Famous Players, Fresh Projects

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Thu, 12/04/2008 - 16:22

album promo image for Famous Players, Fresh Projects

A photo of Jason Truby from his days as P.O.D. guitarist (2003-2006)

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com

With more new artists releasing records than ever before, Christian music listeners certainly have a lot to sift through in deciding what earns their iPod space. However, under the radar acts have an even more daunting task of introducing themselves to the world at large, which these days is like looking for a safety pin in a snowstorm. But one trend that's been poking through the rock n' roll ranks as of late is players from already established acts starting up new ventures, in turn, having a cross-pollination of fan bases, even if the sound is totally different.

VOTA with velocity
One of the most unique instances of this occurrence comes with INO's brand new act VOTA, featuring frontman Bryan Olesen. Though the group was previously performing under the Casting Pearls moniker (changed to prevent confusion with Casting Crowns), its leader was simultaneously serving as guitarist for the newsboys during that Aussie act's immensely successful Adoration era. "My time in newsboys was an amazing opportunity – it was like school in many ways," he shares. "I was definitely paying attention to find out how a band like newsboys has remained relevant for so many years. We learned a lot about how to take our shows to the next level and to be more professional."

That veteran status is readily apparent when catching VOTA in concert and tracing members throughout its brand-new self-titled digital release, which hits brick-and-mortar stores on February 9. The tunes are much more aggressive than what Olesen got used to with the newsboys (though it certainly retains those infectious elements) and even adds to the first pumping formula found on Casting Pearls' 2005 self-titled debut.

"Fans of Casting Pearls will definitely recognize that our new project is still 'us,'" he continues. "We still have the same love for pop, rock and melody. We still have fun, and at the same time we get serious. The new project definitely shows a willingness on our behalf to take chances with songs – to give a song what it needs to be great. Musically we introduce new instruments – from keys to strings to synths and synth drums. We also took away electric guitars or bass if we needed to. We approached and recorded each song on this record one at a time, which kept the process fresh and exciting…I think lyrically we've grown as well. Our lives have changed a lot in the past three to four years – much of that is reflected in the subject matter in these songs. We've grown, but we're still us."~

Rock n' Soul with Stars Go Dim
Chances are, the name Stars Go Dim is also new to your rock spectrum, but if bassist Michael Wittig, drummer Lester Estelle and guitarist Joey Avalos look familiar to you, it may be from their time together in Pillar. Along with lead vocalist Chris Cleveland, the foursome just dropped its inaugural self-titled EP, though longtime Pillar listeners are sure to be thrown for a loop with the project's stylistic pedigree.

"Musically, Stars Go Dim was not even remotely influenced by Pillar – it's a complete 180 in style," echoes Wittig. "People who have not heard the Stars Go Dim tunes only know [the former Pillar members] for hard rock, but we love music of all types and a good song. When people listen to the new EP, they will hear amazing songs, an extremely talented vocalist and just some good old pop/rock/soul."

Even with the vastly varied instrumentation (think Gavin DeGraw meets Edwin McCain with a piano), the one parallel to Pillar is a firm faith footing that Stars Go Dim hopes to apply to audiences of all associations. "[It's] a message of love," Wittig confirms. "We as Christians should reflect Christ in all that we do and wherever we go. We are musicians by trade, but followers of Christ as people."

Truby goes unplugged and experimental
Considering that his songs (by P.O.D.) get played on the radio every day, and being regarded as an accomplished guitarist, heralded by the likes of Phil Keaggy, Jason Truby continues to stay in the public eye even as a solo artist. The former member of both the above mentioned and hardcore heroes Living Sacrifice is currently celebrating the release of his third solo project Finding the Quiet, available this month exclusively on iTunes and jasontruby.com.

"Although both P.O.D. and Living Sacrifice are and always will be a part of my past musical journey, neither of those experiences influenced me on this album," the six-string slinger candidly admits. "This is a guitar album with music at the helm. The atmosphere is innovative and experimental, but with a calm introspective feel from which only an acoustic guitar can create...Finding the Quiet was written with the idea of turning off the volume of the outside world."


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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