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Music

Sixpence None the Richer

Modern rock's Sixpence finding success among stereotypes

Web posted on: Tuesday, September 22, 1998 2:38:15 PM

From CNN Interactive Writer Jamie Allen

ATLANTA (CNN) -- There are music industry stereotypes associated with Christian rock bands that are none too flattering, but nevertheless define the music and its impact -- or lack thereof -- on the general masses: rock on a Jesus high; diet rock; even, rock without the talent.

And those stereotypes are precisely why Sixpence None the Richer runs from the Christian rock label as if it's a bolt of lightning from above.

"It has come to be known as sub-standard music," says Matt Slocum, guitarist and lead songwriter for the band. "When people hear that they immediately shut you off."

The bandmembers of Sixpence have worked too hard to be shut off without being heard. Made up of longtime friends Slocum and singer Leigh Nash, along with drummer Dale Baker, Sixpence has had an electric year on the music front, the kind that saw the release of a well-received CD, and was capped with a memorable moment at Lilith Fair.

And, yes, they believe in God.

"We read the Bible, I guess not as much as we should," says Slocum. "All of us in the group are Christians. I think a lot of that comes out in the music."

Watch a piece of Sixpence

Video clip: 1.8Mb QuickTime

'It's part of the gift'

But before music fans think that listening to Sixpence is like taking in a Sunday morning sermon, they should pick up the band's self-titled CD. Laced with folk-pop melodies and Nash's ethereal voice enveloping poetic, humanistic lyrics by Slocum, their music has struck fresh ground between the parted seas of everything that is Christian rock and everything that is Marilyn Manson.

Oh sure, there are biblical references -- an occasional burning bush or mention of Him -- but for the most part Slocum's lyrics dwell on earthly matters like love and human existence.

"Matt's a wonderful lyricist," says Nash, who remembers hearing about the older Slocum when she was in middle school in Texas, and later became his friend. "The words that he writes I want to sing. It has never felt like a stretch. It's part of the gift, the two of us making music together."

"I think we've been doing it for a while now that I can sort of imagine her voice in my head when I'm writing these lyrics and creating these melodies," says Slocum of his musical relationship with Nash. "It's a really cool thing to imagine what it's going to sound like and then make it become reality. I always find that Leigh meets that reality and exceeds it, or adds to it."

Asked to describe their music, which is most often compared to The Sundays, Leigh Nash offers this: "Somebody said we're like (the band) Innocence Mission, with less innocence and more of a mission."

Sound Clips

"The Waiting Room"
[230Mb MPEG-3] or [315k WAV]

"Kiss Me"
[270Mb MPEG-3] or [370k WAV]

"Puedo Escribir"
[245Mb MPEG-3] or [335k WAV]

"The Lines of my Earth"
[250Mb MPEG-3] or [350k WAV]


'My vision blurred'

Propelled by the Nashville-based band's hit single, "Kiss Me," a sugar-sweet love tune which found its seeds in a Dylan Thomas poem, Sixpence blossomed with the release of their third album earlier this year.

The song received strong airplay on modern rock stations across the country. The video to "Kiss Me" -- a nod to famed director Francois Truffaut -- was shot in Paris, a trip that Nash describes as "a great time."

Then came the invitation to Lilith Fair, the all-female tour-de-force which enjoyed a second successful summer run. During the appearance, Sixpence played on a smaller stage, away from the top names like Lilith founder Sarah McLachlan and Natalie Merchant.

Nash, however, was invited to sing in the concert finale on the main stage, with McLachlan, Merchant, et al.

"My vision was blurred. I was horrified, there were so many people," says Nash, who admits that she didn't know the words to the final song -- Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On." "I ended up front and center with Sarah."

Nash survived the experience.

"I'm big fans of all of them, so it was cool to meet them," she says.

'It makes us feel good'

But this isn't the classic overnight success story. Sixpence has been around since the early 1990s, and has received its share of acclaim. Between the comings and goings of various band members and the bankruptcy of their first independent record company, Sixpence has managed to release a solid foundation of work.

The band's 1993 debut, "The Fatherless and The Widow," was chosen by Billboard as one of the magazine's top 10 albums of the year.

Sixpence followed with "This Beautiful Mess" in 1995, which won the Dove Award for best modern rock album.

And now they're enjoying added kudos with their latest release by Squint Entertainment. Not bad for a band that was saddled with the Christian rock label in the early going.

"We're achieving a lot of success right now and it's not all happening at once, so I think there's a lot of momentum to go," Slocum says. "It makes us feel good about ourselves."

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