You know something's up when four Christian rockers
beat out 75 other hopefuls to win a Best Band contest sponsored by
a top commercial radio station. But that's the way it goes for Sanctus
Real, an Ohio-based quartet that rocks with as much fire and force
as the best of contemporary bands. With three previous indie releases
under their belt, Sanctus Real is set to bust wide open with SAY IT
LOUD, their Sparrow Records album debut due in December of 2002.
As 10th-graders at Toledo Christian School, schoolmates
Matt Hammitt and guitarist Chris Rohman formed Sanctus Real to serve
as musical backdrop for youth worship services. Thanks to loving families,
both committed their lives to Christ at an early age. Once Matt and
Chris started writing and playing together, the two realized they
could best serve God by using their musical gifts to reach out to
others. Says Chris, "Seeing the influence music can have on people,
especially when you write and play from the heart, we were inspired
to write good music with a positive message."
Adding drummer Mark Graalman dramatically expanded their
sound. Mark had had his life turned around as a young teen when he
attended a weekend youth revival. "Seeing 2000 kids on fire for God
grabbed my attention and changed my heart," he recalls. The band had
no trouble finding gigs, even when they were still in high school.
After graduation, Sanctus Real kicked it up a notch,
especially when Colorado native Steve Goodrum joined the line-up as
the new bass player. The son of a pastor and a former Bible College
student, Steve provided the last link in the Sanctus Real chain.
Over the years, the band has released a string of increasingly
successful independent CDs including last year's "Nothing to Lose,"
produced by Skidd Mills. In 2000, they entered that Best Band contest
sponsored by WIOT-FM, a local classic rock station. "We heard about
it and entered at the last minute," remembers Matt. "We came in #1,
then got a chance to play our first club show, followed by several
months of touring. So far we've played all over the country."
The next step required moving up from local indie band
to signing with a major label.That willingness to take on challenges
has typified the members of Sanctus Real from the very start.
Not surpassingly, the guys took a hands-on approach.
"Chris and I went to GMA [Gospel Music Association] Week in Nashville
with our backpacks filled with copies of our last indie CD," says
Mark. "We passed them out to everyone we saw. A week later, the phone
started ringing off the hook. Sparrow execs flew to Toledo, saw us
play, and the rest is history." Most importantly, the band has seen
real life results since coalescing as a band. "People that normally
would not respond to our kind of music have found out about us, come
to our shows, and had their eyes opened," says Steve. "Some have accepted
Christ." Little things can sometimes make a big difference.
Sanctus Real came out swinging with 2002's Say It Loud,
which produced the best first-week sales of any debut rock record
Sparrow had ever released.
But don't think raising the bar will impede their mission.
All four members will tell you Sanctus Real is about one thing: sharing
the good news of Jesus Christ... they just happen to do it with the
volume turned way up.
"We believe the best music comes when you're open and
honest about what's inside you," says lead singer/songwriter/guitarist
Matt Hammit. "It's always been a no-brainer for us to sing about what
we believe. That's where our inspiration comes from."
Together since 1996, Sanctus Real has found no shortage
of admirers across Ohio and the upper Midwest. In fact, the band has
toured all over the country, playing churches, clubs, bars, coffee
houses, any place where they can spread their positive message of
hope and faith. Now, teaming with producer and former Grammatrain
member Pete Stewart (TobyMac, Tait), they've written and recorded
the album of their lives.
CCM readers voted the band 2003's Best New Artist, ChristianityToday.com
made Sanctus Real "a top pick" for '03, and the Gospel Music Association
handed the band two Dove Award nominations.
A cover of U2's "Beautiful Day" from the In The Name
Of Love: Artists United For Africa benefit album gave the group its
first No. 1 hit.
Say It Loud, like its name suggests, was about making
a noise, establishing a presence. If it had been a boxer, it would
have been a bare-knuckled brawler, coming out behind a barrage of
punches, hoping to land an early K.O.
With their relentless touring, their intense fan-following,
and their aggressive yet accessible rock, Sanctus Real has established
themselves as one of Christian Music's most compelling and diversified
Rock and Roll bands.
Affectively communicating to fans their faith in Christ,
the band challenges the youth of today with a positive message blended
with rock guitars and pop vigilance. Sanctus Real returns with their
sophomore release Fight The Tide, divulging the band's welcoming progression
both lyrically and sonically. Features "Everything About You"
and "Things Like You."
Sanctus Real displays a newfound savvy on Fight The
Tide. It doesn't lack for power, but its blows are more strategically
placed, chosen with precision for maximum impact.
Fight The Tide would be the match that turns them into
heavyweight contenders. As the title of the Toledo, Ohio, foursome's
album indicates, this is a band that's ready to go the distance.
Fight The Tide comes from a line in a song from the
band's second album for Sparrow Records, but it contains broader implications
about life's ceaseless struggles ? against negative, soul-deadening
messages from disposable pop culture and spiritual complacency.
"Fight The Tide is about maintaining spiritual
integrity," says lead vocalist Matt Hammitt. "It's about what we do
in the face of struggles, fears and temptations. We have a choice
to whether we will throw in our towel and accept defeat, or accept
God's strength and do the right thing. Years from now, we want to
look back an know that we did the right things.
"Everything on this album was so intentional - the lyrics,
the melodies, all of the parts," says Matt. "It wasn't just us jamming
on four chords and making it sound cool."
Sanctus Real wrote the bulk of Fight The Tide in a month's
time and recorded it over a six-week period with producer Tedd T.
(Rebecca St. James, Delirious?). That gave the band just enough time
to get the songs right but not so much that they lost their edge.
"It was a job this time," Matt admits, "but it wasn't
something dreadful. We looked forward to the challenge."
"It's so much more diverse than Say It Loud," says guitarist
Chris Rohman. "We explored every option that we had in the studio.
We wanted to find just the right thing to say and the right way to
We're fighting to take what's been instilled in our
hearts and share the truth and joy that we've found without trying
to hammer anything over anybody's heads."
But if it's a hammer you want, you might well find it
in the pugilistic rhythm section of bassist Steve Goodrum and drummer
Mark Graalman. And the songs are the strongest of an eight-year career
that included three independent releases before Say It Loud.
"The music is just rock 'n' roll, but there's a message
behind it," says Matt. "We're portraying what we believe and things
that we're passionate about."
That's an attitude that makes Sanctus Real more than
Some songs, like "Message" and "Deeds," make direct
biblical and religious references. Others aren't quite so obvious,
and the band members disciplined themselves to avoid turning familiar
spiritual metaphors into clichés. Instead, they came up with original
ways of expressing their ideas.
"Things Like You," with its surprisingly loud acoustic
presence, is one of the most challenging songs the band has written.
The touching "Say Goodbye" was written as a final farewell from Chris
to his great-grandmother, a spiritual leader in his family.
"Change Me" came in the wake of the first serious argument
Matt and his wife had. "The Fight Song," written by Steve and Matt,
has a similar message, one that applies not only to personal relationships
but also to petty disputes between believers as well.
Songs like the first single "Everything About You,"
"Alone," and "Closer," with their incisive lyrics and meaty guitar
hooks, sport a perfectly matched balance of brains 'n' brawn.
In addition to 2004 radio success, yearend critic's
choice lists named Sanctus Real among their top picks. ChristianMusicToday.com
asks, "Why can't more modern rock bands be this good" and named the
band's Fight The Tide their seventh overall favorite in any genre
for 2004. They further commented in their review, "It's clear that
Sanctus Real aspires to clearly communicate their faith walk while
aspiring to become one of the premier rock bands of their time. They're
one step closer on both counts."
CMCentral.com readers also nominated Sanctus Real for
Rock/Alternative Album of the Year for Fight the Tide and Rock/Alternative
Song of the Year and Rock/Alternative Performance for "Everything
Sanctus Real Named R & R's Most Played Rock Artist Of
"Everything About You," No. 1 for eight weeks, topping
both the R & R CHR and Rock charts
"Beautiful Day" from In The Name Of Love: Artists United
For Africa, No. 1 for 4 consecutive weeks
"Everything About You," No. 4 on R & R's Christian Rock
2004 Year-End Chart
"Everything About You," No. 10 on Christian CHR 2004
"Beautiful Day," No. 15 on R & R's Christian Rock 2004
Meet the Band Sanctus Real...
Matt Hammitt-vocals, guitar
Chris Rohman-lead guitar