HANNIBAL — The desire to have some company onstage created a band that, three years later, has music posted online and bookings in Dallas and Houston.
In the summer of 2007, the student activities director at Hannibal-LaGrange College approached then-student Andy Rhea to put together a concert for incoming freshmen at the school’s annual Welcome Week in the fall. The director had heard about Rhea’s creativity — penning songs and giving some acoustic performances in the area. An accomplished musician and poet, Rhea had already released two albums on his own, “This Day” in 2005 and “Seeing and Being Seen” in 2007.
“My goal was not to be alone onstage,” Rhea admitted in a recent interview. He found a few other likeminded musicians — guys already committed to music as individuals — and formed an ensemble, Andy Rhea and His Band.
He was convinced that once the weekend ended, each performer would pursue his own musical interests. “I was so focused on that one show, and I thought we would split up after it,” he said.
Instead, “they were interested and we just kept pursuing it…and just kept progressing.”
Their work attracted Matt Assel, HLG’s director of music ministry ensembles, to join in January 2008. Even though both have jobs — Rhea is minister of music at Central Baptist Church, Quincy, Ill. — they believe God has blended the foursome and is leading the band to fulltime performance.
Rhea leads the band on vocals and guitar, while Matt contributes on keyboard, synthesizer and xylophone. Other members include Rhea’s brother, Daniel, on bass and Foday Mashburn on drums.
“It’s not just a hobby,” Rhea said. “We attribute it all to God. But as we continued to make music, it was really rewarding and we felt like this stuff could really be used.”
As he wrote lyrics, the flow of words and music convicted them to let others hear their message. “The music was a wakeup call to realize we needed to take it seriously,” he said.
While their music is strong, the message is the focus — a message of hope, love and authentic living. “We point toward action, toward living legitimate faith,” he explained.
Assel agrees. “It’s so terribly easy to be a Christian relative to the rest of the world…saying the right words. But that kind of Christian is just not good enough,” he said. “That’s the message we’re trying to get across in a positive way — just be real, learning to adopt the truths from the Bible…not to adopt just the easy way.”
Authenticity often bucks today’s culture, something the band wants to do. “We’re trying to plow a counter culture — not something weird or lame, but something the audience can get passionate about living,” Assel explained.
Rhea believes the band’s independently produced Christian alternative/folk rock genre speaks to the teen and young adult desire for authenticity. “We want to make sure the music we’re trying to make is authentic so that people will feel it’s going through as few filters as possible…and that we aren’t trying to please certain groups,” he said.
That commitment led to the release of four new songs in the EP (extended play) “The Hardest Questions” in October.
On May 1, the band was renamed The Corners and released its EP online. Within 24 hours of the album’s post, it reached 157th of all mp3 releases, 55th among “Hot New Releases” and number one on the “Movers and Shakers” list in overall sales.
They use social networking as a connection to fans and as an additional way to take its message to today’s young people. Fans can find the band’s blog at listentothecorners.blogspot.com. They also are on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, and music is available at iTunes and Amazon. They will soon launch listentothecorners.com.
Social networking “fits with the point of what we’re doing,” Rhea said, “to be available and to have an active, wild faith.”