Hawaiian punk group OLIVIA THE BAND are fun loving surf bums who take their music, and their faith, seriously. Tony Cummings reports.
The British rock scene still has its share of Mojo-reading punk purists who wax lyrical about the Pistols and Clash but view the rise in the '90s of American punk bands with unbridled contempt. But gradually such extreme views have become marginalised particularly since groups like Green Day and Blink 182 have found a large British audience.
On the Christian scene bands like MxPx and Relient K and a whole slew of Tooth & Nail acts have been joined by a band who hail not from urban mean streets but from the sun kissed beaches of Hawaii! The self-titled debut album by Olivia The Band came out at the beginning of the year and is well worth investigating. Olivia The Band consist of vocalist/bassist Reed Cromwell, rhythm guitarist Gabe Watts, lead guitarist Justin Abilla and drummer Christian Perreira. Justin explained how a group of Christian surf bums started the band. "Back in the day we would go to see groups like Pennywise, Sprung Monkey and Blink 182. It was while driving home from a show in 1995 that we decided to start a band so that we could touch people like they had touched us." Armed with a goal, the musicians went out and bought the best instruments they could afford and set out to learn to play them. "Christian had the most money, so he became the drummer," said Abilla, with a laugh.
Justin explained to CCM magazine how they ended up with such an unusual name. "I had a sister named Olivia Grace. My mom was eight months pregnant with her when she passed away. We thought it would be cool to name the band after her. We definitely know that God has a bigger plan, and he can totally use that situation for his good. Even if we had never left the island, just the few people who heard us in the beginning would know that we have hope that God's going to use it."
After recording independently the band realised they would have to relocate if they were ever going to make headway in music. Being surf fanatics it wasn't surprising that the band settled in San Diego, California. After several months of bringing their pop punk sound to sold out crowds on the West Coast, Provident Label Group's Essential Records signed Olivia The Band to a record deal and put the group with producer Bob Burch.
Recorded at For The Record Studios in Orange County, 'Olivia The Band' may not be a stone classic but it bristles with tight playing, infectious rhythms and lyrics that take in such diverse topics as media deadening our senses ("Novocane"), turning to God in repentance ("Kill The Grey") and, of course, the joys of Hawaii's North Shore ("Saturday"). Said lyricist Reed Cromwell, "I try to say something of worth and my hope is that if some kid is super bummed out, he'll listen to us and it will help bring him through."
Inter-band relationships are for Olivia The Band hugely important. Justin
told CCM magazine, "God definitely brought us together and we have a
supertight relationship. I think the hardest thing for a band is just
to stay together. I think that's the trick because there are tons of
bands that are so musically talented and write the best songs, but
then they go on tour and get into a fist fight, and it's over. So
besides God, our friendship is the next strongest point of our band -
even more than our music. What we are onstage is who we are off stage
and who we are at home with our families."