“Walk this life beneath the stars/Contemplate just who we are/Against the backdrop of knowing God” – from “Larger Than Life”
Young, full of wonder and idealism, but tempered with a mature faith – these are some of the qualities that distinguish the members of downhere. With music that stirs the emotions and calms the soul, this pop/rock band is driven to speak to its culture with lyrics that read like contemporary psalms – both deftly poetic and unmistakably clear.
Produced by Nathan Nockles (Passion: One Day, Watermark, Point of Grace) and the band itself, downhere’s first nationally released album features a modern rock approach that nods to the musical influences of bands as diverse as Sugar Ray, Queen, Barenaked Ladies and dc Talk. Its combination of energetic pop songs and acoustic-based ballads is rife with possibilities for hit singles on Christian radio and more importantly, the ability to impact the lives of its listeners.
Comprised of co-founders (and pastor’s kids) Jason Germain (vocals, keyboards, guitars) and Marc Martel (vocals, lead guitar), the band formed while the two were rooming together as students at Briercrest Bible College in Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada. While there, Jason and Marc took a recoding arts class together, where they learned the craft of engineering and production, and recorded a demo of their first songs while continuing in their other studies and ministry involvement. Jeremy Thiessen, an athlete and drummer also studying at Briercrest, joined them soon after, as did bassist Glenn Lavender, whom they later met in Florida at a World Vision Artist Retreat.
One of the things that makes the band ready for prime time is its experience as a live act. Last summer’s touring took them through 17 (American) states, 6 (Canadian) provinces and even into Mexico – all without a record deal. In 2000, the Prairie Music Awards (honoring bands of all genres form the central provinces of Canada) awarded the band Festival Act of the Year (over 60 bands were in the competition, only a handful of which were Christian), and Outstanding Contemporary Christian Album of the Year for their indie project released on Slyngshot Records in 1999.
Even with the band’s relentless touring, the members of downhere insist it was never their dream to sign with a major label and move to the States… let alone Nashville. Nevertheless, in the spring of 2001, they made the move to Franklin, TN to start the next phase of a work that seems to bear the firngerprints of God on it.
“We didn’t intend to pursue this as a career in the beginning. We were just writing songs and leading worship or performing wherever we could,” says Marc. Adds Jason, “We still want to be idealistic, but not naïve; willing to get hurt and take the hit for what God has called us to do.”
In an age of increasing cynicism, statements like the one above a re refreshing – and are typical of their view of ministry. Despite their notable talents and many successes, the guys maintain their down-to-earth attitudes and desire to connect with people on a personal level.
“Our name downhere implies that we’re going to be real people on and off the stage – not hiding in the pastor’s study before and after the concert,” explains Glenn. “We want to hang out with people, shoot hoops with people, pray with people…and we consider all of that an act of worship.”
One of the most remarkable things about downhere is the band’s willingness to serve the local church, participating in and ministering through the already-existing ministries. Explains Jeremy, “We’re pretty flexible on the road, making a concerted effort to find out beforehand the needs of the church we’re going to be playing at in order to facilitate what’s already going on there. We’re very intentional about meeting people and praying with people before and after…”
“To the point of being uncomfortable for me,” interrupts Glenn, (with a smile). “It’s not always an easy thing to go up to a stranger and say, “Hi, I’m Glenn. Wanna talk?”
“And that brings us back to the songs,” says Jason. “We want to write songs that actually inspire us and stir up our deepest convictions about who God is and how we’re going to apply that to our lives. That’s where it starts…and then we sing these songs, we’re challenged – by the songs and even by our name itself – to do that which we’re writing about: reconciling ourselves to God first and then reconciling ourselves to one another.”