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"People wouldn't even talk to us," Roper confirms. "They just went around telling each other how much we sucked."
"Which is fine," Hoerig emphasizes. "I mean, I think it's totally cool if someone thinks we suck because we suck. But it's different when they like you until they find out you're a Christian band, and then they think you suck. It's like this magical transformation from being good to sucking. What's up with that?"
Hoerig and his comrades are just as baffled by what they see as the prejudices against Christians held by many of today's punks--a bias that can be traced to old-school anarchists like former Boulderite Jello Biafra. With albums such as Frankenchrist and In God We Trust, Inc., Biafra and the rest of his now-defunct band, the Dead Kennedys, practically made a career out of bashing the faithful. But the Frenzys actually hold many of the same radical views espoused by Biafra. "The Old West," for example, is a sarcastic potshot at early Midwestern missionaries that could have been penned by the Rotting Vegetable himself. Biafra would also approve of Five Iron Frenzy live shows, which are usually highlighted by Roper's hilarious kamikaze antics. At a recent Mercury Cafe gig, he climbed atop the drum riser, executed a flamboyant belly flop, and then proceeded to shower the audience with potato chips.
Performances like these have helped call attention to the small but tenacious Christian alternative scene that has sprung up in Denver. Fueled by Frenzy and cutting-edge bands with names like Worm, Rackets and Drapes (formerly Human Soup), and Lather, the Christian underground has become something of a mini-phenomenon. Case in point: A recent Christian show at the Aztlan Theatre featuring Five Iron Frenzy and Washington-based MxPx drew upwards of 600 moshing spectators.
"It's weird," concedes Fred Myer, a former 23 Parrish disc jockey whose Christian-oriented Soul Hook Productions promoted the Aztlan date. "I still think of the scene here as being so minuscule--just this little thing we're doing for the kids. But there are people all over the country that know about what's going on in Denver. It's incredible. I even get calls from people in New York who are curious about what's going on here."
Myer is equally excited by Five Iron Frenzy's rising profile. "I think it's awesome that Five Iron has had the opportunity to cross over to a larger audience," he says. "I know that it can be hard to stand up for what you believe in, so I really respect them for being honest and up-front about it."
Still, the players aren't doctrinaire about the venues they play, or the kinds of bands with whom they'll perform. They got their start opening for touring Christian acts like Sometime Sunday, Blenderhead and Don't Know, but they've also shared bills with rude-boy faves MU330, Insatiable, Less Than Jake and, most surprising of all, the Rudiments, a Dill Records signee that touts itself as "ska-tanic." According to Kerr, the Rudiments are "totally cool guys. That 'ska-tanic' stuff is just kind of their shtick." With a verbal wink, he claims, "I mean, they did sacrifice a few cats backstage, but other than that, they were really nice guys."
"Our attitude has always been, 'We'll play pretty much anywhere--especially if it's near our house,'" Hoerig cuts in. "And if it's not near our house, we'll play for gas money."
If recent events are any indication, Five Iron Frenzy may soon be traveling in style. Nashville-based Flying Tart Records, a budding Christian indie label, has offered the band a contract, as has Front Line Records of Irvine, California. In addition, the band is being eyed by Seattle's Tooth & Nail Records, an imprint known for deals with popular Christian-punk artists such as Joe Christmas, Plankeye and MxPx. The Frenzys hope that one of these companies will finance a trip to the studio before the end of the year. In the meantime, they plan to keep busy on the home front. The group opens for Meal Ticket at the Raven on March 14, joins the Twist-Offs at the Bug Theatre on March 23 and appears alongside Worm and Martha's Wake at Stage South, a Christian venue, on March 30. And every Wednesday night, the bandmates host a regular Bible study.
Are all of the Frenzys' prayers about to be answered? Kerr has faith, but he isn't holding his breath: "It would be nice to make a living at this, but that's not too realistic."
"We'd be happy if we could just get some free food out of this," Roper contends. But then he gets serious. "We just want to do what God has called on us to do," he says, a few feet from his personal copy of the Good Book. "And not fall short of the goals He has set for us.