Pushing boundaries. Challenging stereotypes. Stepping outside the comfort zone.
Every once in a while a band comes along that causes us to rethink our preconceived notions about society, youth culture and the Christian walk. A band with conviction and mission, and a message that reaches beyond the church walls. With their debut Sparrow Records release, With Abandon, Chasing Furies have clearly stepped up to that plate. Fronted by three siblings from Fort Worth, Texas. Chasing Furies challenges Christians and non-Christians alike to look past appearances and search instead for Truth.
Sarah Meeker, 22, is the group's chief songwriter and vocalist. Music, she says, is "an awesome way to be able to release different emotions. I find it hard to write or sing about things that don't have relevance to my life. It has to be things that I'm going through." Older brother Joshua, age 24, is the band's lead guitarist, and also writes and sings. Younger sister Rachel, 18, sings. Collectively, they blend the kind of tight harmonies that only siblings can create with edgy rock musicianship. The result is a sound that's both bold and melodic"think Radiohead meets Jonathan Brooke, artists that have, incidentally, strongly influenced Chasing Furies.
The three have been playing music all their lives, but the band really began to gel when Sarah discovered songwriting. "Josh had always been the writer in the family, and I had always just sang backup for him," recalls Sarah. "When I started writing, I felt silly; I had just learned to play the guitar so I could write songs, and here Josh is this phenomenal guitarist." Embarrassed to showcase her fledgling efforts before the entire family, Sarah asked younger sister Rachel to sing back-up at a local coffee house open mic night. Both were encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response, and asked Josh to join them for a return engagement. And so Chasing Furies was born.
The name, says Rachel, comes from a combination of sources. "We're big fans of a band called Over The Rhine, and the 'furies' part comes from a line in one of their songs," she explains. "C.S. Lewis also wrote about the mythological furies in his book, Till We Have Faces, which is a favorite book of Sarah's. And the 'chasing' part is a great description of how we are to be in this life: chasing and pursuing our dreams."
Joshua, Sarah and Rachel are second generation preacher's kids; both their father and grandfather are worship leaders. Their names may be straight out of the Old Testament but their look could have been lifted from the pages of any modern music magazine. With day-glo hair and multiple body piercings, no wonder the band caused a stir when they first performed at 1997's Christian Artists Seminar in Estes Park, Colorado. "When we showed up we stuck way out in appearance," laughs Josh of the experience. "It's a pretty conservative crowd there"gospel quartets and that kind of thing. But we just wanted to play and show our hearts"it's the same deal, we just look different. And what was really cool is that afterwards we had women coming up to us saying, 'Hey, we're sorry for pre-judging you.'" That, in a nutshell, is what Chasing Furies are all about.
"We're not only wanting to stretch secular people"non-Christians"but we're also wanting to stretch Christians," says Sarah. "We know it's only the heart that counts," she adds. "Non-Christians don't have to live by that rule. They can live by the rule that says, I only want to hang out with people who look like me. Because if they look like me, then maybe they can relate to me."
What secular kids quickly discover, however, is that they can relate. Both Sarah and Joshua have worked through a rebellious youth. Sarah experimented with drugs, and Josh got involved with drinking, girls, and cutting school. Rachel, witness to it all, says she learned from them "not to even try smoking or any types of drugs"it's not worth it." It was a lesson her siblings learned the hard way. Sarah and Josh saw the destruction their behavior had created and how it was hurting the family. And the two shared a powerful moment when Josh gave his testimony at a youth retreat.
As a preacher's kid, Josh was something of an authority figure to the young people there, he explained. "I figured, I'll get up and say whatever, you know, blah blah. And when I got up, the Lord broke me in front of all these kids. That was really the turning point for me."
"As preacher's kids, you're not supposed to have flaws," adds Sarah. "Growing up, when I had a problem and really wanted to talk to somebody about it, I never felt comfortable going to our pastor, because then he could tell my mom and dad. And I didn't want to tell other youth, because then I wouldn't be perfect in their eyes. What we saw through the whole experience was that kids want to relate to us, to anybody. We want people to know, we are so normal! We stumble. The main thing is, God's awesome, and he will come pick us up."
Lyrically, these experiences wind their way through With Abandon. On the song "I Surrender," Sarah sings, I'd quickly forgotten what I once so adamantly proclaimed; When I am the only one standing, I am the only one left to blame ... The song "Nothing" carries the line, I've gone 'round enough, Fallen down enough to see, That I'm nothing without You. Their message is a powerful one for secular kids, but the Meekers also know they will have to carry their message to that world, not wait for it to come to them. "The unsaved are not sitting outside the church doorway, waiting for you to ask them to come in," reasons Josh. "They don't want to come in."
Reaching out to that world, in fact, is something Sarah has explored by starting an informal ministry of sorts at a Denny's restaurant near her Boulder home. It started as just a quiet place to read and drink cheap coffee. But she befriended some regulars there and ended up connected with a crowd of kids whose paths she never would have crossed otherwise.
This developing ministry has been a powerful experience on both sides. The kids never knew that a Christian could be strong in her faith and still have a pierced tongue, lip and nose, and sing in a rock band. They didn't know that someone who looked like them could also walk with the Lord. Typical of everything Chasing Furies do, both sides of the equation looked past appearances, set aside stereotypes, and looked into each other's hearts.
Growing, stretching, reaching past barriers and boundaries. For Chasing Furies, it's not just a message, it's a mission.
Note: While Chasing Furies is no longer performing or recording as a group, lead singer Sarah Meeker (now Sarah Macintosh) is working on a solo cd. (See Sarah Macintosh profile).