~ originally published in the Liberty Champion on Sept. 1, 2009 ~
“Hey Stubbs, last night I had this dream that I was a muffler.”
“No, a muffler! I had a dream I was a muffler last night and I woke up exhausted.”
“Alright guys, focus.”
The members of The Glorious Unseen (TGU) lounged on couches in the middle of the Student Activities office on a sunny Friday afternoon, waiting for me to interview them, although “waiting” might be too benign of a word. Each of the guys was bursting with some unknown source of energy, as if they had each ingested a six-pack of Mount Dew on an empty stomach. Their excitement was infectious, and what I had thought was going to be another routine interview turned into a deeper look into the lives of a self-proclaimed “ambient worship band.”
Ben Crist, TGU’s lead singer and guitarist, is the cornerstone of the band, originally starting out as a worship leader at Anchor Fellowship in Nashville, Tenn. After the addition of Crist’s “good friends” Ryan Stubbs (guitar), Ben Harms (bass), Jon Todryk (drums) and Patrick Copeland (piano), the band got signed by Tooth and Nail Records and began touring a year ago. Crist came up with the name “The Glorious Unseen” because he wanted to communicate the mystery of God.
“The only reason there is a name for (the band) is because the label has to promote it. This was just a church worship band. There was no formal getting together of a band and saying, ‘What are we gonna do?’ I was already doing it every Sunday and naturally everyone else just caught on,” Crist said. “We kind of do the same thing whether we’re at church or on the road anyway. (Even if) we are at a music festival where there are tons of bands, we still have the mentality … like we’re in a church service leading worship.”
When asked about what genre they would consider their music to fall under, the band agreed that it was not so much about the name of the genre as it was about the purpose of the genre.
“I think a lot of people might … (say) we’re in the worship genre. That to me is disgusting that worship has become a genre. We actually kind of seek to like move way beyond that ‘genre’. Our music is so much more ambient. It’s about atmosphere and creating an environment that’s conducive to people really focusing on connecting with God’s spirit,” Crist said.
“We don’t try to impress people with our music. We try to impress God with our music. And that’s harder, because he’s heard it all. He created it.”
The band’s latest album, “The Hope That Lies in You”, was conceived out of difficult experiences that the members of TGU experienced around the same time. The theme of the album, according to TGU’s MySpace page, is to serve “as a battle cry of optimism in our increasingly pessimistic world.” They could not pick a favorite song from the album because each one was individually important.
“We were a mess. We still are kind of recovering. Right before we started writing the album our lives exploded or something,” Crist said. “We were all dealing with some pretty intense stuff.”
“Every time we had to write sections I’d be on the floor. They’d call me and be like, ‘Dude, you have got to get out of bed and down to the studio, we’re writing.’ They would have to call me four times just to get me the motivation to get up and move,” Stubbs said. “We would get in the studio and we were all so drained from trying to deal with life that there was no way we could write … because we had the wind knocked out of us.
“I feel like God kind of took our hands and helped us write. We ended up writing 13 or 14 songs in the span of 20 to 25 hours.”
The guys do not bring any expectations to the stage when they do a show, solely relying on the understanding that their performance has nothing to do with them.
“We come asking God to do what he will. We are prepared to play our songs and worship though that,” the guys collaborated. “I don’t think we can say there is anything we expect on a nightly basis, (because) God will do whatever He wants. Some nights there are people who just stare at you … and other nights people will be in casts, prayed for and healed, walking around. We expect something in between there. Somewhere in between silent still worship and raising the dead.”