While his love of music was taking off, everything else
in Lichlyter's life was falling apart. "My parents and I went our
separate ways when I was 17," he notes with regret, adding that his
legal emancipation was fueled by his own bad behavior. ("I treated
my dad so horribly when I was growing up.") But even though he was
"into drugs, violence, and sex" and leading "a trash of a life," like
the Prodigal Son of the Gospels, Lichlyter has his very own coming-home
"Toward the end, I was living with a crank dealer, and
after a bad deal went down, we got a call saying everybody in the
house was gonna get killed," he recalls. "So the dealer split, but
for some reason I stayed in the house for two weeks. By this point
I already ran off all my friends and my parents, and now I was sitting
in this house, completely wasted and freaked out, and contemplating
suicide. Finally I called my dad, and we talked about it. He paid
for a round-trip plane ticket and let me come home to live with them."
But there's a little twist in this tale: Home for Lichlyter's
parents was now the thriving metropolis of Wickes, Arkansas. "The
culture shock was hard enough without the first few days I spent detoxing,"
he notes chuckling, acknowledging the move probably saved his life.
"But the plane ticket my dad got had an open-ended return, so I could
go back to Seattle whenever I wanted."
That would never come to pass. Once a local youth pastor
took Lichlyter to lunch and told him about Jesus, the future rock
singer wasn't going anywhere.
"One night I was over at his house, and we had this
huge philosophical debate 'til 3 a.m.," he remembers. "It was then
that I decided to give my life to Christ. I see now how He protected
me to arrive to this point."
So Lichlyter worked on growing in his faith as well
as his rock 'n' roll heart, playing guitar and singing for a long
succession of Arkansas rock bands that didn't go very far-and even
spending a few years as a youth pastor. Finally, with his wife Andrea
almost seven months pregnant, Lichlyter got a strong sense that he
needed to pursue music as hard as he could, no matter what the cost-so
he went from youth ministry to heavy construction.
And then miracles started happening.
The first miracle was a friend, Mark Rouse, who believed
in Lichlyter's talent, vision, and calling. Rouse believed so intensely
that he put a blank check where his mouth was-and soon Lichlyter was
recording a CD at Ardent Recording Studios. "I was blown away," the
singer remarks still at his friend's unreserved generosity.
The second miracle was Dana Key.
Key took a careful listen to this upstart, blistering
CD, and promptly asked the project's engineer, Skidd Mills (Audio
Adrenaline, Jennifer Knapp, Skillet, Sanctus Real, All Together Separate),
to get Lichlyter on the phone.
Once Key got an earful of the supersonic baritone-tenor
snarl, he knew he found the core of what would become the next big
modern rock 'n' roll band on Ardent Records-indeed the next big rock
'n' roll band, period.
The third miracle was Skillet's John & Korey Cooper,
who came in and added three of their own tunes: "Watching You Die",
"Death And The Life", and "God Of My Life" to what would become Jonah33's
The heady atmosphere clearly inspired Lichlyter and
the new band he was slowly building-the catchy, careening, just-a-hair-away-from-riotous
tracks were coming fast and furious. Dynamic, melody-rich barnburners
such as "All for You," "Shine," "The Difference," and "All That Matters,"
are heart-pumping infectious-and all the proof you'd need.
But it's Lichlyter's lyrics and grand vision for Jonah33
(the band's moniker is short for the Bible verse, Jonah 3:3, which
reads in part: "Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.")
that steers this part band-part sonic battalion.
"Our main objective is to advance the kingdom," Lichlyter
says of Jonah33, now filled out by drummer Joshua Dougan, and bassist
Pete Eekhoff . "We want to see as many people come to know Christ
Jonah33's hit song "Faith Like That", which challenges
listeners to tear off "their earthly crowns," has dominated Air1's
charts for months, putting them right up with veterans Skillet, Switchfoot,
Jars of Clay, and Delirious.
We also want to set an example for other bands in the
industry to do the same. I feel like God has challenged us to challenge
others to-like the Jonah verse says-"go back to Nineveh."
See, Lichlyter's lyrics aren't purposely poetic or contrived-they're
straightforward, in-your-face sermons about the power of God. "We're
not promised our next breath! And to not proclaim the gospel with
every breath we have is absolutely absurd. People are dying out there,
and if I don't do everything I can to tell them about Jesus, I don't
know if I'd want to stand in front of God on Judgment Day."
That's why much of Lichlyter's lyrics focus on the death
of self. And that sentiment is all over the tune that means the most
to him-"Faith Like That," a hard-rocking power ballad that pays tribute
to Christians who lived before this generation and lived sold-out
lives for God.
"I hear stories about missionaries in third-world countries
who see the power of God in supernatural ways, and I get really frustrated
because nothing seems to happen here," Lichlyter asserts. "And I cry
when I read about Old and New Testament people-just like you and me-who
had a faith that most of today's church doesn't seem to have."
That will be Jonah33's clarion call when it heads into
the heart of America this summer-and Lichlyter is busting at the seams
to rock 'n' roll 'em with what God has placed on his heart.
"I just want to see people's lives changed-just like
mine was changed. I want to encourage people that God is the same
yesterday, today, and forever-and that God is big and in control. So
we shouldn't be afraid to step out of our comfort zones and reach
out. God changes lives, and He wants to use us in that process."
Meet the band ...
Vince Lichlyter: vocals
Joshua Dougan: drums
Pete Eekhoff: bass