Remedy Drive has garnered an impressive twelve Top 20 singles and released twelve critically acclaimed recordings since their inception in 1998. Imago Amor, the 13th full-length recording—and first in three years— releases January 29. Imago Amor (“the image of love”) follows 2014’s Commodity and 2018’s The North Star as the third volume in a trilogy designed to shine light on slavery and to amplify the voices of those impacted by human trafficking and injustice. Produced by Philip Zach, Imago Amor features 10 songs, all written or co-written by David Zach, Remedy Drive’s founding member. Highlights of the set include the first single, “Dragons,” the moving title cut, and the poignant “Lovely,” written by Zach while working on behalf of trafficking victims in Latin America. In addition, the simple musical backdrop of “Using My Name” powerfully emphasizes a convicting message for all who claim to be followers of Jesus. In one of our most impassioned exclusive interviews to date, Remedy Drive’s David Zach talks candidly about the power of music, the common bond amongst people and the true calling to live out the life of a Christian.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your 13th full-length recording and first in three years, Imago Amor! Can you share the inspiration behind the title and cover art?
‘Imago Amor’ is Latin and Spanish for “the image of love.” There is a loveliness, a beautiful Divine spark that glows at the core of us in our wonderful, intricate, and purposeful design. Can we return to that design? I am hopeful that these songs will breathe a bit of oxygen on that spark, remind the world of what is lovely, and nudge us in the direction of empathy and selfless action. Can songs really have such an effect? I know it to be true. On the album cover is a beat-up and weathered portrait of beauty. The Divine Image—under attack by demagogues, human traffickers, cruel policies, violence, and often times from the mouths of preachers. Can I see past the imperfections, the scars, and the shortcomings of someone that doesn’t share my world views and opinions? When I see through the lens of the ‘Imago Amor’ I believe this is possible. I truly believe that melodies can shape us, can re-make us. It’s why I write music.
Thinking back on the process of creating Imago Amor – is there a moment that stood out to you most, perhaps that solidified your resolve to release this music?
The more divisive 2020 became, the more I wanted to get this album out there. I need these songs to remind me that I have more in common with someone I disagree with than I’d like to admit. It’s why I love eating with people of different walks of life. Sitting on a dirt floor in Asia and sharing a meal or a drink with an impoverished family; learning how to make a whole fish or a smashed plantain dish with a Venezuelan refugee on a beach in Latin America; sharing pounded yam with a Congolese refugee family in my hometown of Nashville; eating barbeque with a neighbor that’s been infected by religious nationalism; drinking coffee with a pastor who has lost his way and is leading his following into hatred and fear; or even talking about music with a human trafficker while doing undercover work—it’s sacramental. We all love food. We love our children. We bleed the same. If I’m brave enough, the very concept of foreigner or outsider starts to fade and I’m able to re-realize the common bond that I share with my neighbors and my so-called enemies.
The ability that we have to reduce another human being to their worst mistake, or a caricature of their worldview, is alarming and it became so apparent in the last several years. A poison slipped in quietly and infected some of the most influential people in our society. Can I see past the infection? Behind each of our obnoxious exteriors is a beating heart and lungs that breathes the breath of lives. Writing this album was my therapy and these words hold me accountable—they stand in judgment of me in my weaker moments when I so often see through the clouded and graceless lens of time.
Which was the last track added to the collection and how did it complete your vision for the project?
“Using My Name” was the last song we added to this album. It’s a piano/vocal recording of a song I’ve been writing for quite some time, but I’ve been afraid to say these things out loud. It’s an outlier. ‘Imago Amor’ is our third album that shines a light on slavery and injustice. I’ve been frustrated for over a decade with our reluctance to get involved in meaningful ways—truly meaningful ways—in the arena of justice, mercy, and compassion. The poorest of the poor get the crumbs from the table as we continue to record our music, redecorate our so-called places of worship, and spend so much time and effort fighting culture wars to defend our opinions in the public sector. It has tarnished the reputation and casts legitimate suspicion on anyone claiming to be following in the way prescribed by the teachings and instruction of Jesus Christ, his half-brother James, and the prophets that came before Him.
Our responsibility to the poorest of the poor is mentioned 2,100 times in scripture. I was deeply convicted by the words of the prophets Isaiah and Amos and their mockery of our music, our public prayers, and the outward show of worship, while we ignore the demands Jesus’ gospel requires of us in regard to taking up the cause of the poor and oppressed. I realize that it is very unpopular in many Christian circles to emphasize the instruction of scripture in this context, so I’ve been afraid to release this song. But I have been horrified, in recent years, to see the name of Jesus drug through the mud in such a public way in this part of the world.
You’ve pre-released “Dragons” ahead of the full project. Can you share some of the reactions you’ve received and any impact stories?
“Dragons” ended up taking on layered meanings. I started writing the song in Thailand at the beginning of 2020. Uncharted waters, on an ancient globe and some older maps, were signified by dragons. “Hic Sunt Dracones” would be written on areas that represented danger. My friend Matt Parker of The Exodus Road got that Latin phrase tattooed on his arm in Bangkok, signifying the difficulties and the uncertainties we face fighting against sex trafficking. My love for this man has been forged in the furnace of adversity. We’ve been through so much together in these short seven years. Little did I know that “Dragons” would end up representing the reality that we’re all in uncharted waters in these uncertain times, making our way through waves and flames.
This is the third volume in a trilogy that is designed to shine light on slavery and to amplify the voices of those impacted by human trafficking and injustice. Why is this message so important to you?
This is my life’s work—I’ve been on 13 deployments with The Exodus Road. We’ve helped contribute to the freedom of 1,500 survivors of trafficking so far and we’ve helped dismantle criminal networks resulting in the arrests of over 800 traffickers. Slavery is thriving on my watch. There are more people impacted by slavery in 2021 than at any other time in human history. I have a bit of power and privilege. I have a platform and a rock ‘n roll band. What am I going to spend that currency on? Will we spend our time and effort on protecting our own interests, rights, and privileges or will we invest ourselves in loving our neighbors as we love ourselves? If I can do a little bit—just a little bit—to keep this darkness at bay and I choose not to, then what kind of person does that make me? I want to look back at my life and know that I did a little bit, as seemingly insignificant as it seems. I have five loaves of bread and two fish combined with an audacious belief that my contribution matters.
The Exodus Road is a partnership you have been deeply involved with for nearly a decade. Can you share how some of your experiences have inspired you to continue with that work?
When I’m doing undercover work, I have meaningful conversations with trafficked girls. Sometimes it happens through Google Translate on my iPhone or sometimes through my broken Spanish. These are some of the bravest and resilient human beings you will ever meet. I want something more for these girls. We might be able to contribute to her freedom or the corruption that contributes to her enslavement might end up protecting the traffickers involved in the network that holds power over her. I want something else for her. We don’t always succeed, but I know that I have friends all over the world with The Exodus Road that are working tonight to tear a little corner off the darkness. I can’t show you their faces, but I can immortalize their bravery and their efforts in these melodies. In ages to come, the sages will write “so raged the bearers of the light, so waged the few with all their might against the terrors of the night.”
What is one key message or takeaway you would want to share with others that are working to put together what their music looks and sounds like?
We have to be honest. There’s enough music out there that’s manicured and safe. If you’re going to write a song then let me hear your spirit cry, let me bleed with you, let me cry with you, let me laugh with you. The boys upstairs gotta move some units, they are going to try to shrink wrap your soul and reduce your melodies to the lowest common denominator. There are plenty of people in this town that have learned to spell Je$u$ with dollar signs—it becomes second nature. But there’s a melody inside of you that is uniquely yours. No one else will ever have your voice or your fingerprints. No one else will ever have your creative signature. Don’t let anyone steal that from you—it’s your birthright; it’s your bowl of stew. We could all make a lot more money weaponizing platitudes, but you have so much more to say. You are a soul inside a body—you are not a commodity. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. Even if you’ve signed away your own image and likeness to a record company, never forget the fearful and wonderful ‘Imago Amor’, the breath of lives, the divine spark glowing in your innermost being. That’s what we want to hear from you.
What are you most expectant for in 2021?
Is it too hopeful to imagine touring again and singing together? I’ll hold on to that. When we sing in unison our heartbeats align. There’s something so special about live music. I am excited to start playing concerts again—hopefully mid to late 2021.