We recently interviewed Tyron Ivins of the band Grand Traverse and had a chance to chat about their debut album, christian music and reading the Bible.
Grand Traverse. Every band’s name has a story behind it. What’s yours?
Well, our former name of Arise Band became problematic as we started to travel overseas more. We realised that there we so many bands with that name, even a Swedish Death Metal band. As you can imagine this wasn’t favourable when people tried to find us online. One school even cancelled their booking with us as they found the wrong Arise.
We threw out so many names but one night I was reflecting on the journey and thought about the well-known hike in the Drakensberg called the grand traverse, which is from one side of the Berg to the other. At the time, we were recording the album, which was a difficult journey, and the grand traverse hike seemed to sum up our journey.
Denmark. Nelspruit. Botswana. Touring is challenging. Name one tour related activity you love?
Every tour has its own unique flavour. One thing I do love about touring is that no matter where you go it’s amazing to see people respond to music that has been birthed out of a personal journey.
Just released your debut album. Congratulations. What are some of the things you hope people will hear through this album and your music in general?
Our hope is that people would find a message that is beyond the typical themes people usually gravitate to with church music. We are all for songs about the cross and love corporate worship songs but there is so much to God’s character that we sometimes miss singing about.
We are hoping our music, which declares unashamedly what we believe as Christians, will also be suited for radio play.
Often people don’t at first think we are a Christian band but we always strip it down during a set and share the Gospel, giving people a chance to respond. And that’s our heart behind the music.
Is that a helpful label or not? When you are labelled as a Christian band?
This is something people having gotten real sticky about over the years. For us, we are trying our best not to get hung up on it. When people ask if we are a Christian band we say ‘Yup.’
We don’t want to get hung up on labels. So, we don’t mind and actually think people are a lot more open to spiritual stuff than we give them credit for sometimes.
The Album has been two years in the making. How do you go about writing your songs?
I usually just have notes everywhere. Pieces of a songs. And then the completion of a song always come out of the discipline of sitting down and developing the idea further.
I usually do a bunch of stuff on my laptop where I’ll lay down like a drum or synth track which I then take to the band and we workshop it from there. I do most of the melody and lyric stuff at the moment and with this album, our producer Niklas Fairclough really challenged me with my lyric writing.
South Africa is a land filled with musically talented young people. What guidance would you give to a group of ‘musos’ who are starting a band?
When I started out I was always trying to be like a Hillsong or some well know group. But I realised that I should rather be myself and get the most out of what God was saying to me. For anyone who is interested in starting a band they should just be content in their unique journey.
That journey of authenticity is so important.
You are invited to play at lots of youth events and interact with masses of young people. From your perspective, what are some of the key challenges this generation is facing?
One of the big things we see is young people lacking in perseverance. With all the things at their disposal young people are used to instant gratification. They don’t have to commit to anything.
Our struggle is to help them develop that characteristic of perseverance. Especially in a relationship with Jesus, when times are tough and they just want to give up or seek instant gratification elsewhere.
On your Denmark tour, you handed out 300 free Bibles. Most teens struggle to read the Bible. What are a few things that have helped you grow in God’s word?
I think if we just default to our natural inclinations we are going to be lost. Naturally, we are not going to want to read the Bible. To say we must just be hungry for the Word is for myself a bit of a naive approach. I need to find ways that are going to encourage me to carve out time, otherwise I’m always going to choose TV or gaming or just ‘blob-bing’.
For me, some of the ways I try engaging with the Bible is through writing music. God will often drop a phrase or word in my heart and then I spend time in the Scriptures understanding more about that truth.
But it can be different for people. My wife’s grandfather has a routine of getting up every morning, making himself some coffee, and then goes and sits in the spare room on a couch, reads the Word and spends time with God.
I think we have to be intentional about it, whatever the way is that works for you. I really think we expect too little or young people and do them a disservice.
Your ‘one-year-band-anniversary’ is just around the corner. What are some of the things we can look forward to from Grand Traverse in year two?
Our big hope now is to get on as many platforms as possible just to let the music get out there. We want to enjoy the moment of releasing the album but we also got to start writing more.
South Africa is hungry for a positive message, especially one that is rooted in Jesus.