“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.”
I Peter 2:9a (KJV)
The story of Peculiar People Band is a curious tale of South African pop radio hits, American surfers, a random meeting on a California fishing expedition, and a 13-year-old vision of the power of music that is still being played out.
Peculiar People Band was birthed in a small church in Cape Town , South Africa , a church pastored by drummer Darrell O’Donoghue’s father. Along with guitar player Deon Kleinhans, O’Donoghue and lead singer Gary Rea began leading worship for the church, and soon Rea began writing songs of his own.
Out of these church experiences grew Peculiar People Band. Rea says he’d had the vision since the age of 12 to use music to reach other young people for the Lord, and PPB began to do just that. He admits that things “just kind of snowballed” for the band, and that they somewhat unexpectedly found themselves doing music fulltime. They toured extensively throughout South Africa , sometimes appearing with other native Christian artists including Tree63 and The Benjamin Gate. The country’s Christian radio community also embraced the band and awarded them several #1 songs.
But perhaps more surprising is the fact that the band made an impact on the mainstream culture in their homeland. “Things are a bit different there than they are here in the States; it’s not like they go, ‘Oh, you’re a Christian band, so we’re not going to play you,’” says Rea. PPB landed two Top 10 songs on pop radio in South Africa and was nominated for a SAMA (South African Music Award), he notes with excitement.
But after five-plus years, Rea says, “We decided we had kind of saturated the market. South Africa is only so big, you know? So we prayed that God would open some doors for us to go overseas, and then we received an invitation from a group called Christian Surfers United States (CSUS) to come and do a tour with them up and down the East Coast, and a little bit of the West Coast as well.”
It was while in California for one of these dates that the band received a random invitation for a deep-sea fishing expedition. On the boat, Rea found himself casting a line next to a gentleman who took quite an interest in the group’s ministry. That man was none other than Randy Alward, General Manager of pioneering Christian music label Maranatha! Music.
After bringing several staffers to see one of PPB’s concerts, Alward signed the group to a recording contract. He comments, “One of the things that struck me about Peculiar People Band that was so significant was the songwriting, and the depth that was in those lyrics. The songs drew you into a worship expression in a language you could speak in a corporate worship setting, or with a band, or with youth. These songs are very transferable from one congregation to another. That’s really why I felt it was important that Maranatha have a relationship with these guys.”
The band (along with Rea and Kleinhans’ wives) settled in the San Clemente , California area, near the Maranatha! headquarters. They continued touring while working on their U.S. debut, opening for artists including Kevin Max of dc talk and Jeremy Camp, Christian music’s 2004 Male Vocalist and New Artist of the Year. Releasing March 22, Not Ashamed was produced by Phil Sillas (Plus One) and Ralph Stover (Michael Miller) and continues to meld the group’s modern rock sound—albeit with a harder edge than their EP did—with straightforward, worshipful lyrics. The memorable first single, “Today,” is already helping to build anticipation for Not Ashamed with its bold call for surrender to the will of God.
Rea compares PPB to another overseas favorite, Delirious, noting that they are both rock bands that are very worship-focused yet have still managed to notch success overseas on mainstream pop radio. Speaking of his own band’s intent, Rea notes, “We have a two-sided vision. We want to lead worship because our hearts are really there, and we believe God meets people there, but we also want to do outreach to people who might not be in the place where they can worship God, but hopefully the music can reach them. We don’t want to just play a gig; we want to change people’s lives.”
Former tour mate Camp says, “I was very blessed by their hearts and their desire to worship the Lord. I just love those guys!” More glowing words about PPB come from Julie Reid, the Executive Editor of Worship Leader magazine, who enthuses, “They had everybody from ages 12 to 65 up on their feet, singing, worshipping, and enjoying their time. I think that’s a real testimony to their leadership and their skills as worship leaders.”
As they look down the road at the rest of 2005, Rea is excited about the chance to further fulfill the vision he had 13 years ago of using music to impact people for the Lord. “Audiences here [in the U.S. ] are a lot more music-savvy. They’ve grown up with rock ‘n’ roll in their blood. They’re very open to music, and they’ve been very receptive to us and our music. That’s why we’ve been able to do what we do.”
Source: Big Machine Media