SINGING HUSBAND AND WIFE. Hope and Justin Schneir are expanding their band. Courtesy of the Schneirs
Hope and Justin Schneir started playing music together when they first met at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1998. Under the name “Hope and Justin,” the husband-and-wife duo made two independent albums: Faithful and True (2006) and Eastern Bound (2013).
Hope and Justin’s latest release, Love & War (2015), is their first effort as a six-person band. Hope and Justin sing and are musicians, while members Sean Wood (fiddle), Daniel Bagdazian (bass), Gabriel Bagdazian (piano) and Jeff Evans (percussion) are the band’s additional musicians. Hope and Justin also write their own songs, sometimes with the help of the other band members.
When they are not playing music, Justin works in marketing, and Hope is a stay-at-home mom to their seven children, ages 1 to 13. They also expect the arrival of their eighth child this June.
The couple talked with the Register about the Jan. 22 digital release of their new album. They explained what inspired the songs, how they integrate the Catholic faith into the lyrics and how they consider their music a part of the New Evangelization.
What was the process of creating this album?
Justin: It was really slow. For our marriage’s sake, we try to go on a date once a week. We went to the studio once every other week and once a month, [which would sometimes be our date]. Eventually, towards the end, we went every week, and even a couple of times a week. It took a couple of years to finish this project.
Hope: Most bands record an album in a matter of days, whereas we just plucked away at it really slowly. The songs themselves developed a lot through the recording process. It kind of turned into a little hobby for Justin and me. We talked about the songs and what they meant and created the right sound for each song. It was exciting, and it was fun to bring home the latest track and listen to it.
Is there a theme to this new release?
Justin: This album has much more angst than Eastern Bound, which was more folky and warm. As an artist, you write where your heart is at. I think this album is more representative of the times we’re in and what we’re feeling. So it’s not as folky — and a little bit more folk-pop, with some rock in there.
Hope: Most of the songs touch on the themes of love and war. Some of them are a little bit more serious or are even about difficulties between people. Then other songs are great love songs or just super happy. Justin wrote the song Sweet Indigo about our daughter Indigo. It is a super fun and happy pop song. The album is very upbeat. Even though it has some angst going on, there is still a lot of joy.
What inspired this album?
Justin: I kind of think it was accidental. We finished our last album, and we just kept on writing. People wanted us to play, and we started to develop as a band. This is really the first album we did as a band.
Hope: [Before Love & War], it was just the two of us. Some friends would lay down a few tracks here and there. Then, three years ago, after Eastern Bound, we had a big CD release party. We invited all the people who played on that album, and we rehearsed so we could do a live show. That was our first time playing live as a real band. We had so much fun doing it that we just kept playing music together as a unit.
How is your Catholic faith tied into the album?
Justin: It’s intertwined in all of our words. Our words are not explicit. It’s not Christian music, but the themes are all there. Our faith is integrated into our lives, and we really can’t separate our lives from our words and our music.
Hope: I think that our music kind of goes with the New Evangelization, in the sense that it’s about goodness, truth and beauty, without being necessarily explicit. [Christian music] is supposed to aid Catholics and Christians in worship. Our music doesn’t quite do that. It more explores the personal level of the faith, the struggle and the humanity aspect of it. However, Justin and I both love Jesus, and we’ve centered our lives around him and around the faith, so that comes out in our music. As we’re expressing our hearts, what’s on our hearts often comes out [in our music].
How do you hope that people are moved by the music?
Justin: I think the dichotomy of love and war is really felt emotionally in the album, but my desire for listeners is that they find the message of hope and come away with a deeper understanding of how struggle is beautiful, and it’s 100% worth it to hang in there, no matter what you’re going through.
Hope: I want it to make people feel happy. There’s just so much garbage out there in the music world. There is something freeing about playing an album and not having to worry about the content. You can just put it on, enjoy it and are sort of freed of that burden of worrying about the content. So I hope that families can enjoy it.
Do you hope it brings people to God and the Catholic faith?
Hope: Absolutely. I had a friend who listened to Eastern Bound. After she heard the song St. Michael’s VW, she went back to confession after 20 years. That was the most amazing compliment that we could ever get.
I hope Love & War leads people to God, and if it does, I anticipate that it would be more through an encounter with beauty. I have found God through music from a very young age, and it wasn’t explicitly through Christian music. It was just through beautiful music. When something is very beautiful and soul-stirring, you feel moved and drawn to God — you feel like you’re having an encounter with the greatness which is beauty and which is God. So the more beautiful our music is, hopefully the more people can experience God through it.
writes from Texas.
The hard copy of Love & War is available on Hope and Justin’s website (HopeandJustin.com). The digital release is also available.