What is modern day Christian Rock? At best, it is seen as a niche genre, a watered down form of rock tailored to the tastes of the conservative religious, lacking the intensity and appeal of true rock music. At worst, many would call it nothing more than an oxymoron. How ironic it is then, that the same people who say this may list among their favorite bands Relient K, Underoath, and Switchfoot. Yes, it is a little known fact that all three of these would define themselves as Christian bands.
Switchfoot was one of the most popular bands for years on Christian label Sparrow Records. They released three albums between 1997 and 2000. However, it was not until 2002 that they gained widespread popularity after being featured in the major motion picture “A Walk to Remember.” This set the stage for their fourth release, The Beautiful Letdown, in 2004. The album would become Switchfoot’s introduction to widespread fame, giving them two singles in “Meant to Live” and the re-released “Dare You to Move” before being certified Double Platinum. Then there is Relient K, the young pop-punkers that are every bit as Christian and almost as popular as Switchfoot. Relient K started their musical odyssey in 1998, and released their first album with Gotee Records in 2000. From that point on, their popularity would grow continuously through subsequent releases The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right- but Three Do, and 2004’s Mmhmm. Each record brought more commercial success. However, their latest recording is the one that certified their mainstream success, with the single “Be My Escape” landing in MTV’s top ten. Although it can be hard to see in some of their music, Relient K’s Christian message is clear in classics such as “For the Moments I Feel Faint.”
Of all three bands, the most intriguing may be Underoath. Formed in 1998, Underoath has been a Christian band from the start. After two little known releases, they broke into the hardcore scene in 2002 with The Changing of Times. They lost singer Dallas Taylor in favor of newcomer Spencer Chamberlain, and went in a different direction with the 2004 release They’re Only Chasing Safety, which pushed them into the post-hardcore category and catapulted them into widespread recognition. They have become the biggest act on the slate of Christian hardcore label Solid State, which is owned by the larger Tooth and Nail Records.
Tooth and Nail has been helping bands like Underoath cross into the mainstream since 1993. The Seattle, Washington label has released 400 records since then, and has become one of the premier independent rock labels in the country, Christian or otherwise.
These bands come from different backgrounds and labels, but they all represent the growing number of Christian artists breaking into the mainstream.
“We do what we do because of our faith and we want to show people that,” said Underoath synth man Chris Dudley. “We’ve always said that when we get to the point where we’re not doing this for God, we won’t do it anymore.”