Maybe the road never
ends, but there are always a few stops along the way. We had
to cancel the show with FIF in Denver, Colo., says bassist
Todd Gruener of The Ws. Last week, while we were on
tour, Bret [Barker, trumpet for The Ws] ate some bad food;
turned out he got food poisoning. We stayed in Des Moines, Iowa,
for Bret to recover.
The odd culinary disaster notwithstanding, this a pretty good time
to be a member of The Ws or Five Iron Frenzy. The two just
wrapped a 35-spot tour of the nations skating rinks, The
Holy Roller Tour, with special guests The Insyderz and newcomer
Justin McRoberts. They also have plenty going on as separate bands.
The Ws, hot off selling close to 200,000 copies of their debut,
have a spot on the new VeggieTales video (a closing-credits cover
of The Rumor Weed Song), and a hot new soph release,
The Trouble With X.
The veterans on the tour, FIF, had a Top 10 debut with their new
live record, Proof That The Youth Are Revolting, and topped the
7ball Readers Poll for the second year in a row. They already
have a new studio album slated to come out in just a few months.
The two bands are kinda cut from the same clothThe Ws
may be a little bit swing and FIF may be a little bit ska, but both
like to rock and both like to take their fans on a wild ride. And,
just as importantly, both bands are searching for fresh and different
ways to reach new audiences with the message of Jesus love.
For FIF, that exploration has a lot to do with the way they tour,
which makes the live album such an important document for them.
Pieced together from 11 different shows from across the country,
the crowd was as key to the recording as the band. We encouraged
people to come and sing along, says FIF bassist Keith Hoerig.
If they did, we had them sign their name on our additional
background vocalist sheet. Theres like 7,000 names inside
our album credited with additional vocals.
To foster audience participation, FIF focused on those songs concertgoers
would find familiarso the album is chock full of fan favorites.
But we arranged some songs differently, Hoerig says.
There also are two new songs and a cover song that wont
show up anywhere except for the live album.
Even with all the roadwork, the guys have also been hard at work
on their next full-length studio album, due next spring. I
think the stuff being written right now is seriously our best stuff,
Hoerig says. With every album weve done, weve
tried to make it sound different, but still like Five Iron. Were
experimenting a little bit more with salsa music, and theres
a song on there thats influenced by heavy metal. Pretty hardcore.
I think our new album is along the lines of the EP,
says lead singer Reese Roper, referring to the wildly eclectic (and
fairly silly) Quantity is Job 1. Just a bunch of styles mixed
in with ska, and maybe returning to the feel of our first album,
where its a little bit more punk rock.
Unlike their previous records, they also have time scheduled to
hear and approve the final mastered version of the spring release.
Even for the live album, we didnt get to hear it until
it was already sent off to the CD manufacturer, Roper says.
With our other albums, weve wished we had time to do
more vocals, fix the drums, etc. This album, we asked if we could
postpone it two months, so its coming out sometime in late
Because most of the people at their shows are already Christians,
several songs on the new album challenge certain behaviors or sins
that seem to be accepted within the Church. I felt like God
was laying it on my heart to write about problems within the Church,
Roper says. Theres one [song] about homophobiaeveryone
will readily admit that homosexuality is a sin, but not that homophobia
is just as bad in Gods eyes.
Another song addresses the way Christians use their resources. When
I was in jr. high, I thought that if Christians could control certain
aspects of the media, more people would get saved, Roper says
as he discusses the growing number of Christian TV and radio stations.
We have all that stuff now, but we just use it for padding
ourselves. For the most part, [it] is meant to make [Christians]
feel good and not at getting anyone saved.
However, FIF is taking pains not to fall into the same trap. For
example, last falls Holy Roller Tour, which took
place in neutral venues, was designed to draw in kids who wouldnt
feel comfortable going to a concert in a church.
And, after the bands spring sabbaticaland their usual
tour of the summer festivalsFIF plans to depart on a secular
tour. Were talking to a bunch of different bands about
touring with them, Roper says. Before we were on Five
Minute Walk, we were one of the only ska bands [in Denver], so when
big bands came in, we got to open for them. Theres lots of
things that wed like to do, but were looking for Gods
leading. If we got to play more secular shows, or if He didnt
want us to play any more secular shows, wed be totally open
to that. Theres lots of places we want to go, but it depends
on where He wants us to go.
Their label mates, The Ws, are also looking for opportunities
in the secular market, and calling for the support of the Church.
I really love the support we get from Christians, says
James Carter, who plays alto sax in the band. I wanna have
them all support us as if we were missionaries.
In the meantime, the swingsters are glad to demonstrate their growth
on The Trouble with X. The last album, we wrote about our
everyday livesskateboarding, bowling, going to school, that
kind of stuff, Carter says. We had a few songs that
had overt Christian lyrics, but the majority of the songs were about
skateboarding and stories we made up. This album, pretty much every
song is about Christianity.
He adds that the album finds them stretching musically as well.
The swing aspect is still there, but theres a lot more
poppy stuff, some things that are really emo-ish and some Dixieland
One of Carters favorite new songs, the fast-paced and swingin
Tip from Me, sums up their philosophy pretty well. Its
basically talking to a non-Christian, he says. The chorus
is like, Take this tip from me. We know that things are screwed
up. Were trying to change things.
The song reflects the bands growing burden to talk to the
world and to Christians about the problems which plague todays
Church. A lot of non-Christians dont want any part of
[church] because they see its screwed up in a lot of ways,
Carter says. A lot of the songs are acknowledging that, saying,
Yeah, we see the problems, too. We need to start being realistic
with these problems and trying to do something to fix them.
For the spring, the band plans on taking a needed rest. Beyond that,
they are still waiting to see what God has in store for them. We
want to do everything in our power to be available to God, to serve
God and to serve other people, Hoerig agrees as he discusses
the future. Thats always been our goal, and it will
continue to be our goal. 7
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