Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bands that I love: Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil

Denver native Steve Taylor hit the Christian music scene in the early 80's and his deep lyrics and energetic live show quickly made him a fan favorite. He started out writing for the Continental Singers (anyone remember them?) while he prepared his first EP called I want to be a Clone. The EP sold well and led to three full length albums, Meltdown, On the Fritz, and I Predict 1990. His lyrics often employed sarcasm and satire to make his point, which was very different from any other Christian music of the time and often turned people off. He was not afraid to point out failures in the Church but he did it as an insider who held strong to his Christian faith. The strong Pro-Life stance that he held was one of the first things I noticed in his lyrics and one of the reasons I became such an ardent fan.

After a successful tour for I Predict 1990, Taylor laid low for a short time before forming a band with some of his friends called Chagall Guevara. Their only album, released in 1991, was well received by both fans and critics, but they were unhappy with their contract through MCA and broke up while working on their second album.

After laying low for a while again, Taylor released Squint in 1994. He followed it up with the Squinternational tour and recorded a live album called Liver (rhymes with McGyver). I was fortunate to catch his show with Guardian as the opening act and it was amazing.

When he finished that tour, he stepped off the stage and behind the mixing board. He spent time producing the albums of Guardian, the Newsboys, and Sixpence None the Richer. When those artists started to see massive success, he formed his own record company called Squint Entertainment. It quickly became the place for Christian artists who wanted exposure outside of the Christian music industry but did not want to water down their message. Bands like Chevelle, LA Symphony, the Insiderz, and Burlap to Cashmere either got their start or grew bigger because of the record label. Sadly, right when Squint Entertainment was hitting its stride, it was sold out from under Taylor and folded soon after.

Taylor continued to produce albums and direct music videos in the early 2000's but then got the bug to direct a movie. He made The Second Chance in 2006 and Blue Like Jazz in 2012. Neither movie made much money. I saw both of them in the theater and liked them. It seemed like he had a great movie inside him and needed a second chance for it to be created. (Pun intended.)

When he finished Blue Like Jazz, he got back together with some of his former musical collaborators, started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new album, and went on a short tour. The album is in the works and another tour will likely follow it.

I have seen Taylor perform twice and actually got to meet him once. In the fall of 2000 I was in St. Louis at the National Youthworkers Convention where he was a keynote speaker. Earlier in the day I was wandering through the exhibit hall and walked past the Squint Entertainment booth where he was standing by himself. When I realized that it was him, I quickly raced over and introduced myself. We bonded over our shared experience of growing up in the Denver area I tried not to make a fool of myself. I had been told before how approachable he was but I was still surprised by how genuine and pleasant he was. After about 15 minutes of him asking me more questions than I could ask him, a crowd started to form so I took my leave.

In summary Steve Taylor is a class act and if he does not book a show in Minneapolis, I may just have to cry. Well, maybe not cry, but be pretty sad.