Florida-based DENISON MARRS are an emo-styled rock band with a special take on love. Tony Cummings reports.
Such is the size of the Christian music scene in the USA that a band can work for years, steadily touring and recording (independent) albums and never reach the attention of America's Christian bookstore browsers. Thankfully, this is now changing for the contemporary rock band Denison Marrs. This Lakeland, Florida, group make a melodic sound akin to power pop which, in the words of lead vocalist Eric Collins, "Makes falling in love at ground gravity easy." Consisting of Collins, Joseph Bucklew on bass, Jonathan Bucklew on drums and Daniel Day on guitar, Denison Marrs can still boast their original line up from when they formed in 1995. Performing and creating a solid fan base in the South Eastern states, the band soon caught the eye of Mike Lewis, frontman for Puller and founder of new label 6x6 Records. With Aaron of Dear Ephesus as the catalyst, Lewis pursued the band. "Mike approached our manager, Kyle; they set up some shows with Puller," Joseph explained.
In 1999 Denison Marrs made their recording debut, the album 'Holding Hands @ 35,000 Feet'. The album received critical acclaim though not all CCM fans were happy with the ambiguous lyrics. Said Eric Collins, " I've been told by (Christian) interviewers that some of my lyrics are taken to be simply love songs between people. My reply is that some of them are that indeed. The thing is, wherever true love is found, God is prevalent." In 2001 Velvet Blue released a split EP, 'Stavesacre/Denison Marrs', with three songs by each of the two bands before later that year releasing a full Denison Marrs album, 'World Renown For Romance'. Author Mark Allan Powell commented in his Encyclopedia Of Contemporary Christian Music, "'World Renown For Romance' is the band's paean to girl-boy love as the greatest of all God's gifts. 'Love And It's Grand Scheme' and '(I Have You) Memorized' seem appropriate for Gen-X candlelight dinners."
In 2002 Denison Marrs signed with Tim Tabors' Floodgate Records. Their first Floodgate album, 'This Is The New Now' (available through Authentic Music) was recorded in Atlanta with producer Matt Goldman (Smalltown Poets). Collins said, "We are determined and inspired to create the music we love and to please the one who has granted all of it to us. We want to continually spread farther out into the world and never become stagnant. God grants humans talents and abilities to help and to touch one another. They should never be sat upon and made idle."
With all the members contributing to the writing effort, lyrics such as those from the song "Silver" ("Your glorious silhouette will never empty/I love the way the silver moon makes it shimmer for me and I wonder if you could be the one/I'll pick up the pen and write like mad and free the song") capture the album's feeling of "true/pure love being exchanged spiritually as well as emotionally," Eric commented.
Denison Marrs, whose name, rather intriguingly, comes from a mistaken translation of a T-shirt, is also appreciative that their album is being marketed to a mainstream audience, first, instead of the usual introduction to the Christian marketplace. "We're not overlooking the Christian market by any means," Daniel said. "We're definitely happy with this, because we don't want anyone to be excluded." "I think it's a shame that there's two separate markets in the first place," Jonathan added. "It alienates both audiences and bands from learning from each other."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.