Meet & Greet: Sonicflood
- 2003 19 Mar
As we've watched worship music become the "next big thing" and rock bands trade in screaming guitars for praise choruses, bands like Sonicflood have been quietly toiling away, continuing to realize their original goal: helping people meet God in worship. But even as they continue to write worship hits and point youthful crowds heavenward they're careful about trying to define the genre they seem to fit so neatly into, insisting that more than a certain sound or lyrical style, what really matters in worship is the motive behind the music-making.
As the scene has grown, they've seen a danger in getting so caught up in the music or the names behind it that you end up worshipping worship instead of the Creator. It's all too easy for personalities and popularity take over. "Then worship becomes an act of man instead of an act of God. You're only worshipping if you know these songs by these people, and we're just not into that," says Sonicflood percussionist Brett Vargason.
In fact, they're not very involved in the larger worship world at all. Ask them about CCLI charts or the latest worship conferences and their faces go blank. Instead of trying to relate to their worship contemporaries, they're more concerned about relating to the crowds who come to worship, making sure they remain as honest and transparent as they can be-on and off stage.
"I think the way we play the show seems honest. We don't play the same things from one show to the next," bassist Tom Michael explains. "We approach each show with as much passion as we can, and I think people see that."
Fans certainly seem to be responding. But the group's future wasn't always so bright. Sonicflood has gone through some very public personnel changes that would have laid waste to any less-determined group of musicians. In fact, current frontman Rick Heil was part of the Grammy-winning group Big Tent Revival back when Sonicflood was getting its start. Instead, founding members including well-known worship leader Jeff Deyo helped lay the foundation, with Heil joining them in time for their debut. It would be the band's only album in that incarnation. After just one release, differing opinions had members heading their separate ways and Heil was left holding the bag-and the band's name. He called in a few favors from friends and put together a new, temporary version of Sonicflood to fulfill some touring commitments. But once on the road, the guys enjoyed themselves so much, they decided to stay together. Two albums later, they're still going strong and seem more committed than ever.
The band's 2001 release Resonate in 2001 was the first to showcase Sonicflood's new line-up (which is rounded out by keyboardist David Alan and lead guitarist Todd Shay). They followed that up with 2003's Cry Holy, produced by "God of Wonders" co-writer Marc Byrd along with Julian Kindred.
Even with the band's line-up solidified and records being released regularly, the task of continuing on hasn't always been easy. Heil balances recording and touring with battling Crone's disease, a condition that causes severe abdominal cramping, weight loss and dehydration. Despite the fact that he's often doubled over in pain before a show and admits that the unpredictability of road life only adds to the problem, he isn't planning to look for new line of work anytime soon.
"This is the most awesome thing I can do on this earth, and this is what God has given me," he says matter-of-factly.
In fact, it's why they all do it, Vargason agrees. "That's why we leave our families, because we're called to do it. God said, 'you guys play music.'"
The music they're currently playing is a mix of their own compositions and covers like Chris Tomlin's beautifully crafted "Famous One." The sound is aggressive modern rock, but it's still tame enough to appeal to entire families. And they're content to keep playing as long as the music is making a connection and there are hurting people who find hope in their songs.
"A lot of the modern leaders take themselves very seriously and really think they are hand in hand with God, turning the world upside down," Vargason says. "We view ourselves as five guys playing music who are called to the church and when He ends it, He ends it. We're just trying to be faithful to our calling. If tomorrow Rick decides to go be a hot air balloonist, then it's over. We really don't view ourselves as that important. We just try to make sure God gets the glory."