Seventh Day Slumber
The transformation of Joseph Rojas, frontman and songwriter for Seventh Day Slumber, from former felon and drug addict to redeemed saint cannot be overestimated. His miraculous conversion, which is both a fairy tale-like story and the crux of the music, mission, and ministry of this band, has now taken on an even greater, more powerful role in the lives of those in its wake: Rojas, his tale, and Seventh Day Slumber itself, have now become catalysts.
At a recent performance, the date and place of little consequence, the band found itself faced with a seemingly meaningless choice: With their set time as a headliner at this particular show cut short due to unforeseen circumstances, they had to decide between the music and the message. Simply put, there was not enough time, due to curfew, to both play their music and share a message. Rojas, as figurehead and voice of SDS, chose the latter. It was a decision that would echo into eternity.
“We cut our set, and I shared about healing hurt, about the availability of acceptance and salvation to those in attendance,” Rojas explains. “I spoke on the things that have come to characterize my band and my life--the fact that God doesn’t see your sin, your addiction, or your hurt, when he looks at us as people. No matter what we have done or what we are going through, He loves us and want to destroy all the things in our lives that keep us from living in health and peace with Him. After giving an invitation to receive Christ to the audience, a young man came forward. It wasn’t until afterward that we learned that he was planning suicide that very night, and that he had come to the show to have one last night with his friends. God changed him right there, and he gave us the suicide letter he wrote before coming to the show. He now lives with purpose, and hope, and we have the note as a reminder of what God has done...and what he will continue to do.”
It is in this spirit that the Dove-Award nominated Seventh Day Slumber releases their third LP, Finally Awake. Whereas the powerful testimony of Rojas served as a point of poignant reflection on their widely successful debut effort Pickin’ up the Pieces (which sold over 60,000 copies, and had several radio successes including “Candy,” “I know” and “Innocence”), and also their acclaimed sophomore LP Once Upon a Shattered Life (which has past its predecessor in sales and made an even greater impact on the airwaves with staples like “Caroline”) on this latest they are taking the truth of transformation outward, into the lives of young people, where there is desperate need.
“The message of this album is clear. We want to empower kids to stop looking to the media, to what the world tells them they have to be, to find identity. You don’t have to be what everyone else tells you to be what you were created to be,” says Rojas.
Though unshy about their primary focus--which is using their sound as a vehicle to change lives--it is important to note that their version of modern, alternative rock is an achievement in and of itself. Lying somewhere between pummeling and emotive, the sonics of Finally Awake conjure up musical images akin to Staind, 3 Doors Down, and Nickelback. It is universal in appeal, and straightforward in approach, with huge commercial hooks and melodies which will stick with you. This is great rock songwriting that pulls no punches. Grammy winning producer Paul Ebersold (Saliva, 3 Doors Down, Skillet) lent his creative prowess to the mixture. The result? A host of radio-friendly tracks which will most certainly build upon the success of previous singles such as “Caroline” (a multiple-format smash at CHR, AC, as well rock), and sales of well over 60,000 on their aforementioned sophomore effort.
“We wanted a mature-sounding record that wasn’t just ‘great for a Christian band,’ but sonically solid no matter who we are compared to. We wanted it to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, and not just to rock fans or heavy music fans. The ultimate goal musically is to write memorable songs that have integrity.”
Perhaps the most admirable element to this release, however, is the attention to emotional impact on each individual track, with lyrics that will hit home with even the most hurting of hearts. The first single, “Missing Pages,” is a clear message to those who are battling cutting and other harmful addictions. Point blank, Rojas & co. want those in this position to know that God loves them unconditionally despite any and all maladies: On the outside all we see is clay that hides the perfect lie, but know one really knows the pain inside. I understand how much hurts to be the one who’s never seen, like missing pages in a magazine....But there is one who sees it all. He’ll give you life you never dreamed. He can see the pain underneath your skin. The album includes several other songs of potential radio appeal, which also address contemporary issues of pain in the youth. “Home,” for example, is a very personal account of failure, and contains a message that is so imperative: though most of us feel defined by our mistakes, we must return to the one who can restore. And “Always,” a song that contains a letter to Rojas’ sons, is an instruction on how to live their lives, just in case Joseph was to pass before his time: When you feel like life’s too much I will walk you through the pain. And if you feel like giving up, remember Jesus is your strength. Overall, these are songs for those who are searching, universally, for a profound, eternal perspective on a range of real-life challenges.
For the better part of a decade, Rojas, bassist Joshua Schwartz, and guitarist Jeremy Holderfield, have been honing their skills together, and have performed over 200 dates per year in recent history. The addition of drummer Ray Fryoux on their sophomore release proved to be the much-needed element to catapult their live show to the next level. Their camaraderie on and off the stage is obvious to all who come into contact with Seventh Day Slumber, and the strength of their live sound is further evidence. SDS will be hitting the road on a major national tour in early 2007 with powerhouses Decypher Down, Fireflight, and Ruth. As their performance peaks in quantity as well as quality the band will most certainly add to the thousands upon thousands that flock to their shows across the nation when Finally Awake hits stores March 20, 2007 on BEC recordings.
Memorable Songs. Poignant Ministry. Powerful message. These are all defining elements of Seventh Day Slumber. And if there was any doubt about their conviction, one final substance is the lynchpin in their elemental equation: Attitude. While most desire fame and fortune for their own sakes in rock n’ roll, these four have found greater meaning in sacrifice for the sake of their cause. They confess that their families are much more important to them than any fleeting rock fantasies, and their families only take a backseat to saving lost souls.
“The reason why my wife and I sacrifice our time together is because we care about those kids. We want them to know that they don’t have to be depressed all of the time, that there is a way of hope and a love that is real. I have been there, and we want them to know that they can relate to the journey we have traveled. We want to let the kid who feels alone, who cuts, or who is dealing with addiction... Straight-A students, or drop outs, or the star athlete who looks great on the outside, but who wants to commit suicide...We want them all to know there is a very real God who loves them.”
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