How does one go from singing run-of-the-mill worship music to creating “liturgical post-rock”? (And what exactly is liturgical post-rock, anyway?) For Michael Gungor, lead guitarist and singer/songwriter of Gungor, it has been a “long, gradual process.”
“I grew up in the church playing music, and music was always associated with my spirituality,” he says. “How I got from there to here ... it’s been a long, bumpy journey.”
Gungor’s journey from singing at worship services every Sunday (his father is a pastor) to touring with his band started in 2003, when he co-wrote the Dove award-nominated “Friend of God” with Christian music artist Israel Houghton. Since then, Gungor (the band) has released four albums, including 2008’s Ancient Skies, which contains the controversial “White Man,” and February’s Beautiful Things—their first release since changing the band name to just Gungor (from The Michael Gungor Band).
“It’s not just about me. I don’t want people to come to just watch me perform for them,” Gungor says. “But we’re trying to, in our shows and in our experiences, create this transcendent moment. So we went with Gungor because it’s a little bit more abstract.”
Michael’s wife, Lisa, who he met while they were both students at Oral Roberts University, contributes vocals and plays the keyboard in the band. She says their live performances don’t allow for any one person to be in the spotlight.
“There’s nine of us up there playing, so it’s very evident that there’s no one person center stage,” she says. “There’s so many different things happening: the poetry, the video, just the whole feel of it is a group thing.”
The transcendent moment Michael mentions originates in a recent personal theological shift. He says while he was growing up, the message of the music seemingly had to be more important than the music itself. But it’s different now.
“I think this often happens in Christian music—we try to make the message so prevalent, we can forget that the music actually is the message,” he says. “Sometimes we’ve forgotten how important beauty is, how important aesthetics are, and art is sacred within itself because it’s beauty coming into the world—it’s part of the Kingdom of God.”