“Our goal as a band has been to never make the same record twice,” says singer/lyricist Andrew Schwab of the musical changes on the sixth album from Project 86, Rival Factions (Tooth & Nail). “The only rule is that there are no rules. If there is a rule, it’s that we try not to overthink things, that the music that comes out is honest and real, spontaneous and from our heart.”

But Schwab & Co. realize their brave new music is not for everyone, something they address in “Caveman Jams,” a derogatory term used to criticize their sound. In the song, someone complains about the music’s aggression, asking, “Why don’t you write a track that’s sensitive?” In the final verse, however, a fan testifies how their music was integral to stopping his downward spiral of self-destruction.

“That song was written to be funny,” says Schwab, “given this is by far our most melodic record to date. That song was definitely written as a response to some experiences we’ve had as a band over the years, but in such a way that we’re having fun with it. I tried to approach it comically.”

Whatever Project 86 does, says guitarist Randy Torres, the band’s goal is keeping it real. “Most of our records have been a product of where we were at—musically, spiritually, personally—at the time,” he says. “Our first record is a product of the fact that we were all super into hardcore, that really heavy music. But on the next record, we were listening to different music, so it evolved. The record for Atlantic (2002’s Truthless Heroes) was probably something we thought about too much. I think we learned from that—to stop thinking so much about music and get busy making it.”

This time around, making music happened with the three remaining members— Schwab, Torres and bassist Steven Dail—continents apart. “Steve was in the Netherlands at the time, because he was getting married. Andrew was in Southern California, and I was in Seattle,” says Torres. “We pretty much just wrote on our own, and then e-mailed each other MP3s. We were definitely collaborating as if we were right next to each other, but we were using the capabilities of the Internet to its full extent. Steve wrote “Evil (A Chorus of Resistance),” one of the first songs we did; it was way different than anything we’d done before. That influenced all of us to write everything after that to be as different as possible from things we’d done prior.”

“In the past,” says Schwab, “we’d just jam out ideas together as a band. This time around, we were each more prolific than we’d ever been. We ended up with 40 songs to choose from. We set the goal to perform every song before we actually went into pre-production, which I feel really enhanced the performances. From a sonic standpoint, this is the first time we have keyboard as a featured instrument.

“Our major influences over the years have always been hardcore bands like Snapcase, Sick of It All, Sepultura,” says Schwab. “We were never really influenced by all the nu metal stuff. I think we got lumped in with that music because we’d toured with P.O.D. and Linkin Park. Our influences have always been different from that, and this record really blows the doors off anything we’ve done in the past. This is the most different album we’ve ever put out. The influences on these songs came often from old goth influences like Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, Depeche Mode—all that ’80s mood music.”