The bigger they are, the more the crowds like to rock.
That’s how Sequim native Justin Forshaw sees it with the rock group We As Human.
In 2010, he left Sequim to join the up-and-coming band shortly before it signed with Hear It Loud Records via Atlantic Records. In June of 2013, they released their self-titled full length album coming in at No. 66 on the Billboard top 200 in its first week and it has peaked on the Christian charts at No. 3, Hard Rock (No. 8), Alternative (No. 13) and Rock (No. 21).
The band is looking to rock the singles charts with songs like “Strike Back,” “Zombie” and “Take the Bullets Away.” “Strike Back” received a 2013 Dove Awards nomination for Rock Song of the Year.
Speaking from the band’s tour van while riding from New York to North Carolina, Forshaw said the acclaim and album are exceeding all of the band members’ expectations.
“The response has been so overwhelming,” he said. “We feel so confident with what we’re putting in the marketplace. People really love it and we’re getting a lot more fans. It’s weird, too, meeting people doing laundry that know my band.”
Born in Port Angeles, Forshaw lived in Sequim until he was 7 before moving back from Port Orchard at 16. About three years ago, Forshaw took a chance to join We As Human. He e-mailed the band with a link to some of his online videos while they were looking for a new guitarist. Impressed with Forshaw’s abilities, We As Human lead singer Justin Cordle contacted Forshaw a few hours later. Band members extended Forshaw a spot the group’s lineup.
“It’s definitely a calling,” he said. “I’m in to do this a while.”
Going from playing guitar as a hobby to playing for a career was a big step, Forshaw said.
On stage, he said it took him some time to establish himself and be in queue with the rest of the band. “We really just stepped up,” he said. “I grew up really fast.”
He’s toured the country and seen some of the best cities and clubs America has to offer like the Machine Shop in Flint, Mich., to Summer Fest in Milwaukee, Wis.
Forshaw said in Milwaukee they opened for Skillet, a renowned rock band, for about 12,000 people who “lost their mind.”
“I’ve been doing it long enough now that I don’t get nervous,” he said.
“You just try to crush it. Every show has its quirks. Sometimes the sound is weird. The fans are tired or it’s hot. You learn to deal with it.”
In their off time, the band has seen some cool things such as traveling to the NASA Space Center in Houston where they drove a lunar rover. Forshaw said one band mate even popped its tire in the obstacle course.
The touring life seems to be the plan for We As Human for the next six months, Forshaw said. As part of the Carnival of Madness tour with alternating acts Shinedown, Skillet, Papa Roach and In This Moment, the bands play at the Spokane County Fair on Sept. 12 and the Washington State Fair on Sept. 18.
He and fellow bandmates, Cordle, Jake Jones, guitarist, Adam Osborne, drummer, and Dave Draggoo, bassist, don’t have set plans for a follow up to their new album.
“We’re always writing and playing. We have guitars and amps back stage,” he said. “We’re still in the middle of this album but we’re always thinking about a new album.”
For the self-titled album, Forshaw said he, Draggoo and Jones collaborated on the strings parts together.
“We dissected intros and put a lot of rifts together. It’s broad. There’s no real formula. Justin is the primary songwriter,” he said.
He and Jones switch off in songs from playing lead guitar.
As for what he enjoys playing most live, Forshaw said they all have meaning.
“I like “Take the Bullets Away” for the way it comes together,” he said.
“The guitar solo is cool. It’s melodic at the beginning and transitions and becomes linear with the vocals.”
While We As Human is playing about 20 minutes as the opening act of the tour, Forshaw said the song “Zombie” gets a lot of fans amped up with Skillet’s lead singer John Cooper singing the second verse.
If you are looking for insight into what We As Human jams in their downtime, Forshaw said it’s a huge mix.
“It could be metal one minute then pop then country,” he said. “The band (members) all listen to different things.”
As a Christian band, We As Human has played all types of venues and with a variety of bands. Forshaw said the band will play anywhere and from the beginning, he was on board with the band’s mission to serve God.
“My faith has grown immensely with the band. It’s like we’re a band of brothers,” he said.
“(Cordle) is really great about memorizing Scripture and challenging me to do the same. The heart of service in the band is incredible.”
He’s heard some criticism that people question how a rock band can be a ministry, but Forshaw said the band members talk about their faith a lot and how they want to be known for it and how they act.
With the changing scene of how music is heard and distributed, Forshaw said the band is definitely afloat on social media but it doesn’t stop there.
“CDs don’t sell like they used to, but you can’t be a flash-in-the-pan-band,” he said. “You have to be good live and that’s one of our strong suits is we’re a good live band.”
So far, he’s toured with one of his dream bands — Skillet, but he’s still shooting for other hard rock/metal acts like Alter Bridge and Metallica.
But for those younger players strumming guitars in the garages, Forshaw offers some advice.
“If you want to do it, you have to work your butt off,” he said. “If you are dedicated to your craft, you just have to be ready for it. There’s no formula to a rock band.”