Proto Evangelion: Seattle's purveyors of sludge-rock jazz worship

Friday 23rd November 2012

Tony Cummings went to Cornwall, not Seattle, to meet radical worshippers PROTO EVANGELION

Proto Evangelion
Proto Evangelion

Proto Evangelion hail from Seattle, though no one would call them grunge. What precisely you would label this radical worship collective is problematic. Proto Evangelion's frontman Riley Taylor admits that they have a hard time in describing their eclectic musical style. He chuckled, "We sometimes call it sludge rock, because it's heavy, but not dark - and it's loud, but not upbeat. We have a saxophone in there, our drummer is jazz to the core, so maybe call it jazz/sludge-rock, worship jazz, whatever."

Proto evangelion (pronounced with a hard g as in 'get') is Greek for "First Gospel" and refers to Genesis 3:15 where God proclaims his plan of salvation for the first time. "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Proto Evangelion lead worship at three Calvary Chapel churches in Seattle and it was at the Calvary Chapel run event Creation Fest in Cornwall earlier this year that I spoke with Riley about Proto Evangelion. He helpfully ran down the aggregation's current lineup. "We've got me, Riley - I play guitar and sing; I also have been starting to programme beats. We've got Nick Taylor, my brother, who plays bass. He has a huge afro. He sings, and he's got a great voice. We have Pam Magiba who plays piano and Rhodes keyboards, and sometimes glockenspiel. She has a real smooth voice that'll melt your heart. Then we've got Paul Swanson, who plays saxophone, and Colin Foxley who plays the groove machine, known as drums. We decided to make our worship band real serious: not just a Sunday thing, but something that could write and record and have a signature sound and play shows. We've played in a few bars in Seattle and just sang worship songs while people were drinking. We just added the saxophone player; we feel he completes our sound."

So far the band have made one full length album, 2010's 'Dimly Lit: 10 Songs About God And Man'. It intrigued the Cross Rhythms reviewer, who wrote, "Main vocalist Riley Taylor's delivery style is laid back but works well, particularly on his own compositions. His Radiohead-esque "Resurrection Of The Dead" is probably the standout track." Live, it's Proto Evangelion's radical reconstruction of "Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing" which impresses audiences. Riley explained the album's title. "'Dimly Lit' comes from that verse in the Bible that says, 'When we see ourselves, we see ourselves through a foggy, dimly-lit glass'. We don't have the proper perspective, and we always have to go to Christ for that perspective."

As well as 'Dimly Lit' the group have recorded a Christmas EP which they refer to as "do-it-yourself demo-style." Plans are in the works for another album. As they've already proved with their appearances in Seattle clubland, non-Christians are prepared to listen to worship music if it's performed in a creative musical style. Said Riley, "To my mind, worship music - if I were to get on a soap box - is the music that non-Christians should hear. The reason I say that is because I think Christian music without the purpose of worshipping God is good, because it introduces ideas, and it's somewhat more palatable to a non-Christian; but worship is what we want to invite non-Christians to do. So my hope would be that they hear the songs, and since we're inviting them to sing, it can be a part of a larger invitation to worship Jesus with their lives. Of course, the Bible says that carnal man does not understand the things of the Spirit. So we can only hope that God opens their eyes. I don't put any strength in any particular kind of song or music, we just try to be as genuine to ourselves as possible - doing what makes us inspired, what we can offer people and hope God uses."

Proto Evangelion: Seattle's purveyors of sludge-rock jazz worship

Proto Evangelion's sets at Creation Fest were extremely well received. So how does a band without any record company support manage to perform in darkest Cornwall? Riley explained, "There was a time, right when we were invited, where we were pretty doubtful and fearful of even trying, because we didn't think that God could provide two thousand dollars each. We certainly don't have it laying around. We weren't all on board, but after a while praying, talking to each other, we decided to give it a shot. Through various things, like benefit concerts, or offerings, or bake sales, or auctions, we raised the money - but most of the money came from random people giving us money without us even asking. That was, to us, a miracle. We know God has us here for a reason." CR

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.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


Reader Comments

Posted by Wayne Taylor in Seattle, USA @ 04:53 on Nov 27 2012

I loved your interview of Proto's Riley Taylor. It was creative, informative, and interesting. Here on the West coast of America, Proto Evangelion is an inspiring, edgy, and popular worship band. We love 'em. And I personally loved being at Cornwell and Creationfest this past year, you Brits throw an awesome 'Praise Party!'

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