Journeying into the “Article of Faith”

How many of us actually plan our lives?  Most of us simply take the ride and interject the things that we would like to do and like to accomplish along the way.  This is the story as told by Jeff from the band Article of Faith.  Jeff’s journey begins early on with music and the friendship of a lifelong friend to travel through his music life with.  Article of Faith evolved into being after decades of these gentlemen identifying themselves as other named-bands.  It’s an interesting story that Jeff unfolds for us.

 

Violin Bridge

You repair instruments. What instruments do you repair?

I repair guitars (both acoustic and electric), basses, violins, violas, cellos, double-basses, all violin family bows (re-hair, re-grip & occasionally, restore). In the past, I’ve repaired nearly all instruments, except electronic keyboards.

1st ShopAt this point, I’m sure you’ve been doing this for a long time and probably have established a good reputation and have a large client base. But, when you got started with doing repair work, how did you attract customers?

Attracting customers was achieved mostly through word-of-mouth, and local advertising, yellow-pages, etc. However, because my brother and I opened a music store (I was 20, my brother 18), people would ask if we knew who repaired instruments fairly often – so it was essentially built-into our business model.

How long have you been doing repair work?

I began to repair guitars at the age of 15. I was pretty good at it. I kept busy enough to begin charging friends and acquaintances a modest fee for the work. I’d estimate I’ve been repairing (and sometimes restoring) for about 40 years. By default, I’ve had to learn how to play every instrument I’ve ever worked on – if it requires a great deal of attention, for a professional, I usually will call upon an accomplished player of the instrument to test for problems.

What attracted you to this kind of work to begin with?6 switches mounted

My uncle opened a music store a few years before we did. He learned to repair mostly band instruments. After reading a newspaper article on the success of an individual who started a business in Southern California, it intrigued me to pursue it further.

How did you learn?

Again, my uncle. He found out that my brother and I wanted to open a store, eventually repairing instruments. We spent a little over a week watching him repair several instruments. We also had the opportunity to get some hands-on training under his supervision. We began to accept a few instruments for repair, and learned from our experiences with our uncle, and then began to read books on repairing instruments that offered detailed instruction; much trial and failure, etc. It soon became apparent to me that this was a valued service. We were recommended to join a guild, so to speak, called NAPBIRT (National Association of Band Instrument Repair Technicians). We applied for membership and were accepted – providing statements of confidence from local educators and professionals. We were members for over 15 years concurrently, and through that relationship, received many tips and further instruction on advanced repair techniques.

However, this is now more of a part-time hobby for me (my current occupation is in accounting). :D

With cars, technology constantly changes what needs to be done with repairs. Everything is becoming more and more computerized and technicians constantly have to update their training. Is it the same with musical instruments? Is technology changing the basics of how instruments create sound or no?

Well, the changes in technology occur mostly with the tools and equipment used to repair instruments. The technological changes with instruments seems to happen very slowly – while most traditional instruments have remained the same for roughly a century or two.

New Georges2Let’s talk about the band, Article of Faith. Who are the band members and what instruments do they play:

Article of Faith is: Jeff Blumer (guitar, vocals), Mark Evans (bass), Mark Zavala (keyboards), and Sam Jones (drums, percussion and occasionally, guitar).

You guys have been together for a very long time. How long has it been?

This rendition of AoF has been together for about 15 years. Prior to that – for just a couple of years – we had George McCuen on drums (he was the drummer for Dress for Success – prior to that, three members of DFS [myself, George and Gerry Flaherty – DFS’ 1st bassist] played in a band named “The Clean” ~ 1980 – 1983).

CleanLogoHow did you all meet and become a band?

Good question! It probably started with George and I being introduced in High School. After graduation, we found ourselves attending the local Junior College together & occasionally jamming with his cousin Frank, who played bass. In High School, I was in a popular local band named “Elixer”, that managed to remain a band – in one form or another – for 7 years. The later years, we played a lot of college events and frat parties from Stockton to San Jose. In about 1977, between bands, I was contacted to play with a disco/rock dance band by a former Elixer bandmate, Mauritz Coppenrath (keyboardist extraordinaire!). The band (“Passage”) was managed professionally, and California Talent Agency (CTA) was our exclusive booking agency. This band was a very lucrative venture to the individual members – and played the High School Prom circuit in Northern CA and other Bay Area events. That lasted a couple of years

The Clean1George and I became very good friends – in fact, we were each other’s best-men later on. Bringing together 3 of the former members of Passage, we began jamming regularly in late ’79 early ’80. The bassist, Gerry had a keyboardist for a roommate who also sat in. I was fully into the 80’s new wave/punk/pop scene, and wrote easily in this style. We jammed on a lot of grooves and riffs I’d come up with – and eventually wrote lyrics and music for about 20-30 tunes. Steve, the first keyboardist (I cannot remember his last name, because he was with us infrequently), got a gig in a new band that was “on the make”, so we began looking for a new keyboardist. After a few auditions, we landed a local guy who also played guitar quite well. This augmented our sound to be a little edgier rock/new wave – and “The Clean” was formed. We played in some local clubs, adding a cover or two in each set, and found ourselves in the studio, recording some of the material. One of the songs recorded was submitted to one of the first American Song Festival Competitions. This was a national opportunity to get heard by some industry insiders. The song was a winner in an auxiliary category, because we were considered hard-rock, and they weren’t really judging that category. It was cool to get a nice certificate and letter commemorating it.

The Clean lasted a few years, and we were quite popular locally. But, as bands go, and life-changes come into play, we disbanded. This was mostly due to George and I getting engaged/married.

After not playing for at least 18 months, George and I still had the desire to play together again, with Gerry. We jammed for a while as a 3 piece group, auditioned keyboardists and found Mr. Ari Lauer, a Berkeley student, and artful keyboardist. Then Gerry needed to be in a band that was going to make consistent money, which we didn’t really care about. We were just having fun writing, and being creative, and enjoying what we did. We then auditioned bassists. A LOT of bass-players! We finally found Linell (DeeDee) Williams, who was an amazing funk and soul bassist. THAT was a very cool sound (kind of an “80’s Euro-Synth Pop”), and Dress for Success was born.

We recorded some demos, and then lost our keyboard player due to continued schooling, etc. The demo landed in the hands of a Producer, Kenneth Nash [Pointer Sisters, Weather Report, Narada Michael Walden) who worked with Maranatha! Records. He was doing a project to find a fresh new sound for the label. This resulted in a nice long recording run – over a 6 month period – and we ended up financing the finished product, because the bean-counters/suits, etc. determined they couldn’t afford the project (4 bands were involved).

We released “an e.p.” in 1987, and were well received, getting some spotty airplay, and playing clubs in the SF Bay Area. We used all the latest in electronic instruments; Simmons electronic drums, guitar synthesizers MIDI’d to keyboards, and sampler keyboards/workstations, as well as computerized queued sequencers. The sound engineers frequently commented while setting up for soundchecks: “You guys sure have successful equipment!” We also had some write-ups/reviews – one comment always stuck with us; “…they’re kinda like a saner version of Devo!” Which we took as a compliment, naturally.

jeff86By the mid 90’s we went through 2 sax players, 4 or 5 keyboardists, and were on the verge of getting serious with this thing. We were all Christians, but didn’t want to always play churches, or outreach gigs. The lyrics weren’t “preachy”, and we didn’t do praise and worship songs. In 1997, we found an opportunity to record an album with the engineering/production prowess of Greg Freeman (bassist with The Call, during the first 2-3 albums and tours). He had a studio in San Francisco (kinda where right field is at ATT Park, now!) It took 3 years to finish recording. Actually, Greg is my cousin by marriage. I discovered that he was in The Call while watching MTV one day, and this cool song “The Walls Came Down” came on in black and white – and I shouted Jason Bliss Turntable“That’s Greg!”

We were very excited to release this first CD. We really thought this would get us our ‘big break’. However, it just wasn’t that easy. Our fans liked the record, but it wasn’t well received at the industry level. We all thought we wanted to go for it – and gig opportunities were fairly sparse. The dream simply became undo-able. Our individual lives had become very involved; careers, children, wives, mortgages, etc. It just wasn’t realistic, and George was convinced otherwise. We just couldn’t enjoy playing together with this division of focus.

We parted ways with George, but the band continued. I continued writing, but with more of a bent toward evangelistic themes in the lyrics, and a more guitar oriented sound. We found a drummer friend interested in playing in a band. Actually, I ran into him in downtown Napa, while doing some errands. We already had a studio. It was fairly large, and we were allowed to use it most nights. Funny thing, we ended up sharing it with George’s new band, who were on the track to go record in Nashville with a young singer/songwriter (there’s more to that story, but I won’t get into it now).

Photo0446In the early 2000’s, computer software for recording was getting more affordable. Mark Evans, our bassist, was and still is, a computer geek. He’s also a sound engineer, and cut his teeth mixing live shows in Napa Valley with our mutual friend, Nick Curtis. We decided to record digitally, and do it ourselves. Without a drummer, because Sam wasn’t really IN the band…yet.

We had a lot of starts and stops. Equipment malfunctions, etc. But over time, we (or rather, Mark) became very good at capturing our sound. Now, Sam was beginning to get more interested and he agreed to rehearse with us, and eventually record.

To what do you attribute the band’s longevity?

The common faith we have, and the respect for each other’s musicianship and contribution. We don’t attend the same church; each of us attends a different house of worship with different expressions of the Gospel. We also don’t all like the same music, but we find there is enough flexibility to make it work – and most of the time, (with prayer and perseverance) everything just works out.

scan0004What were some of your favorite gig spots?

A few San Francisco clubs were favorites. We ‘cut our teeth’ playing at the Mabuhay Gardens (aka The Fab Mab or The Mab), which was across the street from The Stone, on Broadway. The club owners seemed nice, especially when the band (DFS) dressed up before the shows. We looked as successful as our name implied. We ended up playing across the street too – several times, which culminated in eventually headlining a show on a Friday night. There is also mention of the memory of a little joint called “Morty’s”. That place was a real trip. The soundman’s name was “Tumbleweed”, and he was everything his name implied! During our first set, we all dodged a beer bottle flung at the stage during a scuffle. It didn’t happen again, but we thought back to that scene in the Blues Brothers movie… What you may be thinking is “why are these guys playing in bars?” I know you wouldn’t expect a christian band to play there, much less be seen there. But, that’s exactly what Jesus was being criticized for in the Bible. He was accused of eating with sinners, and being with drunkards, even accused of being drunk himself – hanging out in taverns or ‘houses of ill-repute’ during the early part of his ministry.

Debt for SalvationWhat bought about the name change to Article of Faith?

After Dress for Success began to play more places, and the sound of the band began to evolve, we were entertaining names that could possibly work with the initialism, “DFS”. We came up with “Debt for Salvation”, just to be a support act for a new Christian Recording Artist for one local show. But that name just didn’t stick. We were working on a new song I wrote, and after rehearsals, we’d brainstorm band names. The song we were really excited about, was “Article of Faith”, and Mark Zavala, our keyboardist just said, “Why don’t we call ourselves ‘Article of Faith’?” We all agreed! (By the way, we did search out any legal conflicts with our name, as we discovered there was a punk-rock band based out of Chicago, called “The Articles of Faith” [1981-1985]; they put some albums, but they had disbanded.)

AOFSEPT8The style of music that you played didn’t change, but you became a faith-based band, a message band. Out of curiosity, did your fans stay with you after the name and genre change?

Well, I disagree. The style format changed or, perhaps ‘evolved’ considerably. Furthermore, each of the 3 bands I mentioned were “faith-based, message bands”; for example, “The Clean” was a pseudonym for the redemption Christ gives to Believers; “Dress for Success” implied the modernized metaphor of “…Putting on the full armor of God…” (from Ephesians 6:11), and finally, “Article of Faith” is an analogous description of a genuine believer in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

But, we didn’t try to emphasize these metaphors to our audience. They mostly reminded us why we were performing this music, singing these lyrics. More importantly, we did not, nor do we ever want to appear as pretentious pontificates. We just want to be the “genuine article” both to our fans, and to our Lord. We are musicians first, and we express our life experiences through our collective faith.

But because our style did change with each of those bands I was in, our fans didn’t remain constant. Our demographic appeal changed as well. Then again, we were became older. Not necessarily more sophisticated, but the sound appealed to different sets of people. Maybe my writing has also become more mature?

“Everything,” was put out in 2000. You just released “Grey Matters.” What is the theme behind “Grey Matters” and where can people take a listen and purchase this?

Grey Matters is not a themed record. But, naturally the title is a double, if not triple entendre. It took us 15 years to complete, but some of the songs were written as far back as 3 decades ago. You might be able to determine which ones those are, but then again, you might not be able to tell very easily. A healthy amount were written in the last 5 to 10 years, but all of them were mixed and finalized in the past 6 months, with the vocals being recorded no further back than 2 years and the guitar solos mostly recorded within about the same time-frame.

AoF Grey Matters album cover_web5.1.13Samples are available on Amazon Music,Google Play, iHeartRadio, Rdio, Rhapsody, Deezer, Spotify, YouTube and many others.

It may also be purchased:

Grey Matters by Article of Faith

http://itunes.apple.com/album/id993354681

 

*Also, just released on June 23rd, the FIRST single from Grey Matters: “(You Got Me) Smilin’ Again” *links below* :D

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/you-got-me-smilin-again/id993354681?i=993355056

 

When new songs come into being, how does everyone contribute to the musical and lyrical creation process?

It typically starts with a song I bring in, nearly completed. I don’t really like to set them in stone, because I really want the rest of the band to contribute. I don’t write out any part, but I give a little guidance – then let things take shape until the performance is imminent, or it gets recorded. Even then, there is always a new twist developing in each part. The songs just evolve at their own pace. This makes it fun, and by including everyone in the process, they can take some ownership of the songs.

 

9aof1030What is the band’s goal? What do you guys hope to accomplish musically and as messengers of your faith?

I don’t think there’s any goal, apart from what I mentioned earlier. “We just want to be the “genuine article” both to our fans, and to our Lord. We are musicians first, and we express our life experiences through our collective faith.” – the other part of our ‘goal’ as a group, is to enjoy being creative, using the talents our Creator has given us.

I suppose we would simply like to accomplish being able to bring some enjoyment to our fans. To bring a smile to a face or two. Perhaps even getting several to hum a few encouraging lines in their head, or bring a good melody to remember, maybe to encourage a simple, yet pleasant memory to surface. I/we can’t make any of that happen, but I trust in the One Who can do all things…

 

The most recent CD release Grey Matters from Jeff and Article of Faith is found here

 

https://itunes.apple.com/album/id993354681#.VVIeLFV4Lts/id152373122

You can also purchase AoF’s debut album Everything AUDIO CD available on Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Article-Faith/dp/B003L782GI

 

www.ArticleOfFaith.com

https://twitter.com/articleoffaith

www.facebook.com/pages/Article-of-Faith/10458500740

www.facebook.com/pages/Jeffs-Guitar-and-Violin-Works/115901841770911

www.facebook.com/pages/Guitar-Students-of-Jeff-Blumer/108926229149520

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dress-for-Success-Memoirs/119779284746588

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Archives-of-The-Clean/112600518800912

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Elixer-Archives/113556255368169

 

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