We asked Chris Llewellyn from Rend Collective to share some thoughts on touring, their latest album, and their upcoming appearance at Big Church Day Out.
You’ve played at Big Church Day Out before. What do you love about it? What are you looking forward to most about it this year?
Big Church Day Out is one of those festivals that artists just genuinely love to play. We travel around quite a lot throughout the States and Europe, and every time we come in contact with another worship leader or Christian artist, the festival they all want to talk about when they know we’re from Britain is Big Church Day Out. I think the reason for that is that it has this unique character – this unique celebration – it doesn’t feel like it’s Christian-music-as-usual. It feels like families gathering around for worship, it’s a little picture of heaven. There’s something really special about that and everyone knows it. Also British festivals equal British chocolate. Enough said.
Your album Good News came out last year. What was your heart behind the album?
The inspiration behind the Good News album – which I think is probably the most prophetic and carefully thought-through message we’ve ever had on a record up until this point – really all began by waking up in the morning, picking up our phones, and realising for months straight we hadn’t had any good news. It’s wall-to-wall bad news. You’re hearing about crises and crashes and people dying, and I think it can be completely overwhelming to know what to do. But the word ‘gospel’ actually means ‘good news’. We as Christians are called to not just hear good news, but to be that good news practically as well as spiritually. In a world full of bad news, because of Christ inside of us, we can be good news to the poor and broken-hearted, to the people who feel like they’re captive to sin, addiction, even just life. We can embody this good news of Jesus and we can proclaim a message to a world which sometimes thinks Christianity is at the forefront of telling people bad news. It’s about trying to think of ways to creatively express the loving heart of God, in a way and in a language that actually communicates it to a hurting world.
You’ve recently been touring in America. What was that like? Do you have any stories of how God worked while you were touring?
We love touring in America, and we love getting to see a bigger picture of what the church looks like. There are some things about the church in America that are really beautiful and unique. Their approach to worship is just so optimistic. People are ready and want to celebrate Jesus and connect with Him. We’ve had some incredible stories about how the Holy Spirit has used our music come out of these times. I always think of it a little bit like our music is the five loaves and the two fish that the little boy brings in the story of the feeding of the five thousand – it’s not that the music is special at all, it’s that Jesus multiples it and makes it into something special. There was a story recently that really blew my mind. There were two girls who came to our show because they were browsing our music on Spotify and saw the front cover of our album Good News, and they just liked the album art! They noticed through Spotify that we were playing in their city and bought tickets. They weren’t Christians, and they didn’t realise we’re a Christian band, they just thought it was weird that we were playing in a church. They turned up at the show and immediately had this amazing encounter with the Holy Spirit, and they actually gave their lives to God that night. It just says to me that God can and will use ANYTHING, even something as random as album art, to draw people to Himself.
How do you keep close to God? Is there anything He’s been teaching you recently?
Sometimes I think people ask this question thinking the answer is going to be different for musicians and it really isn’t. We all, regardless of who we are, have really busy lives, it’s never convenient to set aside time to be in the Word, to pray, or to spend intentional time with other believers at church. It’s always a little bit of a struggle, the enemy always wants to get in there and make sure that piece of your life doesn’t happen. And it’s the same for us on the road. There is no magic formula, it really is as simple as you were taught in Sunday school. It’s about staying in Scripture, it’s about having a personal prayer life that actually means something, and it’s about spending time with other believers. On the road we kind of are our own church – a bus full of Christians – so that’s what church looks like for us. That’s actually what I think God has been teaching me lately – it’s not easy, but it is simple to follow Him. Getting back to our roots and simple faith is what we need. Sometimes the years in your twenties can be a time where you start entertaining a lot of complicated ideas, you start to re-evaluate your faith, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, very often it’s a good thing! That re-evaluation is what brings authenticity and reformation in the church. But at the same time it can leave you a little wounded and cynical. For me, the journey now is trying to get back to being wide-eyed and mystified by who God is and what He’s done for me, just like I was when I was eighteen and I had just become a Christian.
You collaborated with Hillsong Young and Free for the song ‘Marching On’. What made you decide to combine your acoustic, folk sound with their electronic dance style?
We’ve actually had the amazing opportunity to go on tour with the Hillsong team in general a couple of times, and we get along like a house on fire. To be honest, all of our collaborations are born out the thought ‘These are people we want to hang out with.’ That’s just how we work in Rend Collective! We have no interest in writing songs with people we don’t know. We want our songs to be rooted in friendship and community, and we know these guys and love their enthusiasm for God and their ability to have fun. And it turns out that actually folk music and dance music are so opposite that they’re actually the same thing – it goes full circle. It’s always fast-paced and energetic. Just replace the ‘ooohs’ with synth and you’ve got it! It might seem like an unlikely combo but it goes like bacon and maple syrup.
How do you like to rest when you’re not touring or working on music?
Rest is actually hard to come by. Over half the band have young kids right now, so our ‘rest’ from music looks a lot like chasing toddlers and making sure that they don’t choke themselves on the things they can find on the bus. We all have different hobbies that bring us joy, but as group we love gathering around good food, even if it’s just at one of our homes, and talking and laughing and eating. Not sure if that counts, but it’s how we reconnect as a team!