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I remember when the first On the Cover came out and it was one of my favorite MxPx CDs. There were some great tracks on that one—Take on Me, Summer of 69, Drum Machine Joy, along with a Keith Green cover, a Buddy Holly cover and a song that introduced us to the Cootees. Other than the artwork and the fact that it is a cover album, the two EPs have nothing in common.
The music is more sophisticated with guitar solos and a plethora of guest stars. There is a wide variety of artists covered such as: Poison, the Descendents, the Ramones, Queen, U2 and a Japanese punk band. I haven’t heard most of the originals and I don’t know if their younger fans have either, so it’s hard to say how they stack up against the other bands.
Don’t get me wrong—this is a nice little cover album, but if I had to rate my favorite MxPx covers they would be: O Donna, Take on Me, Summer of 69, KKK Took My Baby Away, Seventeen, Rock and Roll All Nite by Kiss, No Action, Blue Moon, Zombie by the Cranberries and Sick Boy. Obviously none of these songs are on there, so I’m an impartial observer.
If you are one of those fans who buy everything the guys put out, then you should snatch this up. Otherwise wait till next year for the next album or pick up anything before Panic.
Something I just noticed the other day was that you can stream the entire albums from current Tooth and Nail artists. For example go to www.myspace.com/joyelectric and click on “Choose a Playlist,” it’s beneath where it says, “Downloads” on the music player. You can make your own personal playlists for your myspace profile too. Also there are links to the Amazon music store, which has non-DRM tracks.
I started listening to Jason Martin’s music about 13 years ago and I still enjoy it as much now as I did in the beginning. Even though the band is mostly a solo project these days Jason keeps trucking with a new recording just about every year.
The latest album is entitled: “Dial M” and the title is a takeoff off of a Hitchcock movie title. The CD is scheduled to be released this upcoming Tuesday. The songs are remade versions of the “Ghosts of the Future” demos that were released as an vinyl box set.
Overall, I enjoy the new CD because the years have taught Jason Martin how to write songs that are tried, tested and true. My favorite song “Magic” is a bonus track that is also available on Amazon. Currently you can stream the album here and I encourage you to check out my Brothers Martin YouTube page here.
Since the Christian music industry began there have been discussions of bands and how Christian they are or aren’t based on their lyrics and things they say from the stage. Growing up I knew of bands that talked about knowing the Lord on stage and gave altar calls for people to get saved regularly at concerts. Being a Christian band was not necessarily a big money-making profession. It was about the message and the music–in that order.
Flash forward to more than 20 years later and we have a number of artists that cross over from the Christian industry to the mainstream: groups such as POD, Switchfoot, Relient K and others. Some of these crossover groups don’t like to be called “Christian” artists because of the stigma that goes with the labeling of the music. Yet these artists started in the Christian scene and worked their way into mainstream success.
It’s always easy to badmouth your old job after you quit working there and so it is when bands leave Christian labels. I think sometimes it is a little dishonest for bands to deny their Christian roots. Maybe being in a mainstream band was their goal from the beginning, but if that was the case they should never have gotten involved with the Christian industry.
Christian rock music is a subculture and there are different circles of it. Christian Contemporary Music or CCM is often associated with Nashville, Christian radio and Christian music festivals with bands like the Newsboys or Jars of Clay. The Tooth and Nail segment of Christian music is associated with Cornerstone Music Festival and is an edgy less overtly Christian scene. Many bands that play Cornerstone don’t want to be associated with the Christian scene because Cornerstone is the only Christian concert they play the whole year.
So we have CCM bands that make big money playing music to only Christians and we have edgy bands that focus on the secular scene yet have ties to Christian rock. Both groups are considered Christian, but they feel differently about the association. The CCM industry was birthed out of the Jesus Movement in the 70s and the underground scene became known to mass audiences with the emergence of Tooth and Nail Records.
Not every band is going to be evangelistic like those bands I grew up with, but that doesn’t mean songs have to be intentionally vague where it could be about God or a girl. I think bands ought to be more honest with themselves about whether they’re in it first and foremost for the money or for God. Bands shouldn’t be ashamed to be Christians and fans shouldn’t disown a band because they’re Christians or not making music only for Christians.
Below is a video with an interview with Ronnie Martin:
Last year I joined the Starflyer 59 message board. There was discussion of a tribute album almost since the beginning and now it’s finally finished. You can find the album here. I also did a cover of Card Games and Old Friends. The Joy Electric message board also did a similar tribute album recently. I also run a Brothers Martin YouTube page, which you can find here.
How do you view your records? Do you set out to do a concept record?
Jason Martin: It’s whatever 10 or 12 songs we come up with. We just want to make it different than the last one. We try not to put out the same record.
Which record is your favorite?
Jason: The Fashion Focus.
Does that mean you’re not happy with the latest one?
Jason: I don’t think any of them are perfect. I don’t think we’ve ever put out a perfect record by any means.
What comes first the music or the lyrics?
Jason: The music.
How do you come up with the music?
Jason: I play a guitar riff over the chords and that’s the melody. I try to find words that will fit into that. Sometimes the words mean something sometimes they don’t.
What are the songs about?
Jason: Songs are basically me having a conversation with myself like if struggling in this area of my life or my job is bumming me out. It means something to me like if I had a diary.
Will Starflyer put out an instrumental record?
Jason: No, Starflyer is bordering on instrumental. Nobody’s going to buy an instrumental record.
Was there anything to the hushed vocal sound of the early records?
Jason: That’s just how the guy mixed it. I sing kinda better now than I did then, but I’m not like a singer.
Is the reaction of the fans to the sadness of the songs accurate to how the songs were written?
Jason: I’m not trying to be like this bummed out artist… It’s cool people can relate to it.
Do you listen to music in the truck?
Jason: I don’t listen to anything. (He later admits to listening to Starflyer demos in the truck.)
Will there be a reunion with Ronnie?
Jason: He’s played on stuff before. (Jason doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen anytime soon.)
About the strings on Leave Here A Stranger?
Jason: I wanted to give it an old fashioned sound. I was sick of guitars.
Do you view your band as a ministry?
I view it as anything you do should be to the glory of God… No, we don’t give altar calls or anything like that. We’re at a Christian festival and we’re a Christian band–it’s entertainment.
Check out the Starflyer 59 message board at sf59fans.com.
Over the years their brand of heavy guitars and hushed vocals has gradually mellowed into a delightful Brit-pop sound with “Leave Here A Stranger” (left), which has continued to establish the band as one of the most creative in the Christian scene and beyond.
I recently did an e-mail interview with Jason Martin, the man behind Starflyer’s music. It’s hard to describe him, but the word “Rock Star” is definitely not in his vocabulary. He doesn’t seem to really have much to say outside of his music, but most of the time music can say more than an interview anyway.
Matt M: Last summer before your show at Cornerstone there was a guy who proposed to his girlfriend. He talked about how Starflyer was his favorite band and how he was so excited that he found a girl that loved Starflyer as much as he did. Did he talk to you beforehand to set up the proposal and what was your reaction when he was proposing?
Jason Martin: Yeah, he was a friend of ours and asked if he could propose on stage. I thought it was cool and I also thought he has a lot more guts than me.
MM: I heard that you met your wife while shooting a video for “A Housewife Love Song.” Is that accurate and if so can you tell a little bit of the story of how you ended up together?
Martin: I had known her before that. She worked around Tooth and Nail in the early days and was dating someone else. They eventually broke up. We did a video, started dating and were married 6 months later.
MM: You used to be in a band called Morella’s Forest and there is band from Ohio that also goes by that name. In another interview, your brother Ronnie told his side of the story, what’s your side of the story and did their use of your old band’s name bother you?
Martin: Not at all. At the time I thought it was kind of weird these guys I didn’t know took this obscure band name that happened to be ours. I actually came up with that name when I thought I was a deep 15-year-old. There was a poem, or short story by Edgar Allen Poe called “Morella” and a Cure song called “A Forest”…so there you go.
MM: Musically after Dance House Children, you and your brother Ronnie had a parting of sorts; each of you choosing to pursue a different musical direction. Why did the two of you decide to go your own ways artistically?
Martin: It just kind of happened. I’ve always liked guitar type stuff the best, probably because it’s easier to start. The idea of sequencers and programming really scared me when I was younger, so to do a more standard rock and roll thing when we separated made sense to me at the time.
MM: Can you give a run-down of the history of current and former members of Starflyer 59? Also why did Wayne Everett leave?
Martin: That’s a little confusing to me…Here are the basics. It was Andrew Larson and I in the beginning. Then it was Eric Campuzano, Wayne Everett and I. When Campuzano left, it was Cloud, Everett and I. About that time Wayne and Eric started a band called “The Lassie Foundation”. It became apparent that Wayne had some more important obligations with his new band; there were no hard feelings-that’s just the way it was. The lineup became, and still is, Cloud, Joey Esquibel and I.
MM: You always seem quite shy and soft spoken, and you’ve said that you don’t like being up on stage. Is that a fair assessment of your personality or is that just how you are in public?
Martin: I’m not shy around my close friends, but yeah, I don’t just love playing shows, it just goes with the territory. You work hard on making records and to promote the records you have to tour. I’m more comfortable with playing live now more than I’ve ever been, but it still at times seems a bit unnatural considering I know who I am, and I stand in front of people singing and playing guitar.
MM: You said that you’re not a poet, but a lot of people seem to think you are. Why do you think people think you’re a poet and why do you think they’re wrong?
Martin: I just write songs, some better than others.
MM: Your producer and friend Gene Eugene passed away a couple years back. Can you share a little about what he means to you as a musician and a friend, and how you will remember him?
Martin: Nothing really to say, he helped us out a lot, helped transfer the band into the band we are now. He was my friend and I miss that guy on a continual basis.
MM: You worked with Terry Taylor on “Leave Here A Stranger.” Was that weird working with him since you grew up listening to his band Daniel Amos?
Martin: Yeah it was at first. He was one the reasons I wanted to make music in the first place. It was a great time doing the record with him; it was nice getting to know a guy that had such a big influence on me musically and spiritually.
MM: The lines from one of your songs say: “When I learn to sing I’ll change the key of everything. When I learn to read I’ll change my views on everything.” Is that meant to be literal or metaphorical and do you think that the average listener understands the meaning of your songs?
Martin: The singing part was literal!!! I think the songs mean what they mean.
MM: Can you give a preview the new Bon Voyage album, as far as what listeners should expect in comparison to the first Bon Voyage record?
Martin: I think it turned out cool. It is a little smoother than the last one. There are some nice numbers on it and Julie’s voice sounds great.
MM: What’s the new EP “Can’t Stop Eating” (right) going to be like? Musically how will it compare to your previous recordings?
Martin: Basically it is a stereo version of LHAS and a slight preview of what’s to come on the new record…
MM: Do you ever feel that Starflyer being part of the “Christian” music scene causes people to discriminate against your music or to write it off as religious propaganda before giving it a fair listen?
Martin: No, we’ve never really had any problems being a Christian band, it seems like we’ve always gotten a fair shake.
MM: You were nominated for a music award in Orange County and you’ve received praise from music critics from publications like the L.A. Times. How do you handle that and what do you hope that people remember about you and your music?
Martin: I think that’s nice. I hope we’re remembered the way I remember bands like Daniel Amos, it made me want to be in a band and make music. That’s when it really was fun.
MM: Any last words, thoughts, comments or suggestions?
Martin: Thanks for the interview.
For more information about Starflyer 59 click here.