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SUNDAY, JANUARY 21, 2007
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When ForShadow decided to reconnect with God and become a Christian band, big things started happening. “All of a sudden we got a record label when we got close to God,” bassist Kyle Tubbs said. “I think as soon as we changed our hearts, he let everything happen for us.”  ForShadow band members, from left, Kyle Tubbs, Josh McLaughlin, front center, Kyle Doty, back center, and lead singer Patrick Dunagan, performing at Decatur Christian Fellowship on New Year’s Eve.
Daily photos by John Godbey
When ForShadow decided to reconnect with God and become a Christian band, big things started happening. “All of a sudden we got a record label when we got close to God,” bassist Kyle Tubbs said. “I think as soon as we changed our hearts, he let everything happen for us.” ForShadow band members, from left, Kyle Tubbs, Josh McLaughlin, front center, Kyle Doty, back center, and lead singer Patrick Dunagan, performing at Decatur Christian Fellowship on New Year’s Eve.

The C-word debate
Whether they wear a Christian label on their sleeve or not — 3 up-and-coming local bands rock out with positive vibes

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

Don’t call local rock band The Spring a Christian band. They’d rather be known as a group of guys who perform positive music who happen to be Christians.

It may seem like an unnecessary distinction, but whether a band is Christian has become a hot-button topic in a country increasingly polarized by religion.

Cody Nuss of the band The Spring performs at Decatur Christian Fellowship. The Spring prefers to avoid the label “Christian,” even though many of its lyrics are inspired by faith in God.
Cody Nuss of the band The Spring performs at Decatur Christian Fellowship. The Spring prefers to avoid the label “Christian,” even though many of its lyrics are inspired by faith in God.
Many bands fear the ramifications of the C-word. They worry that it immediately turns off non-Christians and brings unwanted scrutiny from both sides, said Ace McKay, program director for Christian radio station 88.1 WAY-FM in Huntsville.

The worries are not unfounded. In 2003, many Christian fans were outraged when band Evanescence — which originally was considered Christian when it hit the scene in 2003 — later openly opposed the label, and minced no words or profanity in an April 2003 Entertainment Weekly interview.

The band soon suffered the wrath of the Christian community and saw its album yanked from Christian music stores. However, the band released a new CD late last year that is now topping secular charts.

Aside from avoiding scrutiny, bands that avoid labels also able to “open themselves up to a lot more audience,” said Christy Pepper, afternoon DJ at Christian radio station 91.3 The FIX in Florence. This offers them the power to reach as many people as they can with their message — Christians and non-Christians alike.

Matt Marks, drummer for The Spring, agreed.

“If you call yourself a Christian band, only Christians are going to listen to you,” he said.

Because of the crossover appeal of today’s Christian music, the popularity of Christian music is probably at its all-time highest, McKay said.

Christian music — which includes Christian rock, Christian pop, gospel and “praise and worship” music — has become the sixth most popular type of music in the United States, placing it ahead of jazz and classical, according to the Gospel Music Association.

However, Christian music still accounts for only about 6 percent of total music sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks national sales of music and music video products.

Blake Kinney Braver by the 2nd guitarist/vocalist
Courtesy photo
Blake Kinney Braver by the 2nd guitarist/vocalist
Many of today’s artists appeal to both Christians and non-Christians because their lyrics only imply a greater power or spiritual pull, rather than older Christian music that was practically required to contain “Jesus” at least 10 times in each song, McKay said.

“As much as people want to fight that, I think you’ve got to be real, and through that it allows people to say, ‘OK, my kid wouldn’t have otherwise bought this album if they’d known it was a Christian band,’ ” he said. “It’s music, man. It all comes from God. You’ve got to learn to deal with that.”

Up-and-coming local bands The Spring, Braver by the 2nd and ForShadow, who play in Decatur and surrounding cities, all are fighting to find their way in this murky music scene in which the lines between secular and Christian music are anything but clear.

While The Spring opposes the Christian label, Braver by the 2nd and ForShadow embrace it.

THE SPRING

Cody Nuss, left, drummer Matt Marks, Lyle McClendon and Seth Mitchell of The Spring perform at Decatur Christian Fellowship.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Cody Nuss, left, drummer Matt Marks, Lyle McClendon and Seth Mitchell of The Spring perform at Decatur Christian Fellowship.
Members: Cody Nuss, 19
(vocals), Seth Mitchell, 20 (guitar/vocals), Eric Ponder, 21 (guitar/vocals), Lyle McClendon, 21 (bass) and Matt Marks, 22 (drums/vocals)

Genre: Rock/Emo/Garage

Home base: Cullman

On the Net: www.myspace
.com/thespringrocks

If their music doesn’t give you goose bumps, then they’re not doing something right, said The Spring drummer Matt Marks.

The Spring does not label itself Christian, even though many of its lyrics are inspired by faith in God. The group’s main goal is not to spread the gospel but to give other young people hope who are going through the angst of young adulthood.

“We’ve always tried to keep a positive attitude and positive message,” guitarist Seth Mitchell said. “We try to touch on real life situations.”

Band members have all dealt with a “laundry list” of hard times which have drawn them together, members said.

“Definitely all the guys in this band are brothers,” guitarist Eric Ponder said. “Maybe not by blood but we’re definitely brothers.”

A lot of local non-Christian young people seem to relate to their life situations and love their music, they said.

Offering that hope to those who need it is what they aim for, not a Christian label. That label comes with expectations of how one should behave and the band members aren’t sure they’re willing to deal with that scrutiny.

“Saying you’re a Christian band is a big, big deal,” Mitchell said. “You should be aware of what the consequences of that are.”

The five members have played as a band for about eight months, after three Cullman-based bands merged together. They’re currently recording a CD, and hope to go on tour soon.

While many of their lyrics deal with male/female relationships, their newer songs have taken on a more Christian tone, said vocalist Cody Nuss, who writes most of the lyrics.

“In the past I dealt with more selfish aspects of my life rather than a more positive message,” he said. “Something inside me said it was time to get back to a more godly standpoint.”

BRAVER BY THE 2ND

Braver by the 2nd members Josh Campbell, left, Jon Tidwell and Blake Kinney. (Not pictured, Jon Stidham.)
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Braver by the 2nd members Josh Campbell, left, Jon Tidwell and Blake Kinney. (Not pictured, Jon Stidham.)
Members: Josh Campbell, 25
(guitar, vocals), Blake Kinney, 20 (guitar, vocals), Jon Tidwell, 25 (bass, vocals) and Jon Stidham, 25 (drums)

Genre: Indie/Rock/Christian

Home base: Cullman

On the Net: www.myspace.com
/braverbythe2nd

Beating people over the head with Bibles isn’t what makes Braver by the 2nd tick. But spreading God’s word in a discreet way is.

“The best way is to show people love,” said bassist Jon Tidwell. “There’s enough judging going on that we don’t need to do that, too.”

The majority of the group was in a different band before Braver by the 2nd, but became committed to becoming a Christian band after a close friend and former band member died unexpectedly three years ago.

Back then, they were all Christians, but didn’t always act the part, vocalist Josh Campbell explained.

Even now, the band’s MySpace page includes a disclaimer of their possible shortcomings:

“Being a Christian is hard,” it reads. “Sometimes Christians suck at being Christians ... so if you see one of the members, or have seen one of the members sucking it up as a Christian person, cut them some slack and remember that they, like all of us, are trying.”

The band’s lyrics are not usually explicitly about God, but always provide a positive, hopeful message.

In fact, the group dubbed its brand of music “smile rock.”

The group released a CD late last year entitled “Your Posture Gives Away the Position of Your Heart” and may sign with a Virginia-based record label soon.

Band members are not afraid to play in bars or other places “on the front lines” to reach those who may not know about God. During shows, they often thank God, offer the audience Bibles and the opportunity to talk to band members after the show if they need help in any aspect of life.

More than anything, they hope to be examples to young people. By being a good example, they hope to quietly make young people wary of Christianity aware of what it means — and doesn’t mean — to be a Christian.

“You don’t have to be a weirdo to be a Christian,” Campbell said. “A lot of times we get to break down that wall.”

FORSHADOW

ForShadow drummer Wes Duren, 20.
Daily photo by John Godbey
ForShadow drummer Wes Duren, 20.
Members: Kyle Doty, 22 (guitar), Patrick Dunagan, 19 (vocals), Josh McLaughlin, 19 (guitar, vocals), Kyle Tubbs, 21 (bass) and Wes Duren, 20 (drums and vocals)

Genre: Rock/Progressive/Christian

Home base: Cullman

On the Net: www.myspace.com/forshadowband

The members of ForShadow reconnected with God after they sold all they had and drove out West to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in a 1999 Dodge van last June. They hoped to break into the underground music scene in nearby Spokane, Wash.

At the beginning of their stay in Idaho — where the band and five others packed into a three-person house — they were all Christians, yet had not established themselves as a Christian band.

Becoming a Christian band crossed all of the guys’ minds at one time, but they never spoke up for fear of the other members’ reactions.

“I guess we were afraid to admit it to each other because we’re guys ... we’re open to each other more now and know how to communicate with each other,” vocalist Patrick Dunagan said.

But when they agreed to the change, the new direction set things in motion.

“All of a sudden we got a record label when we got close to God,” bassist Kyle Tubbs said. “I think as soon as we changed our hearts, he let everything happen for us.”

The group will record its first full-length CD in early summer with Delaware-based indie label “Tried by Fire Records” and then launch a seven-month tour this summer.

On April 20, they’ll also be playing at DotyFest 2007 at the Cullman Civic Center, where their first music video for the song “Lori” will be shot.

The band hopes to start writing songs with a spiritual bent as they continue their transition to becoming a Christian band. Right now, many of their songs center around male/female relationships.

While members of the band enjoy telling people about their faith, they look forward to learning more about the Bible so they have God’s word to back up their faith. Then, guitarist Josh McLaughlin said, they’ll become more successful at witnessing to people, especially as they go on the road.

“It’s almost like just doing your homework,” he said. “If we’re going to claim something, we want to be able to back it up.

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