30 August 2013
A different kind of worship
Having released three albums and had multiple Grammy nominations there is obviously something about the group, or 'collective' Gungor. Headed up by Michael and Lisa Gungor, something seems to be drawing people to their hard-to-describe music. Even their own Twitter bio reads: "It's kinda hard to explain… Imagine if a cello and a banjo had a baby, and then you put a pedal board in the crib!"
Can you describe the collective?
We are based in Denver, Colorado, and the rest of the collective is people from all over, mainly the US but a few people play with us now and then from international places. We refer to ourselves as a collective because it is not always the same kind of set – sometimes it is a small acoustic set, sometimes a full on seven-piece band. As we don't all live near each other it helps that we have such a high calibre of musicians who can simply pick up our music and get playing.
How did you first get involved in music?
Michael: I have been singing as long as I can remember – my dad was the pastor but my mum sorted the music so that was my world and has greatly influenced the kind of stuff that we write. My spiritual formation and music formation happened at the same time. So music was always very spiritual/soul-ish. Often when I go to write music I automatically look for what is happening in my soul. That's why I write a lot about faith,spiritual aspirations, and spiritual failures. Music for me has always cut right to the core.
Your last album, released last year, is Ghosts Upon the Earth – could you tell us what inspired the title, and what the ideas found within the album are?
This new album feels like a step farther down that path. I feel like we're a bit more comfortable with who we are at this point, and it's been nice that there seems to be this little niche that we've found where people are excited to explore these things with us. Music doesn't have to fit the mould to move people's hearts, and at the end of the day, that's really what we're trying to do. We're trying to make honest music that opens people's hearts. The concept for the album came from the title song. There is a line in the song 'Nothing, There is nothing in its truest form, we walk like ghosts upon the earth, the ground it groans'. A lot of it was inspired by CS Lewis – what if God and heaven and love, are the most real things and we're more like the ghostly, walking upon the earth longing to be real and God is the ultimate reality?
What are you thoughts about the partnership between worship and social action?
That's been something I've been really encouraged over the last couple of years to see the church reconnecting with the world. Sometimes worship can become this almost gnostic, spirit world rather than physicality. People can sit around singing trying to get goosebumps but for me worship needs to be grounded as it is an offering in your body – that's what Romans 12 says. It is a physical way of living so social action and making the world a better place is a natural response. I don't know how you can pray 'let your will be done' and then let that be disconnected from the pain and suffering in the world. Seeking the Kingdom of God to come is why we get together and worship, and you can't separate that from social action if you actually are in for God's will and work in the world rather than just some transcendental experience for a moment.
Do you sometimes write intentionally for congregations? I know you've blogged about congregational song writing and wanting songs to actually mean something…
Yeah there can be times when we are trying to teach something in our church and we need a song for it so we write one. When we are writing songs for that setting we obviously always try to stay theologically true, but we also try to keep the whole person engaged on some level. We all talk about worshipping in spirit and truth – I think some camps can err towards the spirit and others on the truth but we try and keep the heart and the head engaged.