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Rend Collective: Counting every blessing 


 

Rend Collective are back with a new album and tour: good news, but not without its struggles, explains lead singer Chris Llewellyn

Interview by Paul Hobson  

 

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It came as a surprise to learn that Rend Collective had gone through a recent dark period.
 
Rend have been a vibrant soundtrack to the lives of countless Christians, encouraging and inspiring us with their critically-acclaimed, experimental folk rock blend about what it means to be followers of Christ. Even those unaware of their albums are likely to have sung Build Your Kingdom Here and My Lighthouse at some point.
 
When I saw the group perform live in 2016, part of the show involved band members taking turns to give a simple gospel message, emphasising their personal commitment to Christ and encouraging others to deepen theirs. It was all very natural. They were accompanied on that tour by Ben Cooley of Hope for Justice, who described them as ‘the real deal’. We the audience felt co-collaborators in the Kingdom of God rather than simply paying punters receiving the music. My life changed that night as I signed up to support Ben’s anti-trafficking organisation, which continues to grow and punch holes in the darkness of slavery.   
 
Great music and genuine faith. Making a difference. Popularity around the world. Surely all was well with Rend?
 
Life is never that black and white, is it? The band, whose early studio albums were universally adored, were about to go into something of a funk with negative reviews and lower than expected sales.
 
‘Our last album wasn’t terribly well received, and we weren’t completely proud of it,’ explains lead singer Chris Llewellyn. ‘It sent us into a weird spiral where we were comparing ourselves to others. In the world of Instagram, it can be unsettling.
 
‘Everything that had happened wasn’t enough. We were definitely struggling spiritually. There was a sadness.’
 
It particularly affected fellow band member Gareth Gilkeson, who has spoken about the depression he faced in this period. With Rend being such a tight-knit unit (as a collective they are on the road around 300 days of the year), it was something they all struggled with. ‘We tend to share emotions,’ continues Chris. ‘It affected us all.’
 
Making a conscious decision to count their blessings, instead of comparison, helped Rend emerge from their spiral. The band channelled this process into new material, and a song called Counting Every Blessing appears on their new album Good News
 
‘Our joy in following Jesus and sense of calling was shaken,’ adds Chris. ‘We were becoming ungrateful people. There is very little joy if you can’t speak out gratitude. We needed to see that.
 
‘We don’t feel like we are experts about recovering joy in a season like this – but this is simply what happened to us.’
 
He says the album, like most Rend albums, became a concept album; a concept that wasn’t clearly or cleverly defined at the start, but one which grew organically.
 
As well as a focus on gratitude, the idea of Good News is a response to the brokenness we’re seeing in the world today. The title track and lead single, Rescuer (Good News), speaks to the band’s desire to shed light in the dark places. In a society that seems to continually face bad news, the lyrics point to the good news found in Jesus for every season and circumstance.




But while Good News is marked with joy and celebration from beginning to end, as in previous Rend albums, it doesn’t shy away from hardship. Each of the 15-tracks on the album speak to the struggle we all experience in light of the good news we’ve been invited to share in.
 
‘The process of the new album was long and difficult,’ continues Chris. ‘There’s something about this subject, Good News. We wanted to pay full attention to it and get it right.
 
‘Over the last few years there has been so much negativity, particularly on social media.
 
‘But the cross is Good News. There is lots of positivity and hope in the world. And as followers of Jesus it’s the most realistic position we can have.’
 
As if to underline that, the band are accompanied this time by World Vision on their UK tour. They are encouraging fans across the UK and Ireland to view worship being more than simply singing, but an act of justice and supporting children in the developing world.
 
‘Partnering with World Vision allows us not to just sing about the Good News, but do something about it,’ says Chris.
 
‘There’s a disconnect if you have worship that isn’t connected to justice. We need to connect the two things. If not, worship is hollow. If you love God without loving your neighbour, something is wrong.’
 
Rend are clearly not shying away from brokenness and suffering in the world, but offering an invitation: to lament, to remember, and to share in the good news that belongs to all of us.



For more about Rend Collective, visit rendcollective.com. Follow on Facebook, TwitterInstagram or Youtube  

 

 

 

Baptist Times, 14/05/2018