If I had the ability to go back in time by about a year, to tell you what would be in store for you in 2020, and to tell you that the world has gone to bits, has been turned upside down in the most unimaginable way possible, but that you would have a break and that you would be using that time alone to reconnect on a soul level with those around you whom you deem important and with those you love; would you believe me? If I were to travel back in time to tell you that there’d be no more concert, live sports games, movies, TV shows and social gatherings more than 10 or 20 people in the foreseeable future; would you believe me? If I were to tell the you of 2019, that the world right now as we know it has completely changed, and will forever be changed even in 10, 20 years; would you believe me? Would you call me crazy and just laugh me off? Or would you take what I’ve said to heart and cherish the present moment- simply because you don’t know when it will be ripped away from you in an instant without you knowing? Would the you of the past tell the me of the present (your future) that I’m mistaken about the state of the world and that I’m wrong and that you know better than someone who has actually experienced a greater multitude of things that you might have possibly experienced? As you ponder the answer this this question and all of life’s questions- let me show you this video which was recommended to be from YouTube that sums up everything COVID-19 related quite nicely!
It’s been about 6 months since the world collectively went into lockdown. Some countries went into lockdown earlier, and others later (but most of them sometime in March 2020- and you can read the entire response to the coronavirus for each of the countries here!); however what happened by the end of March this year was that most countries had a variety of lockdown and quarantine measures to a number of degrees. And in the coming months, each country had to choose whether to increase restrictions measures and double down on lowdown laws for certain states or cities, and relax some restrictions elsewhere. Every country is different- every state and every city is different – and when you think about it, objectively the COVID-19 virus plays no favourites; yet some countries and cities are worse off than others- even now. I don’t know what has occurred to make some countries more susceptible to the virus than others; however what I’m saying is that collectively as the world… society as we know it, the economy has as know it, and life as we know it… has stopped for about 6 months. Put on pause. Crawling at a snail’s place. Been drastically altered never to be malleable again. Whatever you want to call it, or however you want to think or overthink; each of us have had our own struggles over the past few months in response to adjusting to the ‘new normal’.
Some of us who are homebodies and who are naturally introverts- well the lockdown may not faze us one bit. Perhaps the time away from work and from face to face socialisation is what we need, to stay sane, and in order to be content with life. Others are extroverts though, and us being ‘stuck’ at home is torture for us. So in some regards, while I reckon it’s a bit reckless and selfish to disregard the current lockdown laws of a particular country just because someone wants their ‘freedom’- I understand why some people have flaunted the laws and instead have protested in the streets against ‘the system’. And i do understand why some people are flocking to the beach and the live football games. They feel oppressed and are wanting their voice to be heard. It’s not that they think that COVID-19 is not real. Because when you see the evidence of the deaths- what can you really attribute that to? I used to think that many people just didn’t believe that it was real- that’d be why I would see quite a number of people still flock to the shops regardless of the number of deaths in each country per day. But recently I’ve come to realise that some of these people are flocking to the shops, simply because they are sick of it. Simply because they believe that the negative effects of staying at home during lockdown for the entire being (inclusive of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual effects) outweigh the negative effects of being part of the community and potentially letting the virus make you sick and then kill you. It’s not that they don’t value their physical health. It’s just that they value their mental, emotional and spiritual health more. And this ‘aha’ moment that I just had today- well it made me realise that people- though they are endangering themselves- may actually be weighing up the risks and making smart decisions- taking care of their entire self rather than just their physical self. Or maybe they are selfish, and putting others in danger who are more vulnerable. Whatever your view- the fact remains is that some of us are fine with the lockdown, and some are stir crazy. And each person can fall into both categories at different points in time.
But what has occurred throughout the past 6 months, that I reckon is pretty astonishing and pretty remarkable- is that collectively we’re still connecting with friends online, and we’re still making the effort to stay sane and to stay entertained through binging TV shows and watching exclusive live streams. We’re still making the effort to not be totally disconnected from the world, and we’re still making the effort to grow in our emotional well being and our spiritual health. We’re still making an effort to smile and to look at the bright side of life. And that’s pretty admirable- how we all can use the common thing we’re dealing with as something to band together and as ammunition to rise up and to overcome the feelings associated with said thing that is still here and is never going to go away. It is pretty admirable to see humans think the best in each other and to treat each other with kindness and goodness and exactly how we would like to be treated. It’s sad though that it’s taken a tragedy and a pandemic to force us to look inside of ourselves, to see the parts we’d like to change, and then undertake that change and be on the road to the person that we want to be. It’s sad that we’re doing this process now in which the pandemic was the catalyst. But the fact that it is happening nonetheless gives me hope that humans aren’t all selfish and aren’t all thinking of themselves 99 percent of the time! Yet kindness and goodness and pleasant platitudes don’t really pay the bills, and people are struggling in the world. Companies have shut down, employees stood down, people have to queue up at Centrelink and receive unemployment benefits… until there’s a vaccine and the world can go back to ‘normal’. For those of us struggling, the fact of the matter is that they don’t care that the general population are zooming and are connecting with their friends. Because all they want to do is to survive to the next day. So is it selfish of us to feel semi-content with our lives right now when others don’t know when they’re next meal is coming from? When we feel the calling to help someone, I reckon we should do whatever we can to those we feel like we should help. Granted, we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone. Reminds us of the starfish story- so here is the starfish story below, for your memory.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.” The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled, and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
Covid-19 has completely ‘wrecked’ the world, and has turned us all into starfish on the beach. In whatever way, we are like the starfish, floundering in some aspect of life. Would we like to see people pass us by and not act because ‘it’s all too hard’? Or would we appreciate someone giving us a helping hand, and them changing one life at a time? In this fickle economy and this fickle life, when we can be tossed by the waves and the wind at a moment’s notice, it’s easy for feelings of uncertainty and of unworthiness to creep in. “What if I’m not worthy to come through the other side of COVID-19 unscathed?”, “What if life is forever changed and I can’t adapt?”, “What if I don’t recognise myself at the end of it?”. Yet help is closer than you think. Jesus is right by our side, and even if you don’t believe in God or faith or religion or spirituality- I believe that this period of time this year has taught us that there is someone in our corner. Always. It always is God- you may acknowledge it if you believe. But even if you don’t- there’s your friends, your family, your co-workers… someone in your life has got you one hundred percent even if you fail. Especially when you fail. And as I was watching the rugby league game the other day, and seeing spectators ignoring social distancing protocols, and thus me becoming frustrated and angry at the fact that sports (in Australia) are opening up rather than music (which is in my opinion of a higher value than any sport!); what I have continued to realise is this- that life never fully goes to plan, but also that we all need to find our identity outside from what you do. We all need to find our identity separated from work. Separated from our occupation. Our identity some would say, is needed to be found separate from family (which I don’t agree)! However I am moved by the story of Job in the Bible (who lost everything but still praised God and still worshipped the Almighty King), and if we can all take a page out of Job’s book, we can realise that our identity is in Jesus as a son and as a daughter of God. Even if we do not believe in God, we can understand that our identity is nevertheless something that needs to stay constant, and not change based on our feelings or on the fashion or trend of the day.
Thus for the music industry (long preamble- but it’s what I am actually talking about in this blog- about one particular artist every week!), we’ve got to realise that going to concerts like before- may not eventuate for a long while yet. For musicians and for songwriters and for artists who are well established- well they’ve got fans and they’ve got money, and they’ve got labels and most are still set for life. But for the musician that is up and coming, that is still struggling. What happens to them during COVID-19? Do they just fade away? Or with the right people in their inner circle and with the determination and the drive, perhaps they’ll rise above this like any other adversity that knocks them down. Maybe, just maybe, COVID-19 delivers a star in the making… just maybe. Yet just as any other high profile act, the up and coming artists need to have their identity rooted in a solid foundation than on the sand where it can easily form depending on ‘weather’ conditions. These days the importance of owning your identity and your story and your faith (which isn’t the same as your parents’ faith- nor should it be!)… well we all need to figure out the tough answers to the tough questions these days, don’t we? Especially when we have all the time in the world to think about these issues! And as I’ve written over the past year and a half or maybe more, about ‘up and coming’ artists whom I believe have a firm grip on their identity and their story as an artist and as a person (ranging from artists like Hunter Hayes, Thomas Rhett, Mandy Harvey, Lindsay Ell, Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly, Marc Martel, Echosmith, Colony House, Selena Gomez, Hailee Steinfeld, Little Mix, Philippa Hanna, Conrad Sewell, Rachel Platten, Lauren Daigle, Zach Williams and Peter Hollens [to name a few!]); let me dive further into yet another thought-provoking, confronting and comforting artist. Sibling rock band The New Respects aren’t that well known and almost flyby underneath the radar. But as I’ve come to know through Jon’s blogs- popularity and influence aren’t the same thing, nor should they be. Or in this case- future influence isn’t the same as rising popularity.
“…I think the biggest thing for us is we want to be in a space that invites anyone who wants to come to be there. That might not look like church, probably won’t look like churches, because not everybody believes the same thing. Our music isn’t set up to be a specific idea of something, but freedom — freedom and fun and family. Wherever that will be welcome, that’s where we want to go…”
Essentially a quartet of family members (twin sisters Alexis and Zandy Fitzgerald, their brother Darius and cousin Jasmine Mullen- daughter of CCM powerhouse vocalist Nicole C. Mullen), The New Respects are definitely a band I would take note of this coming year and beyond. Ever since I heard their song “Hey!” which debuted in 2016 (and sadly, that music video is not present on the internet anywhere!), I knew the band would be something special, and one listen from their 2017 EP Here Comes Trouble and you would agree with me too. One listen from the 2018 album Before The Sun Goes Down, and you’d agree with me even then! Signed to Credential Recordings and Capital CMG, and hailing from Nashville, Tennessee; there’s no describing their genre accurately, as the three siblings and cousin stretch musical boundaries in hip-hop, soul, gospel, funk, reggae, blues, rock, and mesh them together to form a sound that is uniquely theirs, reminding me also of throwbacks to the 70’s and 80’s.
With the group releasing a musically diverse EP and an equally profound and inspiring and hopeful full length album, as well as a handful of moving singles along the way- one may not believe The New Respects to be on the road to being influential- seeing as though there’s only one full length album and one EP in their discography. But you know how there’s a band that has a spark and has that ‘it’ factor that it’s hard to ignore and it’s equally as hard to keep quiet and keep the news of discovering a great band to yourself? Well that’s how I feel about The New Respects, and that’s how I reckon you all will feel about them too. So before I go full ‘analysis’ and ‘review’ mode on a number of my standout songs from theirs; let me first dive deep and present to you thought processes and opinions from some other artists who are Christian (who predominately record music for the mainstream), and other artists who are spiritual, or nonreligious- but do respect the faith of Christianity. The New Respects wear their faith on their sleeve, but are ministering to the mainstream market like a number of artists currently. So as you read these words of other artists about walking the line between speaking about matters of eternity and matters of the now; let us remember that The New Respects’ discography reminds us that God can use the weird and the wonderful; the broken and the beautiful; the strange and the ordinary- to encourage, inspire and comfort, to draw to Himself, and to draw us into truths we would never have explored had it not been for said ‘out-there’ artist!
Skillet: I think Christian music was still early on in it’s inception [in the 80’s], people didn’t really know what it meant. I will say that Christian music has also changed and is very much changing very rapidly right now. There are some people that will kinda pre-judge the band; They go “Oh… it’s a Christian band, it probably sucks!”. There’s some of that. But, I think that Skillet has been around long enough that people get us. They know that Skillet is not, what I would call, ‘Preachy’. I think that we just sing a lot about spirituality. I’m very open about my faith. I talk about my faith in interviews and on stage. I’m not in any way quiet about it, but it’s more of a story telling. I’m telling my story, it’s my life. At every show, I meet people that say “Hey! I just want you to know that I’m an Atheist, I don’t get this Jesus stuff at all, but your music makes me feel better. It’s so positive and it got me out of a hard time” or what have you. I love those stories because I never wanted to be a person who only sings religion to people; That’s the opposite of what I want to do! I like that music should bring people together; I think that’s a really cool thing! So yeah, that prejudice still does kinda exist. Some of it rightly so, because there was a time when Christian music was very much ‘Preachy’ and very much only singing to Christian people. Whether that was the intent or not, that’s what was happening. That’s not what Skillet wants to do.
Needtobreathe: We were raised in a really strict home. Our parents would only let us listen to Christian music when we were kids. So when it came time to sign a record deal, Christian record deals came and we said no to all of them. Waited a couple years until the right record deal came, which was Atlantic, which we’ve been on ever since. But we just said to them in passing when we first started, we want the records to be available to everyone, including those kids like us, because it was tough for us to find music that we liked. And we really started writing music because of that. We thought that music wasn’t very good.
We were listening to Christian metal at 12. It’s the classic story. But that’s how it all started. But the thing that’s tricky, it’s like, people don’t call Johnny Cash Christian music. He could make a church record or a hymn record. People have the right to change their religions. They have the right to change their feelings. Each record we make reflects what we’re going through at the moment. Our faith is really important to our lives and who we are and it definitely comes through in the music, but trying to say that our faith is the same as it was when we first started out is crazy to us.
Our favorite thing by far to get from a fan is, “Hey, I’m Jewish but I still really like your music – I don’t know if that’s cool or not.” I respond to every direct message we get from somebody like that. I hate the idea that they somehow feel like I didn’t make the music for them, that we didn’t play music for everyone. The idea when you make music or you write songs and whatever and you have an audience in mind, I would say Christians are probably really late on that list, maybe last on that list, I don’t know, but it never comes into my mind as a target audience. I think that’s what Christian music is. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Christian music. I just don’t think that’s what we are or what we do.
Tori Kelly: First of all, I’m aware that the whole time I was like, “Obviously everyone’s not going to believe in the same things,” the things I’m singing about, so I was definitely aware of that. I think the overall message through in these songs is something that everyone can relate to, which is hope. And in the songs—Kirk and I talked about this too—we’re really talking about things that everyone can relate to in some way. I think my hope for the album was that, yeah, maybe people wouldn’t necessarily believe in it, but would still feel a sense of encouragement and hope and be able to get something out of the songs. It got to the point for me where I didn’t want to let that get in the way of me putting out something that was really close to my heart, and that’s what I did. And I hope people aren’t scared or run away from it, that they can get something out of it, you know?…with the gospel stuff, that didn’t bother me at all, and I really was expecting nothing. I had my expectations very low if we’re talking about charting and things like that, because the whole time I really was just excited to put these songs out, and then perform them live, because that’s really my favorite part about being an artist is getting to sing live and pour my heart out on stage. All the numbers and the charting, that’s all a bonus. It’s not my main focus, but it’s definitely something that’s exciting and awesome when it happens
Lindsay Ell: I have gotten to the point where I need to set up a routine, like I need to be like, ok, gotta wake up at this time, I’m going to do this from 9 til 10, I’m going to do this from 10 til 11, cause if I don’t, I just end up sitting on my couch, eating a tub of ice cream with a spoon staring at my wall. Cause it’s just like a lot, it’s very overwhelming when you don’t like, kind of plot things out a little bit. Um, ok to be honest, someone said ‘Lindsay don’t be afraid to say it, we all need to be able to sit in our crap for a little bit’, [and it’s true], we need to be able to sit in it and not be afraid of it and be like, ‘ok, this is what’s going on, this is what I’m feeling about it’, and that’s self-examination…
one of my favourite things, one of our last workouts, before all of this craziness happened, you told me, and this has stuck with me so much – when you pray for courage, God’s going to bring you situations in your life where you need to show courage, and when you pray for peace or whatever way you voice those things, God is going to bring you situations in your life, where you need to learn how to see peace… and that has resonated with me so much cause often times we take for granted the things that are in our day to day so quickly, but also because we don’t see how our prayers are being answered sometimes…
I want all of you guys to know that it’s ok to be unsure and it’s ok to be a little scared, and like you said Jarrod, it’s ok to slip and fall, I mean we’re in this together, but may we realise that this time is for us all to learn how to better ourselves, whatever that may be…learn how to find out who we truly are and what we want and learn how to bring things into our lives whether that is prayer, meditation, yoga, eating healthy, connecting with other fellow humans, and learn what a positive influence that can be in your life so that when this all is over and we go back to living our normal days and normal routines and normal jobs and normal crazy going-a-mile-a-minute and I’m guilty for that; that we remember how much of a positive influence all this stuff is and we don’t let it just leave, and we don’t let it just be whenever we’re quarantined or whenever we’re going through difficult times ‘that’s when I’m going to pray’ or ‘that’s when I’m going to meditate’ or ‘that’s when I’m going to sit down and journal what I want in my life’, like this is for us to learn how good all of that is, and how much it can benefit us in our hearts, so that we can implement it into the rest of our lives…
Thomas Rhett: It’s a huge blessing to be creative and to get to sing songs for a living, but at the same time, we know for a fact that we have been put in this position to be on the road and open for certain artists, and maybe only have one conversation with that artist that may have completely changed their life. Not by anything that I said or have done, but something that The Lord completely ordained.
You see people all of the time that basically come from nothing, are given a record deal and have such huge success, and then all of sudden they kind of lose and forget where they’ve come from and are overwhelmed with entitlement. I think that with fame, the devil makes you think you deserve everything, and that is something since day one that Lauren and I have been very intentional about.
It is very evident to me that the Lord is just like, ‘hey you don’t want to do this sometimes, but you’re just gonna have to suck it up, because this is what you’re supposed to be doing, and so just keep doing it,’ There are so many good things that come from that and we try to always see the positives in that and trusting that for whatever reason, God has this faith in us to carry out whatever purpose that is, and that makes me feel good to know that He is walking us through it and that we are doing it for His glory, and not ours.
I could sit here all day and find quotes about artists in the mainstream talking about Jesus (for that exercise alone of finding the above 5 artists, and quotes that speak about Christianity- it took me around about 40 minutes- which is way too much time, and time better spent actually writing about The New Respects!), but while you are reading the above thought-provoking quotes- let me instead remind you that a number of artists have recorded music predominately in the mainstream who are Christians. Artists like the aforementioned Skillet, Needtobreathe, Thomas Rhett, Tori Kelly and Lindsay Ell; but also artists like Switchfoot, Relient K, Mat Kearney, Lifehouse, OneRepublic, Carrie Underwood, Lecrae, Kirk Franklin, Kelly Clarkson, Marie Miller, Cimorelli, Lauren Daigle, Echosmith, Philippa Hanna, Colony House, Avril Lavigne, Florida Georgia line, Lady A, Rascal Flatts, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Yet there are others who are ‘spiritual’ like Alicia Keys, or Christian affiliated like Sheryl Crow, or even non-religious like the Goo Goo Dolls and Train, who don’t personally ascribe to Christianity, but respect said belief to write some of their songs loosely around the concept of believing in a higher power. So what does this exercise show us about The New Respects? Nothing new unfortunately, except for the fact that what these guys are doing- recording music for the mainstream while being Christians in a band- is nothing new. However it makes it all the more admirable that they are doing that and taking that step where Christianity in mainstream media is still often shunned and ridiculed. Because others have done it before and succeeded (and seemed to have kept their soul!), so too can The New Respects and their journey to changing the world through their music to the world, influenced by Christianity.
I’m super-excited to share this record with people and I hope they see a little bit of themselves in the songs and that they can identify with it, and that they can meet people who are different than them because of songs like these…sonically, this record gave us an opportunity to explore a lot more spaces than the EP did. And so with this record, we feel like we had the room to put all of those things in it more so than we did when we just had the EP out. And so it’s gonna be fun seeing who responds to it. It’s fun because we don’t feel limited by the lack of one defined genre. It gives us room to talk to a ton of people. Different ages, different races, whatever it may be. We just kind of want to start a conversation
If you don’t know where to start with The New Respects, start with their debut album Before The Sun Goes Down. It’s their only full length album, spanning 15 tracks, and each is hard-hitting and compelling and powerful and full of heart and soul. The 3 minute Switchfoot-esque rock anthem “We Ain’t Goin Nowhere” opens the album, and we are met with a commanding no-nonsense statement of the band always being around, always making music, and always making an effort to change lives. In essence, this is their mission and vision statement and fitting for it to be first, as lead singer Jasmine fervently reiterates that ‘…we’re here, gonna stay here, and if you don’t like it, that’s fair, but we’re here, gonna stay here, we ain’t goin’ nowhere…’; sort of saying to the doubters and the haters ‘this is who we are as a band, take it or leave it, but we’re still going to be here, making music for those who will enjoy it.’. It’s a gutsy and brave melody, however the catchy guitar riffs and the driving bass makes the track one of the most engaging opening melodies I’ve heard in a while.
As with the album opener, you will find The New Respects tackling a myriad of relevant topics on this album, while still staying true to their rock/gospel/soul/funk/pop sound. “Before The Sun Goes Down” is a light groovy guitar and keys led piece where Jasmine channels ABBA vocally, and the pop anthem has me dancing on my feet. Thematically and lyrically about a broken relationship that needs to be fixed and repaired ‘before the sun goes down’, we are encouraged to make amends and fix grudges with anyone we need to, because letting it fester longer than it needs to be can change us into bitter people who cannot be reasoned with, and who wants that for us, right? “What You Really Want” has the quartet trading vocals, as the 3 minute guitar led rocker inspires us all to have an honest conversation with each other about being real and vulnerable, as the persona asks the question of another person of what do they really want and to voice that opinion so that the root of any issue can be analysed and relationships bettered as a result; while EDM and remix effects are prominent in the confronting and intense “Trigger”, which asks the question of should we forgive, or should we ‘pull the trigger’ aka stop the friendship, when someone wrongs us.
“Hands Up”, a bouncy, cheerful and celebratory tune, encourages us to forget about our worries for a while and ‘…surrender to the music, put your hands up…’– an album highlight where we try to think about positive things and the bright side as we are indeed going through trials; while personal standout “Future” starts off with an intense driving bass line, as the quartet passionately sing to the ‘future’ as if it was a person, proclaiming that ‘…future, I can’t hold you, like I want you, I can’t control you, it makes me want it, I want it, hold on, can I want for you, how long?…’, giving us the impression that the band is always looking to the future, wondering what’s in store 5, 10, maybe 20 years from now, and always wanting to know and be in control of what ultimately doesn’t go to plan and isn’t in our control. The New Respects remind us of the fact that we all want to be in control; that our plans for the future, no matter how admirable, can sometimes fall through our grasps, no matter how tightly we may hold onto our control of tomorrow. An ingenious way about tackling the topic of control and how holding onto it too much can result it is growing bitter and disappointed when life doesn’t go our way, The New Respects have posed so many questions in this track especially as we navigate this crazy world we’re living in, and try to make sense of the madness and chaos, while living according to our plans, but knowing and being ok with ending up somewhere completely different in the future.
80’s rock is once again represented in “Freedom”, seeming to be a politics/race inspired melody where Jasmine honestly cries out that she will always fight for freedom cause there’s ‘…ain’t nothing dragging me down, ain’t nothing stopping us now…’– it’s a song that could have fit right in as the soundtrack to Martin Luther King Day. ABBA is revisited once again in the 70’s/80’s dance/pop melody “Something To Believe In”, where we are met with the persona in a desperate situation, asking their loved one to give them something so that they can believe in them- a romantic relationship melody at its core, it isn’t known whether there’s a happy ending to the story or not, but hey, as long as the track is danceable and is easy to move to, right?
One of the most comforting songs on the album is the soul-infused, gospel focused, quasi-worship melody “Come As You Are”, reminding me thematically of Crowder’s song of the same name. As Jasmine eloquently sings out to a friend in need to ‘…tell me everything, don’t leave nothing out, I’ll be waiting on you, so come as you are, you don’t have to be lonely, you can count on me…’, we are left wondering whether this song is sung from God’s perspective or just a mate singing to another mate. But I guess that point is irrelevant, as whether you read the song one way or the other, The New Respects have still crafted probably one of the most inspirational and encouraging songs in recent memory in my opinion. While the piano and acoustic guitar centred hopeful and encouraging piano ballad “What Makes The World” is another winner here, as all four members split vocals once again, and literally sing about what makes the world go round and round- namely love, peace, joy and the other fruits of the spirit. One of the most spiritual songs on the album, the band even reference 1 Corinthians 13, and remind us that in order for us to live in the best world we can live in, we all need to do our bit, and that is to show the world love, even to our enemies- and hopefully in turn we can show those around us that there are good people around, we just need to know where to look.
“Frightening Lightning” is sung against a gospel/soul musical backdrop, with plenty of grunging guitars and an 80’s sound that immensely catchy. It’s one of the songs on the album that is lyrically ambiguous, with plenty of metaphors; however given the Christian beliefs of the four members, I can only imagine that the song is about the Holy Spirit invading our lives, and on the surface appearing to be like ‘frightening lightening’, but beautiful and life changing in the end. As Jasmine recounts ‘…frightening lightening, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it right off my bones…well it lights up the night and it scares me, but don’t it feel good…’, I can’t help but compare Jesus to the power of lightening, and marvel at the fact that He is all powerful and all mighty, yet the magnitude at which he cares for us boggles the mind. Though the song could be about any other defining moment in life that is scary, but ultimately rewarding and life-changing also. The album ender “Rich” is an introspective and reflective piano ballad delving into the concept of what it means to be truly rich in the kingdom of God, where Jasmine vocally sounds similar to Brooke Fraser here; and speaks to the heart and soul of what it means to be content and happy and satisfied- money won’t do it, but realising your identity in Jesus Christ will create security and joy and happiness beyond human comprehension- believe you me! Which also brings me to one of the ‘missing’ songs from the album that was present on the Here Comes Trouble EP. “Money”, a challenging, confronting, yet thoughtful and inspiring anthem reminding us that the love of money and transient things of this life can be very dangerous, as it could cost us relationships and the love from those around us. Led by pulsating drums, energetic electric guitars and driving bass, Jasmine ardently highlights the notion that ‘…life ain’t about money…’ eloquently reminding that the love of money divides, that ‘…the money you save can’t buy a day back from the grave…’. It’s a delicate topic that the band are delving into, as we ponder the reasons why we do what we do, and it’s the way the band tackle the meaty issues that make me marvel at their songwriting ability.
“Shoes”, another underrated track from the band on this EP which didn’t make the cut on Before The Sun Goes Down, is a fun, toe tapping, groovy jazz/soul/funk track that reminds me musically of The Beatles or ABBA as the band encourage us to ‘…walk a mile in another man’s shoes…’ in order to have empathy and identify with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as the least of these. Probably inspired by the Bible verse Matthew 25: 31-46, The New Respects provide us with more food for thought, as we are reminded that seeing from the other point of view is key, if we are to understand and identify with the people we are speaking to around us. Yet if I were to point out one song (from the 13) to listen to, it would be the no-nonsense in-your-face rock anthem “Trouble”. There’s plenty happening in this intense and hard-hitting melody- there’s a vibrant electric guitar, powerful drum beats and heavy bass as the band channel their inner Switchfoot and Needtobreathe, and eloquently sing to ‘trouble’ aka the devil, telling him to be gone out of our lives. Lyrically similar to Carman’s “Get Outta My Life” from way back in the 80’s, Jasmine, Alexis, Zandy and Darius have created a musical gem here, and one of my favourite songs period of the year. There’s nothing much more to say about this amazing track, other than you have to listen to it, and be inspired!
I would say we identify as a band of Christians, not as a Christian band. … We have enough people, I think, writing songs about what each one believes, but we don’t have enough people willing to be like, “Hey, you know something that I don’t. I know something that you don’t. Let’s tell each other that.” … I think that’s why we have as much strife as we do now; it’s not really a hatred as much as it’s a lack of understanding between people. That’s where the arts are supposed to step in
I’m honestly very, very honoured. Like me, personally, looking up to such legends like, as a guitar player, I’m compared to … I’ve gotten Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix a lot. I think part of it is because of the way I wear my hair, like an Afro, and I’m black. So it’s a physical kind of comparison as well. But for people to hear the people we look up to in our music is crazy. So we can’t really ask for much more than that. We want to be considered classic music makers and people who make music that will last a lifetime. And rock ‘n’ roll is one of those genres where you can do that. So it’s been cool to be associated with that type of audience and those type of players
Being a family band and being related to one of the legends of CCM, would have to have been pretty daunting and surreal and out-of-this-world and maybe overwhelming. But for Zandy, Alexis and Darius Fitzgerald and Jasmine Mullen; their faith and their longing to see a better world eventuate from the chaos and calamity that they see around them, propelled them to write authentic songs that people from all walks of life can agree upon and can resonate with. Though I myself have been taught from a pretty young age to only listen to Christian music, it’s bands like The New Respects who have cemented my line of thinking that it’s sometimes edifying, and maybe necessary and crucial, to listen to covertly Christian songs, or even songs from artists who don’t even believe in God- simply to remind us all that these songs exist- and we need not put our head in the sand about them- but more than that, to reaffirm our own faith, so that we can be secure in what we believe, that it’s not our parents faith, but our own. The New Respects have done that soul searching, and have come through the other side of that searching all the better. So as we are in the midset of quarantine- let us look inside ourselves, and remember that we can all be better people than we are right now. We can be kinder, braver, more honest, and more loving. We can reach out to the hurting in a broken world, and we can stand with the marginalised, letting them know that they’re not alone. As humans, we can stop the hate, but all it takes us for us to do something and take that first step. And if we’re crying out for God as to why can’t he do anything, let us remember that He did. He created us.
I’ve said before time and time again that belief in the artist and confidence in their nature of influence isn’t borne out of just the songs and just the heart. It’s what you do off stage that counts in my opinion- and though I haven’t found much of what The New Respects have done outside of music- their passion in interviews and their stand-alone singles is more than enough for me to declare that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming weeks, months and years. “No Drama”, a 3 minute pop ditty, beautifully encapsulates the feeling of wanting to have ‘no drama’ and to live life as free and as satisfied as God intended, while the group covered The Bee Gees’ iconic song “You Should Be Dancing” for the movie To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. “Say What You Want”, a song directed to the haters, reminds us all that if we are secure in our identity in Jesus, others can ‘say what they want’ and we shouldn’t be fazed by their comments, while the resounding and emotive “Hella Black” with Tobe Nwigwe, celebrates the group’s race as a positive in the world. Given everything that has been going on with George Floyd recently- we all need songs like this to remember that those who look different to us are human as well! The New Respects have also travelled the world touring in many different places- yet tours with Switchfoot and Robert Randolph are all I could find online that they have undertaken- although I’m sure that they have played at more. Goes to show you how popular they are (not very!) for articles to be posted online about tours (not many!). Yet the group are very active on their Facebook– posting exclusive behind the scenes videos for you all to watch during quarantine. So there’s that. Anyway, with that… there’s not much more I can say about The New Respects, that I’ve already mentioned. The New Respects have created a stellar debut (maybe the inclusion of “Hey!” and “Money” would have made it even more awesome, but that’s nit-picking, and neither here nor there…), and there is no reason any one can give for them not to check out Before The Sun Comes Down. Here’s hoping that a new album comes soon- but even now the band is one that I’d still encourage you all to check out. I hope and pray that the band isn’t a ‘one hit wonder’ but given that influence or future influence doesn’t care for longevity, let me remind you all that The New Respects is a future influencer no matter the future. Thus no matter what genre you like, check out this project now! You’ll be glad I encouraged you! Well done guys, I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you all in the coming months and years! And now for the rest of you who still are on the fence- read this piece from The Rolling Stone from a few years ago. I’m positive that you will be moved and inspired to check out the band after this!
Why You Should Pay Attention: The New Respects are the odd Nashville-based band whose members didn’t move to town in hopes of making it big, having grown up in and around the city’s vibrant Christian music community. Comprised of singer/guitarist Jasmine Mullen – daughter of successful Christian/gospel singer Nicole C. Mullen – alongside her cousins, twin sisters Lexi (bass) and Zandy Fitzgerald (guitar) and their brother Darius (drums), the foursome has been onstage for years, including serving as background dancers for Mullen’s mother when they were teenagers. They’ve also been playing music in some configuration for some time, but really hit warp speed upon picking up electric instruments and honing a fuzzed-out blues-rock aesthetic. The band are already signed to a Universal Music subsidiary and recently released their five-song debut EP, Here Comes Trouble. They’ve been road testing the music opening select shows for Switchfoot and, beginning March 15th, they’ll hit the road for a brief tour with Robert Randolph & the Family Band.
“I still feel like we’re like the J.V. squad that got thrown into the varsity game or something,” adds Darius. “They look at you like, ‘Fitzgerald, you’re in!’ and you’re like, ‘What? I’m just on the bench!’”
They Say: “We weren’t really allowed to listen to music outside of Christian music, so hearing Chuck Berry for the first time, or Eric Clapton, it could have been a new artist to me, because I knew nothing about them,” says Zandy.
“The nice thing about us being so sheltered was that it forced us to have to create new things,” agrees Darius. “Whereas people [who] grow up listening to certain drummers and they play that way, I only listened to gospel stuff and I can’t do any of that stuff, so it’s like, ‘Well, I gotta do my own thing!’”
Does The New Respects make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song (other than “No Drama”, “Trouble”, “Frightening Lightning”, “Freedom”, and “Come As You Are” that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!