Steve Wheeler catches up with new indie rock team THIRD WORLD CAFE.
Uncompromising name Third World Cafe. This new four piece band come from Newport in South Wales and certainly look the part - everything about them, from their clothes to their accents, exudes an air of archetypal working class heroism. It is only when you start to pay attention to their lyrics, or better still, sit down and talk to them (they are very approachable) that you realise just how far down the road they have travelled to challenge many of our deep rooted preconceptions.
The band has been in existence for just a few months, but already they are making an impact in and around the clubs and pubs, and after their Saturday set in the Big Top at Cross Rhythms, I got the backstage low down. The name Third World Cafe, says bassist Andy Long, is an ironic statement about the way the opulent West feeds off the exploitation of the Third World. Yes, they talk a lot about Jesus, and yes, they are all committed totally to following him. Their message just goes a lot deeper than this.
As well as challenging non-Christians with the gospel, the band like to goad the consciences of the Christian members of their audiences. Third World Cafe say they want to make the Church sit up and take notice of the injustices that are perpetrated by supposedly Christian countries on the developing nations of the world. Their aim is to challenge us all to respond to the increasing social problems of our own nation too, facing problems such as unemployment, poverty and homelessness. And most importantly, they want us to respond to these problems in the way Jesus would respond - with love, compassion and maybe even a little outrage. Says Andy: "We're trying to tweak people's consciences. We're trying to get people to look outside of their immediate situations and then to see how they can get actively involved in changing things."
They point out that Jesus said "The poor you will have with you always", but he didn't say we should ignore them. They also claim to be leftist in their politics, but hope that not too many Christians will misunderstand this stance. They feel that because Jesus was a radical in his outlook, so it's okay to be radical too. And radical they are.
So Third World Cafe see their mission as raising the awareness of the Church to the plight of the world's unfortunates. Musically, they do so in a manner that refuses to be categorised. When pressed, they claim a diversity of musical influence that is staggering. Drummer Steve Jones is, and always has been, deeply influenced by blues music. He doesn't say much, just nodding agreement occasionally during the interview, whilst the rest of the band talk animatedly. On stage though, he comes alive, providing the high explosives for a true rock demolition job. Lead singer 'Dougie' Douglas does what many Welsh people only claim to do - sings well. He's unashamedly influenced by middle of the road Christian popular music, but admits to a manic need to scream into the microphone occasionally, just to 'clear his vocal cords'. He keeps busy, currently playing keyboards for another outfit, the Lorraine King Band.
Bassist Andy Long is a music journalist (regularly writing for CR) when he's not jumping around on the stage. As part of the deal, he listens to everything from praise and worship and black gospel right through to thrash metal. He became a Christian after watching a Norman Barratt gig.
Which leaves lead guitarist Ian Harris, who's into the Manchester sounds, and tries to keep on top of the indie rock scene. He's been a Christian for about two years; most of the songs are his own composition which started out life as acoustic numbers. This was before the band fitted itself around them, and provided the mosh to construct one of the brightest, hard edged and incisive indie sounds in CCM today.
Third World Cafe played the Spectrum (Fringe) at Greenbelt's 20th Birthday thrash (the same time Cliff Richard hit the Big Top) and have released their debut four track EP 'For The Love Of God'. They have no really hot ambitions about 'making it big' though. The only short-term objective they have set themselves is to gain a wider audience for their music and message. They have vowed to split if they are 'at the same place' two years from now. Refreshingly, they are pure and simply more interested in spreading their message than in any other kind of success. Says singer Dougie, "What we're saying is a big thing. We're pointing the finger at everyone, our culture, and how we exploit others. We haven't got all the answers - but we shouldn't sweep things under the carpet 'cos they're too difficult to deal with. We have to learn to deal with the world's problems in a way that will be pleasing to God."
Ian Harris agrees, citing the fact that the famine in third world countries is not because of lack of food, and pointing out that the EC has mountains of food. According to Ian, it's the greed of the multi-national companies and the way they trade with the emerging nations that causes the problems.
In order to 'practice what they preach', the band will shortly be aligning themselves to a Christian Third World development agency. They promise that a proportion of their gig profits and tape sales will go to support the work of the relief organisation in question.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.