A Joyful Noise

Monday, June 24, 2002

Christian-influenced local teen rockers will star at the Star Spangled Spectacular.

With guitar riffs, power vocals and amplifiers, one local band is spreading their faith in a less-than-orthodox fashion.

Among the list of entertainers for this year's Star Spangled Spectacular is area rock band Psallo. With a heavy Christian influence penetrating their intense style of music, they're not your average headbangers.

Psallo, which means "To play a stringed instrument," consists of Newell natives Eric Johnson, 17, on bass guitar, Carl Christensen, 17, on guitar, and Storm Lake native Joe Keil, 16, on guitar and lead vocals. The three high school students are currently in the market for a drummer, while Jesse Rieman, 18, also of Newell, fills in on drums when needed by the band. Rieman will perform with Psallo at this year's Spectacular.

Psallo began in 1998 while the three experimented with instruments in Keil's basement. Keil was on the drums, Johnson on the cornet, and Christensen on the saxophone. The first song played by the band was "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and it was then the band members claim they knew they had a future.

Soon, Johnson and Christensen adopted their new instruments, later followed by Keil, and Psallo was born. Since then, the self-taught group of musicians has played numerous concerts, benefits, and church services, including last year's Star Spangled Spectacular. Last year in Alta, the group opened for Big Fat Jam, a popular Christian rock band out of Minneapolis.

To each member of Psallo, the band's mission is simple: To get their message of faith in God across to listeners and fans through their music. Each member of the band was brought up with a strong Christian faith, greatly influencing the writing and performing of each song.

"Our faith definitely has a lot of impact," said Keil. "We're trying to play music that's positive and Christian. There's not a lot of positive music out there anymore, and people need something good to listen to."

Among the many things aiding Psallo in getting off the ground, Keil claims that parental support has been key to the band's existence.

"Our parents have been great," Keil said. "They're always there for us. One time we wanted to make T-shirts, but didn't have the money. They all chipped in and paid for them until we sold enough and paid them back. They do a lot of things like that to make it easier for us."

Members of Psallo write the majority of their songs, and boast approximately 20 originals to their name that reflect their faith with titles such as 'Carried in His Arms,' 'God of Mercy,' and 'Come Again.' The band also covers popular mainstream rock bands including Lifehouse and Creed. Johnson claims that the group's sound varies from song to song.

"Some are harder, some are quieter. We play a very wide variety of songs," Johnson said. "We get into the ballad type stuff, but we can turn it up too."

"We're open to almost any musical variety," Keil said. "We really like punk and straight-up rock, but we're also into the quieter, more acoustic sound."

From Psallo's hard work in creating an original and meaningful sound comes the pride of touching a crowd with their message of faith and hope. This, the band claims, has resulted in Psallo's continually growing fan base.

"One of my friends once told me, 'You can't play Christian rock, because the best part of rock music is the rebelliousness.'" Keil said. "I told him to come and see us sometime, and he discovered that we were alright."

"We've had quite a few concerts where we hoped we made a difference, and that's a pretty good feeling." Johnson said.

Aside from live concerts, the band also plans to create a CD in the near future, once all band members are accessible.

"We will cut a CD, but it's just a matter of time," Keil said. "We're all busy with summer jobs right now, but it will be coming out sometime soon."

Psallo will perform during the Spectacular at 12 p.m. July 4 at the Chautauqua Park tennis courts. Visit the band's website at www.psallo.com

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