“When art comes to terms with both the wounds of the world and the promise of resurrection and learns how to express and respond to both at once, we will be on the way to a fresh vision, a fresh mission… Art at its best draws attention not only to the way things are but also to the way things will be, when the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. That remains a surprising hope, and perhaps it will be the artists who are best at conveying both the hope and the surprise.” (N.T. Wright)

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Being in a band is hard.

Community, true community in any enterprise—be it creativity, spirituality, or a family—is so difficult. I make these SONGS in private, little 3 minute exercises of ego that hopefully communicate something to people. I labor over them, some longer than others, and try to get them to a place where they move me and yet also have some element of commonality, some mineral that speaks to the heart and ears of other people on this planet.

Then I do something that makes no sense.

I give them up. I relinquish them to four other guys, none of whom I’ve known over 18 months. I allow them to critique them, change them, break them down and rebuild them.

The process can be excruciating and frustrating.

Most, if not all, of the time we emerge with something better, and I again remember that there is strength in numbers. We are wired for this. Sometimes, the song dies a quiet death, not passing the muster of the first group of ears. It never gets its hearing in the wider world.

But still.

It’s an illusion, I know that we do much of anything by ourselves. As a Believer, I fight against this all the time. Often, my first instinct is that I can do anything—read the scripture, hear from God, figure out life—by myself. I know best. But sometimes this other voice whispers something insane: that I should open up my interpretations, my decision-making, my heart to others around me, and allow them to get in and mess with my “songs” and compositions.

This also, on the surface, makes no sense.

This process can also be excruciating and frustrating.

But just as in songwriting and creativity, I know that the harder path—the path of collaboration—yields richer results. The fields that are tilled in community grow greater crops than the small garden worked by myself. Even when the other guitarists are playing too loudly (I’m too old), even when the backbeat isn’t present enough, and even when the groove sounds too Coldplay and not enough Cash, it has to be worth it in the end.

Being in a band is hard.

But I think it’s the only way we’re really supposed to be.


For once I am proud of my work.

I just completed the typical evangelical “Super Bowl” run. Well, really for church-worker types, there are two Super Bowls: Christmas and Easter. These are the two Sundays that people who don’t normally come to church may be so inclined to pull a door open and check things out.

And we live for this.

We ramp up for days, make sure the best is displayed, make sure that people can tell how happy you can be to be a Christian (especially if you go to our church), how Jesus is going to make your life so much better, just how cool it is to be “with us.”

And most of the time, I really don’t like it.

I know I’m over-thinking it, but I have never liked selling Jesus like a box of OxyClean. (what’s with that guy’s beard? He has to color that thing!) It’s not that I don’t believe in proclaiming Jesus, it’s just that most of my experiences with churches have been weighted in the extreme towards the proclamation, and not so much in the commitment. It’s almost as if we’ve inverted the iceberg. We downplay the communal commitment, the discipleship that is required—the sheer difficulty in doing this life of faith—and play up the mental ascent that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose again to give us new life.

But I digress. A month ago, I set out to try and make this Easter different for our commitment. As evangelicals, we don’t do “Lent”, since (a) we have no idea what it means, and (b) even if we did, it smacks of high church (even Catholicism—eek!).

But this makes no sense. Easter without Lent, without Holy Week, is rootless and senseless. Before new life came betrayal, came torture, came denial, then death. Even Easter morning in the bible, rather than the plastic, toothy smiles and Easter lilies is much more textured and, well, real, then we care to try and portray.

Just read the scriptures.

The first Easter morning must have been scary as hell. Where was Jesus? Raised from the dead? Read the words: the disciples didn’t find out about the tomb and then plant some flowers and sing a Chris Tomlin song.

They freaked out.

It was hours before they began to calm down and deal with things, as Jesus began to appear and deal with them.

So the thing that pains me as a church-worker-guy is that we constantly have to over-simplify the emotions of scripture (and this while we proclaim that the bible is inerrant, and that we follow its words). We ignore the complicated reality of the stories in order to mine something to make our visitors feel good.

But I digress again; so I committed to taking our community through the pain of Holy Week as best I could. No false hope. Friday is “black Friday.” Saturday is full of doubt and confusion. No release. (A large church I used to work at actually used to celebrate Good Friday on Thursday. They saw no problem with this. Discuss)

And you know what? People went on the journey. And not only our community’s “high church refugees”. No, our new believers, our roughly hewn pilgrims. We had a gathering on Friday night that had no sermon; in fact nothing took place from the front platform. We emptied everything and forced people to just journey through the story, as best we could tell it.

And then on Sunday, we released it all (still not dealing with some of the ambiguities, but hey: baby steps). But the cool thing is that where most churches spend thousands of dollars on flowers (not the poor) and stress out about the perfect 75 minute program, we bought 10 lilies, and showed one video, and played some songs about hope in darkness.

And you know what? I think (know?) God was pleased. Pleased because we told the story—we remembered—and that’s all God requires us to do in a sense. We rehearse the salvation story over and over again, and hopefully it becomes more real over time, to ourselves and our communities.

We hype Jesus so much, and sometimes I’m afraid that it’s because we don’t think the actually simple story of scripture—of incarnation, teaching, atonement, and resurrection—is somehow not powerful enough on its own.

Isn’t that scary? More on this later…

But for now, I’m satisfied, though tired. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say this as a church-worker-guy.


That’s a wrap.

Friday we wrapped tracking for the record. Nathan was the honorary “last to give,” adding some light percussion to the tracks. However, we weren’t quite equipped with all the instruments and toys that we were envisioning, so we had to get inventive, and a little bit lo-fi. How lo-fi? Well, a large container of Lowry’s Seasoned Salt served as one shaker, a smaller container of sea salt was the other. Hand claps were supplied by the Case family children. It’s a family affair.

So what’s next?

First we sort through the five vocal tracks for each song, the 8 - 12 guitar takes for each song, the eight backup vocals for each song, and try to arrange and get all the “colors” into the right light. Then we’ll turn it over to a good friend for mixing, pick the final tracks and sequence them (critical) send it out for mastering, and then finish the art work.

All told, another 4 weeks of work.

But it’s worth it.

I know I’m biased, but these tracks really glisten and shine. I hope the heart, soul, and creativity that we poured into them will translate to everyone. There are new textures, new sounds, and we can’t wait for people to hear them.

See everyone soon.

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I came back from tracking a few hours ago. Today was Justin’s day, the day we were supposed to be all finished. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re done yet. A lot of the tracks just seem like they’re missing something, some kind of center that holds it all together. We were supposed to basically recording essentially our live arrangements, but as we got into it, we started experimenting here and there, and I think we drifted a bit into some more creative territory, which is fine, except that I’m not sure we have the time to do all of this and still get everything wrapped up in time.

I think we need to track some really stripped down, simple guitars just to give the tracks something to hang around.

Maybe all of this is normal. I’m not sure. I think at some point your mind definitely begins to play tricks on you and you start to second guess the way things sound.


Studio Blog – Guitars, Day 1

We were supposed to begin tracking guitars today, beginning with Justin’s parts. Maida Vale guitars are going to be the biggest mountain for us to climb, since they provide most of the hooks and melodic/harmonic content in the band.

This was meant to be exciting, because we are doing a lot of this record ourselves—on our laptops, in our houses. So we had a spot all set up for doing the electrics, along with five of our collective amps, all our pedals and guitars. We wanted to establish some options for each other. We were going to do Justin first, because he had to fly out of town the next morning for the whole week. This was the one day we had to get all of this stuff done, which is plenty, considering he plays banjo and lap steel as well. Lots of things to do.

Then he got sick.

Some kind of flu virus just took him out, and we effectively lost a day. We’ll have to rethink the remaining schedule, and adjust on the fly in order to get this thing done by April or May. Stratton has us on a tight schedule…