Remedy Drive’s Commodity Is the Album Christian Music Needs

CommodityAbout a year ago, I picked up my friend David from the airport and gave him a ride to The Grid Studio in Lincoln, Nebraska. His band, Remedy Drive, was deep into the recording of their new record, and he was flying in for a few days to record vocals and fine tune a few early mixes.

During the hour-long drive from Omaha to the studio, David opened up to me about how the project was shaping up to be drastically different from their last two studio albums. Remedy Drive was making a conscious decision to forge ahead without a label, to sing and play without second-guessing their lyrical and musical choices. Commodity, as it would come to be known, would be an album on their own terms.

But we’ve all heard this story before, haven’t we? Record labels are evil conglomerates whose sole purpose is to squash creativity and cater to Becky, the 40-year old soccer mom who listens to Christian radio…ahem, religiously. We’re supposed to celebrate when bands “stick it to the man” and do their own thing, right?


If the story of Commodity was just another tale of a band breaking free from the shackles of their label, I wouldn’t be writing about it. Thankfully, Commodity is a record borne out of of faith, conviction, and most importantly, experience.

David told me he wanted to affect change with this record. He wasn’t content just to sing songs this time around; he wanted to do something tangible. In just a few short months, David would be traveling to Southeast Asia to partner with Exodus Road in rescuing children from sex slavery. Commodity is a record about ending this horrendous injustice, and David wanted to take the first step in inviting Remedy Drive’s listeners to get involved.

As a result, Remedy Drive has created a record that is not safe for the whole family (when’s the last time you heard a song on Christian radio that references atom bombs and uzis?). But it isn’t needlessly crass or edgy; rather, it is an album about the dangerous, gritty reality of our time, and how God’s desire is for his people to be a part of the solution. When Remedy Drive sings songs about freedom and hope, we are not given the option to write them off as amorphous, ethereal concepts. Just as Jesus proclaimed freedom to real prisoners and real victims of oppression, we are called to be active in doing justice within our 21st-century context.

Commodity is a record that benefits from the gift of credibility lent by the musicians who created it. I can trust David when he laments, “Jesus, where are you? They’re far too young. Jesus, how long now? Your kingdom come,” because he has witnessed the injustice of human trafficking with his own eyes. These are not cheap lyrics lazily lifted from the Psalms, but the words of a man who is close enough to his Savior to ask questions without the fear of being cut off.

Musically, it is the most cohesive and deliberate record the band has ever made. Producer Philip Zach‘s contribution marks a sea change for Remedy Drive, but the songwriting and musicianship that fans have come to expect remain intact. Songs like Under the Starlight and Love Is Our Weapon benefit from the influence of current pop production, and flashes of the band’s signature sound shine through in various musical moments like the unexpected jam at the end of The Wings of the Dawn. Old school fans are even thrown a bone with The Sides of the North, Remedy Drive’s first recorded instrumental in over 10 years.

Will Commodity be accepted by the wider world of Christian music? Who knows. But what I do know is that this is an important record, and it has the potential to speak both into the musical homogeneity and the lyrical blandness of a faltering industry.

I believe in this record. I recommend this record. If you care about Christian music being substantive, cast your vote with cash and buy this record. The album drops on September 23rd, and you can pre-order it on iTunes right now. To read about David’s experiences with the Exodus Road, check out his blog.

Mike’s Top 5: Rock | #3: Foo Fighters – Everlong

Is it just me, or was 1997 a great year for music? Here’s just a sampling of the records that came out that year:

Jars of Clay – Much Afraid
Radiohead – OK Computer 
Sixpence None the Richer – Self-Titled
Spice Girls – Spiceworld (Ok…maybe not that one)
Five Iron Frenzy – Our Newest Album Ever
Switchfoot – The Legend of Chin

And of course, Foo Fighter’s The Colour and the Shape, featuring Everlong:

Musically, lyrically, and emotionally, Everlong is a near-perfect song. Seriously. It ebbs and flows in all the right places. The lyrics are vague enough for you to apply your own meaning, but singer Dave Grohl’s delivery communicates a passion beyond the words. If I was banished to a desert island with an iPod that could only hold five songs, I’d think long and hard about including Everlong.

It’s no stretch to say that Foo Fighters is one of the best rock and roll groups of all time. Say what you will about Nirvana, but in my book Dave Grohl’s little “solo project” has become five times the band they ever were. Grohl himself would likely disagree with me, but in any case, we should all be thankful that he turned down that gig drumming for Tom Petty.

Bonus: My friend Marc and I first hit it off when we discovered our mutual appreciation for this song.

Relient K and Biting My Tongue

Relient K – Photo by Jered Scott

From time to time, one of my friends will ask, “Hey, whatever became of the Relient K ordeal?” This is my attempt at answering that question…sorry it took so long!

A few months ago, I saw that Relient K had posted a teaser video for their upcoming album. I’m a longtime fan of Relient K, so naturally I was excited to hear new music and see some behind-the-scenes footage. But when I clicked on the link and the video started playing, what I heard didn’t sound new at all. Instead, I heard the main riff of one of my own songs, Biting My Tongue.

For comparison, here’s Relient K’s video:

And here’s my song:

Flight Metaphor has been playing Biting My Tongue live for more than two years; the studio version above appears on 2011’s Eastmost Peninsula.

As I watched Relient K’s video, my head started spinning. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or upset. I knew that if their song appeared in a finished form on Relient K’s new album, it meant that I’d have to defend the integrity of mine. It would only be a matter of time before someone accused me of “ripping them off.”

I showed the video to a few of my close friends, and almost all of them flipped out. A few told me to seek legal counsel, others started “ralllying the troops” for an online revolution, and I started composing a reactionary blog post. I dug up all the demos I ever recorded of Biting My Tongue, preparing to “put Relient K in their place.”

Thankfully, none of that happened. Instead, my friend Dave passed along Ethan Luck’s e-mail address, as he receives the music credit in the video (For the uninitiated, Ethan plays drums for Relient K). Remembering Jesus’ teaching on conflict and Paul’s exhortation to stay out of legal disputes with other believers, I decided to send Ethan an e-mail presenting my dilemma.

The next day, I received an extremely gracious and kind response. Ethan assured me that he had never heard my song before, that it was a freak coincidence. What follows is a portion of his e-mail:

I’m pretty blown away that the first chord/melody is pretty identical! So crazy. I put that RK video together and needed some music behind it. I, literally, wrote and recorded that guitar thing about 10 min before posting the video. I hope you don’t think there was any ill will here. I apologize for the confusion! Also, we have no intention of using that for our new album. Again, it just came out quick, while playing guitar.

He even went so far as to offer to take the video down and re-upload it with different music, but I told him it wasn’t necessary. I was happy enough with the fact that I could keep playing my song without having to justify it to my audiences.

All in all, it was a pretty surreal experience. Never in a million years would I expect to pull up a video from one of my favorite bands and hear a song nearly identical to something I had already written. Thankfully, the entire matter was wrapped up in less than a day, and Ethan was real cool about everything. Moral of the story: following God’s instruction can keep you from doing something stupid.

As for Biting My Tongue, every version I ever recorded of it appears below. I’ve always wanted to make a blog post highlighting the “evolution of a song,” and this experience has afforded me the opportunity. Enjoy! (Oh, and be sure to pick up Relient K’s new album when it finally drops 🙂 )

Demo #1
December 25th, 2009, 2 AM – Instrumental Idea

Demo #2
December 2009 – Vocal Idea

Demo #3
February 2010 – “Wait And See” Full Band Instrumental Demo

Demo #4
March 2010 – “Wait and See” Full Band Demo

Final Version
October 2010 – Biting My Tongue (Biding Time) Studio Version, Released June 2011

Seminary Update – Fall 2011

This update is coming a little late, but I wanted to make good on my promise to share some of my coursework from last semester. What follows is an excerpt from a “reflection journal” I wrote for my Vocation and Spiritual Formation class. These journals chronicled our experiences with the various spiritual disciplines we explored throughout the semester.

My view from the picnic table where I wrote my reflection

Last week, I took advantage of Omaha’s beautiful weather and followed this exercise outlined in Calhoun’s section on Meditation:

Take a walk in nature, meditating on the handiwork of God. The lilies of the field and the birds of the air spoke to Jesus of God’s care (Matthew 6:26-31). How does God speak to you in his creation?

I split my time between two days: on Monday before and during a run with a friend, and on Friday during a distance run.

On Monday, I spent some time in the park where I was to be meeting my friend. I’m especially fond of this park for its large trees that almost completely cover the ground with leaves during autumn, so I made a point of coming early and sitting in solitude and meditation for a while.

I silently observed my surroundings and wrote the following in my journal:

Trees, grass, bushes, and all plants are sustained by things unseen. Light, air, moisture seeping into roots…when a tree is rooted in good soil, it is able to survive the harshness of a storm, the cold of winter, and the dry heat of summer. It does not seek shelter or sustenance elsewhere when the going gets tough. It is firmly planted, and, because of intangible, unseen provision, full of life.

In the same manner, I pray that I will be firmly planted in Christ. I have buried my roots of faith in good soil, and I will rely fully on the Lord’s provision. He is all I need. Amen.

It wasn’t long after I wrote these words that my friend arrived and we went for our run. About halfway through the run we stopped, rather spontaneously, and prayed for each other. I cannot help but think that this was somehow shaped by my meditation experience from earlier – that by spending time in prayer with God, I was attuned to the spiritual needs of a close friend.

On Friday afternoon, I went for a run at another park, this time listening to one of my favorite bands on an mp3 player. All the right variables were in place – the weather was wonderful, it was the perfect time of day (about an hour before the sun started to set), and I left my stopwatch at home so I wouldn’t be distracted by my fitness goals. On this run, I was nearly overwhelmed by God – the music in my ears, the beauty of nature in my sight, and the joy of running itself were all offered back to God as an act of worship. As I ran, I found my mind returning to the excerpt from the Heidelberg Confession of Faith found in Calhoun’s section on Meditation: “I belong, body and soul, in life and death, not to myself, but to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ…”

Since I started running about a year and a half ago, I’ve found that some of my most meaningful prayer experiences occurred on runs when I was intentional about opening myself to God. Being able to incorporate this into my coursework (and more importantly, into my spiritual development) has been a blessing.

In my next update, I will be sharing my thanks to those who supported me last semester and my prayer concerns for the future. I’m excited for the spring semester to begin!

David Potter’s “Man of Sorrows, Glorious King”

My good friend David Potter just released an album of worship songs and hymns called Man of Sorrows, Glorious King. I’ve known David since I was in high school, and I’ve been bugging him to put out a record ever since. The wait is over, and I’m happy to recommend this CD to anyone who likes quality worship music. Church worship leaders will especially enjoy this project, as it gives a fresh take on some familiar tunes (I’m especially fond of the two-step feel on “Be Thou My Vision”). The original titles are also accessible and suitable for congregational worship.

Unlike many worship projects, this CD isn’t just a few “hits” surrounded by deficient fluff. Every track stands on its own, with top-notch production and some of the best musicianship I’ve ever heard on a local project. The proof is in the pudding: click here to download the song, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” for free on Noisetrade.

Here’s some basic information about the record, from David:

Man of Sorrows Glorious King is a full length record of both hymn re-workings and original songs for corporate worship.  My hope is to see this collection of songs and hymns serve to remind the church of the beauty and wonder of the Gospel; that a perfect and Holy God would become man, take on the punishment we deserved at the cross, and rise again as the conquering King who offers salvation and new life to His children.

Isaiah 53:3-5 says this about Jesus:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from    whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought  us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Not the picture of Jesus we tend to remember, is it? And yet Jesus’ humility and lowering of Himself “even to death” was a huge part of what made His sacrifice on our behalf acceptable to the Father.  Because Jesus was fully man, God could accept his death for sin as if we ourselves were on the cross, but because he was fully God, His offering was perfected in a way that could have never been offered by sin-stained humans.

And as we know, Jesus (and our) story didn’t end at the Cross.  Jesus is the Reigning King, having conquered the grave.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father “in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1).  This is the great and glorious King we worship!

The idea behind Man of Sorrows Glorious King is to unpack the tension that the title suggests.  That we would wrestle with the weight of what it cost God to make His glory available to us, and then respond to who He is and what He has done for us with passionate, devoted worship.

Click here to download the record on iTunes. Or, if your’e like me, you’ll want to order a physical copy here.

For more information about David, visit