From Speedwood to Slinky: An interview with Lost and Found
By Author Unknow Posted on October 04 2009
In Northeast Ohio you'll find an amusement park called Cedar Point that has the tallest, fastest, steepest roller coaster in the world. If you were to stand at the exit and interview people as they came off the ride, you'd get responses like these:
"Ohhh man…it was like…geeze…awesome and…you...and the part where the thing went...then all of a sudden…whoosh...then it went, wow...it was like…geeze…and we screamed real loud and there was the part where...with the big...oh man…you just gotta try it!"
Coincidently, you'd get similar reactions if you stood outside of a Lost and Found concert and interviewed people as they came out. Not to say that people throw their hands in the air and scream (well, OK, sometimes). I had the opportunity to sit down to coffee with the band during their recent sweep through Florida, which included two days at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention.
"The first time you hear us is sort of like the first time you try coffee," says guitarist Michael Bridges. "The first cup you're not so sure if you like this and by the second cup you're thinking, 'Hey, this stuff is pretty good.'"
They define their sound as "speedwood." It's sort of a heavy metal style played on acoustic instruments. "Heavywood" may be a closer match but is probably a better description of the genre itself.
"Nothing is wasted," says George Baum who plays the piano and a variety of percussion instruments including the slinky (we'll get to that later). "We do everything we can with what we have."
Indeed this is probably the greatest lesson they try to give the audience—do everything you can with what you've got.
"Our concerts are participant driven," says Michael. "The concert in one city may be completely different from the concert in another. The direction we go in is entirely driven by the audience reaction. We may have a lot more slow ballads or we may have more of the 'speedwood' stuff."
"More Like a Conversation"
Both men are accomplished musicians, yet their sound brings to mind people who got together one day and suddenly decided to start singing. "People don't come to our concerts for great musicianship," muses George. "They come for the experience."
Michael continues, "They come in as a group of strangers and they leave as a gathering of friends. That's a model for the church. We used to play out of this book that had Christian and secular songs in it. Just the words and the chords; it was a great spontaneous singing book. We'd like to think that our music belongs in a book like that."
The difference between a Lost and Found concert and a concert of one of the bigger names in Christian music is that "Our concerts are not a performance. Our concerts are more like a conversation. We like to play with the house lights up. If we had to have a conversation with you and you had a bag over your head and we were in a dark room it would be really unpleasant." Indeed, at their performances the concert-goers and the band seem to work together with God as the audience.
"We want to be a band that proclaims the grace of God," says Michael. "Our main goal is to show everyone the love of God whose name is Jesus."
The songs include quiet, moving ballads and "speedwood" versions of classic church hymns. The L&F versions of "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "God of Grace and God of Glory" defy description.
"We have the kind of sound," says Michael, "that makes kids come up to us and say 'I could do what you do' and we say, 'Great! Go for it.' It's awesome to feel like we empowered someone."
Independent All the Way
Lost and Found is very serious about keeping their music the way it is. They won't compromise their music and they absolutely refuse to sign with a big label. "We're intentional about our anonymity," George explains. "I can't imagine any situation in which we would sign any such deal."
"We want to be the band that everybody knows, nobody knows," explains Michael. "We want someone in the audience to say to someone who has never seen us, 'You've never seen Lost and Found? Wait till you see this."
The only place to purchase Lost and Found CDs is at their concerts or on their Web site . Every concert is digitally recorded so audience members can actually buy the CD of the concert they attended. They say that people who've never been to a concert rarely buy a CD, but those who've been to a concert often buy the CD to recreate the experience.
There are also seven Lost and Found studio discs including a Christmas CD. "That's the one you put on at your Christmas party when people are staying a little too long," jokes Michael. The band also has several styles of t-shirts available, but the emphasis isn't so much on promoting the band as promoting God. Even then, the humor comes through. Every shirt has a funny story, which Michael imparts from the stage.
Humor with a Message
Humor plays a major part in their concerts. It's been said that if Woody Allen went hunting for a laugh he would go into the woods alone with a bow and arrow. Mel Brooks would go with a case of beer, three buddies, and a sawed off shotgun. When I ask how Lost and Found "hunt" for laughs, Michael remarks, "We set traps and catch the humor as it's going by."
"We wait for it to occur," agrees George. "It's everywhere at our concerts."
The band's music is multi-generational. At a recent concert in Jacksonville the band sang "Happy Birthday" to an audience member who was turning 50.
As good as the music is and as much fun as they have, they're also a band with a message. "It's frustrating for us to be booked as a rock band," laments Michael. "We don't want to be background music while a room of kids plays volleyball. You wouldn't book Tony Campolo as a speaker and then let the kids run around and play games while he's speaking. We want their attention."
"We also want to be a band that's easy to work with," adds George. "When we come and play and then leave, we want the people who put on the concert to think 'Well, that was easy.'"
"Oh, Them Lions…"
The two love to hear stories of how youth workers (and normal people) use their music as part of their ministry. The song "Lions" is a wonderful example.
"Oh them lions they can eat my body but they can't swallow my soul. They keep on trying to crash my party but they can't get control."
The song won Rolling Stone's John Lennon award for song writing in 1999. "We entered 'Lions' and later we heard that, out of thousands of entries, we made the top 30. We were really thrilled; it was high fives all around. Then later we found out we won."
A panel of 30 judges that included Puff Daddy, the Indigo Girls, and Elton John chose 'Lions' for the award. The song has become an anthem for those who're down but not out; it's been heard sung by frustrated travelers stranded at airports and youth workers facing the wrath of church committees. "We even heard it was being sung by some of the rescue workers searching through the rubble after the World Trade Center was bombed in New York," Michael says. The band has heard many stories from family members with terminally ill loved ones who say that 'Lions' became a theme song.
And Then There's the Slinky.
"I got it as a gift one Christmas," laughs George. "The 'Lions' song had a space in it so we just got the crowd to yell out 'slinky!' when it occurred."
"Oh them lions they can eat my body but they can't (SLINKY!) swallow my soul.
They keep on trying to crash my party but they can't (SLINKY!) get control."
The slinky has been on every Lost and Found album since. It goes back to working with what you have.
Another song, "Rachel Racinda," is the story of a girl who can't bring herself to come out of her figurative "house." One of the characters in the song is named Hope. Michael tells the story, "We had a woman in the audience who was pregnant and named the baby Hope. Three years later the baby died of leukemia. The mother told us how much her little one loved our music. Stuff like that defies description."
The Youth Ministry Connection
Playing to an audience of 5000 youth workers, the band is as blown away by the audience as the audience is by them. "There is a real difference in the room. We have a real connection with youth workers," Michael reflects. "We love kids and they love kids. We have a lot of common ground. Lost and Found is not in a lucrative line of work either. It's like youth ministry. Sometimes it doesn't even seem like work and other days we think, 'I can't believe I'm doing this.'"
The youth ministry connection extends beyond the music. Michael and George don't come off as slick, polished performers. Youth workers continuously want their kids to understand that God has a place for all of us. The great heroes of the Scriptures are not lofty types who stand on high pedestals. They're people with flaws and insecurities like the rest of us. They, too, play with the house lights up. God uses what we have, the good and the bad, for the good of all.
"I could see us doing this into our 70s and 80s," says George. "The longer we're at it the more comfortable we are doing it."
One can only imagine this band's indefinable sound when they're senior citizens. What's for sure is that if this generation of youth workers continues to use the music of Lost and Found, the next generation of youth workers is hearing the music now, and the music and the message will be heard for generations to come.
Go see them live.