Susanne Martin reports on the history of Texas-based female-fronted pop rockers INHABITED
It's not every day that a band whose official style is designated "worship" (at least according to the JesusFreaksHideout Artists Database) get considerable criticism for one of their lyrics. So what was it about Texas-based Inhabited's "Hush" on their currently successful 'Love' album which raised the hackles of some fans and CCM industry people? Was it worshippers finally tiring of the clichés and banalities of many modern worship songs? Was it the profanities that have so blighted mainstream rock and hip-hop in recent years, even creeping into the worship sanctuary? Or (with the greatest yet flight of fancy), was it the estate of King David demanding royalties for yet another re-write of the great lyricist's work? As it turns out, it was none of these. At the end of April, Inhabited released for download an "uncensored" version of their US Christian radio hit "Hush". The lyrics were a pretty biting critique of the ultra-conservative programming policies of those radio stations and the record execs who pander to them. The lyric went, "Turn down the guitars and the snare a little bit/Not gonna listen/Won't make sucky music so my records will play," and, "They said just sing these words and you'll sound real nice/Something more like BarlowGirl, do something right/Ain't got nothing against 'em but it just ain't me."
The amended lyrics caused a bit of a stir forcing the band to go onto their website to publish a statement. It read, "There seems to be a bit of confusion about the 'Hush Remix'. First of all Inhabited believes that everyone's art is their own creation and we should respect each other's art. When we referenced BarlowGirl in the song it wasn't to bash or put them down, it just says our art is a different style. They have achieved great success, and we would wish them no less! It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be successful in the music business! Their success speaks for itself. The song also never intended to bring Fervent's character into question. Likewise, their success speaks for itself. We had some differences in musical views, thus the reason we parted ways, but they supported the ministry of Inhabited, and still do. We are both about the bigger picture which is spreading hope anywhere music will take us. Lastly, if the intent had been to bash or offend anyone it would not have been done with what we thought was a fun, cool remix. We have always been straightforward with our lyrics and always will be. That has caused some ups and downs along the way, but we have remained true to write and sing the songs we LOVE."
Back in 2003, when the band first formed, it was just siblings Marcus and Sara Acker who made up Inhabited. It was created when the pair began leading worship for their church youth group and were asked to write songs of their own. According to Sara, reaching out to young people is a big part of the spiritual vision for the group. She said in an interview in Nashville with Mike Rimmer, "I think it's really cool as musicians that you have that ability to invest in their lives, because they'll listen and they're hungry for something, you know, they're looking for truth. This Jesus thing is for real, and it's something that's given us hope in dark times. That's what we want to share." Guitarist Marcus also revealed his original vision for the band musically. "When I started it, I didn't want to have just another mediocre okay rock/pop band, or whatever people classify us as. I wanted to have something that's different. I wanted it to be something that strives to have a top-notch musical performance. That's something that we're all working towards on a daily basis and we really feel that it's starting to come together."
In 2004 Inhabited released the independent album 'Innerview'. Shortly after that, with their personnel now bolsted to a five-piece - Sara Acker (vocals), Marcus Acker (guitars), Justin Tinnel (guitars), James Colvin (bass) and Jerrett Horn (drums) - Inhabited signed to Fervent Records. Nashville-based Fervent seemed a good fit for the band with the CCM label hitting with such acts as BarlowGirl, Big Daddy Weave and By The Tree. For Inhabited's first national release award winning producer Monroe Jones (Third Day, Bebo Norman) was allocated the task to produce the album. 'Revolution' was, in retrospect, a strong project (with three songs, "Rescue Me", "Save My Life" and "Angel" getting Cross Rhythms radio play and the CR reviewer comparing its snappy pop rock sound with that of Rebecca St James). But, "differences in musical views" meant that Fervent and Inhabited parted company and the band signed with another CCM label, Slanted. Inbetween touring the group began working on the 'Love' album. By 2007 it was completed and pre-release promo copies began to be circulated. But then, unexpectedly, Inhabited ran into another wall. Belatedly, Slanted Records felt they couldn't release the album. After trekking around with the album in tow, Inhabited finally found a new record company home with Valparaiso, Indiana-based 7 Spin Music (Authentic Music in the UK). Inhabited left Slanted with no hard feelings. Marcus told Mike Rimmer, "They're cool people - we've got on a personal level, we had a good relationship. It's just our creative difference."
Record company hassles have sunk more than one band but Inhabited pressed on and now the critical acceptance of 'Love' shows the band were right to do so. Sara commented on one of the standout tracks on the album, "We Will Live". "That song is very strange because it's all the things we've been through in the past year. But it was actually written for other people; for the kids that are so consumed in the things of their lives, all the troubles, that they can't see the sunlight any more. So it's just an anthemic song - 'We will live' - and it ended up being an encouragement to me. I listened back to it through that year and, it's like, 'We will live, we're going to press on. Rough times are going to come, but you press on, through the thick and thin.' And so it was kind of weird how your own song comes back saying, 'Hey, wake up, snap out of it, press on.' That song is an encouragement to us and we hope it will be to other people out there."
A less serious track featuring on the new album, and one that at the least gets drummer Charlie excited, is "Are You With Me?" "That was actually the first song I recorded with the band and so it was my first experience with the new sound and the new record and I loved it," he said. "If you listen to it, there's a lovely bass thing in the chorus. I'm very proud; the whole thing is just really great. It's definitely a fun song to do live. It's kind of a call-response thing. 'Are you with me? Say "Yeah"' - and the kids scream 'Yeah!' And you know, it's really fun, just a great way to connect with kids. Like, one of them said to me, 'I said yeah really loud!', and I'm like 'Cool, man, thanks so much!' That's why I love that song, you know."
With all the upsets not surprisingly the 2008 Inhabited has a different line up and is now a four-piece. Joining founding members Sara and Marcus are Chad Carouthers (bass) and Charlie Harper (drums). Mike Rimmer put a leading question to Sara, asking whether Inhabited was in fact Sara's band? Sara responded, "I think we all have ownership of sorts. You know, we have different roles. Marcus and I both signed the record contract. So you see that's the part where we have different roles. Marcus is totally in charge of the production - I mean, he did half of the production on the record with Monroe. So we really do split the roles in the band. The way we signed was kind of for the band as well, because the guys before were able to leave the band, whereas if they would've signed, then they wouldn't have been able to leave. So that was for those guys too."
Bringing two different people into the band has also prompted a different movement for Inhabited musically. Bass player Chad explained where the sound for 'Love' sprung from: "We've got two new members, me and Charlie. So whenever you bring in two new musicians you're obviously going to get different opinions and different feels. It just comes out of the music and this new record is definitely a reflection of that. It's got a little bit more soul, a little bit more groove and stuff, because that's what me and Charlie like. So it's kind of a groove-rock thing."
Considering Inhabited's history of hassles Mike Rimmer suggested that their latest album's theme of God's agape love was a particularly telling one. Said Sara, "We took it from 1 Corinthians 13. It'll shake you up quite a bit if you really get a hold of what it says. We can go out and feed the poor and do all those things but if we don't have love, we have nothing. Even as musicians we can play this music and write songs about Jesus, and that's all fine and dandy, but if we don't have love, and we don't love God, then we're not doing this for the right reasons. And so in the end, when we die, it's like, what does it matter? So it's about if we really could genuinely love people then we could really change the world, you know, if we could get a hold of the kind of love that Jesus had."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.