Blending Indie Pop & Dostoevsky

ivan_alyosha-thumb-250x250Ivan and Alyosha will be known to most of our readers as two iconic characters from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, but it is also the name of a band from Seattle that seems to be bringing to the indie pop scene an approach similar to what Dappled Things tries to bring to literature. I recently ran into a short interview with them on Seattle Weekly that is well worth reading. They are particularly interesting to us because they are another example (others being Sufjan Stevens and Over the Rhine) of a certain breed of musician that is, as of yet, unfortunately too rare, and yet that we think should be much closer to the norm.

Ivan and Alyosha, you see, not only bring together amazing vocals, a unique, subtle sound, and beautifully poetic lyrics that have made them favorites in the indie music scene, but they are also committed Christians. As will easily be evident to anyone who is listening carefully, their faith plays an important role in their creative work, and yet, they are quick to point out, they do not make “Christian music.” For that we can thank God. They do not make Christian music in the same way Bach did not make Christian music: rather, Christianity entered organically into his artistic vision, and gave it much of its power. While Ivan and Alyosha have, musically speaking, little to do with Bach, their faith seems to play that same role in their work: deepening their vision, allowing them to produce music and write lyrics that reach straight into the human hart. Their song “Running for Cover” is a perfect example of that:


If I could wake my crooked heart
If I was there right from the start
To feel what it was like to be turned on

If you could fly the battling wind
To miss the mark correct within
If your wish came true, your dreams made real.

Running for cover
Running to hide

If I could be the walls of man
To rest my head and trust the plan
And fighting like a child to get my way

If I could see the garden place
Before the fall, would things have changed?
I wasn’t there, and neither were you
But I take the blame, as you should too, my friend.

Now we’re running for cover
Running to hide
Yeah, we’re running for cover
Running to hide

We’ve been trying with each other to unravel the age old story
But I’m starting to think that there’s a reason we don’t understand
And it’s easy to blame someone else for my wants and my worries
But I know, I accept that it’s just a part of who I am

Now we’re running for cover
Running to hide
And you say it’s not my problem
Out of sight, out of mind

Yes, we’re running for cover
Yeah, we’re running afraid
As we run with one another
Of the mess that we’ve made

Seattle Weekly makes note of the band’s uniqueness and asks some interesting follow up questions:

[T]he five members defy most stereotypes about musicians. For the most part, they’re family men: Four of the five members are married, James McAlister has one child, and Tim Wilson will be a father in April. They’re not heavy partiers: Tim Wilson jokes he “stayed up until 11 p.m.” for the band’s Christmas party last weekend. And all the members identify as Christians.

[. . .]

You’ve played at the Q Cafe before, which regularly books Christian bands. Why not try for a residency there instead of the High Dive?
Tim: We don’t want to be a youth group band, like an all-ages, youth group band.
Ryan: We want to make music for anyone, you know?
Tim: I think our market, too–I think we’re looking beyond Seattle in a sense. As far as I’m concerned, the idea is to reach an audience as big as possible, within independent music, and not sort of pigeonhole it.

Do you consider yourself a Christian band?
Tim Wilson: It shouldn’t really be an issue, if you’re a Christian.
James McAlister: [The Christian music industry] is kind of dead to us in a way… I’m sure it’s still happening somewhere, but it’s functionally dead. All that really demarcates in an industry, a kind of marketing.
Ryan: And we’re Christians, in a band. We’re not a Christian band. It’s a totally different thing, like writing a certain kind of song just for Christians.

Doesn’t it factor into your songs? One of the songs on your upcoming album is called “God or Man,” for example.
Tim: Yeah, it’s a part of our everyday life, you know? We write songs about our wives and kids that are on the way and situations we’re in and our friends and our faith. So, of course, it’s constantly a part of us, so it’s going to come out.
Pete: Anytime I listen to [a songwriter], and I don’t believe what they’re saying, or I don’t believe that they believe what they’re saying, it gets really boring. You want a band to be writing about what they care about or what they believe.
Tim: Maybe there are some bands that are afraid of it. But I think we’ve established that we’re not afraid of people knowing that. We’re just people trying to make records. Should it matter if we’re Christians or not?

Read more.

Hearing the words “Christian” and “music” in the same sentence should bring to mind quality and depth, not sappiness and clichés. Here’s hoping this is the beginning of a trend.


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