Canada’s Manic Drive have been around since 2004, but recently they’ve taken a new approach to their music. Rather than just writing songs for people who are already on their Christian walk, they’re now also reaching out to people who don’t know about Christ. That decision is represented by their new album and single, both called ‘Into the Wild’.
When they caught up with Alex recently, brothers Shawn and Michael Cavallo explained that they’d been thinking about how we’re all encouraged to go out and spread the Good News. ‘That kind of rang true to us, as Christian musicians especially, where instead of just writing songs for Christians, why don’t we go outside our comfort zones, and write music for people who need to hear it as well.’
The music video for Into the Wild is pretty impressive. Shawn and Michael spent three days shooting with Michigan Director Andrew Smith, who also created most of the props and staging. Then they had to return to the road, leaving Hunter, the child actor in the video, to finish filming. Andrew then spent a further six months putting it together. ‘I don’t like to boast about my own stuff,’ Shawn said, ‘but it’s one of the best Christian music videos. It has nothing to do with me. It’s just this Director.’
In the video, Shawn dresses as a wizard, and protects the young boy from dragon fire with a magical shield. ‘That was really hard,’ he said, ‘to work with the dragon. He’s a good actor, but when he was blowing that fire, it was really dangerous. It’s a one-take thing. He was moody. The guy’s flying in from Europe and everything.’
‘And then I was like hey, can I ride you, dragon? Can I go on for a ride? He wasn’t even willing! That’s the worst part! On set, Hunter was great, but the dragon? Complete jerk!’
The brothers are big fantasy fans, and were surprised that some Christians object to stories about magic. As Shawn points out, the world’s most popular writers of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling are all Christians, and their faith had a big influence on their fiction.
And it is fantasy. It’s not real, so you really shouldn’t be offended by something that doesn’t exist.
For the Cavallo brothers, the fantastical elements of the video are just a cool way to symbolise the struggle we’re all a part of. ‘There are evils that we fight and tangle with every day of our lives,’ Shawn said. ‘That’s not just in fantasy, but that’s in our everyday walk.’
‘You’re going to face a dragon. You’re going to face a giant, or some sort of obstacle that’s going to challenge you. And that’s where we’ve got to stand in the faith, and be brave and strong in those moments.’
Shawn faced his own epic struggle while writing this album. They had just heard God calling them to take their music beyond the walls of the Church. But they knew that meant potentially alienating the fan base they’d relied on for years. Sitting at his keyboard, Shawn felt exhausted and scared. He knew all his fears were just distractions, but that didn’t make them easier to set aside.
I just want to focus on Christ, and write some music. And that anxiety, that whole thing of letting everything go, was one of the toughest things we had to do as Christian musicians.
He wrote down how he was feeling at that moment, like he’d reached the summit of a mountain only to meet a giant, like life was just an endless series of obstacles. Out of that, a song started forming. A few days later, he showed his wife what he’d written. She said it was great, but it wasn’t finished. ‘Oh man!’ he thought. ‘I’m already worn out! I’ve got to still work on this thing?’
As he glumly headed downstairs to keep working, she said something that gave him the key to the song. ‘Christ has given you strength for moments like these,’ she told him. ‘And then it all clicked,’ he said. ‘I was like yeah, life doesn’t get easier, but that’s why we need to ask to be made stronger.’
‘No, getting there isn’t effortless,’ he sings. ‘I’m gonna need a hand with this. So help, I’m asking please, there’s gotta be another remedy.’ Easier is the sound of a band taking a risk, stepping into the wild, because Jesus didn’t ask us to stay home. He asked us to pick up our cross, and follow him. (Matthew 16:24 NIV) The path he walks is hard and dangerous, but if we let go of our fears, and have Faith, His strength can help us face down dragons.
Manic Drive’s new album, Into the Wild, is out now.