With a name like Agents of Future, you’ve gotta sound unique. You can’t go on stage sounding like Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Shania Twain, Brittney Spears, or anybody else who’s ever been around.
And unique is one thing they are.
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Todd, one of the leaders of the group, pointing me toward their music and asking me to take a look. I checked out their MySpace, downloaded a few songs, and loved it right away.
Agents of Future are real and passionate about what they’re doing. They’re creative. They’re unique. They’re inclusive. And they love God with all their hearts, from what I can tell anyway.
On their MySpace page, they describe themselves this way:
1998: A bunch of Jesus-loving, jalopy-gospel way-backers get together and do creative things: Shrieking, speaking, flailing, failing, storytelling, fear-quelling. In the process, songs and stories are smithed and written, friendships and families are stretched and shaken, stirred and strengthened. Genre-gender-class-past-death-defiers and town-crying demystifiers of mystery history lead these pacifistic, full-frontally ballistic missives. Best of all, on frequent occasions, we see entombed voices raisin’ and we peek through the haze.
Sweet. I’m digging that. Be sure to check out their MySpace page for some great quotes about more of what Agents of Future are all about.
Agents of Future aren’t real “pretty” or “refined” sounding. Their songs are catchy and you feel the emotion and passion, and you wish you were there in the midst of it, but it’s loud and noisy and different and a little rough around the edges. I like it.
At the bottom of the post, I’ll have the usual couple of songs to download, but for now, an e-mail interview with Todd about Agents of Future, community, and real worship:
The Blah Blah: Who are Agents of Future, in as many words as you’d like to use? What people are in the group?
Agents of Future: In its purist form, Agents of Future is made up of everyone who is a performing artist (visual, spoken, dance, music) at our home faithful community, The Bridge. When we share our expressions outside of services in Portland, we try to get AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE to participate, and that usually means about 25 or so people. Each time it’s a different mix, depending on who can make it. [Editor’s Note: To see videos of the action click here.]
TBB: How did Agents of Future get started? Where did you come from?
AOF: The Bridge’s first “service” was September 28th, 1998. There had been a nebulous group of alternative artists/musicians with a desire for connection with God and each other in Portland for a great while (starting in the late 60’s-early 70’s). A music venue and festival in the mid-90’s helped promote them, but a group from Everett, WA (Ken,
Deborah and Stephanie Loyd, Crystal Kennedy (now Ward), Rebecca Coffey and Jason Brown) became the catalyst for connecting a great many of them in spiritual community. The freedom of expression that the Everett group inspired/exhibited was UNMATCHED by anyone we had ever witnessed, and we were all alternative 20-somethings at the time. The expression of worship here has been fierce and free, bawdy-and-gritty most of the time, grounded in (almost stupid amounts of) grace, non-tokenistic equality, and a ready eye for discovery.
TBB: Is there a significance to your name?
AOF: Our friend, Ken Loyd was praying for those of us that were facilitating expression one service and in his prayer he called us “agents of future”. I immediately said, “that’s it. That’s what we are. We’re helping make it happen, we’re helping allow people in this community to get unmucked from their past and look to what’s next.”
TBB: What’s your role with the group?
AOF: I am vice-president of “making a complete fool of myself”. CEO of puppetry and fart noises. [Editor’s Note: Who doesn’t want that job?]
TBB: How would you describe your music, since I’m having a hard time doing it?
AOF: It’s what happens when people love each other and respect each other’s expression. Completely reckless, female-fronted anarcho-punk shout-choir anthems with Jerry Lee Lewis piano, gospel lyrics and tribal/funk percussion.
TBB: What do you hope to accomplish through your music?
AOF: We really would like to inspire people to include ALL the available voices of their respective communities, young and old, poor and rich, obvious addicts and addicts who hide, SUPPORT the stories of their people. Fall in love with the people that come in the door. Make a way for everyone to share their story. We want people to embrace that it probably will look messy, but that it will resonate with the world’s deep need to belong and be loved AS THEY ARE.
TBB: What are your musical influences?
AOF: Pixies, Russ Taff, Annie Lennox, Mates of State, The Velvet Teen (YouTube link of influences here)
TBB: What music are you currently listening to?
AOF: The White Stripes, Akron/Family, Justice, Animal Collective, Adrian Orange and Her Band, Jamie Lidell, Arcade Fire
TBB: What books are you reading?
AOF: “Auralia’s Colors” by Jeffrey Overstreet
TBB: I saw you had some good resources on your website about writing songs. What’s your usual process look like?
AOF: Musically, To get in the mindset where everyone contributes to the expressions, we play a game called “Ink Brethren” (you can hear our songs on Myspace), we write and record spontaneous moments of time where we practice supporting each other’s ideas, no matter how crazy. That gives us all a backdrop to writing songs that resonate for us personally, in that moment. Some of us bring song skeletons/fragments to our meetings and most of the time we flesh them out on the spot. Some of us come with completely thought-out arrangements and things, but that tends to be the exception, not the rule. This approach can be applied to every art form imaginable, but we really, really love singing together.
TBB: What sorts of reactions to your music have you gotten from audiences?
AOF: A lot of folks love to participate with us! That’s what we love the most! For others, it’s an intimidating thing, so they just sit and listen with their eyes closed.
TBB: What kinds of places are your favorite to play?
AOF: Where people are ready to collaborate! Houses, parks, basements, yards.
TBB: What’s your opinion of the whole MP3 downloading issue? Good for artists or bad?
AOF: The joy of community collaboration, for now, is enough to make “making a living” not a big issue to us. It’d be nice to break even with our CD sales, or pay Drew (our engineer/producer) a bit of money. But, mp3s seem to get the word out about what we’re trying to do, and if people want to support it, I believe they’ll make a way to do that. Whether it be through buying a CD, or just attempting to fall in love with their OWN community.
TBB: I’ve been discussing what the term “Christian Music” means on the blog (here). What does it mean to you? Would you say that Agents of Future make “Christian Music”?
AOF: Music isn’t able to have a conversion experience, last I checked. Music envokes, reflects, inspires, emotes. It’s a tool to connect me with you. Does our music attempt to connect with others in the way Jesus did on earth/does right now? I guess, in our assessment of him, it does. We think he likes what we do. A few of us have heard that. Ghettos that perpetuate false truths about what is acceptable to God leave everyone feeling tired. The author Jeff VanVonderan said once: “the World doesn’t need another way to feel tired”.
TBB: Why should people listen to Agents of Future?
AOF: Listen? They should JOIN US! To heck with listening! Participation is the new listening! People should listen for what they could hear God saying through us, though : “Enjoy each other, honor all stories, contend with me, test me and see if I will do what I promise, keep seeking and knocking! Laugh and cry until your sides hurt.”
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