Jars of Clay leads another lofty lineup at Spirit West Coast.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Jars of Clay are probably the best-known alt-rock Christian band out there. For the past two decades the Nashville quartet has sold more than 6 million albums, won three Grammys and sold out hundreds of concerts.
But the biggest accomplishment for Jars – one of the headliners at this year’s Spirit West Coast at Laguna Seca, one the largest Christian music festivals in the world – is crossing over to the secular, non-churchgoing rock world. “Flood,” the band’s breakout hit, not only topped Contemporary Christian Music charts in 1996, it reached 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 12 on the Billboard Modern Rock charts.
“We’re pretty sensitive not to come in and be preachy and have an agenda,” keyboardist Charlie Lowell told Wittenburg Door, “but to pray that we would be open to opportunities and really, just be ourselves and really focus on getting to know people and finding points of common interest, and sort of run from there.”
Some 15 years after its initial release, “Flood” now has more meaning than ever with the recent flooding of the Cumberland River in Tennessee. The band, originally from Nashville, has been assisting relief efforts through a digital release of Flood(ed): A Benefit EP, featuring five versions of the song for $1, with all the proceeds going to the cause. The tune has the alt-rock appeal of ’90s MTV “buzz bands” like Blind Melon and Cracker. Through a sweeping panorama of acoustic guitar, Dan Haseltine sings: “Rain, rain on my face/ It hasn’t stopped raining for days/ My world is a flood/ Slowly I become one with the mud.”
Setting up the flood charity isn’t the faith-based rockers’ first experience giving back, even with causes that have little backing from the church, like AIDS.
“It’s a sad thing that the church is looking for excuses not to get involved,” vocalist Haseltine told Beliefnet. “There’s still a section of the church that [believes] HIV/AIDS is because of sin and so what we need to do is just let them die.”
In 2005, JOC established the nonprofit Blood Water Mission, helping to provide those living with HIV/AIDS in Africa with clean water and sanitation.
On its most recent album, The Long Fall Back to Earth, which debuted at 29 on the mainstream Billboard charts, the band pays homage to ’80 groups they grew up on, like The Cure. “Two Hands” is about being burdened with conflicting beliefs: “I am a house that is divided, in my heart and my mind.”
The tune is representative of Jars’ avoidance of being pigeonholed as a “Christian” rock band. They consider themselves a rock band that just so happens to deliver a positive message inspired by their own personal beliefs.
“A lot of the reasoning behind our restlessness with being called a Christian band was more that the term Christian means so many things to so many different people,” Haseltine says, “that it is an almost non-descriptive phrase.”