Tony Cummings caught up with the exciting new addition to the British scene, FIREFALLDOWN
One of the most exciting new introductions to the British scene for many a long year is the first single by London-based Filipino-British three-piece Firefalldown. The band consist of Jon Blaylock (lead vocals, guitar), Joel Sablayan (bass) and Andrew Hodgson (drums) and have been together since February 2007. The press release accompanying their "Commissioned" single on Sonic Juan Records describes their sound as "melodic funkcore" and certainly their thrilling convergence of skate-punk, Motown and hard rock plus a stage show described as "dynamic, intriguing and underpinned by a refreshing intelligence" make Firefalldown serious contenders for the Big Time.
Yet alongside the band's hugely impressive CD debut, growing clubland following (the group have played well over a hundred gigs) and considerable sec cred the band openly proclaim a strong Christian faith. Jon Blaylock told Cross Rhythms, "The band is a ministry more than anything else, but it's not about bashing people over the head with Bible verses and Christian theology. Changing lives is Jesus' job, not ours. Our role is to be channels. . . conduits of the Spirit. Our prayer is that through the music, performances, and through our lives, people experience God in a way that is real to them. . . that they be inspired to live out their God-given dreams. That kind of thing can happen through a blatantly Christian lyric, or through a simple unaccompanied chord progression (both being things we believe God can speak clearly though)."
Jon continued, "Music is such a powerful tool and so much of it is used to stir up ideologies and feelings that keep people from being who they are called to be. Materialism, angst, moral relativism, hedonism, anarchy - just a few of the predominant themes we hear on the airwaves nowadays which have nothing good to offer society. One of our goals is to bring God's light into the darkest places, to people taken by these values and worldviews. A few weeks ago I was at gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden with a few metal heads I had become friends with at one of our shows. The bands on that night were called Nun Slaughter, Sathanas, and Decrepid! And just yesterday we played alongside an extremely talented band called MDMA who sang things like 'spread you legs' and 'I wanna @£$%'. Most Christians would steer clear of these places and these people, but these are exactly the types who we feel called to reach and the places we feel called to play. We don't judge. . . that's not our job. We know we'd be exactly the same as them if not for Christ.
"Reaching out to these people is not about forcing a belief system on them (something we believe Christ never intended to do), but it IS about challenging their worldviews and stirring them to ask important questions. It's about sharing our experiences and Christ's love and leaving the rest to God. Practically speaking, our ministry is about doing everything that we can to be a blessing to anyone we come across along the way. Sinner or saint, annoying or lovable, convicted felon or kids' church pastor - we're called to love everyone without any exceptions. As they say, love the sinner and hate the sin. In living this way, we hope to see people touched by Christ, consumed by his fire and launched into the destiny that they were created to live out. Our mission is one thing and one thing alone, to seek him and his Kingdom first. We can only give what we have, and it's only by knowing his love for us that we can love him and express that love to others. 'We love, because he loved us first.' We firmly believe that everything will fall into place so long as this remains our top priority."
The genesis for Firefalldown was when Andy Hodgson and Joel Sablayan met in church and played in the worship team together for nearly six years. Said Joel, "Eventually we started thinking about playing music outside the church doors (though we had separately been in secular before). We started out praying together for the music industry in general - praying that God would raise up people to be lights and lampstands in the entertainment industry, while every now and then jamming in Andrew's kitchen. Jon later joined the worship team in our church and soon learned that we were praying together and asked if he could join us. After a few prayer sessions, it became apparent that Jon had the same yearning that we did - to positively impact as many people as possible through his music.
"He introduced a few of his original songs and we moved out of the kitchen and into rehearsal studios, and soon after we were convinced that we were meant to stay together as a band. What's interesting about this band compared to all the other bands we've been in before is that this one was started purely through prayer. We did not make any decisions on our own, but waited on the Spirit for all major decisions. The first gig we played was at the Spice Of Life (Soho, London). I remember we spent months rehearsing one particular song which we only ever played at that first gig, and we initially had a different name for the band, but it also only lasted that first gig!"
Towards the end of 2007 Firefalldown recorded a three-song demo which they used to send to venues and promoters and which was also given away at gigs. Then in 2008 the band began searching for a suitable producer to record their first single. "Commissioned" was produced by the Animal Farm (One Night Only) and mixed by Chris Sheldon (The Foo Fighters, Radiohead). Joel was asked how he got such a prestigious figure as Sheldon on board. He replied, "I absolutely loved Chris Sheldon's work on 'The Color And The Shape' by The Foo Fighters, but it just seemed too far fetched an idea to think that he'd actually consider working with a band at our level. Then I figured - What the heck, no harm in asking! Stranger things have been known to happen, right? So I scoured the internet for contact details and found the email address of his manager, Alan Cowderoy. I pinged him an email with links to our music, prayed my butt off, and before we knew it we got an email from Alan saying Chris really liked the tracks and was willing to work with us. And that was that."
Joel was asked whether Filipino audiences are more open to spiritual messages than British audiences. He responded, "It's hard to say. Maybe a bit. I don't recall having any negative reactions to our message in Manila, in fact people over there seemed quite receptive. Over here, we have had some funny reactions. I remember one of our street teamers handing someone the wrong sign-up sheet at a gig - she was given a prayer team sign-up sheet instead of a mailing list sign-up sheet and she totally freaked out. She had this expression on her face like she was just asked to join a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. So yeah, we get some interesting reactions over here, but I don't think the atmosphere is as antagonistic towards Christianity and spirituality as some make it out to be."
The band are already extremely busy and in fact answered Cross Rhythms' questions the day after a 16-hour stint at the recording studio! Said Joel, "The more immediate goal is to get the music to as many people around the world as possible. This will definitely involve a lot of touring and a lot of records. Currently, we're busy recording our next single with producer Chris Brown and are doing a 25-date tour across the UK and Wales throughout June and July. The long-term goal is to give other artists who have something of value to offer the world a platform to reach a larger audience. It's a real blessing that we are able to do what we do in the UK, a country that has the third largest music industry in the world. We believe that we were blessed in this way so that we can pave the way for others. We're hoping that the experience, resources and connections we will have gained from the experience of managing ourselves and running Sonic Juan Records will give us all that we need to help struggling bands make it to the next level. It'll take quite a huge miracle for any of these things to happen, but hey, we believe in those."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.