Escape From Planet Showbread + an Announcement You Shouldn’t be Surprised to Read

Believing in love, believing in hope, surrendering all of my will – believing in nothing is scary, believing in something is scarier still

-Showbread Precursor

In 2009 we had just moved from Morganton, NC to Oak Ridge, TN. Erin had gotten a new job, I had just left one that barely paid my bills. We were newly married, were now living near Knoxville, a town I’d eventually fall in love with, and I had recently became a born-again Christian. Despite semi-difficult financial times and the uncertainty that comes along with moving to a new place and being unemployed, we were very happy and life was definitely good. My newly acquired faith told me the Lord was doing a mighty work in my life, and I believed it.

Church has always been a strange thing for me. Same with religion of all flavors. Why be a part of it? What do you actually get out of it? Is this real or is this a basic series of motions one goes through to appear to be “good” or to lift their own spirits, to make them forget their transgressions, to give them hope? At that point, the basic idea was beginning to make sense to me – the church we had attended in North Carolina was a breath of fresh air, they made statements that made decent theological sense, I was never made to feel pressured to get involved or give money and was always welcomed. I was new at this and skeptical though I may have been, this church seemed like a good thing.

The Bible has never made a lot of sense to me. It makes great reading for how to treat people, how to care for people, how to live an upstanding life, yeah, but it also shares stories of pretty awful violence committed by god’s own people, often condoned by god, himself. Despite the many fallacies, inconsistencies, and the fact I couldn’t quite accept it as full truth since it was written by men, I did something I should’ve never done: just blindly accepted it as part of the Christian arsenal. I even spent lots of time studying my student Bible, even reading through it in a year, being careful to not over-analyze it.

So the church is strange, the Bible doesn’t make sense, I’m not great at being social and I had very little money to give – what do I get out of this church experience, one might ask. The short answer is I was always truly moved, felt truly close to the Most High when I heard music. It’s not a strictly church thing, nor does it really have anything to do with contemporary Christian music or in the classic hymns, specifically, because I get the same feeling when listening to secular music – lots of U2 songs do it, lots of ska and reggae does it, even hearing Amy Winehouse’s voice does it – I guess it’s different when it’s Christian music because the message tells you who you’re singing to. There’s a concrete subject, there’s a focus, and therefore the experience is even more spiritual, there was no question who I was singing to, no question who was causing the feelings I’d get in my heart and in the pit of my stomach when you’d say those words Then sings my soul… or even Our god is greater, our god is stronger…

Naturally I’d want to listen to more faith-based music but let’s be honest – most of it is awful. I can stomach some Casting Crowns but not very long, and I’m just not the kind of guy that listens to the stuff included on those WOW CDs save for a Newsboys song here or there. I wanted music that was spiritually uplifting and was God-focused but I also wanted something that had some balls, that pushed some limits, that actually, physically, MOVED me. Being a fan of metal, punk, and ska, I obviously gave the “Christian Rock 101” bands a shot but always felt Skillet was too sissy for metal, didn’t get as much out of Demon Hunter as I wanted, was left mostly unimpressed by the likes of Impending Doom and related acts. Punk wasn’t much better – while I was a fan of MXPX from long ago, I still dug them but they didn’t give me the “true” punk sound I wanted. Slick Shoes, meh, and the power-pop of Relient K satisfied to an extent but not what I was looking for. I do dig the OC Supertones, Five Iron Frenzy, and even the Insyderz but I’ve always felt Christian ska was just a poor attempt at churching up the third-wave ska trend that gave them the little bit of fame they all received, not really contributing to the ska scene in any other way. Bottom line: Christian music is boring most of the time.

Still not giving up, though, I remember sitting at home in Oak Ridge watching a “Top 5 Countdown” style show On Demand for Christian rock. The hosts were Family Force 5, a band I would go on to adore and still do. I don’t remember anybody else on the list but the countdown included a band that would change my life in so many ways. The song was entitled The Journey and the band was called Showbread.

 

“Woah…THESE guys are on the Christian rock countdown?” I said after picking my jaw up off the floor. I wasted little time researching them and checking out their music. They had just released their 2009 effort and fifth major-label record, The Fear of God, and I was instantly neck-deep in Lost Connection with the Head, Vehement, and I Think I’m Going to See You, all singles from that album that had videos on YouTube. These guys GOT it. Their music was hard, their message was strong (often including hints at political topics I felt super strong about but was also left high and dry when it came to getting support in the church), and the more I learned about them, the more punk rock they became.

thefearofGod

Once I dove a little deeper into earlier works like their other Tooth & Nail efforts No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical (2004), Age of Reptiles (2006), Anorexia/Nervosa (2008) and their earlier, indie releases The Dissonance of Discontent (1998), Goodbye is Forever (1999) and Life, Kisses, and Other Wasted Efforts (2003), I quickly learned what made this band great. They knew punk, they knew metal, they knew pop, they knew industrial, and they mended them together in a way that crushed other similar, even secular, bands. Their message was strong, and it satisfied my spiritual self in every imaginable way.

Over the next few years I read all I could about the band, got all of their albums, bought some t-shirts, MADE some t-shirts, created digital art, changed my iTunes icon to their ever-evolving “no music” logo, contributed financially to their Kickstarter efforts, the 2010 Come&Live release “Who Can Know It?” and their most recent C&L release, 2012’s “Cancer”, was for some time an active member of their online fan club, the Raw Rock Militia, and even got a Showbread tattoo. I supported the band because they were supporting me, even if they didn’t know it. When I had theological doubt, or felt like I wasn’t “right” because I was so different from the rest of the congregation, or even when my faith felt like it had dwindled down to nothing, Showbread were there to say “Shut up – put our record on, let the Holy Spirit dance within you, and know that God is here.”

@showbread #tattoo done by Brandy @ @2tongallery #showbread #rawRockKills

A post shared by justintfirefly (@justintfirefly) on

 

I still frequently cycle through my Showbread collection. Some of it I like better than others, some of it fits my mood and my emotions better than others (being a band that has changed their sound – sometimes drastically – between records, this isn’t difficult to do) and I’ve remained a loyal fan since that one afternoon in 2009 my broke, unemployed butt sat on the couch in our Oak Ridge apartment watching music videos On Demand. Showbread are a great band made of truly talented individuals that write relevant songs that glorify the Almighty and also wrestle with topics most other Christian rock acts wouldn’t touch. Therefore, for me, it’s truly unnerving that when I tell someone about Showbread the typical response I get is, “Who?”

Showbread hit it big with their Tooth & Nail debut No Sir… in 2004. The waters were perfect for them to jump in with the record they had written. Their quasi-punk, borderline industrial, flavor of rock and roll was toxic and their screeching vocals (between the duo of Josh Dies and Ivory Mobley), for better or for worse, lumped them in with the screamo scene that seemed to be dominating, especially among young Christians that were seeking something more extreme than MercyMe. When you do come across a casual Showbread fan, No Sir… is what they mention, No Sir… is what they love.

According to the many interviews I’ve read/listened to and Josh’s book The Joke We Play on the World I’ve learned that one of the things that hurt the band was their decision to take a different direction with their follow-up record Age of Reptiles, an album that’s dominated by a more punk/pop-punk sound that utilized very little screaming vocals. Suddenly the kids that gushed about their screamy freshman effort were no longer interested based solely on the fact that clean vocals were used. They may have gained some fans, but they also lost a lot. This process repeated again when they took another hard turn and went with a more industrial/metal sound for the sister albums Anorexia and Nervosa and then again when they toned it down for a more dirty rock and roll sound for The Fear of God (was that a solo I heard in the opening track?). The next release Who Can Know It have Showbread changing yet again with a more melodic and often times power-pop sound with lyrics that utilized very few hooks. Cancer? Another change. I guess one needs to have a deeper understanding of art as a whole or at least have broader taste in music (if not both) to accept the constant changing but there are aspects of each album that make them great in their own unique way. Things I figure any “fan” would take notice of.

In the end, though, I guess not. With little label support (and a push to continue releasing a Mouth Like a Magazine style single on each record) and a constantly dwindling fair weather fan base, Showbread never quite “made” it. Maybe they had limited themselves with their Christian message and then further alienated themselves in their own genre with their extreme sound, risqué artwork and that whole fan-made Dead By Dawn video fiasco. The fact remains that Showbread never received the notoriety they were well-deserving of, and I find that to be an example of a true industry injustice.

The band recently uploaded several videos to their YouTube channel, including the full content of their DVD The Nothing Matters Anymore Tour. In the documentary there’s a scene where the band are about to start loading up after a show and they state that they had played for less than 30 people that night. True, most of the clubs they played at didn’t look like they were able to hold many more than that in the first place, but a band with such a rich history, with such a vibrant sound, touring for their fifth major-label album (and my personal favorite) had to play in front of 30 people? Something is wrong with this picture. That’s a story Great White or Kid Rock should tell, not Showbread.

Fairweather fans, poor label support, a revolving door of band members, and the hardships as part of crowdsourcing not one but TWO albums and even a movie be damned, the band just kept moving.

Until now, I suppose.

On June 3 Broken Light Records released a podcast interviewing Josh Dies about several topics, namely Showbread, crowdfunding another album, the difficulty in ambitious plans, and most importantly: the future of the band. In the interview Josh said that basically this process of creating Cancer was, indeed, biting off more than they could chew and that it’s put the band in a difficult place. Add to that the fact that Josh recently became a father and is now a pastor of a new church. The man is wearing many hats. He announced the intention is to properly release (read: not crowdfunded) a farewell record and then…that’s it.

Shortly after the podcast was released the following image was loaded onto their website homepage with text underneath it that read “Showbread is Showdead”.

tumblr_static_45bz5bm0dyckggws0owoso48o

The band are in a place where it doesn’t make sense to continue being Showbread. Without a proper label the band can’t do it all themselves and continue to be an internationally known act. And their small, though dedicated, fan base can’t provide for them all they need to do it the right way while supporting their families and paying their bills. It sucks. It sucks hard. I hate it, actually.

But I get it.

Over the course of the last couple of years I have gradually fallen away from my Christianity. As of today, I no longer identify as a Christian. I’m not anything. I do still want to believe there’s a creator – I do still want to believe in a holy spirit of sorts, I have just chosen to no longer believe the Christian version of these entities are real.

Why this is important is that even though my monotheistic views are skewed if even existent anymore, I still get that same feeling when I pop in a Showbread record or they come up on my iPod. There’s something spiritual there, and even if a person has no faith, their spiritual life is still important, however the method required of getting that spirit tantalized. Showbread does that for me. And I’d like to thank them for it.

Showbread gave me a reason to celebrate when I was a believer. And I’d like to thank them for it.

Showbread gave me strength when my faith was dwindling. And I’d like to thank them for it.

Showbread have given me a new attitude toward art in general. And I’d like to thank them for it.

Showbread have given their fans an incredible discography of timeless music with thought-provoking lyrics and artwork, no matter your faith or philosophy, and more than anything, I’d like to thank them for it.

Godspeed, Showbread. May Raw Rock kill us forever and ever.

Amen.

L500xH500_3744129170_dd449-4a526

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s