affected my family, to the point of my parents eventually getting divorced. Several years later, as an atheist struggling to make sense of life and death and the world around me, I began to feel like I had no friends and no love in my life. Without going into detail, my life and my world both became very dark and hopeless places. After seeing several doctors and counselors, I was placed on anti-depressants to treat clinical depression... and I just came to the point where I felt like life was no longer worth living.
After drafting up a cryptic note meant to leave no answers as to "why", I attempted suicide at age 16. I survived. I planned to attempt again with a target date of two weeks out, and when it came to the actual moment of holding a gun underneath my chin, I just couldn't bring myself to go through with it. I went to school the next day and met a girl named Alicia who would forever impact my life and, ultimately, my eternity. She had set up a time for us to meet up, and I very excitedly agreed to it and postponed my plans for another attempt on my life as a result. It gave me something to hope for and look forward to. When the time had come to meet, I anxiously showed up and waited... and waited for her to show up, and she didn't. So, telling myself that I wouldn't allow myself to feel rejected and let down any more, I decided I was going to go home right then and end my life.
Right as I was walking out the door of my high school, she shouted out at me to stop and sincerely apologized for being late. We ended up sitting down and talking, and she asked if any one of her friends we were sitting near had a bible that they could give to me, and a girl named Sara, who is now my wife and the drummer for I Am They, cautiously gave me a small bible - which I later learned was her first bible that she received as a new believer. I took home that little bible and read through the Gospel of John up until chapter 14 verse 19, where Jesus says "because I live, you also will live". It really felt as though it was Jesus speaking those words directly to me - saying that because He lives, I would live, too, rather than take my life.
After several weeks of hanging out with Alicia and her family, I was able to see that Alicia was very different than many of the Christians I had met before. You see, she very much matched the message she was sharing with me. It wasn't just a show she put on - this was real to her; and it was the spelling of her very life and identity. I remember meeting her family for the first time and all of them knew my name ahead of time - her grandpa, her dad, her mom, her youth pastor - and they all hugged me and loved on me and made me feel what it must have felt like to have a loving family that cared deeply for each other - and I so badly wanted that. So several weeks later, Alicia asked if I would ever consider giving my life to the Lord...and I said yes. She then asked, "When would you want to do that? ...Now?" and I thought about it for a second and answered, "Yes. Right now." So we pulled over in her car and I gave my life to God right there, literally on the side of the road.
God began to dramatically change my hungers and my passions soon thereafter. But like any story, there have been mountaintops and valleys. The lyrics for 'Over and Over Again' were written during one such valley; a specific lyric being, "When my fears chase my failures, Oh God; oh when heaven's glow seems so far; wake me up to Your glory, Oh God; draw my eyes to Yours where my help comes from". There are these times in our walk with God where it feels like our past and its wounds and our regrets and failures are in such heavypursuit of our joy it can leave us just feeling defeated; like we need to feel ashamed or like we are not worth it. And it's in those moments that the glow of heaven just seems so far off and unreachable. But in Lamentations 3, it says that God's mercies never come to an end; that they are new every morning! And Jesus says in Matthew 18 that He will leave the 99 just to pursue the 1... and each of us has been that "1" at one point or another. Over and over again, we can run and hide in our shame and defeat, and God will seek after us and pull us back in close to Him and lovingly place his hand under our chin and lift our eyes back to His and speak to us "I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have proven it so - I love you."
Hallels: What do you want listeners to grasp after listening to your new record?
I think that as a band, our goal is to encourage and relate with people that hear our music. We are very interested in hearing other people's stories and in sharing ours as well - and one of the ways we like to do that is through our songs. Each of the lyrics on this album were very intentionally weighed out and written as a way to express something either from our lives journeys, our faith, our healing, our salvation, our victories or failures, or our passion for our God. So I'd say that if people walk away from listening to our album having felt like they just had shared in something alongside of us, or felt encouraged, we will feel fully successful.
Hallels: For our readers who would like to purchase your new music and find out more about you, where can they go?
Right now our music is available at all of your favorite digital music stores, like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc... and our DEBUT album will be available as hard copy and digital on January 27th! Please check us out on our website www.iamtheyband.com which has links to all of our social media profiles. You can sign up for our email mailing list there, see all of upcoming shows, or even email us directly. We try to respond to every email we get, so we'd love to say hey back!