Jars of Disco?
1995 Christianity Today, Inc./CAMPUS LIFE Magazine
MUSIC: Campus Life at Christianity Online on America Online
What's a nice, serious folk-rock band like this doing "stuck" in the '70s?
interview by Chris Lutes
Seems like Jars of Clay is everywhere these days.
Like the concert scene: The folk-rock band with a modern rock edge has crisscrossed the country performing with PFR and, most recently, with Michael W. Smith.
And the pop charts: Known for thoughtful, well-crafted lyrics about life and faith, JOC has produced such radio hits as "Flood," "Love Song for a Savior" and "Like a Child." The band's self-titled debut has spent several months on Billboard's Top Contemporary Christian chart.
And even cyberspace: Along with their own World Wide Web site on the Internet, the Jar guys communicate regularly with fans (call 'em Jar Heads) through a very popular folder in Yakety Yak, Campus Life's message board on America Online. (Jars' e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
And all this has taken place in such a short time. JOC formed in '93, when three of the guys were still students at Greenville College (IL). The band's hot-selling debut released less than a year ago.
Campus Life caught up with the guys awhile back and asked them a few questions ...
WHEN I LISTEN TO YOUR LYRICS, I THINK, MAN, THESE GUYS ARE SERIOUS...
Steve Mason (guitar and bass): Well, we're really intensely laid back.
INTENSELY LAID BACK? WHAT'S THAT MEAN?
Steve: It means, uhh... Matt can take this one.
Matt Odmark (guitar): Yeah, were, uhh...
OK, SO YOU CAN'T EXPLAIN IT. THEN TELL US WHAT INTENSELY LAID-BACK GUYS LIKE YOU DO FOR FUN.
Dan Haseltine (vocals): We have twisted fun.
AND WHAT'S THAT MEAN?
Dan: We have '70s parties.
POLYESTER AND EVERYTHING?
Steve: Real disco.
Dan: Yeah, we're definitely into the "Staying Alive" groove.
OK, LET'S GET OFF THAT "TWISTED FUN" STUFF. HOW'D THIS BAND GET STARTED?
Dan: Charlie, Steve and I met at Greenville College. Charlie and I were roommates. We had the coolest room. And we even wallpapered the bathroom.
YOU WALLPAPERED THE DORM BATHROOM?
Dan: We went down to the drama department and found this old wallpaper from the '70s. It had these huge fluorescent orange and pastel flowers. So we papered the dorm bathroom with it. We attached the paper to the wall with duct tape. There you go, just a little more Jars craziness.
UHH, THANKS. OK, SO THREE OF YOU GOT TOGETHER AT GREENVILLE. WHERE'S MATT COME IN?
Matt: Charlie and I were friends growing up. So, we'd had this friendship a long time. After Jars' first guitarist left the band, they asked me to join them.
Charlie Lowell (keyboards): Yeah, we've kept him around even after the "dishwasher incident."
THE DISHWASHER INCIDENT?
Matt: The four of us share an apartment together. And we'd heard somewhere you could put Dawn in the dishwasher. So I tried it.
YOU PUT SOMEBODY IN THE DISHWASHER?
Dan: No, we're talking about the liquid detergent. Anyway, Matt put Dawn in the dishwasher instead of regular powder stuff.
Matt: Dan and I were in the living room watching TV. And I looked around and saw these suds creeping out onto the living room floor. Suddenly we heard this pounding on the door. It was our downstairs neighbors, telling us water was pouring all over their kitchen.
Dan: And we had suds everywhere!
GEE, SOUNDS LIKE AN EPISODE FROM THAT OLD I LOVE LUCY SHOW.
Dan: From that day on, we've done our dishes by hand!
OK, GUYS, I THINK YOU'VE PROVEN THERE IS A GOOFY SIDE TO JARS. LET'S TRY TO GET SERIOUS. WHAT'S SOMETHING YOU'VE BEEN LEARNING LATELY?
Steve: I think we are all learning the importance of just communicating better with each other. As we get to know each other even better, the surface stuff, the facade, keeps getting thinner and thinner. You begin to see the real person underneath. And sometimes that person isn't very likable. So we gotta talk honestly and openly with each other. And there are times we just need to give each other some more space.
Matt: I think God has been showing me that my friendship with these guys is more important than the band we're in. This really was brought home to me as we were working on the album. We got so frustrated with each other.
Dan: We all had different ideas about how the album should be done. We had some pretty intense fights about that, too. Eventually, though, we had to say our friendship really was more important than the album. So we got some outside help from other musicians. We actually let them make the decisions about the final recording.
Charlie: Lately I've been so impressed by how gracious God's been toward us. He's given us so many opportunities. I really feel undeserving. It's just God's grace.
I think of our name: Jars of Clay. Like the Scripture verse [2 Corinthians 4:7] says, "We have this treasure in jars of clay." Like clay jars, like all Christians, all four of us are fragile, vulnerable, yet God continues to pour his spirit into us. He chooses to use us and our music--in spite of our weaknesses.
"Love Song for a Savior"
Sitting silent wearing Sunday best
The sermon echoes through the walls
A great salvation through it calls
To the people who stare into nowhere
And can't feel the chains on their souls
It seems too easy to call you "Savior"
Not close enough to call you "God"
So as I sit and think of words I can mention
To show my devotion
"I want to fall in love with you"
--Jars of Clay
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