By Jessica Farrish
When FOG steps onstage at Tamarack today, Sunday@Two audiences will be hearing a high-energy accident that inspires people to live life in a bigger way.
FOG (“Four Old Guys,” a name coined by friend David Rumberg after the band played for Celebrate! Recovery a few years ago) has brought its energetic music and original lyrics to Chili Night, Fridays in the Park and other local venues, but this is the first time the band has played at the Gov. Hulett C. Smith Theatre.
The Christian rock band is currently working on a recording of 12 original songs, all of which they will perform today, including the popular “Finally Get There” from the band’s 2012 EP release.
The members — Brad Farha (bass guitar), Marty Cole (drums), Dean Bibb (guitar, lead vocals), and Dave Saunders (guitar, lead vocals) — weren’t looking to be a Christian rock band when they started FOG.
Farha and Cole founded the band several years ago, then added Saunders.
“We are fans of Galactic Cowboys who, while being Christians and not afraid of making an important stand at times, found ways to express their faith without ‘dragging someone to church’ in the process,” said Saunders.
The “Christian Rock” label can be murky, for several reasons, band members explained.
“I had been in Under Authority (a Christian band) for a decade, and being a ‘Christian rock band’ can be a drawback,” said Saunders. “You often end up preaching to the choir and not to those who could benefit from a direct word (from God).”
The problem is the opposite of the one Farha and Saunders encountered 20 years ago, when they had their first go-around at playing Christian rock in southern West Virginia in a band called Sons of Glory.
“We kind of got a little discouraged with that back in the ’80s around here, everybody being so conservative,” he recalled. “We didn’t have drums or electric guitars, but it was still too much for your average country church.”
The discouragement took a bold turn, though, when both Farha and Saunders decided to just play what was in their souls.
They weren’t getting booked much, anyway, even making cultural concessions. So why not play what they really wanted?
“We said, ‘Instead of being careful not to offend, we ought to play our music and let the chips fall where they may,’” said Farha.
They added a drummer and the bold sound that emerged found its niche among younger Christians, whose worship style was evolving into the sound that’s heard in many church praise bands today.
While churches weren’t hosting the band, which had changed its name to Lazarus, youth groups and some outdoor festivals and events were booking the musicians.
Lazarus did a couple of recordings and stayed together until the early 1990s, when the music fizzled out and band members went their own way.
But at one American Baptist Church youth event that Lazarus played, the music made an impact on one young guy in the audience.
“When we played at that camp back in 1986, that’s where Dean (Bibb) first saw us,” said Farha. “Of course, we didn’t connect till years later, but he remembered us from that experience of being in that youth group and us being here and playing for them.”
Neither Farha nor Saunders remembered Bibb from the event, of course, but when Farha and Bibb became Facebook friends years later, Farha was playing in a new band with Cole and Saunders — the band that would become FOG.
Cole and Farha, who attended Faith Baptist Church together, had already formed the band and added Saunders.
The trio was looking for another guitarist.
“I realized we (he and Bibb) had a lot of musical interests in common,” recalled Farha. “I thought, ‘I’m going to ask this guy Dean Bibb on Facebook, because it seems like he’d be a good fit with us.’
“We got together and have been together ever since.”
The four musicians all had unique styles and backgrounds, which they brought to the floor when they started playing together.
“All those influences kind of meld together, and you end up with something totally unplanned,” said Farha. “It’s whatever the group, the energy of everybody coming together, what it makes, and it’s just the essence of art.
“It’s everything. You just throw it in a pot, stir it up, and see what you’ve got.”
The cadence from that stirred pot was a high-energy rhythm that played heavy on the first and third beats of each bar.
It was, in a word, rock.
“They ask us what we play,” said Farha, “and I’m like, ‘Well, it’s rock, you know, it’s not really Southern rock or metal.
“It’s just rock.”
“So FOG wasn’t meant to be any particular genre and kind of ended up being what we are, anyway,” Saunders added.
So the band that didn’t start out as a Christian rock band ended up being a rock band with a life-changing message — and the heart of FOG is evident in the music and lyrics.
“Since we’re all Christians, the perspective and lyrics is Christian,” said Farha. “We’re not preachy, per se, but it’s about life and times and faith, and that’s what I like to tell people.
“It’s about life and faith.”
Thirty years after Farha and Saunders first played Christian rock, FOG’s message is as universal as ever.
The FOG sound, though, is more acceptable in West Virginia than it was in the 1980s — although, as Cole said, not all churches are willing to have FOG perform.
“Audiences are now receptive,” said Farha. “It’s really changed a lot over the last 30 years.”
Cole said an aspect he appreciates is that four “old” musicians can team up and fellowship around faith and music.
“At our age, it’s hard to find guys who are committed Christians and committed musicians, too,” said Cole. “Brad, Dave and Dean are all great guys.
“We all love to play, and I think it shows when we perform.”
The group’s currently working on a 12-song recording in Cole’s studio.
“I have hopes that we can play out more and introduce ourselves to a larger audience,” said Cole. “I think people enjoy listening to us.”
Gigs at Fridays in the Park and Chili Night have been successful, showing that even secular audiences can enjoy FOG.
“We diligently practice and try to continuously work on new material,” said Cole.
He added that financial gain isn’t the goal of FOG.
“Although that is a nice plus, we love to play and share our music,” Cole explained, adding he is grateful for the opportunity to perform at Tamarack.
FOG will play today at Tamarack at 2 p.m.
A five-song EP featuring “Finally Get There” will be on sale at Tamarack today.
More information on the band is available at http://www.reverbnation.com/beckleyfog and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fogbeckley?filter=2.