Aah… Danielson. You either love ’em or hate ’em, but there’s no denying that they’re doing important things for Christian music, especially Christian indie music, that will probably stick around for a while. Whether you’d call them artistic geniuses or bizarre eccentrics, musical innovators or noise makers, Danielson is bringing in much-needed creativity to the Christian music world.
Danielson is Daniel Smith and various numbers of his siblings and friends. In 1995, Daniel Smith convinced his 4 siblings to help him with his senior thesis in art school by joining with him in creating a band that would blend faith, art, and pop music together in a creative new way. So they rehearsed and rehearsed and then performed for the school’s art show. The family was a surprise hit, especially among indie fans, and from there, the band has gone on to tour the nation and produce albums for Tooth & Nail, Secretly Canadian, and their own label Sounds Familyre Records. When the whole family performs together, they’re known as the Danielson Famile, otherwise it’s Brother Danielson for solo stuff.
The band, while being artsy, eccentric, creative and very… uh… different, remains radically committed to God. They’re open and honest about Jesus and don’t hide it from anybody. When they perform as a family, they each where white nurse outfits with red hearts sewn on the sleeves. Why? It’s meant to be a symbol of how Jesus’ blood (the color of the hearts) cleanses us and makes us white (the color of the uniforms), and to show that they wear their hearts on their sleaves. They also see it as a reminder of the “spiritual and emotional healing that’s taking place” as the band plays. A little different, but pretty cool I think.
When he performs solo, Daniel Smith often dresses in a giant tree with nine different fruit on it (yeah, I know it’s weird) as a way to show the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Again, it’s weird but cool. See it for yourself here.
When asked about the band’s name, Daniel Smith explains that he, Daniel, is a son of God, hence the name Danielson. Get it? Daniel son. Daniel son. Since this is a difficult thing to grasp, perhaps this will help: Daniel(is a)son(of God). [Note: watch the documentary about them, and you’ll be amazed at how some people just don’t understand the group, or maybe you’ll feel comfort in their company.]
So just what do they sound like? Well, Daniel sings with a sort of annoying falsetto voice. They use bizarre rhythms and meters. The music is somewhat orchestral in nature, so you’ll hear lots of bizarre instruments you may never have heard before. The hardest drug I’ve ever done was Benadryl, but if you can imagine Bugs Bunny and Betty Boop having an acid trip, Danielson would provide the soundtrack. And I mean that in the best way possible.
From Sounds Familyre Records:
There’s no avoiding that what began as a senior thesis project a decade ago has evolved into a world so rich with musicality and merry-making that the first six albums and ten years of touring pomp alone could nourish the most scrutinizing of thrill-seekers. Mythology-hounds, listening with headphones or at a party, have found Danielson to be as deeply rewarding in a literary-visual-musical way as canonical acts such as Sun Ra, Parliament and David Bowie.
What I love about the band is how they’re able to remain steadfast radical Christians, which is rare in the world of Christian music, and rarer still in the world of crossover indie Christian bands. They’re extremely innovative and artistic, which has gained them a huge indie following in the secular world, yet they’re totally devoted to God and upfront about Jesus. It’s great to see a band doing new things with music, for the Creator of music Himself. Check out a fun blog post about the merging of faith and creativity in Danielson’s music here.
And if you’re tired of your normal music and need something totally different, give Danielson a try. Here’s some songs for you to check out, all of which (among others) can be found for free download here at Sounds Familyre Records:
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