Music Review

John Schreiner is the heavy, powerful, hypnotic blues-infused new artist.

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In today’s modern society, addiction is oftentimes classified as a condition that affects many people in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or even something else entirely, these are only a handful of the most common forms of addiction that are very destructive and often used as a form of escapism. What’s often overlooked when dealing with addiction, however, is the root cause of the addiction; an attempt to fill a void and compensate for a lack of something in one’s life. Some of these may include the lacking of love, understanding, or simply attempting to fit in with societies norms when we are all meant to stand out in some way. If one was to perceive an addict with compassion and love instead of contempt by wondering what life experiences that individual may have had to go through in order to become the way they are, we may begin to heal ourselves through them, and in turn, be able to help them overcome their struggles. In their latest album, ‘Kingdom From’, Schreiner chronicles a very personal journey through addiction with a sound that is a heavy, hypnotic and blues-infused groove.

Schreiner is a Washington, D.C.-based rock trio consisting of multi-instrumentalist John Schreiner (vocals/guitar), Jay Glaspy (bass), Andrew Contreras (drums). With some very notable influences such as The Doobie Brothers, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Prince, The Black Keys, John Mayer, and Gary Clarke Jr., John recounts the band’s origins and namesake saying, “I’ve been in bands most of my life and performed under different names, but this time around I wanted to take full ownership of the project. I formed Schreiner with my friend Jay Glaspy at the end of 2017. At the time, I was making ends meet by working part-time at a local church, running their music department. Anyway, Jay had finished his tenure with the Green Beret and moved up a little less than a year prior, so when the time came for me to move on and make a living strictly with my performances, it was a natural fit for me to bring him in. There are a lot of commonalities in our personal philosophies and we work together well on the musical side…it was a no brainer for me to bring him in on the project.”

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Having picked up the guitar at the age of 12, John’s own beginnings into music came from a childhood experience that many can identify with and involves the divorce of his parents, “Music has always been a defining feature of my life, but if I had to trace it back to one moment, I’d say it was during a summer camp I attended through the church I grew up in. I was 9 years old at the time, and my parents had just divorced. I don’t think divorce is ever easy, but I have to say, the dissolution of my parents’ marriage was particularly brutal and painful. They were in ministry together for a long time and I think in many ways the foundation of their marriage was their shared dream for spreading the message of faith. In losing each other, they also lost a vision of their lives that had been really clear and meaningful for a time, so that made it especially bitter. Anyway, I walked into that camp in a very vulnerable place emotionally and during one of the evening services, I remember being so deeply impacted by the music. I started crying and was really singing my heart out because it was the only release I’d felt from all the complicated dynamics in my home life. I think at that point, feeling that intense release and sense of inner healing, I sort of entrusted myself to music. I knew had found a place where I could deal with the deep things of life and perform the alchemical work of transforming ugly, hurtful things into something beautiful. After the service, a number of the youth leaders that were there with us had heard me singing and told me I had a real gift, something I should develop. From that point forward, I knew I was going to be a professional musician and never really questioned that decision.”

With their new album, ‘Kingdom From’, each track features soulful vocals, overdriven guitars, and hypnotic rhythms. The album was started within a four-day writing retreat attended by the band at a cabin in Berkley Springs, West Virginia, with half being completed during the retreat and the other half by John on his own both before and after having Achilles transfer surgery. It was then recorded, produced and engineered by Ivakota Studio owner Ben Green. When asked about the inspiration behind their new album, John himself responds, “I could tell a much longer story here, but I’ll try to just hit the highlights. ‘Kingdom From’ is derived from the album’s first track and namesake, and the album chronicles the most important and transformational period of my life to this point. About a year before we broke ground on it (early 2017), I finally beat a serious addiction to amphetamines (among other things) and emerged with this incredible sense of personal power and self-knowledge. In Jungian terms, I’d met my shadow and seen the terrible things I was capable of when I gave over control of my life to the beast within. But, it was only through that process that I found my true self, the part of me that was capable of conquering anything. The song “Kingdom From” speaks from the merciless perspective that eventually allowed me to master my dark side, turn its strength toward positive goals, get myself together and move on. There are a lot of chapters of that period represented directly in the album, but it ends with a song I wrote for my son, Valor, who my wife and I just welcomed into the world in September 2018. After writing that song, I knew I’d come full circle and stepped into the “Kingdom From” all the pain and suffering that it took for me to find myself and a life worth living.”

After everything that John Schreiner has been through in his life so far, I got curious if he had any words of wisdom he wanted to share and asked if there was a single message that he’d like to put out there to make the world the kind of place that he would aspire to live in, what would that message be and why did he think that message is so important, he replied, “Don’t make excuses, trust yourself, and live boldly. A lot of miserable people would be rehabilitated if they would stop asking for permission to live and just get on with it. I think this current generation is constantly encouraged to be more self-conscious and self-effacing, without much counterbalance in the conversation. Personal awareness is a useful and necessary skill, but I see young people growing up anxious and confused because they’re taught that their engagement with the world is, ultimately, damaging to the world. That’s total bullshit. Things improve when people confidently accept the task of life and pursue what’s most meaningful to them, not by cowing themselves in the name of the whatever political agenda is fashionable today.”