In today’s ever-changing music industry where bands arrive and then disappear into obscurity at a veritable breakneck pace, The Katinas have not only managed to roll with the changes, but they’ve done so with their original lineup intact for 21 years now.
Undaunted by trends and the changing tides of the online music revolution, The Katinas, comprised of brothers John (vocals), Jesse (vocals), Sam (keyboards), James (bass) and Joe (drums) have continued to write and perform on their own terms—and love every minute of it.
“I say this with the utmost humility, I know that it’s been nothing short of God grace that we’re actually still together and doing this full time. It’s actually pretty mind-boggling,” James says. “We’ve seen so many things come and go in 21 years, and yet, some days, it all feels like it was just yesterday.”
If anything, the Dove Award-winning group’s most recent work on its 10th English language studio album, Collage has only reenergized them.
“Quite honestly, there’s a part of me that feels like we have a second wind,” James shares. “I’m not saying we’re going to go for another 20 years, but you kind of have that feeling because we’re even more passionate today about the music, but even more so about the message.”
With 17 children between them, clearly, the band’s priorities and perspectives have changed over the years, making the message they’re sharing from stage more crucial than ever.
“Things that we so important to us 15 years ago just aren’t as important anymore,” Joe continues. “Certainly, we always want the sound and what we’re saying to be presented in a fresh way. We’re always evolving that way. But we’re just a lot older now, and you think differently. If we’re going to keep doing this, we’ve realized it’s really all about the message.”
Another way The Katinas have been able to share the hope found in God’s infinite grace is by partnering with ministry organizations including Samaritan’s Purse, Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusades, Compassion International and World Vision.
In fact, some of the most meaningful work they’ve done with Samaritan’s Purse was in the fall of 2009 when a major earthquake and tsunami hit their homeland on the island of American Samoa.
“American Samoa is literally a dot on the map, and because of a very poor warning system, people weren’t able to evacuate before the earthquake shook it,” Janes remembers. “It was a high seven on the Richter scale, and no one realized it was a tsunami until the second and third wave. Then within 10-12 hours later, we got a call from a representative at Samaritan’s Purse because they knew we were from there. They were actually the first ones on the scene, even before FEMA or the Red Cross.”
In addition to holding a benefit concert called “Hope for Samoa” in Nashville, the band eventually flew back to American Samoa with the organization, While they were there, The Katinas were able to help with targeting specific areas where the needs were the greatest—an experience the band still hasn’t forgotten.
“It was absolutely amazing to see the love of God in action,” James says. “All the years we’ve been able to partner with people like this has been such an honor and blessing.”
As the group continues to record and criss-cross the United States and beyond, sharing the message through their diverse catalog of songs, The Katinas continue to be fueled by the encouragement and support of their loyal fanbase.
“I love it when a simple song like ‘Thank You’ connects so deeply with the audience. That never, ever gets old, especially when you see a letter, e-mail or tweet about what it’s meant to them,” James says. “There’s always that place in a person’s heart where they figure out what they’re the most grateful for, whether it’s the very simple day-to-day things of simply waking up in the morning to someone like me who looks at his career and sees that there is so much to be thankful for.”
While being on the road certainly gets tiresome for anyone who’s called a tour bus home for an extended period of time, it’s ultimately the connection between The Katinas and the audience that makes all those miles traveled worth it.
“Once you get on stage and play a set, that synergy between you and the audience is remarkable,” James says. “It’s such a powerful moment, and we feel so privileged to be able to share our hearts in song because there’s something so beautiful about the authenticity of that live experience.”
The Katinas have certainly come a long way from playing in their father’s church in the islands. But it that very foundation that’s made them the men—and musicians they are today—a legacy they can’t wait to continue as long as they can.