For Tree63 frontman John Ellis, he was no longer content with business as usual when he began writing songs for the band’s fifth album, Sunday!. Fueled with a sense of holy discontent against feel-good Christianity, where the needs of the poor and disenfranchised are often overlooked, Ellis was compelled to write songs that dug deeper, encouraging fellow believers to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.
“I was reading a book by Shane Claiborne called The Irresistible Revolution, and it got me thinking about what it really means to be a Christian,” Ellis says. “I was beginning to realize more and more that if there was one thing that was of primary importance to Jesus, it was the poor.”
While social awareness almost seems trendy these days with the likes of Bono, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie as spokespeople, Ellis is quick to point out that Christians need to take the lead on being socially conscious because Jesus was. “It’s one thing to go to church and live a spiritually good life,” Ellis shares. “But ultimately, there’s more to it.”
That timely subject, of making a substantial difference in the world, is something Ellis passionately speaks about in one of the album’s standout tracks, “The Revolution.”
“ ‘Revolution’ can be an overused word,” Ellis confesses. “But there is a revolution happening when people like us are sick of the status quo. Sure, the idea of the poor being with us is not a brand-new concept. They’ve been with us since day one. But we’re waking up out of a sleep. There’s something we can empty our lives into, and it really means so much more than we thought it would. And that’s what makes that kind of thinking revolutionary.”
In a similar vein, another song titled “Becoming” talks about the need for a renewed perspective. “There are a lot of spiritually discontent people,” Ellis says. But how do we address that? Instead of merely criticizing or wallowing in what’s wrong, maybe we could all be part of the change that’s coming.”
While its subject matter is certainly more weighty than the average pop song, Ellis is also proud that the high-energy track clocks in just under two minutes. “It’s officially the shortest song we’ve ever recorded,” Ellis says with a laugh. “It’s a fun rock ’n’ roll song that’s here and gone before you know it. But it also has something to say.”
Continuing the juxtaposition of a bright, buoyant soundtrack and lyrics replete with deeper meaning, the title track tells the story of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. “Even though we have the reality of the crucifixion on Friday, the good news of the resurrection is on its way on Sunday!,” Ellis says. “And that’s why I’m singing hallelujah in the song.”
Another reason for celebration on Sunday! for Ellis was the double treat of working with producer Joe Baldridge (Family Force 5, dc talk) and having Tree63’s original drummer Darryl Swart back on board.
“Joe is really part of the spirit behind the record. He gave us permission to unleash our rock ’n’ roll side and be real,” Ellis says. “As for Darryl, it’s so great to have his drumming back. His energy level is such a huge part of our sound. We really feel like this album is on such a different level sonically with what Joe encouraged us to do, Darryl’s drumming, and the freedom in our songwriting. It’s really fun again.”
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