No Longer Music isn’t simply a band - there are a lot of elements that go into their show. Can you explain more about this to the Come&Live! Community?
No Longer Music (NLM) is unusual in many ways, not the least of which is that it’s been going on for so long. Since the beginning, as the name suggests, it hasn’t just been about music. It incorporates visual elements and special effects to depict a modern-day crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that is compelling, that makes sense, that uses symbolism and imagery that would resonate with a young person today. Then we have always followed that with a verbal proclamation of the Gospel, and given people an opportunity to respond. Really those three things are probably the most defining characteristics of NLM, and I think they’re why, as counter-cultural and as difficult as it is sometimes, we have seen incredible fruit for three and a half decades, including just a few weeks ago in Brazil.
And you don’t just play typical venues! You have a stage trailer that you travel with when touring in Europe, which opens up unique possibilities for you. Can you tell us about that?
It’s changed over the years. In the early days, we played more typical venues: clubs, bars, festivals. I’ve been involved in NLM for 12 years, and for the first seven, that’s how it was for me, too. But as things have grown and opportunities expanded, it came to the attention of Aaron, the director of our mission, that stage trailers existed. Essentially, it’s a super impressive festival stage that unfolds, and is 30 X 20 feet with a huge ceiling, and you can hook it up to the back of a vehicle and drive from place to place. God really provided so we could have a great PA system, and amazing lights and video as well so, in faith, we purchased it.
We can roll into a city square, and all we need are the two P’s - permission and power. Permission from the government, and power to plug in. Then we set up this full-on, festival stage in less than an hour. It’s been a complete game changer for us. It’s meant that we can have high quality standards everywhere we go, and we don’t have to rely on our local partners nearly as much for resources. It’s such a big, impressive stage - it just draws thousands of people. We’ve been able to preach the Gospel to way more people in the last five years, than probably the 15 years before that.
Let’s talk a little bit about your show, because it’s so different from any other show I’ve seen before. Since you aren’t really a famous band, how do you go about drawing a crowd and then effectively communicating the message of the Gospel to them?
We often describe our show as a street performance on steroids. If you imagine a street performer in Europe, they would use their charisma or their juggling or comedy or music to attract people, and then they hit them with their pitch. Well, it's similar to that for us, in the sense that we have this big show that’s very visual and very entertaining. I think if we can be in a place where people naturally are, we will draw a big crowd. The show seamlessly transitions from an entertaining first half to a theatrical performance second half in which we depict the Gospel. Typically, if we draw a crowd, almost all of them will stay, and the crowd will often even build by the time we get to where we start to share the Gospel.
You tour in so many countries with different cultural, religious, and political situations. Is the same show effective in reaching audiences everywhere you go?
Yeah, that’s one of the unique things we target, not only as a band but as a mission. We live in a time of unprecedented connectedness, where young people everywhere are being influenced by the same music, entertainment industry, social media, and the internet. Because of that, they’re actually very similar, whatever country they come from. I think visual pop music is a universal language now. If you are rolling out catchy, good music with fire and dance, good video, and great lights, that’s going to speak to young people. It doesn't matter where.
You just returned from a tour in Brazil. What’s unique about Brazil as compared to some of the countries you normally go to in Europe?
It’s funny - at least regarding the places we went on this tour, I would say in general, Brazil has a much more alternative youth culture. Very rebellious in spirit, their government is very corrupt, they’re dealing with a lot of issues. They’re very energetic and passionate, and I think a lot of that is directed in angst against the government and rebellion against convention. They’re very passionate, which can be crazy - but I think it can also be great for the Gospel, if you can get them to understand what is really true, and what’s worth fighting for.
Did you find that they were receptive to the message of Jesus?
Yes, incredibly so. I think that’s because they connect with the revolutionary spirit of the Gospel. Jesus was the ultimate revolutionary! He came not only to overthrow an earthly system, but a spiritual system of lies and depression. He totally turned the system on its head, and He caused all sorts of chaos in the world, for good obviously. I think people really resonate with that, when they understand who the real Jesus is - that He’s here to challenge that status quo and change the world and bring hope. When they get that, from my experience, they’re very open.
That’s awesome. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced while you were touring there?
Probably the most dramatic thing that happened in Brazil was that we got into a bad accident on our bus. Our bus driver took a lane that was not intended for the height of our bus, and he hit a steel beam hanging over the highway at 60 miles per hour. It smashed a hole into the bus, ripping the air conditioning unit right off the top of it. It was like an explosion of fiberglass, and it really shook us up.
That night following the accident, we were supposed to be having a follow-up meeting - I actually just wrote about this in a blog post for Come&Live! Initially, we thought we might have to bail because of the accident, but we felt like we really needed to persevere, and David, our leader, said that we couldn’t let the enemy win. So, we ordered a bunch of Ubers and we drove out to the location. The follow-up meeting was in a really beautiful but weird place for this kind of event. It was on a big rock formation that overlooked a beach in Rio de Janeiro. When we got there, there were some people there who had responded at the previous show, but it was mostly just tourists and locals who came to celebrate the sunset. The band we were touring with, Medulla, was going to play a few songs, and then I was supposed to preach.
I was still totally rattled from the bus accident and I was tired, and now I was on some random rock surrounded by hundreds of people and I was supposed to preach. I felt very inadequate and ill-equipped for the situation. I just stepped back and said, “God, you need to move. I’m not impressive; I don’t have my big show and our big set up.” Yet, I was able to preach and God moved. Many people gave their lives to Jesus. It’s funny - we saw God move up to that point on the tour, when we had all of our equipment and this big show. But it was interesting that the most significant moment to me was when we didn’t have any of our stuff. From a human perspective, it was not “cool” or “impressive”, but I felt like that was when I experienced God moving the strongest.
Wow - so awesome! How can we as a community be praying for you and NLM?
Pray that God expands our platform. That as He gives us bigger opportunities, we don’t buy into that, and we stay on our knees, and recognize and remember that without His power and His provision, this would be useless. As we continue, that we can navigate challenges that come in our families and the different seasons of life that we’re in. For wisdom to handle all the incredible opportunities that we have with limited amounts of time and resources. Mostly, that God would continue to use us, as unimpressive as we are, to reach people for Him and change their lives.