Gungor officially announced on June 23rd via Facebook that the art-folk collective will be releasing a deluxe version of “I Am Mountain” tomorrow on July 8th. For those who have already purchased the album, they will be releasing a “BONUS MATERIAL” album that has only the extra tracks. In addition to this release, Gungor will be hosting a “Q&A session” on their Facebook page tomorrow.
The Gungor collective started in a sprint at the beginning of their music career with “Beautiful Things” which seemed to experience an explosion of popularity in February 2010. They’ve been well known for making songs that surprise the typical listener; they don’t follow the same cookie-cutter form that a lot of artists seem to follow. (especially in the Christian music industry)
“I Am Mountain” released in September of 2013 and has received a full spectrum of reviews, most of which have been incredibly positive. Some negative reviews came about, though, it could be assumed that the negativity stemmed from false expectations set by fans of the collective that were undeserved. Since the beginning, Gungor has claimed to make music from their own experiences, inspiration and heart. Because the band is made up of overwhelmingly talented Christian artists some of their songs are undoubtedly similar in sound to praise & worship songs. (i.e. “Beautiful Things” etc.) This was not a mistake, these songs were made from Gungor’s thoughts, hearts, emotions, etc. On the flip-side because Gungor has not dedicated themselves to the genre/style of praise & worship, other songs are inspired by an experience or philosophical thought that may or may not include God at all. The confusion of whether Gungor was praise & worship or not sparked some controversy that seemed to gain more traction following a blog post released by Michael Gungor a couple years ago.
In response to his fans comments of this blog post, Michael Gungor wrote a book called “The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators.” Though this probably didn’t answer everyones questions it does seem he has tried his best to clarify his and the band’s stance on Christianity and music.
Anchor Music News caught up with Michael Gungor last week to hear about what’s going on with the Deluxe Album, how fans are receiving the great news, and other AMAZING life events that the Gungor family is going through:
AMN: “So what has been going in your life recently?”
Michael Gungor: “We just had a baby, her name is Lucette.”
AMN: “How does it work having kids and going on tour?”
Michael Gungor: “To this point the family comes with us. We’re trying to figure that out now. Lucette’s has a lot of medical issues. She was born with down syndrome. She’s had one heart surgery and will have to get another one in the next couple of months. It’s been quite the life turn of events so we’re not sure what we’re going to do about that.”
AMN: “Is there a tour that is currently set up?”
Michael Gungor: “We are going out with Switchfoot this fall”
AMN: “How was the response releasing I Am Mountain, and what’s going on with the controversy?”
Michael Gungor: “[The release of I Am Mountain] was right at the beginning that I heard of people having issues. Anybody that’s been following along with what we’ve been doing knows that we don’t consider ourselves a Christian band or worship band. We make art, while we’ve always talked about that things in our lives that matter including faith and doubt; there were elements especially in our earlier music that were coming from our church community that were intended to have more corporate use. So some people wanted us to continue down that path. Anybody that’s really paid attention to us though could have seen this coming. So there’s been some mixed reviews from people that wanted it to be something else but there’s been a lot of people that have loved it.”
AMN: “Do you think that some of the negativity related to I Am Mountain stemmed from the blog post?”
Michael Gungor: “We’ve always been pretty honest, even before we were Gungor but especially when we were Gungor and released “Beautiful Things” I was always really open about talking about my doubt and my issues with a lot of the ways that religion happens in our culture. I’ve been more quiet about it lately, I’m not looking at picking fights. People like to break up into camps and we have our boundary markers of what identifies people in our camps. If you ever question or push those boundaries in most camps you freak people out because they don’t know if you’re part of them or part of us. At the end of the day, anyone who’s asking that question I will say “yes, I am on your team” I’m not into the us and them division. I believe we all have brokenness, religious people and non-religious people. Until we can be honest with people and find our common humanity within them, I think there’s a lot of needless fighting and a lot of needless violence. We could do a lot more by actually hearing each other as human beings.“
AMN: “What would you say to someone to try and encourage them to find the common humanity?”
Michael Gungor: “I think when you really listen to people, and by listen I mean reading, watching documentaries and being exposed to groups and thoughts and people that are not inside your camps. I was able to travel around and see lots of different sorts of groups and lots of different sorts of ideas and see that not everyone does think exactly like you. Just because they don’t think exactly like you doesn’t mean that they’re worse than you. Just listening to the other people and trying to understand “the enemy” more, the group that you’re so against. Not that you’re agreeing with them, but I think when you hear and fully see the other; more than that, seeing yourself through their eyes and see how crazy your thoughts are to them. When you can take a look through their eyes on some level I think that allows you to go into a dialogue in some way that you helps you understand that your dealing with another human being that’s on the same level as you that’s just trying to cope with their lives conditions. We misunderstand each other because we don’t come from the same circumstances and tribes and everything gets mixed up. Listening and being present with one another. That’s one thing I love so much about what Jesus taught was not making the enemy this alien force that needs to be fought against but to love your enemy and to pray for them; what a crazy idea to really identify their humanity and find yourself connected to them in a deep fundamental way. You can’t do anything for them but love them and pray for them if you see them truly.”
AMN: “How did you get into music?”
Michael Gungor: “I grew up in church doing music, my dad was a pastor. That’s how I started playing, then I went to school and studied formal music, jazz and classical. Music was always something that spoke to me. I tried to consider doing a job or career that was more stable and less crazy but I couldn’t get away from it. It just seemed like what I was made to do.”
AMN: “Who inspired you to start playing music?”
Michael Gungor: “Probably my dad, he played guitar. One of the first people that ever inspired me to really press into learning music in a disciplined way was Phil Keaggy. I saw him do these acoustic performances. I learned all of his songs and that’s what really got me into practicing. It started with sheet music and reading and learning old kid songs but I wasn’t super thrilled. When I started seeing and hearing progress I became more inspired.”
AMN: “What’s the meaning behind I Am Mountain?”
Michael Gungor: “It’s the first song on the record but it’s kind of the final word of the record to me. It puts in perspective all of the meandering, doubt, wandering and pain throughout the rest of the album. I think it was actually the last song we wrote before we recorded the album. It was through a bunch of hard time and wandering, then coming to find some peace through the wandering. Then in the end finding the transcendence of the peculiar place that we as human beings have in this universe — the incredibly minute, insignificant wisp of breath that we are are; here for not even a moment and then disappear like a fleck of dust — yet on another scale we have a whole universe of smallness within us. The song recognizes our existence; we are mountain and we are dust. We are mammals and we have this spiritual element to us and this awareness and transcendence. The whole album has this in mind. The song frames everything. We have our questions and our angst but at the end of the day let go and experience this amazing life you have been given. It’s full of magic and wonder and mystery. It’s worth fighting to see. It’s a full out song of wonder and of gratitude to be alive to have these few moments that we do have as human beings.”
AMN: “Tell me a little bit about the BONUS material”
Michael Gungor: “It’s a few songs that didn’t make the final cut of the album. We got new management and they asked why we didn’t release this stuff. We felt like it didn’t fit the central theme of the album but was still worth listening to for some of our fans that like what we make. Then there are a couple of live tracks from tours that were tracked. There’s a radio edit and a couple of re-mixes of songs. It’s some bonus content around I Am Mountain that we thought was cool and that our fans might appreciate having something before the next full record.” You can pick up the Deluxe Version of I Am Mountain or the Bonus Material CD tomorrow (July 8th) on iTunes. More details will be available via the bands Facebook and website. Don’t miss Q&A session with Gungor tomorrow on their Facebook!