Singer-songwriters Michael and Lisa Gungor are no strangers to pushing boundaries. The musical pair is releasing a trilogy of albums this year titled One Wild Life: Soul, Spirit, and Body. After Soul last summer, Gungor continued with Spirit, released Feb. 20 to season pass holders. Sojourners caught up with Gungor to chat about their newest album, the One Wild Life trilogy, and their journey through music.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Patrick Walls: Why did you decide to do three albums in one year?
Lisa Gungor: When life is tough, we deal with it through writing music. And since 2014 was an incredibly difficult year, the hardest one yet for us, we found ourselves constantly writing — as therapy really. And the songs were all circling around this similar theme, so instead of throwing any of them out, we decided to weave them all together into a trilogy.
Walls: On Twitter, you say you’re “eluding genre since 2007.” And in the past you have referred to your style as “liturgical post-rock.” How would you describe the sound you have created in One Wild Life?
Michael Gungor: We described our first record, Beautiful Things, as liturgical post-rock. I haven’t described our music in years, because it’s hard to. But after a brief Twitter conversation with our fans asking this question, I’ll go ahead and say: This new record could be described as Existential Neo-Psychedelic Pop.
Walls: One stanza that stands out in your song “Kiss the Night” is, “Consonance isn’t always peaceful, dissonance isn’t always evil.” It seems you could be speaking to the current climate in the United States, from Black Lives Matter to debates over gun violence and LGBTQ issues in the church and the nation as a whole. We’ve seen social commentary from you even as early as “White Man” from Ancient Skies (2008).
Would you say your music has gotten more political over time?
Michael: We’ve certainly touched on political issues occasionally. But this record probably has more of that than most of them have had. I think that’s because when I think of Spirit, at this point, I think of that mysterious force that pulls us into being, into becoming, into love. It’s a driving force that hovers in the darkness and calls about something new. That can get political rather quickly.
Lisa: Yes, I'd say this album touches more on political issues. People are taking sides and drawing lines, tension is growing in all of the areas you mentioned and music has a unique way of speaking to those issues.
It can be natural to want to pull the reins back or go back to what we know when things get tense, but we must keep moving forward; hold on to wisdom from our roots but know there is wisdom ahead as well.
Walls: You often speak about social issues on The Liturgists podcast. How have these conversations impacted your work with The Liturgists, and your music in general?
Michael: The Liturgists Podcast is a way for us to have and make safe the conversations that are not acceptable in a lot of circles. This world gets so fragmented, and our hope with both our music and our work with the Liturgists is to experience a more seamless and full reality.
Lisa: I think the conversations on the Liturgists podcast and the online meditations have opened up a new audience and therefore opened us up to not be afraid to write about issues we are passionate about. It has helped us feel solidarity with others and empowerment to be brave in song.
Walls: One Wild Life: Spirit is your second in a series that you've released through the "season pass." What are the benefits of this “season pass” system?
Michael: I love being able to make this much music, and while it’s challenging, it also gives us a structure and timeline. I’ve found that limitations can be an artist’s best friend sometimes. Also, it also funds the making of the art so we don’t have to rely on traditional models that may be outdated with how the market is right now with streaming and everything.
Lisa: Benefits also include private listening parties, videos, hugs, getting the music first, sneak peeks of upcoming songs, and more hugs. :) We are so grateful for our season pass holders and people who are purchasing our music! They are the reason we can continue this whole thing.
Walls: What can we expect from One Wild Life: Body?
Michael: No spoilers. :-)
Download One Wild Life: Spirit Today and reserve One Wild Life: Body!
If you missed One Wild Life: Soul, download it here.