Converge Magazine caught up with Parachute Band members Sam De Jong, Omega Levine, Elliot Francis, Callum Galloway, and Jeremy Gregory on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon at a quaint coffee shop in old Fort Langley. Originally formed in 1995 by De Jong’s parents, Parachute Band is in its second generation. Sixteen years later the band continues to perform for people all over the world. The band opened up about their vision, their “rivalry” with Hillsong United, and what they saw in Christ Church.
Take us back to the beginning:
Sam: Parachute Music was started in 1989 by my parents and it’s a music ministry that is set up to champion and encourage and up-skill Christian musicians in our country. It’s been going for 22 years now. One of the biggest things we do is the Parachute Festival. Around 25,000 young people come in tents for four days for a summer music festival. There’s over a hundred local bands and a whole bunch of international headliners as well, so it’s an amazing time. A group of people did that for like 10 years, my parents and some other people. In about 2006 it really felt like it was time for that to finish and to change and to morph. It just felt right to fully transition the thing over to this next generation, keep the same name, heart, but different sound and different people.
How do you feel you’ve come together as a band in terms of unity and vision?
Jeremy: I think the band has a unique thing. You’re kind of thrown into a whole lot of different personalities and a whole lot of different backgrounds. And obviously we’re from different churches, but that’s what’s really cool. Being around people for so long that kind of becomes your family. You share your lives, your struggles, and also the good times as well. You get that bond that comes just from touring and that’s something that doesn’t really happen outside of that traveling ministry life.
Do you guys have family?
Sam: None of us are married. It’s not like a prerequisite for the band but it’s something that we look for in new people just because the schedule has been so crazy. Last year we toured for about nine months, this year was a little bit less but still we only go home for about a week or two then it’s back out again.
What was it like self-producing because you did it for your latest album?
Sam: It was really cool. In some ways it wasn’t a really big change because in the first two I was very involved as well. For this one I felt that I had the confidence and the ability to do it. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of stuff along the way but it was a really freeing process.
Do you feel any sort of rivalry between you and Hillsong United?
Omega: No we’re really good friends with those guys. They’ve taught us a lot over the years. I remember when we first played and we were backstage talking to Joel [Houston, leader of Hillsong United] and he was just encouraging us to stay true to ourselves, stay true to the music that we have. They’ve been a big inspiration to us. We’ve gone over to their church and played a couple of times so we have a great relationship. There’s no rivalry at all.
Sam: Them and Delirious are the two bands in a similar field that we’ve looked up to and aspired to do what they’ve done. Except we do have rivalry when it comes to sport with them. We had a wrestle at our festival and we won. They said that we cheated, but we had a wrestle in the middle of our 25,000 crowd. We wrestled them, even though they’re a lot bigger than us.
Christ Church. Talk about the earthquake and how you’ve responded.
Omega: It was so close to home and we have a lot of friends down there. We were singing this one new song off our latest record, “You Remain” and the lyrics really impacted the people of Christ Church. It was almost like it was prophetic over that city. It really hit us hard as a band.
Sam: It was so powerful getting to lead worship down there. Hearing them scream out these songs of worship after what they’d been through just ministered to us as much as it ministered to them. We were blown away that in the midst of such tragedy they were able to cry out to God. And it’s like Psalm 34, God is close to the brokenhearted and he’s right there and you can feel it. You can feel that he hadn’t abandoned them even though it looked like he had. We went down kind of apprehensive but we left quite encouraged about the future and its just amazing to be able to do something.
Jeremy: I think it’s also one of those things that you don’t really get an idea of what it’s like until you actually went down. Definitely felt a bit helpless like you can’t really do anything and you just want to go down there like anybody else and help people. To go down was a real honour.
Elliot: To have something to offer was a great thing. On TV they’re saying do not come here because you’ll just be in the way. And to see these horrific images on TV and when you have friends and family down there, you feel connected because it’s so close but you feel so disconnected because you’re not allowed there. It’s hard to sit and be watching and then go get a cheese burger and then watch a funny TV show cause of what people are going through right at that time. It was a real privilege to actually have the opportunity to go down and be a bit of a breath of fresh air for some people.
What do you see your role as a band?
Sam: Our new album is called Love without Measure and we’re so passionate about it because it’s like a like a real mandate that God has put on our heart which is to use your art to share the message of Christ’s love. We have a platform, we can influence people toward helping and understanding the concept of love, understanding the way in which we were loved. Understanding there’s a crazy imbalance and a crazy need in the world and there’s something every one can do about it. We’re realistic in that we’re just five boys but we also know we have a big platform.
Can you talk about music as a tool for ministry?
Sam: I think art is most powerful when it’s transparent, when it’s honest. The best artists are the people who have the ability to express what’s on the inside of them in a way that can’t be expressed otherwise. We see music as an incredibly powerful tool. It can change the atmosphere of the room, it can break down walls that people put around their hearts, it can soften people, it can pierce into the hearts of people, or stir people towards action. We’ve seen someone like Bono can speak into people and governments ears to get them to debate about issues. Because he has the platform of his art, people respect him for what he does.
Were you guys in a band in high school and what musical instrument did you play?
Omega: I was in a band. You know Incubus? We were like a cover band for Incubus and I was the singer/drummer. I had a humongous afro.
Sam: I had to play flute for a little bit but I hated it. [After] my exam for entering music school they assigned me the flute cause I scored quite high but then I quit after a week. I was like no way.
Elliot: My parents said that me and my brothers had to play recorder for two years before we could learn any instrument.
Jeremy: I played saxophone in the school orchestra, but I got kicked out cause I could never hit the notes right. So I got demoted to percussion.
Sam: That’s not a demotion man, it’s a promotion.
Callum: I did win a state competition for our choir. We all had kazoos. So we did one song with kazoos. We just pulled them out, and it’s all very formal but it was quite interesting in that demographic.
What is each of your morning routines?
Omega: On the road we’re all pretty busy. If we’re playing, I’d get up, do some warm-ups, for half an hour or 20 minutes, then go get breakfast with Sam, go get Starbucks or whatever. And then we’ll go down to the venue and get ready for the night.
Sam: We try to do devotions as often as possible with the crew. We get together, one person reads a scripture and we pray with each other. Not every day but we try to do personal ones every day.
Callum: I’m not a morning person. I just ignore everyone and generally come across as very grumpy. So I just do my thing, get my coffee, and go straight to the event.
What were you each afraid of as a child?
Sam: I’m afraid of dogs. My granddad had a golden retriever which is like the friendliest dog and it bowled me over when I was very young, and now if I see any dog I freak out.
Omega: I’m afraid of eating spicy food. My brother gave me 10 of those spicy chilies and said they were tomatoes so I ate them all at once and it burnt my mouth for a couple of hours. So I’ve kind of tried to stay away from spicy food.
Elliot: I didn’t enjoy theme parks. Yeah I was scared of theme parks. And at primary when kids would pick up worms and spiders and stuff? No deal. I could not take that, I was just like, that is disgusting.
Callum: Australians don’t fear anything. We’re just generally quite confident.
Jeremy: Clowns, definitely clowns. We’ve got the AMP show which is a really bogus circus kind of thing and the clowns there are just horrific. I’m still scared of clowns today.
Guilty internet obsession?
Guilty celebrity obsession?
Sam: Jessica Alba.
Omega: Mine would have to be Johnny Depp. I just think he’s the man.
Elliot: For the last year and a half I’ve been a huge fan of this Korean pop band called SNSD. It’s awesome.
Callum: I actually don’t have one but Jeremy Gregory, his obsession is Keri Jobe.
Jeremy: No comment
What is your unofficial role of the band?
Omega: I’m the social network system
Sam: I guess I’m the leader.
Elliot: I set up the merch table.
Jeremy: I’m the janitor.