Is it a “Christian rock band,” “Christians in a band,” or just a secular rock group that somehow got ensnared by the Christian rock industry? Each of the following bands, in some way or another, have come to be associated with Christian rock music. But these are not your run-of-the-mill Christian rock bands. These are bands that defy the labels put on them by the industry . . . so that’s what I mean when I say “Christian rock bands that aren’t Christian rock bands,” if you were scratching your head at such a seemingly contradictory statement.
The Violent Femmes are associated more with sex- and angst-fueled folk/punk rock anthems than with any sense of Christian spirituality. Yet, the band has a wealth of perfectly serious spiritual music sitting alongside all of the sassy punk stuff in their musical catalog.
As Dan Macintosh writes in an HM Magazine story on Violent Femmes vocalist Gordon Gano, the Femmes were part of a punk scene “where punk musicians were expected to be either angry or sarcastic, but nowhere in between those two extremes.”
Referring to their album Hallowed Ground, which includes spiritual tracks including, “Jesus Walking on the Water,” Gano says in the article, “I remember when we went on tour – when we went to England – and all the journalists were congratulating me and congratulating us for the great humor and tongue-in-cheek.” He goes on: “Sometimes people would be saying all that to me and then go, ‘Right?’ And me going, ‘Nah. No, actually . . .”
Clearly, the Violent Femmes defy easy categorization. Deeply spiritual, but very worldly as well, one would never see their music in a Christian bookstore, yet they lack the complete irreverence characteristic of so many punk bands.
Unlike the Violent Femmes, listed above, you can find Switchfoot music at a Christian bookstore. You can hear them on Christian radio, or see them perform at Christian music festivals. But just because they don’t shy away from their Christian fans doesn’t make them a “Christian rock band” per se.
Switchfoot vocalist Jon Foreman told the Boston Globe, “For us, it’s a faith, not a genre. We’ve always been very open and honest about where the songs are coming from. For us, these songs are for everyone. Calling us ‘Christian rock’ tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them. And that’s not what we’re trying to do. Music has always opened my mind-and that’s what we want.”
Hard-rockers Chevelle first signed to Squint Entertainment, a record label owned by the Christian media company Word Entertainment. Because of their label’s association with the Christian music industry, many fans assumed that Chevelle was a Christian band.
But Chevelle guitarist and vocalist Pete Loeffler set the record straight in an HM Magazine story by Doug Van Pelt. “I think there’s a place for those bands, but we’ve never been in that market,” he said. “We honestly didn’t want to be a part of that, because we think there’s a lot of money involved that shouldn’t be involved. We just had a bad feeling about all that stuff. I’m not into that music industry whatsoever.”
Evanescence’s breakout album, Fallen, was distributed in Christian bookstores . . . much to the band’s puzzlement, apparently.
Yahoo! Music quoted lead vocalist Amy Lee, who said, “There are people that are hell-bent on the idea that we’re a Christian band in disguise, and that we have some secret message. We have no spiritual affiliation with this music. It’s simply about life experience . . . I guarantee that if the Christian bookstore owners listened to some of those songs, they wouldn’t sell the CD.”
Band member Ben Moody, apparently a Christian himself, says in the same article, “I’m not ashamed of my spiritual beliefs, but I in no way incorporate them into this band. We’re actually high on the Christian charts, and I’m like, What the f–k are we even doing there?”
So was Evanescence’s so-called conversion from Christian to secular rock band a publicity stunt, or just an embarrassing misunderstanding?
mewithoutYou is probably the oddest addition to this list, because lead singer Aaron Weiss is such a strong believer in Christ and their lyrics often blatantly touch on religious issues.
But when Weiss was asked how he felt about the band being characterized as Christian in an interview with BustedHalo.com, he responded, “I don’t mind when anybody says it for my sake. It’s not like I’m offended if someone says we’re a Christian band. I just don’t think it’s true. I don’t think we live up to that calling, so I’d be reluctant to go saying that, and God knows the truth. Our hearts are very far from Jesus. No, I’m not concerned. People could say we’re a Hindu band or say we’re an atheist band-it’s not going to bother me.”
However, Weiss does add later that, “I also have a very clear sense of mission and purpose that I believe is from God, so I don’t shy away from that either.”
As with most of these bands, the issue seems to be more a matter of categorization than of faith.