Hailing from Bangor, Northern Ireland, Rend Collective Experiment’s acclaim began at home as a movement of 20-somethings that has now begun to spread across Europe to the Americas and beyond. The modern worship sounds of this band are receiving praise as the debut album, Organic Family Hymnal, is set to release in North America Sept. 28 from Kingsway with EMI CMG Distribution.
Charting a unique course, Rend Collective Experiment is a group of friends collectively wondering how to make sense of the conundrum of life, God and community. What Rend Collective Experiment’s 15-plus members add to the conversation are melodies, harmonic progression and lyrics that are scriptural and contemporary, fresh and ancient.
“Movements are stimulated and motivated by music, and here’s some music that will motivate Christians to participate in God’s revolution in the world. If you are committed to seeing something of the Kingdom of God made real in our world, this music will go a long way to encourage you,” says author/speaker Dr. Tony Campolo regarding Rend Collective Experiment.
“I LOVE their music, but I was even more impressed with their passion for Christ,” says author/speaker Francis Chan. “It’s nice to see a talented young band that desires Jesus far more than they desire fame, money or anything else.”
“This is the freshest and most exciting sound in worship probably since Delirious? kicked in!” adds Adrian Thompson, Kingsway A&R. “Rend Collective Experiment are precisely at the point where today’s music culture meets worship – I suppose the musical equivalent of what people like Rob Bell and Francis Chan are trying to do with Church…I can’t wait for people to hear this album.”
“Everything we do is growing in a natural, non-manufactured environment,” band leader Gareth Gilkeson shares. “Rend was a student movement representing numerous churches, and the ‘collective’ grew out of that. The songs came from an organic environment, searching after the heart of God. We wanted to reflect what God was doing and teaching us, and offer that up for the rest of the world to hear.”
As for the group’s unusual moniker, Rend Collective Experiment is a nod to the places in Scripture where it says to “rend your hearts” and not your garments,” a bold call to be genuine.
“Those passages are a reminder not to put on a show, but to be real and authentic in all we do,” Gareth explains. “In Isaiah it also says ‘rend the heavens and come down,’ so a connection with God warrants an authentic response. And the ‘experiment’ part is there because nobody knows where we’re at really, do we? We’re all just experimenting with life and going with it.”
With the first single from the album, “Movements,” going to radio this month, and as label representatives and media try to explain the fresh sound they are hearing on Rend Collective Experiment’s Organic Family Hymnal, the band has drawn comparisons to a wide variety of musical icons ranging from Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Ros to Elbow and The Flaming Lips to Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Noah and the Whale, Fleet Foxes, Anathallo and The Glorious Unseen. Indie worship icon David Crowder does more than add his voice to the comparisons list by joining the movement directly, becoming an honorary Rend Collective Experiment member and adding his unmistakable vocals and creativity on the sweeping modern rock textures of the song, “Faithful,” a featured track on Organic Family Hymnal.
“Rend Collective Experiment is special,” relays Crowder. “I don’t intend a clichéd usage of the word ‘special,’ but my hope is for the word to be fully vested with meaning, as in: Rend Collective Experiment is better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual. And when I say this, I don’t intend to reference the music, solely. It is immediately apparent that the music is simply an extension of an approach to life and faith that is equally notable; the music and life functioning in a symbiotic way, each feeding and sustaining the other. When given the opportunity to participate in such a thing, I was honored and humbled.”
“We’re a ‘collective’ that is not into the celebrity aspect of the worship scene – a bunch of guys and ladies, a body, an experiment in progress,” explains Rend Collective Experiment member Gareth Gilkeson, helping to underscore why the band’s images do not feature individual faces. “Our heads are getting shaped by anything from John Piper, with his straight down the middle, pure Bible, pure Jesus teaching, to Tony Campolo. I love the way that Tony is always talking about the need for justice, always pushing the agenda of the poor, always reminding us of the need to connect with God in more ways than we’re used to.”
“There’s probably about 15 of us who are in the collective,” continues Gareth. “Chris Llewellyn, Will Herron, Patrick Thompson and I are there all the time. We write the songs and work together like an immediate family. We don’t have a lead singer, but Will and Chris both jointly take that role to add to the collective heart. And then there’s the rest of our family that varies in size. Why things are structured so differently is because we don’t believe that Christian music and worship music should be about individuals. It’s about a body and a movement of people…”
Although not seeking individual celebrity, Rend Collective Experiment is nevertheless capturing the critics’ attention, as the reviews start to pour in:
“Are you still thirsting for more modern worship without all the gimmicks and cheese? Well look no further than Rend Collective Experiment from Ireland. They remind me of a mix between U2, Anathallo and The Glorious Unseen.” – Indie Vision Music
“When one considers the tidal wave of contemporary worship albums which today pour out on the Church, it is very rare for a new name in the CD racks to attract widespread excitement. But that’s exactly what has happened with the debut full length album by Northern Ireland’s Rend Collective Experiment…Lyrically the group skillfully manage to express the joy of a deep personal relationship with God without falling into cliché and create a rousing modern worship album. Expect to hear a lot more about this exciting ensemble in 2010 and beyond.” – CrossRhythms
“…the best album I have heard in the last 5 years. Rend Collective Experiment had made the album I had been waiting for my whole Christian life, and I don’t say these words lightly…Is Organic Family Hymnal a revolution in Christian music? Yes! So join the revolution and buy this album – this isn’t your traditional worship album-if anything it’s much more colorful…”” – Louder Than The Music (5 out of 5 Star review.)
“…Rend Collective Experiment don’t play by the rules… there are so many musical ideas in every track that sometimes they’re fighting for your attention… the most exciting debut album from a Christian artist since King of Fools [Delirious?]… Once you’ve heard them, there’s a good chance they’ll be yours too.” – Youthwork magazine
Rend Collective Experiment has also seen more than 195,000 people view its highly creative and unusual cover of Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaJ4A7mXJH8. “Made my day! Amazing boys!” Tomlin twitters after seeing the band’s version of his song sung solely using iPhones for musical accompaniment. Passion Conference’s Louie Giglio chimes in on Twitter, saying “You got to see this…incredible!”
Although the iPhones piece is not featured on the album, the full Organic Family Hymnal track listing follows along with corresponding links to compelling Rend Collective Experiment live and concept music videos:
“Come On My Soul”
“You Bled (Jesus Loves Me)”
“God Is Near”
“Above Everything Else”
“You Are Love”
“Thine Be The Glory”
“Find Your Kindness”
For more information on Rend Collective Experiment and Organic Family Hymnal, go to www.rendcollectiveexperiment.com.