“I write music about life. God, relationships and love are all things I’m passionate about and am deeply invested in. If I go through it, it comes out in my music.”
—Hyland frontman Jon Lewis
In the same city where Bob Dylan, Prince and even those scrappy garage rockers The Replacements all got their start, another standout rock ’n’ roll act, Hyland, has been quickly making a name for itself in Minneapolis and beyond.
Armed with a veritable arsenal of inventive hooks and inspired melodies, a relatable, everyman take on everything from God to girls and the tireless work ethic Midwesterners are known for, Hyland is about to make its mark on an even grander scale with Weights & Measures, the band’s first full-length release.
Comprised of frontman Jon Lewis, guitarist Mitch Hansen, keyboardist Ben Early and drummer Steve Weigel, Hyland serves up eclectic anthems reminiscent of Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World and Anberlin. But instead of the same tired sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll routine, Hyland’s songs were born out of the real-life joys and struggles on the journey of faith.
“I’ve been a Christian for almost all my life, and I still can’t wrap my head around God’s unchanging grace,” Jon shares. “So to make up for my lack of understanding, I write songs to help basically explain it to myself.”
Growing up in a conservative home where Christian music of the adult contemporary persuasion was all Jon was allowed to listen to, he still remembers the day when Kathy Troccoli, Amy Grant and Clay Crosse was eventually replaced with classic rock’s finest.
“When I was 16 and could finally drive, I immediately found the first classic rock station I could get in my car,” Jon remembers. “I was just trying to catch up on all the Led Zeppelin and The Who music I’d missed.”
Even with his newfound appreciation of music that rocked decidedly harder than the CCM tracks he was accustomed to, Jon still loved the idea of faith making its way into songs that had solid musical integrity as well.
“I absolutely love writing songs with a clear message, all while feeling completely genuine and connected,” Jon shares. “That’s not always an easy thing to balance. And when you’re combining rock with intention, you better do it with authority, and you better do it well.”
And finding that essential balance with plenty of style to boot is what inevitably caught the attention of famed producer Aaron Sprinkle. In one of the band’s biggest pinch-me moments, Sprinkle heard their earlier EP, Quotients, by accident. As it turns out, a friend of the band was an intern for Tooth & Nail Records, and he unintentionally left Hyland’s new music in the recording studio he was supposed to be cleaning.”
“Josh was one of the people I always sent our early mixes to. So he was listening late one night and actually forgot to close out the session on the computer before he left that night,” Jon recalls. “So Aaron came into work the next morning, started up the computer and was like ‘What’s this?’ when he pushed play.”
Thankfully, Aaron loved what he heard. After tracking down the intern and finally figuring out who he was listening to, he reached out to the guys, hoping they might be interested in working with him.
“I was absolutely shocked because I’ve always been a massive Aaron Sprinkle fan. I pretty much think everything he produces is brilliant,” Jon continues. “It’s so funny because you bust your butt and tour like crazy for years and what it really comes down to is something crazy like that happening. I’d heard all kinds of stories like that with other bands, but still couldn’t believe it was happening to us.”
Thankful for all the doors that have been opened for the group, Jon, Mitch, Ben and Steve are striving to be faithful with the platform they’ve been given.
“We really want to be diligent in saying ‘God, it’s all yours,” Jon says. “We want to do this right because it’s obviously God who’s making this all possible. So we want to step through the door faithfully and to do the best work we can.”
For Jon, the band’s primary songwriter, inspiration often strikes at the most random moments these days, like while he’s in his pajamas, which is exactly how he was dressed when he penned Hyland’s lead single from Weights & Measures “This Love is Free” in about 20 minutes.
“I’ll be honest, this song, like several on the album, was written about frustration,” Jon shares. “I was at a really, really low point in my life where I was just beating myself up about my past and having a hard time getting over what I’d been through.”
Working through his need for peace in the song’s confessional lyrics, he wanted to leave listeners with the simple message that God’s grace is bigger than our past, something that’s not always easy to grasp in our often performance-driven world.
“I think as human beings we’re constantly wanting to see how we measure up and compare to everyone else, whether it’s our search for worth, fame, success, whatever,” Jon says. “That’s why we titled the album Weights & Measures because it’s all about how—and Who—we balance ourselves with. With ‘This Love is Free,” we wanted to emphasize just how important it is to remember that it’s all about God’s grace and really believing in it because God doesn’t grade on a curve. He’s always like ‘Let’s learn and move on.’”
Proving their versatility, however, the band seamlessly segues from spiritual matters to another subject everyone can also identify with—relationships.
“I always have a lot of fun playing with clichés, and that’s what I did with one of my favorite tracks, ‘The One That Got Away, which I wrote with Stephen Christian of Anberlin,” Jon says. “It’s this sassy song about a girl who thinks she’s got you all figured out. But the whole premise is that I’m the one who got away, not her, and that sort of flips the cliché on its head.”
Exploring faith, hope and love through the lens of their art, there’s ultimately something for everyone when listening to Weight & Measures. And whether you’re someone who’s entranced with innovative melodies and chord progressions or prefer clever turns of phrase in the lyrics, there’s plenty to love about Hyland.