One of the brightest and brashest bands around are London's UNWRITTEN. They make their Cross Rhythms Mega Tent debut this year and wrinklie Steve Cox quizzed them.
The combined ages of your esteemed editor and this humble hack would amount to a musical journey to the days before the Titanic set sail on its fateful journey, without Leonardo diCaprio and Ms Winslett. So, the prospect of an interview with a band who define their music as New York hardcore was filled with marvellous irony. But lead singer and songwriter of Unwritten, Loz Joyner, was very gentle as he began to explain what he meant by this obscure musical genre. "Well, that's how we sounded on stage. When we were recording it changed a bit. It's sort of along the same lines as Sound Gardens and it's got a bit of Nirvana and a bit of U2 in there somewhere." The band's seven-track EP 'For The Uninitiated' kicks off with a superb throwback to the days of '70s, in-your-face musical aggression. So I asked Loz if all this talk of New York hardcore was really a euphemism for good old-fashioned punk. He replied. "We didn't really want to call it punk with all those anarchic overtones. In fact, we were thinking of calling it Christcore, but were not too sure whether that would go down too well. We're quite pleased with the sound of the album. It was recorded over two weeks, in between jobs and looking after children. We didn't want an over-commercialised sound, or too much of a studio sound." The joys of parenthood, and full employment, seem at odds with the image of a punk, sorry, New York hardcore band. But, Unwritten is quite a family affair with Loz's brother, Adrian, on drums and his brother-in-law, Christian, on bass guitar. And there was a time, before parental duties took centre stage, when Loz's wife and Christian's other sister were fully paid up members. Now a three-piece, Unwritten's raw quality, so reminiscent of some early Split Level recordings, has received the professional touch of engineer, Toby, who's been on the road with Robbie Williams and engineered some of his recent albums including 'Life Through The Lens'. How did an unknown band, like Unwritten, get hold of a quality mainstream engineer like Toby? Said Loz, "The guy who recorded the first EP with us was touring with a band called Hurricane No 1 and couldn't get back in time. But he said he knew this bloke who can stand in for us. He didn't tear the songs apart. He basically got the edge of where we were coming from. We told him we didn't want an over-produced album. So, all he did really was to add some effects." Unwritten play the usual festivals, halls and pubs, but they also play a monthly rock gig called Against The Flow in Southgate, North London where Loz is also part of the Southgate Christian Fellowship. Brother-in-law Christian goes to the Beacon in Barnet, but Loz's brother, Adrian, has slipped away from the Lord. I suggested that this must put a strain on the band. "Well. I don't want to say whether he is or he isn't. I'm not sure where he stands with the Lord. He's really enjoying being part of the band. He says he hasn't any problems with what we believe in. I think the Lord touches him in different ways. and the freedom we've got and who we are, so I don't want to presume anything." At this point in our conversation I felt a real check in my spirit. But, was this just a knee jerk religious reaction, or a deeper concern at this clash of kingdoms? After some initial hesitancy, Loz was quite clear in his response. "No, there isn't. We don't preach at him. He used to go to church when I lived at home, so he knows all the rules even though he doesn't sort of practise it. We're not perfect." It's hard to skip over such an important issue, but I decided to leave it with the Lord and wondered just who the band was trying to reach. Loz's assertion that both non-Christians and Christians were drawn to their musical style was given some credence with Loz's brief anecdote. "I'll tell you a story. My brother was going with some of his mates to see the band Therapy. He put our tape on in the car before they went. After seeing the gig and hearing all Therapy's great songs, one of his non-Christian mates began singing "Ask Me How I Know', which is the last track on our album." Loz became a Christian in 1984 when he was 14. But it's only in the past five years or so, after moving to London, that he believes he has grown in the Lord. And it's the church in Southgate who have really supported them, even those who wouldn't dream of listening to their album. "I didn't really receive any real pastoring or teaching. But when I got married and moved to London then started going to the Southgate Christian Fellowship, that's when my spiritual growth began. They've been absolutely fantastic. A lot of the people contributed to the cost of the recording. "In the early days," continued Loz, "a lot of eyebrows were raised when we first started, but we were seeing kids watching us one week and bringing their friends the following week. And it became a real responsibility. We really asked God about this recording. Now it's happened everyone who's heard it has said it's really good. As for the future, we want to reach out to the people who felt there wasn't any music catering for them, the harder end of the market; the punks and the body-piercing brigade. I don't know anybody else who's doing it." There's that '70s word again, but whatever label is given to this culture, people group or musical style, they still need to hear about the love of God. And Loz, Christian and Adrian could well be the ones to share this fantastic message in a style, which really hits the mark.