Last May, at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, a young man went on a shooting spree which left four people dead — two of which were his very own parents. Shortly thereafter, it seemed as though the whole country was wondering just what was wrong with the youth of America. 

Look into my eye...Guy Ritter and
Gary Lenaire are members of the band Echo Hollow, and both are probably best known for their role as co-founders of the group Tourniquet. But before they were ever in a rock & roll band, they themselves were each students at Thurston High School.

Needless to say, this event hit home. Hard. In response to this tragedy, Lenaire wrote a song called “Thursday” for Echo Hollow’s current EP on Geneva Records, called Diet of Worms. The song begins with these words “if there’s no hope inside of me/then why not destroy my reality.” It’s a song that gets straight to the core of the problems facing today’s youths, but it also comes with an answer.

“Judging what I do know about our culture and young people,” says Lenaire “there is truly only one answer to teenage despair, crime, drug use, sexual immorality, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believed and applied in their lives.”

Lenaire knows what he’s talking about; he’s been working with “at risk” youths in his home state of Oregon for the past 2 years. Similarly, Ritter ministers to the youth at his church in Southern California.

Guitarist Lenaire and vocalist Ritter are joined in this tri-state hard rock band by bassist Matthew Fallentine, who lives in Colorado, and drummer Matthew Rosenblum, who resides in Southern California also.

Rosenblum is well known around the L.A. area for his session work, and Fallentine is earning a name for himself as a praise and worship leader, and composer. In fact, Fallentine even made a guest appearance by singing on “You Get What You Pray For” back in the early days of Tourniquet.

Ritter and Lenaire are known entities in the rock & roll universe, but Fallentine and Rosenblum may still be new names to some. Nevertheless, their band mates know them well, and appreciate their well-honed skills.

“The ‘Matts’ of Echo Hollow,” comments Lenaire “are both so versatile. It’s so fun to play music with those guys, because as bass player and drummer, it doesn’t matter what I throw at them or what kind of idea I have, they always come up with stuff.”

In Echo Hollow, though, dedication to church life is as important as musical skills are. “One of our first and foremost goals in Echo Hollow,” explains Ritter, “is to be involved with the local church. In Tourniquet, it was very difficult — especially when you’re playing concerts, and you’re busy working full-time — to also be plugged into a local ministry.

“What we’re trying to do with Echo Hollow,” continues Ritter, “is to do something local in the church, and start there. And then let Echo Hollow be an extension of our local church.”

Rosenblum is a part of a tightly knit congregation. Fallentine is a worship pastor at his church, and Ritter and Lenaire both focus their attention on the young people. In other words, they’re all “plugged in.”

It may seem strange to many Christian music fans, but many times popular groups are just plain out of touch with the needs of the kids they are trying to minister to. I once asked the leader of a very popular Christian rock band to tell me his perceptions of where today’s young people are at spiritually. His answers shocked me. He explained that the lifestyle he now lives — which includes constant touring with hardly any free time between shows — leaves him very little time to spend actually talking to young people.

A solid church foundation helps Echo Hollow members to reach out to kids in need, but it also serves to keep the members of the band together. “That makes all the difference in the world,” says Ritter of his firsthand experiences with young people, “because we’ve all been in Christian bands, and it’s great to be in a Christian band where you’re doing all this great stuff, but if you don’t have some kind of ground wire, it’s really hard to keep everybody in line, and make sure everybody’s in accord.”

The closer they get to these kids, the less tightly they cling to their music business aspirations. “Playing in a Christian band is not that big a deal,” admits Ritter. “Really, what’s a big deal, is actually going to the church, or just talking to people at the mall, or whatever. Just really spending time with people; and not getting so caught up with the music, or whatever’s going on in your band, or your record contract, or your concerts, or all that.

“That stuff’s great and everything, but how many kids do you really get to touch after a show?” asks Ritter. “Maybe one, maybe two. You could touch maybe five or ten a week, if you really got plugged in (to a church) somewhere.”

Who knows, one of those kids might be headed for disaster, like that young man in Oregon. This teen shooting at Ritter and Lenaire’s alma mater could have happened to any high school, in any town. It’s a scary world. But Echo Hollow isn’t waiting around for the next shots to be fired; instead, they’re standing up for their faith, because they know that Christ is the answer for this hurting world.

“The message that we have,” comments Ritter, “is to the best of our ability, to preach the Gospel to the people, and to communicate the Word of God, as clearly and precisely as we know how to do it.”

hm

[return to current issue]