“The Miscellaneous was a 90s alterna rock band composed of members from Europe and the United States. The band was fronted by a male and a female vocalist, and produced music that is said to “transcend the boundaries” of its genre in creativity. CCM magazine likened their music to that of Sixpence None the Richer, Jars of Clay and Out of the Grey.
The band began with the trio of Stef Loy (an American), BoH, and Mangus Sjolander (both Swedes), who were in a band called Perry and the Poor Boys. This band released one album, No Fear in Love, in 1992. After several years of worldwide tours, the band found themselves back in Sweden. They began adding members, including Sooi Groeneveld van der Laan (Dutch) as vocalist.
Their debut, She Walks Alone With Me, was released in 1994. The song “Black Lips Saturday” was their biggest hit, earning the band airplay in Europe. The band experienced some success through Europe, and the release was picked up by a British label. However, they found roadblocks from the American market, and were unable to book shows due to the diversity of countries that they lived in.
Their sophomore effort was produced by Armand John Petri to build an American-friendly pop sound. According to frontman Stef Loy “Armand… thought we should settle down on the first [U.S.] effort. He helped me relearn how to write pop songs.” “He stripped down the music, and we had to rebuild it again. “The effort was successful as the band gained the attention of multiple American labels. They eventually signed with Atlanta based Gray Dot Records, releasing All Good Weeds Grow Up in 1998.
The band once again produced themselves for the third album, Moth & Rust, released in 1999. According to the band, this record became more of a lyrical than musical an exploration. “Previous CDs have been either therapy for the songwriter or fun lyrical meanderings. This… is the first time I actually have a message [directed toward] the listener,” songwriter Stef Loy explained, “Now I’m trying purposely to give the listener something to think about.” The albums' title and primary message were taken from Matthew 6:19-20. The album is themed on philosophical and spiritual points such as the decline of morality and absolutes, and hidden dangers in the American Dream.”
“What does a band made up of two Swedes, an American, and a Dutch girl do for a follow-up when their major-label debut was produced by the same guy who produced the number-one mainstream pop hit in the states, and generated coverage in CCM Magazine, 7ball, Release, and a hit single? Why, head for an island in the Baltic and produce their next release themselves, right?
Well, it's fair to say that The Miscellaneous threw out the book long ago, with their geographically challenged ensemble's inception, and the results couldn't sound better. The band's sophomore release refines their winning pop hooks and infectious rock hooks while propelling the band well beyond their previous efforts with the strong influence of European electronica. The Miscellaneous exemplify the value that gray dot places on the individual artist's vision, and the rewards from such trust. Moth and Rust is more than one of the best releases from gray dot, it is without hyperbole, one of Christian rock's strongest efforts of the year.”
The Miscellaneous by Sucre Musique
The roster of The Miscellaneous reads like an international list of covert government agents. The Swedish members consist of BoH, on guitars, along with Öyvind Eriksen on bass, and Magnus Sjölander on drums. Then there is agent Sooi on vocals, hailing from the Netherlands. One lone American heads up the team, by name Stef Loy. Stef sings, and plays guitars and keyboards. Their mission? “To grow together in life in friendship and in the way of the Truth, to write the best music on the face of the earth or at least the best we can do together.”
A few years ago, the aforementioned Stef, Magnus and BoH were touring with a Canadian band, Perry and the Poor Boys. Loy recalls the transition from that time. “I was going thru a lot at the time and had some songs written just for me and needed to put them down on tape… [It was a means of] artistic therapy in writing songs after dealing with a heavy relationship I went thru and a heavy period I had swung thru in life… We brought Sooi over for the fun too and recorded eleven demo tracks in a few weeks time in northern Sweden… Those tracks became our first CD, She Walks Alone With Me, back in '94.” While that record was released by Viva Records in Sweden, their second album, All Good Weeds Grow Up, ended up on Gray Dot Records. A few years ago, during GMA Week, The Misc paid Gray Dot Records for permission to perform on their showcase stage, and they were impressed enough with their concert to sign them.
Weeds was produced by music veteran Armand Petri, who has worked with Goo Goo Dolls, and within Christian circles is perhaps most known for This Beautiful Mess by Sixpence None the Richer. While they were pleased with every aspect of working with Petri, Loy clarifies their reasoning for taking the reins on the production of the current release, Moth & Rust. “He is a great producer – the best in the business, and I hope to work with him again someday. He taught me more about actual song writing than I would've ever learned on my own, and I appreciate that so much. [But] on the new CD we just needed to experiment a little again and not worry about the production itself. As a result, the songs probably sound a little rougher… I feel that some of the songs achieved the ‘feel’ concept. Particularly “1929” and “Crumbs.” I really like the thrown together way those turned out, although you probably can't tell “1929” sounds as much thrown together. But we really, in essence, wrote that in the studio and just threw it down. “Crumbs” is really the song that it all comes together on though. That was something that we just had to play with ourselves, with no producer (referee) involved. I think the end result is more fun, especially since we didn't know what the end result would be. We just wanted the words “moth and rust” to be captured effectively.”
Moth & Rust, according to Loy, serves as a “concept album with a purpose for the listener. In the old days I was recording for me. Now I’m trying purposely to give the listener something to think about.” A self-professed PK (Pastor’s Kid) Loy had been raised in a Christian home, and always accepted the Gospel, but didn’t make a serious decision for the Lord until he was in his twenties. “The decision to live a Christian life was probably made in my early twenties, even though I’d known the Gospel for years. I was attending a church in Minneapolis (Open Door) and learned that there was so much more to the Gospel, to this life and the love of God that I’d never understood before, even as a Christian. It was like I had a conversion experience, but really I don't know how to put it into words. It was a clearing up of previous misconceptions that happened in me that gave me a desire to love Jesus more than I ever had before. Also at the same time I began to get proper teaching about the Bible, and I understood what an entirely powerful Book it is for the first time ever, and I think that I just sort of came into a more mature faith as I studied.”
Carrying that maturing faith into his art, the music naturally reflects his beliefs. The decline of societal morals seems to weigh on Loy’s heart. “The fact that there are absolutes . . . is the most important thing missing from society right now. The fact that there is right and there is wrong, and there is a God, and just because somebody says to you, ‘It's okay if I believe this and you believe that because we can both be right,’ doesn't mean they have a clue what they're talking about. I can sit in the garage and believe that I’m a car. You know what they call that? Loss of sanity. It doesn't matter what I believe about gravity either. It's a law that I cannot break in this world. The same holds true for spiritual matters and moral principals. There are things that are absolutely true all the time, and it doesn't matter what you believe, they are still true. Right now if you believe in absolutes you are the greatest threat to much of mainstream society. People are threatened by the idea of absolutes. Why? Because if there are absolutes then people have to live and act responsibly, and I sometimes think they'd just rather not.”
Drawing inspiration from a variety of things, Loy and Sooi, who each write lyrics, strive to create music from their hearts. “My focus is on writing original music and blending the idea of the words to the mood of the music perfectly. I hope to still accomplish this at higher level as I grow older. As far as what inspires me . . . Greatness inspires me. Michael Jordan inspired me a lot. Bill Britt inspires me. Andre Agassi inspires me. Mike Roe inspires me. Michael Knott's creative genius drives me wild. The Supertones live inspire me. DC Talk's live show made me weep for joy. U2's passion is the same. My buddies in Blindside inspire me. Sixpence None the Richer topping secular charts inspires me.” When asked what sets his music apart from others, he answers, “Intelligent lyrics from a background Christian perspective without being overbearingly preachy. The music is played by a group of musicians that are as good as any out there today, especially our rhythm section.”
While he has not become wealthy as a Christian musician, he has traveled extensively, and gleaned some insight into the world of Christian music. “I’m not sure there IS any money in CCM, even after the last 10 years of playing and touring. But I think that CCM is the most pure music on earth because many of its artists know they won't be rich in what they're doing, and the art is more the center of attention than the scene itself. For instance, the typical CCM musician is not focused on sex drugs or rock and roll – or riches – and it keeps the form of art pure, focused on the expression of the artist himself instead of what sells, etc.”
Delving into the often controversial subject of Christians in bands, versus Christian bands, is where he opens up the most, and sheds some light on his thoughts. “First let me explain my view on [contemporary Christian music] as a whole… Personally I feel that there's no such thing as Christian music, in the fact that music is a neutral force used for expression from one who learns to master this craft. To me, there's only good and bad music. Good music is music I like, and bad music is music I don't like. Right now I’m listening to the Violet Burning's latest CD. I like it. It's good music. But if there's no such thing as Christian music, then there's definitely no such thing as secular music. How can you call something that God made, ‘without God?’ It really makes no sense. As if, just because an artist expresses himself in ways that are outside the context of so-called ‘Christian’ music, this makes his music ‘secular.’”
“The whole idea of God's love for us is that we have the freedom to accept or reject His love. Thus if an artist used that freedom to reject God's love or even denounce it, that still is his free choice, a choice given to him by God. The God of the Christians. Therefore, the idea of rejecting God is not a secular idea. It’s a Christian one. Sounds a bit complicated? Here's another angle… If your mother tells you at the age of thirteen that you can buy [Christian music], but not secular music, and you buy a CD by your favorite Christian band, whose manager is backsliding, whose booking agent is agnostic, and the president of the label you're on is an atheist, did you just buy a Christian record or a secular record? CCM is an industry that needs to sell records to keep good people in good paying jobs, and keep their artists off the dole. Praise and Worship is also an industry that sells a lot of records, and nobody ever asks who the people are that own the companies that put these records out. I know that some of this is mumbo jumbo, but calling the actual music ‘Christian,’ is just a bit weird to me. It's a label that man made, not God. If you look in the Bible you'll find that God accepted many songs to Him that weren't very Christian sounding. I personally look at my writing as an art form, however if my music, or better yet my life, has the potential to minister to someone in any way God shows me that I can, I am open to that. I believe that the answer to this world is Jesus Christ, and that when people learn who He is and follow Him, positive results come 90% of the time. If I can help anyone in those steps in life, I want to be a part of it.”
Touring is something that has not happened as extensively in the US as in Scandinavia. “I don't think we've received a lot of attention, but it's more like we've turned heads here and there. I mean, we don't sell out concert arenas like Deliriou5? supposedly does, but sometimes we get to play to large crowds. We played to eight-thousand or so in Finland once. That was a blast. But we've supplemented that with Biker Bars and ski resorts where no one in the whole shack has heard of us. It's almost more exciting for me that way. As a front man I have to go in there against all odds, with all cynics looking at the ‘newbies’ and win them over. And we usually can win them over, which I think says a lot for the band's live performance. The ace up my sleeve is ten years road experience that these kinds of crowds don't know we have…”
With the factors of finding a balance between family life and touring, Loy expresses concerns for the future of The Miscellaneous. But he also has many ideas for future projects. “I have a desire in my life to write some very cool praise and worship music, but completely free of the language of Christianese. I’d like to make a poetic project aimed at reflection toward the Almighty. I think that the latest Honey CD is an awesome example of what happens when rock musicians come together to touch the heavens. I’d like to hold nothing back and go for it.”
Finally, Stef Loy desires to challenge people to really examine the Christian life. “It's the only life that makes sense. Read the [Bible] and study prophesy, history and the life of Jesus and you will see what has changed peoples' lives for two thousand years now.”
|1994||She Walks Alone With Me||Viva Records|
|1998||All Good Weeds Grow Up||Gray Dot Records|
|1999||Moth and Rust||Gray Dot Records|
1994 Viva Records
A phenomenal independent recording from the first band Stef ever fronted. So phenomenal that Sweden's largest CCM label heard it, signed the band and distributed the recording without asking for one change to be made to the original demos. The studio the band developed the songs in was near the arctic circle in northern Sweden, and there was never any weather other than snow during the entire recording. It was made on a shoestring budget (under $2500) but where passion flows, money is no object. The songs are about an earthly relationship, a heavenly relationship, the mistakes and the consequences formed in those relationships, and the grace that abounds. The CD's first single “Black Lips Saturday” is a pure pop standout, and it was played extensively on European radio as well as rising on the US's Pure Rock Report charts to #7. Many other songs not intended for radio hit the soul equally hard: “I'll Hold You in Heaven” touches the abortion issue the way no songwriter ever has; “Adore” and “Need” personify the overwhelming sensation of falling in love; “Neutral” and “Flowers (We Still Are)” are like killshots to a dying relationship; and finally “Release” and “Engraved” stand out as the call for repentance and the answer heard in prayer. The chorus of “Engraved” is taken from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. These words are potent reminders to all of us of a call from a loving Father who waits with arms wide open: “Though they may not remember, I will not ever forget you, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Though they may not recall, I will not ever forsake you. You are not too small to fall from my hands.” This resonates with hope in the middle of life's traumas. Play this disc when you need to remember and acknowledge that hope.”
1998 Gray Dot Records
Recorded in Birmingham, England with producer Armand John Petri (Sixpence None the Richer; Goo Goo Dolls; 10,000 Maniacs). This was the band's most “pop” oriented effort. It was also the CD available at the band's peak, touring all over Scandinavia and even in the midwest United States (typically to GMA in Nashville for a few years). A current listen to the Weeds CD proves it a timeless record, transcending trends and fashion, proving itself a classic and holding it's own even at the turn of a new millennium.
1999 Gray Dot Records
Like their first She Walks project, the band's third and final disc is a return to a conceptual design in it's content. The themes twist and revolve around a verse of scripture taken from the book of Matthew: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Juxtapose this with the elements of modern day America, success, and a culture finding it's identity in who has the largest car or house – and you have quite a struggle within the thoughts and hearts of many attempting to heed the words of Christ. The lyrics to “Crumbs,” penned by Stef, his wife Kara, and Steve Smith (from New York's Blind Records) are perhaps the best sung lyrics in the history of the miscellaneous:
“It's all about the towers of babble The clattering of metal in the gym It's the endless pursuits in sugar substitutes Dodging the wages of sin It's all about the power of cable And bipeds walking on the web It strolls down the cat walks, and in our self talk Crumbs of flesh lie in our beds And it's miles from who you are”
“And we work at making ourselves better It's so much harder to live by grace Maybe someday I'll see Your face Maybe never.”
Contained on this disc are the best vocals Stef has laid to date. Songs like “1929,” “Crumbs” and “Ghost” have superb vocal clarity with an emotional impact not before seen in the band. A powerful recording.