After numerous attempts to reach Rend Collective drummer Gareth Gilkeson for a scheduled phone interview go unanswered, the cheerful bandleader apologizes profusely once the connection is made.
“I’m so terribly sorry. Cell phone reception isn’t the best inside the house, I’m going to head out to the garden,” Gilkeson says in a charming Irish accent, inadvertently inviting the MusicNerd Chronicles to tag along as he seeks better cellular reception at his Nashville home.
Gilkeson’s easy-going demeanour sits well with the folk-inspired Rend Collective’s overall approach to music and their career: While some people are arguably born to be rock stars, the Rend Collective – performing at Moncton’s Wesleyan Church on Saturday night – was born from a simple desire to connect people with the Church. There were, perhaps ironically, no initial plans to start a world-renowned touring band.
“Around 2002, we noticed a lot of people in the community that weren’t engaging with Christianity and the church. We had a lot of friends that had left the church behind in their teenage years and, arriving in their 20’s and 30’s, a pivotal time in everyone’s lives, weren’t necessarily sure where to turn.”
Gilkeson admits confronting the Gen X and Millennial disconnection from the church wasn’t initially all that encouraging.
“It was so disappointing to see people not engaged. We wanted to see people find that connection with God, but knew it was going to have to come from something bigger than just going to church, which we didn’t feel was going to sell people on Christianity. It involved something greater than going to church. It necessitated more of a lifestyle change.”
Sensing the disconnection between their peers and the church, Gilkeson says they began a weekly gathering of friends to sing songs. Those gatherings soon flourished, encouraging the drummer and his cohorts to pursue the formation of a community that was unified outside of the weekly meetings.
Their plan soon bore fruit.
“I was 22 years old and trying to pastor this thing that was growing larger by the second, never mind the fact I knew virtually nothing of pastoring,” he laughs. “But we had a whole group of people that had come together for the same purpose.
“People started looking to us to lead them, but we found ourselves reminding the community that we were there to stand and sing with them, not at them. We saw a number of perceptions around the concept of the church and how some people are put on pedestals, when in fact the Body of Christ is much bigger than any of us.”
The fact that the Rend Collective has gone on to become such a widely acclaimed and respected act in the Christian music world is really no surprise to their legions of fans as much as it had served to surprise the band themselves. While the band was perfectly content to continue leading the community they had founded, Gilkeson says it was around 2008 and 2009 that the notion of writing their own material dawned on them.
“It was a natural progression to move into writing our own songs. While it didn’t necessarily make sense for our community in the outset, we never would have believed that the songs we would write would appeal to others. It’s amazing to write songs that speak to yourself or the people around you, but when you find out they speak to a wider-ranging audience, it certainly is eye-opening,” he notes.
It is not just the eyes of the Rend Collective that have been opened throughout the course of their seven releases. Gilkeson humbly notes that the band has been responsible for a breaking down a number of musical barriers that demonstrate both the vitality and continued relevance of Christian music around the world.
“We had one of the first Christian Worship records to hit the Top 20 on the secular charts in the U.K., and also helped drive the move to have the Christian and Gospel genres featured on the British and Irish iTunes service,” says Gilkeson.
“It is things like that, combined with having the opportunity to travel the world sharing our music with people isn’t something that we will ever take for granted. To have the chance to play for audiences in Brazil and Hong Kong and have them sing along to our songs is just so remarkable.”
What: Rend Collective with guest Stephanie Israelson
When: Saturday Sept. 26, 7 p.m.
Where: Moncton Wesleyan Celebration Centre, 945 St. George Blvd., Moncton
Tickets are $22, available online at celebrationcentre.ca and by phone at 1-877-700-3130