Screaming to a Different Tune
Brandon Hook, online editor | English major
Silent Planet is shaking up the hardcore music scene with faith-inspired lyrics and performances where moshing and prayer collide.
Silent Planet band members from left to right: Nathan Benedict, Ryan Whittington, Garrett Russell, Garrett Lemster, Spencer Keene, and Teddy Ramirez. (Photo by Brandon Hook)
When was the last time you went to a Christian hardcore concert to get a tattoo? For APU band Silent Planet, tattoos are part of a holistic, worshipful concert experience that extends beyond simply playing music. Shows might also include giving out flowers, washing people’s feet and praying for people.
“We view [Silent Planet] as an art project,” lead singer and senior philosophy and English major Garrett Russell said. “We’re seeking to create an artistic experience at a show where there’s paintings, things that we’ve grown, and drawings and tattooing and music and this mix of art. Music is the primary venue through which it happens, but the hope is that there are multiple dimensions to it.”
Even the shows themselves reflect a band on the rise whose mantra literally screams “different.” Just look at their group photos: a hardcore band sits down for a photo shoot in “onesies” and has what Russell calls a cuddle-fest. Their other shoot, reminiscent of the Beach Boy’s iconic “Pet Sounds” album cover, has all five members of Silent Planet mingling with goats in a petting zoo. They took their most recent photos while fully clothed and half-submerged in the ocean.
Christianity and Hardcore
The group’s eccentric band methodology is directly related to their Christian identity.
“Our goal is to bring hope and encouragement and worship to shows,” said Russell. “We’re definitely a Christian band, and our desire is to see people that are captive to sins or lifestyles that are killing them freed through Christ. We exist to worship through many different art forms.”
Silent Planet focuses their shows on relational ministry.
“We’re not so much looking to get on stage and say, ‘Hey, you guys should be more like us. You guys should follow Jesus like this and this is why,’” said Russell. “We definitely talk about who the Lord is to us, but the quality interactions happen afterward if we can get food with somebody or bring a potluck to the show, or we hang out with somebody and stay in contact with them.”
With this method in mind, Russell explained that the whole night becomes an opportunity to be salt and light instead of limiting ministry to the message on stage.
“There are a lot of Christian hardcore bands that say, ‘Repent or parish,’” said Russell. “And I don’t think that’s how you really show somebody Jesus because I don’t think that’s how Jesus revealed himself all that often in the Bible. We’re trying to expand our ideas of what it means to be a Christian hardcore band.”
For Silent Planet, “making it” in the music industry is not about how many people know of them or whether or not they are signed with a label. Instead, success is about what Christ is doing in and through them at their shows.
While signing with a label would allow the band to do more, they are not intent on signing soon despite offers from lesser-known labels. According to Russell, Silent Planet is instead committed to making good, original art and using it to love other people and tell them about what Christ is doing through band members’ lives.
“As a band, we try to practice true community and fellowship,” said guitarist Ryan Whittington. “We hang out and pray with each other. Our goal is to model it more than preach it.”
Practice What You Preach
According to Russell, last year Silent Planet fell apart and he thought the band was done. Russell and guitarist Nathan Benedict were on a plane when Benedict had a vision of a man asleep in a prison that was on fire. Nearly a month later, a former member was jailed and the bass player, Garrett Lemster, was in a car accident that put him in a coma. Both events happened within two weeks of each other.
“Instead of touring, we spent most of last summer in prison and hospitals,” said Russell.
It was uncertain whether Lemster would wake up, let alone regain motor skills. Lemster broke out of the coma after about a month and was recently able to pickup bass again for the band.
Lemster describes the experience as a time where the relational focus of the band was played out within the context of Silent Planet.
“These guys supported me all the time and were there when I needed them,” said Lemster. “It’s amazing to have people to go to in a time of need.”
Both trials eventually became the focus for their new EP, “Come Wind, Come Weather.” It was recorded in Atlanta at Glow in the Dark studios with engineer, producer and mixer Matt Goldman. Goldman has done recording for bands such as Third Day, Casting Crowns, Copeland, Anathallo and Underoath. Silent Planet was able to get a discounted price to record their new EP with Goldman and flew out to Atlanta in late January.
Silent Planet used the website Indiegogo to raise funds, offering prayer ropes, family meals, drawings, and even a tattoo on a band member’s butt of anyone who would donate thousands of dollars. All of these methods, according to Russell, were a way to connect to people and make the fundraising experience more than about money.
Once in Atlanta, the group again put their relational way of life into practice. Russell said Goldman “gave up his life,” letting Silent Planet borrow his car and picking them up from the airport. The dynamic, according to Russell, veered from the typical you’re-the-studio-guy-and-we’re-the-band kind of interaction.
You can support Silent Planet by checking out their new EP, which is set to release in May, at http://www.facebook.com/silentplanetmusic. Who knows? Maybe they’ll support you someday too.