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denison marrs: lessons in convalescence

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Though the distance between the two parties involved necessitated that our interview take place over e-mail, I'm sure Denison Marrs lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Eric Collins could hear me laughing from my cubby hole in rural Ontario (that's in Canada, folks). Asked where his band's name comes from, he writes, "It was a misinterpretation of a shirt I once owned by our base player Joe. It said "Venus and Mars" and he misread the front. We thought it was funny... the rest is history." I nearly fell off my chair. Call me what you want, but that's funny.

Some bands lift their names from Bible passages and are steeped in spiritual meaning. Some use their banner as a way of making fun of their friends. Beats "Relient K," (that band is named after a now deceased line of automobiles made by the Chrysler Motor Company) I guess.

Regardless of the frothy nature of its cognomen, this band, which began as a duo (Collins and drummer Jonathan Bucklew being the two) during the early 90's grunge era and eventually grew to include Joseph Bucklew and Daniel Day (lead guitar), is very serious about its calling. "[Our mission] is to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with: music," says Collins. "God has blessed us with a life full of music, and we love it. We write it, record it, and play it back to Him and it's incredibly fun."

On songwriting, Collins says he understands that his lyrics may be interpreted in several ways, but that he trusts that God will do His will through the message the band presents. "My lyrics are all based in things that God teaches me through His word, through the people I love, through people I don't know and through life all over," he says. "I put my trust in God to 'water' the seeds I plant, and He does so. We, as a band, put our trust in God in the same way. [We ask] that He [would bless] our time with and in front of people."

Those seeds are swaddled in a modern rock sound that has been compared to such diverse groups as The Juliana Theory, Jimmy Eat World and The Cure. Collins says those comparisons are fair, but that his band hasn't been directly influenced by any of the three mentioned. "We listen to a lot of different music," he says, "and we all bring very different influences to the table when writing. [That] makes for good writing because every song doesn't sound the same." Collins does, however, admit that the band has been influenced by groups like the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and Starflyer 59.

On the Verge of Greatness?

Denison Marrs is poised near the forefront of an increasingly relevant and progressive wave of artists which are bringing Christian music-or music by Christians, if you prefer-to larger audiences than ever before. Still, Collins acknowledges that there's still room for growth. "Some [of the product] is as good [as what's offered in the secular industry]," he says, "but not the majority. Usually the 'Christian' industry is playing catch-up."

With this increase in product quality has come a movement to shuck the "Christian" label, get it out of Christian bookstores, and let it stand on its own in the secular marketplace. While Collins says his group doesn't take offence to being labelled a "Christian" band, they believe very strongly in breaking out of the subculture. "As Christians, people should be set apart from the world in their way of thinking and living, but they should not be set apart or... segregated. Having 'Christian' music and 'Christian' stores and 'Christian' coffee houses is separating Christians from non-believers and is saying to them that we expect them to come to us, and that's incorrect. Jesus went to [the lost]-tax collectors, prostitutes, etc."

So what if Denison Marrs, recently signed to Floodgate Records, sees their next album sell millions, as did P.O.D.'s Satellite? Would they jump ship to a bigger label?

"If everything lined up correctly with the contract, and we felt that God was saying OK... then we would go with a bigger label," Collins says. "And yes, [we would go to] a "secular" label. The thing is, P.O.D is using their position and resources made available by a huge 'secular' label to reach people they would have never been able to reach if they were still on an indie-'Christian' label. They are still bringing life and hope to kids and people all over the world that will never walk into a "Christian" bookstore to buy a CD from a band that they've never heard of."

The New Album

The group, as you may have heard, is just finishing the recording portion of a new album, which Collins promises is the group's best sounding to date. "Spiritually, the lyrics are more about life and lessons I've learned than how I've written about love before," he says. "There are still songs about love, but more about decisions, failures/triumphs and hopes." Watch here for the lowdown as soon as the record becomes available.

Note: The band is also still recovering from an incident in which all of their gear was stolen. They're still having to borrow guitars and other things. Donations would definitely be appreciated. You can send them to:

Denison Marrs
P.O. Box 90841
Lakeland, FL
33804


- Ben Forrest
June 24, 2002
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