Written in July 2007
By Amy Sondova Life on the road for rock bands isn’t all glamour and glitz. True, there are adoring fans, concerts galore, and opportunities to travel. But then there are also down days, like the one that Wavorly was having the day before Matt Lott’s interview. “Our van kind of broke down yesterday and we had to make a little detour,” explains Lott who ended up in Salt Lake City. Remembering a church in the area, the guys in Wavorly showed up at its front doors asking for help. “Well, they blessed us big time and bought us lunch. They’re having a show tomorrow night and they added us to the bill. It was a very welcome gift from God, especially considering yesterday,” says the optimistic Lott in his southern drawl. Hailing from Tupelo, Mississippi, Wavorly released its debut album Conquering the Fear of Flight in June 2007 on Flicker Records.
The band ties together string ensembles with elements of rock, pop punk, alternative, and other progressive genres results in a unique blend of sounds, thoughtful lyrics, and elegant music. Originally in a college band called Freshmen 15, Lott and David Stovall joined with drummer Jaime Hayes, guitarist Seth Farmer, and road manager-turned-keyboardist Ryan Coon to form Wavorly. The band’s name, says Lott, reminds the band of their home, “We wanted a name that reflected where we’ve come from. The name comes from a Civil War mansion in Mississippi, which is supposed to be haunted, which it’s not, because I went there and I was disappointed.”
Ironically, it’s a book about a guy who figures out he’s a ghost that inspired, in part, Wavorly’s debut album. The book—C.S. Lewis classic allegory, The Great Divorce—is the focus of the songs “Part 1” (click here to watch music video) and “Endless Day” The song “Madman” is based on a quote from the same book. “The whole point of the book is that you can’t have a little bit of hell and go to heaven and a little bit of heaven and go to hell; you have to choose one or the other,” says Lott, urging others to read the book. “Part 1” takes the perspective that the protagonist of the book chooses hell, while in “Endless Day” he chooses heaven.
Perhaps one of the strongest aspects of Conquering the Fear of Flight is not only its thoughtful lyrics, but also its masterful music. From dark waltzes to classical piano to string-laden overtures, Wavorly goes behind rock or punk roots to dive into the depths of musical composition largely due to Stovall’s influence. “Most of the strings on the album were Dave’s idea. Dave’s just got a musical mind. If he can sit down and figure out an instrument, he can play it,” shares Lott, who learned how to play bass from Stovall. Coming from a musical family, Stovall has been playing drums since the ripe old age of five, eventually picking up guitar and vocal skills during high school, finally mastering keyboard in college as well as earning an undergraduate degree in music education.
Stovall’s skill is evident in his simple love ballad, “Summer Song”, penned for his girlfriend to celebrate their two year dating anniversary. Originally written while the band was in college, “Summer Song” was performed live for Stovall’s girlfriend at a coffee house held by the Baptist Student Union.
It was after another Baptist Student Union meeting that Stovall, Lott, and Koon wrote “The Tale of the Dragon’s Defeat”, an allegorical song about the end times. “Dave and Koon crafted all the music. Then I sat down and wrote all the lyrics. We wrote that whole song in one night,” remembers Lott, and then adds, “The whole song kind of feels like that Tim Burton movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
“Praise and Adore (Some Live Without It)”, one of the band’s radio singles, is one of the most beautiful ballads on the album. Lott says, “The whole point of the song is not just to worship, but to be a reminder that there are people out there who don’t have the hope that I, as a Christian, have. It’s up to me to get out there and meet their need as I can, but not to shove a whole religion down their throats.” The song was released to radio simultaneously with “Madman”, but each song was released to a different radio format.
“How Have We Come This Far” takes the guitar-driven rhythm down a notch, which Lott jokes, “I thought that would be the one that everyone would skip because it’s a slow song.” The song speaks of God’s faithfulness to move His people forward in their relationships with Him, even when they make mistakes. Lott explains, “We all make mistakes and we often make the same mistakes over and over. I could understand why God has stayed with me so long and that’s really why we we’ve come this far.”
Taking a moment to reminisce about his experiences in Christian leadership, Lott then thoughtfully adds, “When you become a leader of a ministry, you really see the crap behind the curtains. It happens in churches; it happens everywhere. Like you have a favorite store at the mall that you shop at and you say, ‘I love this place so much I’m going to work there.’ Then you work there and you hate it. Or you have a favorite restaurant, you start working there, and you can’t even smell the food without feeling sick. Sometimes ministry and church—not just sometimes, a lot of times—can feel like that.” Yet Lott quickly adds that he’s grateful for those difficult times because they allow God to shape him.
Interestingly enough, Lott, when he’s not out touring with Wavorly, works at a store in the mall—Pacific Sunwear. Also, working as a substitute teacher, Lott said sometimes students get excited when they learn he is in a rock band. “One time these girls had printed out pictures from the band’s MySpace and brought them to class for me to sign,” laughs Lott. “Sometimes students will come up to me and ask for my autograph.” Although a good sport about signing more than hall passes, Lott does find all the attention a bit embarrassing.
Unimpressed by fame, Lott wants to keep it real saying, “We’re just a band that wants to meet people and establish relationships.” Utilizing their musical and lyrical talent, Wavorly isn’t afraid to wrestle with deep issues while at the same time inspiring awe and wonder. While enjoying the success of their new album, Lott also reminds himself, “When you think you’ve arrived, you’ve still got a long way to go.” Less concerned with the destination, Wavorly is all about the journey, finding unexpected pleasure in God’s grace, even when their van breaks down in Utah.