It’s a Thursday evening when I get the chance to chat with Relevant Worship guitarist Matt Poulsen and he’s out enjoying a free concert in Lafayette Square in downtown Buffalo. But he’s not just there to check out the bands, “we actually came down here one week to scope it out and we notice the only Christians who were down here are the ones holding signs that say ‘ask me why you deserve hell’ or ‘rock music is the devil’s such and such’,” and he knew they had to do something about that. So Poulsen and the rest of the band go out to this concert every week and just try to connect with the kids there; handing out freezie pops or bracelets and on this particularly gloomy Thursday night Poulsen told me they purchased about 75 umbrellas to hand out in case of inclement weather, he says “it gives a new meaning to - pray for rain.”
Relevant Worship; one part band and one part ministry actually grew out of a common interest in both parts. “We just kind of met each other through different rock bands that we’ve played in,” Poulsen says. The bands were Adelaide, fronted by Anthony Hoisington and Elektromat fronted by his brother Chris Lucas. “We were still playing out in the clubs doing the rock thing,” Poulsen recalls, but they were also all interested in doing worship songs in their spare time. So eventually the two bands decided they should do a record together, with each band contributing half of the songs. The finished product, released in 2006 was Relevant Worship and Poulsen says, “People just started to love it.”
“We decided we were kind of tired of the rock thing,” Poulsen recalls, “We always felt really called to do worship. When you’re young you really want to go out there and do the club thing, go out and reach the people in the bars. But I think God tends to change our hearts.”
Their second record released this past spring was more of a cohesive record for the band. Poulsen describes their current sound as, “kind of alt-country meets 80’s anthem rock meets indie rock,” and states influences from Smashing Pumpkins and U2 to John Mayer. In spite of the varying influences Poulsen concedes that all of the members of the band were on the same page for this one, “I think we approached it more like one piece rather than multiple songs stuck together. I would say it’s one colour.”
In spite of the band’s successes, it’s not likely that anyone outside of Buffalo has heard of the band, Poulsen says that’s on purpose, “We’ve made an effort to stay regional so we can maintain relationships with people we meet at gigs.” Though the music is a big part of what they do the ministry is just as important, “I think we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought we could change the world just by doing gigs and events, but what we really try to do is get off the stage before and after [the shows] and connect with people.”
Their Thursday night summer concert visits are just one of the ways they connect with people in Buffalo. Once a month they do a Friday night prayer walk through the city, they also participate in national prayer day celebrations. As the summer tapers off and the Thursday night concerts go along with it Poulsen says they’ll probably switch their focus to attending Sabres or Bills games and handing out hot chocolate. He says he hopes others will follow their example, “I think people genuinely want to go out and do something, especially people who love God, they definitely have that thing in their heart. But they don’t necessarily know what to do or they don’t have an idea what to do.”
Living in an age where the internet makes spreading the Word even easier, Poulsen says it makes a huge difference in their music and their ministry, “For an indie band like us to spend thousands of dollars to try to send cd’s to radio stations or do big marketing campaigns that’s really something we’re not able to do. And if we did have that money you know I’d rather spend it on buying freezie pops and popsicles to bring down to people downtown.” He admits, “So I think for us it’s been invaluable”.
That online presence will also be helpful in Relevant Worship’s future plans for expansion, “At this point we’re kind of over saturated,” Poulsen says, “Everyone in Buffalo knows us.” So after another record, that the band hopes to do in the spring Poulsen says they plan to expand to Syracuse, Rochester and across the border, “People up North tend to have a little more musically – this isn’t to knock Americans – but I think they’re more open to more experimental stuff musically.” Poulsen adds, “I think if we can get our stuff up there, people will really catch on.”
For more information on Relevant Worship, please visit:
www.relevantworshipmusic.com or www.myspace.com/relevant.
Writer: Michelle Garcia