"I never meant to run when you came for me/I just got scared because I didn't believe/So catch me if you can/I've been needing you to"
—from the song "Time Marches On"
Letter Kills is one of those groups that probably don't like to be called a "Christian band," but they wear their faith on their sleeve every time you mention them. Their name comes from 2 Corinthians 3:5-6: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (NKJV). As with bands like Jars of Clay and Sixpence None the Richer, it gives them an open door to talk about their faith with a mainstream audience anytime someone asks about their name.
The primary difference between Letter Kills and other Christian acts is that they've chosen not to write their songs with an evangelistic intent. "We believe that if you put too much emphasis on [our faith], it alienates the kids who don't really care," says lead singer Matt Shelton. "Our big thing is to unite people, not push them away with the music we play."
Nevertheless, the band's Christian beliefs are the reason they formed in the first place, and it gives them a sense of mission. According to guitarist Timothy Cordova, "God put us together and has given us talents and opportunities. That gives us no choice but to do our best at annihilating every stage and showing our fans kindness and sincerity. Our common faith helps us be united as a band because regardless of our individualities, we believe in the same absolutes."
The five members of Letter Kills got together in 2002 and recorded an EP in early 2003 that sold more than 20,000 copies independently. After touring with popular punk rock band MxPx, they scored a slot on the high profile Vans Warped Tour with New Found Glory and Simple Plan, along with fellow underground Christian bands Underoath and Mae. Naturally, that led to a number of recording contract offers, and while Letter Kills could easily have found themselves on one of the Tooth & Nail labels, they chose to sign with Island records to connect with an audience beyond the church while avoiding being restricted to mainly Christian lyrics. Hence the title of their debut, The Bridge, which also refers to the band's mixture of styles. At first listen, it'd be easy to peg Letter Kills as the latest hard rock band of the month, but they actually do a better job than most at subtly blending genres, drawing from classic rock and heavy metal as much they do from punk, hardcore, and emo.
Like their friends on Tooth & Nail, Letter Kills' lyrics are spiritually inspired and positive, but sometimes vague and formulaic. "Lights Out" is the usual youth empowerment anthem, "Clock Is Down" has some punk–styled unrequited love, and "When You're Away" wrestles with romantic loneliness. Elsewhere, the bouncy "Brand New Man" (reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age) extols modesty among girls and challenges guys towards sexual purity.
"Time Marches On," excerpted above, is about spiritual restoration, presumably with the Lord. Similar surrender is expressed in "Carry You," which seems to be a passionate conversation with God; the verses include confessional lines like, "I'm sick and tired of things I say/I'm sick and tired of all this weight/I need the pressure pressed away," followed by a comforting chorus that simply says, "I know, my son, let me carry you."
The band could best summed up with "Don't Believe," a rocker expressed with humility to warn fans not to put faith in man. "I can't put my hope in people because people just let me down," says Shelton. "I say that with all sincerity, but it's not a bad thing. I just believe no one person is better than another, and we're all in this together. So I put my faith in God."
Unless specified clearly, we are not implying whether this artist is or is not a Christian. The views expressed are simply the author's. For a more complete description of our Glimpses of God articles, click here.