Conventional wisdom in the music industry says you don’t quit when you’re on top. Not when your latest album has just debuted at No. 2—behind only Adele. Not when it’s your first album and most certainly not when it’s your seventh major release.
David Crowder*Band, one of the most groundbreaking bands in contemporary Christian music, is familiar with the unconventional. Their seventh and final LP, Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]), released earlier this month and became the No. 1 new album in the country, charting higher than any of their previous records. For most bands, this would mark the beginning, but for this group of guys from Waco, Texas, it marks the end of a journey.
“It’s a perfect backwards moment,” acknowledges David Crowder, speaking with Variance. “What I love most about what we’re doing is that it’s so counter-cultural. That’s part of what we’ve done for the entire time as a band. We’ve shaped our lifestyles around the idea that our definition of success isn’t what you see in culture. I understand this doesn’t make sense on paper, but it feels like the perfect ending.”
The band recently played together for the last time as a group, marking the end of a journey that began in 1995 when Crowder helped start a church after realizing many of his peers at Baylor University were not attending one.
Looking back nearly 17 years later, Crowder believes he has fulfilled what he set out to do.
“We always looked at what we’re doing in a very utilitarian way,” he recalls. “What we’re doing is useful to a group of people who are wanting to express themselves to God using music. It made things very simple. We honestly never thought, ‘We’re going to express ourselves artistically.’ Our band was really formed just to sing to God and to help others do so. If that wasn’t happening then in our minds it wasn’t worth our time. We didn’t have that ‘artistic itch’ that we needed to scratch. It was more about serving a purpose. If it’s been useful then we’ve done something good.”
He maintains that same perspective when reflecting on one of the band’s more controversial moments among churchgoers. In 2009, they covered John Mark McMillan's song "How He Loves” and replaced the words “sloppy wet kiss” with “unforeseen kiss.” The Christian blogosphere was rattled. But Crowder would do it again if given the chance.
“Again, it’s about whether or not it’s useful,” he explains. “At that time, the song had been rejected in most settings simply because of those lyrics, so it took changing two words to give that song a life that it previously hadn’t had, making it useful for a whole new group of people. The main thematic element of the song was not about a kiss. It was about the love of God. The way this song happens, you rediscover that, and that made it worth it to us.”
As for the final album, it’s still too early to tell how many will react over time. At many points, it certainly plays like a funeral mass—marking an end to a journey but also celebrating the past. It’s appropriate, given the bittersweet conclusion that is nothing like the typical “band breakup.”
“We’re still the closest of friends,” Crowder affirms. “Part of why I’m loving this ending—it’s the reason I freakin’ love them—is that they’re the kind of people who at the end can say we’re supposed to lay this down and move forward. It makes you that much more excited that you’ve spent so much of your life with these people, that when the end comes you all just know. There have been so many times that my favorite band has called it quits and I griped, so I understand, but we have to do what is in our chest to do and that’s to put a period—an end to the sentence—and head off somewhere else.”
This certainly isn’t the last to be heard from a band that has played a pivotal role in modern worship music—and perhaps Christianity as a whole. Some of the band members are already taking steps toward new projects (some of which will include working together). For Crowder himself, the future looks slightly different.
“There’s a lot of collaboration that I’ve wanted to do,” he reveals. “People I’ve wanted to play with. The most startling part is doing all of this without the guys in my near proximity. That still gets to me, but if it gets to the point where they’re all making music and I’m still making music it would be amazing because it would feel almost as if everything was multiplied in a sense.”
While the future is unclear, Crowder knows he will be making music again.
“There’s still this pretty significantly-sized hole that I’d like to keep contributing to,” he says. “I feel like there’s still not a lot of music that’s corporate-oriented that fits into the left-of-center churches. I really feel like we’re headed in a direction that we need to be headed in, wherever that may be. For right now, I’m just going to take some time and make sure my foot is falling where it needs to fall. Ultimately, that’s what matters.”
Give Us Rest is available now on iTunes and wherever music is sold.