When Nashville’s RED began toiling away on their third album, Until We Have Faces, the recording process was unlike anything they’d experienced.

For starters, RED had the pressure of following up a winning sophomore album, 2009’s Innocence and Instinct. Buoyed by rock radio hit “Death of Me,” the album debuted at #15 on the Billboard 200 chart and picked up a Grammy nomination for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album.

When it came to recording the follow-up, RED set out to craft tunes that were rhythmically complex and musically challenging, keeping their riffing fast and loud. More important, they wanted the message behind the music to come through: En route to a stop on the 2011 Winter Jam Tour, Armstrong chatted with Gibson.com about the release (which debuted at #1 on the iTunes Rock Chart and #2 on the Billboard 200 in February) and why RED dig Facebook and Twitter.

You worked with Nashville producer Rob Graves (All That Remains, Pillar) on all of your releases. What is it about Rob that makes him the right fit for RED?

He has a really cool approach to thinking. He’s been able to help us dive into the darker side of life and find the redemption, and I think that’s why Rob has always understood us as a band. He’s also very musically talented and a genius in a lot of ways. He has a major influence on the sound of the band. He molded us as writers and musicians from the start. We were these green young kids in Nashville trying to make it in music. He took us under his wing, paid for our first EP and took care of us. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with him ever since. We’re locked in. I think any record we ever do; Rob Graves will be a part of it.

Is there a theme to the new album?

I think RED’s core audience is anywhere from 12 to 30 years old, and in that group of people, there are a lot of kids struggling to find themselves and what they’re supposed to do with this life. A lot of them develop these worldly views. They’re bombarded by the world, and they don’t know any better and end up adopting all these ideals and turning into a person they don’t want to be.

I think we can see that. We’re seasoned in a lot of ways. We’re all married; we’re all grown men; we’ve all gone through the ringer. These kids are turning into monsters they never wanted to be, and this record is an anthem for those kids. It’s something to inspire you to get out of that, and that’s what this record is about.

The album debuted at #1 on the iTunes Rock Chart and #2 on the Billboard 200. Delighted?

It feels amazing. I feel like all the effort we put into our music has been the foundation of everything. If we’re not making great music, it’s not going to inspire you. People need that creative vibe coming from the band to be powerful, and I think it’s happening. It’s evident in the sales of the record. It’s unbelievable, and all this stuff is happening that’s never happened to RED, like playing on Conan and Jay Leno. This is our chance to get ourselves out there, and it’s cool to see what the music can do for people.

RED is really active online with Facebook and Twitter.

Yeah, it’s very time consuming, but on the other hand, there are people out there who need it. I think when people are willing to invest their time in others, there’s joy that comes from that. Every Friday, my brother goes online to Facebook and answers questions for two hours. People post questions on our wall, and he tries to answer as many as he can. I think people really appreciate that, and I think that’s one reason people gravitate to the band, because people can see we’re genuine. Our music doesn’t matter without the fans.

A lot of Christian bands, once they make it in the mainstream, shed the “Christian rock” title, but not RED. Why is that important to you?

We’re trying to let people know that if you don’t like that we believe in God, we don’t care. At the same time, we’re not out there telling you what to do. We’re not those guys. I think people see that we genuinely care about our fans, and we really put a lot into our music. We’re all small-town boys. We all grew up in a town with one streetlight and graduated with 86 people in our high school class. If you forget who you are and if you forget what your roots are, you’ll end up becoming a monster, anyway. I think the mainstream world has a way of saying, “Try this, try this,” and there’s an evil side of things.

I think people respect us more because we stand our ground and they also respect that we’re not here to shove anything down your throat or change you. Inspiration is so cool, because you can inspire somebody to do something awesome in the lifestyle they’re leading, and you don’t have to change that person as a whole. At the end of the day, we’re still going to be a group of dudes who make music, and we’re Christian guys, and that’s all there is to it. 

You’re on the Winter Jam Tour 2011 along with tobyMac, Michael W. Smith and a collection of other faith-based artists. Since you’ve gone on mostly mainstream tours, how is it different doing a completely Christian tour?

You’re right that 99 percent of what we do are mainstream shows, and we’re in the mix, and we love it. But we figure regardless of this being a Christian tour, the people in the crowd are still people out there living in the same world. There are people walking around in public high schools, basically in the same mix of people that are hurting and searching. When we play a bar, we’re the same band. We don’t get up on stage at Winter Jam and preach; we just get up there and play our songs. It’s us being us.