Maine's Chasing The Light celebrated a huge milestone, when they won a battle of the bands competition in Canada, and found themselves playing between two of their musical heroes--The City Harmonic and Kutless. That huge opportunity illustrated the leaps and bounds the band had made... in their mere FOUR MONTHS together.
Fast forward, and the band has released two EPs--including their just-released Horizons EP--and in only three-and-a-half years since forming, have toured, recorded and developed like seasoned pros.
This kind of blazing fast rise is atypical for Christian bands, for rock bands and for Christian rock bands in the Northeastern U.S., which serves as a dramatic reminder for Chasing The Light that God has been their loudest and most vocal promoter from day one.
As one of NRT's Indie Artist Watch picks, I got in touch with the quartet of this imminently emerging band to find out how they've dealt with the unexpected speed and successes of their musical project, and to find out what drives them to hit lightspeed.
How did you guys get together? What is your origin story?
Aaron O'Neil (drums): Jonathan and Abraham are brothers and grew up playing music together. They met Nate at local youth events, and began playing music with him at church camp. They eventually started putting music to some songs that Nate had been writing. In 2014 this developed into a five song EP that was self-recorded under the name Chasing The Light. I grew up playing in the same church as Jonathan and Abraham and was a big supporter of what they were doing. Eventually, they asked me to join them on drums, and from there we started playing shows.
Before this band, what were your various musical experiences/involvements?
Nate DeLeon (bass): We all grew up playing music in our local churches as well as various youth conferences and events from early ages.
Aaron: Jonathan was going to college in St. Louis as a music major when we decided to start playing out. He ended up putting school on hold, and that's when we started playing anywhere and everywhere people would have us.
You guys blew up pretty quickly and went from being a new band to being seasoned professionals in short order. What did you learn the most as a band during that first year?
Jonathan Stephens (keys/synth): There were some very good moments in the early stages, and yet God had a way of keeping us grounded and humble through some very less than ideal experiences that all bands go through.
Nate: One of the things that I learned was that you have to pay attention to detail in every aspect. We want to always improve musically. We also realized that you have to surround yourself with the right people--figuring out who has your best interests in mind is very important.
What have been the biggest moments for you as a group in the last few years?
Aaron:We have had quite a few great moments these past three and a half years. It leaves us truly grateful. The first moment I can think of was shortly after we started playing shows. We joined a competition at a festival in Canada, which resulted in us winning a slot on the main stage between The City Harmonic and Kutless. It felt surreal to be in front of 4,000 people since we had only been playing out for about four months at that point. Four months after that we were privileged to go on a small tour with Finding Favour, which propelled us into many more big/memorable moments thereafter.
How would you say you've developed musically, lyrically and spiritually?
Aaron: Stylistically we have been somewhat consistent, but our chemistry and personal skill levels have grown quite a bit. As a band, we have definitely experienced highs and lows. Life experiences have taught us the importance of being rooted in the Word of God. It's easy to get caught up in the hype, and your focus can become distorted from all the self-promotion and business decisions that have to be made. You have to keep your perspective right so you don't lose sight of your focus. Nate is our lyricist, and he is consistently writing and developing as an artist. He is the main visionary behind Chasing The Light.
With the new record, Horizons, you talk a lot about darkness and light--about how God breaks into dark places with His light. Why is this a recurring theme in your music? What does it speak to personally about your experience as of late?
Nate: A central theme of the band has been to offer hope to people who are in dark places. With that being said, overcoming depression has been a part of my personal testimony. I've found that people who are struggling with depression often internalize it and try to hide it from others. I want people to know that they are not alone. The title Horizons was birthed from the idea that there is a light over the horizon. There is a timeless and proven light that will shine through our darkness: the love of Jesus.
"You" is like a straight-up congregational worship song. Is that something you do as a band? Is that something that comes naturally for you guys?
Jonathan: We have actually played that song in many different settings. From concerts to worship sets and everything in between, we are definitely familiar with congregational settings. "You" is definitely the most worship centric track on the EP, and is something I think that we felt we needed to do. It represents a part of who we are and gives us a moment of vertical worship.
While you're definitely your own band, there are definite moments on the project where we can tell you're fans of bands like NEEDTOBREATHE, Switchfoot, Anberlin and more. Are you guys definite fans of Christian music? What do you go for in crafting your sound?
Nate: As a kid, I grew up on seminal Gospel music that my parents listened to such as Andrae Crouch, the Winans, and Keith Green. As I began to explore more music on my own I definitely gravitated toward bands with loud guitars like Third Day and Switchfoot. These days, there are so many amazing Christian artists that I love. I'm especially excited for the new John Mark McMillan record! As far as the crafting of our sound goes, early on we drew heavily from our influences. These days we try to expand more on the "Chasing The Light" sound by taking what we like about our current material and building on it.
What's a Chasing The Light show like, for those who haven't experienced it?
Aaron: We bring a high level of energy live, and have a lot of passion for what we do. I think one thing that definitely defines us is the fact that we love playing together.
Nate: We definitely look up to artists like Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATHE who have captivating live performances. We try to incorporate what we love from other bands while being ourselves. We've grown to enjoy playing acoustic shows, which are a bit more intimate and bring more opportunity for storytelling.
It seems like a lot of bands are coming out of Maine lately. What's going on up there?
Nate: There really aren't as many Christian artists in New England as there are in other parts of the country. In my opinion, this makes the community aspect of the Christian music scene up here that much more essential. Regardless of style, artists up here often end up playing together at some point and consequently friendships are made which strengthens the community as a whole. This year has been exciting and motivating as we've seen some of our good friends put out some great music.
What's next? How can people be praying for you?
Nate: We have a lot of great things yet to release, so people should be on the lookout on our social media. We've spent the last few years working on preparing for this season and it's so satisfying to finally be releasing stuff to the world. We ask that people would share the music with their friends and pray for us that God would lead us as individuals into the paths that he has for us.
Jonathan: Pray for wisdom and direction. There are many voices out there and we want to listen to the voice of God when it comes to decisions about the band, our music, and in our personal lives.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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