The Museum Biography
A Sustained Revolution
It might not sound like it, but the Georgia based pop band The Museum is actually named after a revolution. During a 2008 musical mission trip to Romania, drummer Josh Kirk found himself at a ceremony commemorating the end of Communism in that country twenty years earlier. “There was a small, humble museum near the square that told the story,” he recalls. “Turns out it was a group of Christians that actually brought about that political and social revolution.” Twenty years later the political changes were celebrated but the spiritual center of the revolution had been mostly forgotten. Kirk saw little evidence of Christian influence in the culture. “That little museum remained though,” he adds, “offering a glimpse into the kind of faith that can turn a nation upside down.”
Shortly thereafter Kirk teamed up with singer and songwriter Ben Richter to form a modern pop band that would explore the big themes of their lives – faith, justice and worship – with an eye toward waking the church to the incendiary role it should be playing in the world. “We were, and are, all worship leaders,” Richter explains, “and we have a passion for the local church. But as much as we love to sing together on Sunday morning, we felt a calling to bring songs that would challenge the Church to live out lives of worship all week long.” With the addition of bassist Chris Brink in 2010 their lineup was in place. Their budding calling and youthful ambition quickly led to the band’s debut album Let Love Win (BEC Recordings) and its two hit radio singles; “My Help Comes from the Lord” and “Allelujah,” as well as significant press coverage, a growing nationwide fan base and hundreds of live appearances. The band partnered with the poverty relief agency Compassion International and the anti-slavery ministry Not For Sale, even penning a theme song for that group (“Not For Sale”) and representing their work on the road.
The early success of The Museum actually caught them a bit off guard. Richter remembers a watershed moment that happened just one week after their first single, “My Help Comes from the Lord,” was released to radio. “A woman sent me a Facebook message,” he remembers. “She had just lost her husband in an accident and was back in her home for the first time as a widow and a single mother. She didn’t know how she would survive but felt that our song was a direct message from God that He would sustain her.” Similar stories flooded in and the young band knew that God was doing something important through them. “To get that kind of confirmation that early on was really important,” Richter adds. “It certainly wasn’t easy to build a band, write the songs and spend so much time on road, but we knew it was worth it.”
In 2011, behind the success of their debut, the band further solidified their lineup with additional guitarist Loyd Rieves. Refocused in their calling and purpose, the band got to work writing for their follow-up album. Whereas the first album had come together quickly, with three different producers in three different cities, the band hunkered down for album number two. “The songs on the first album were mostly written by individuals and then brought to the band,” Richter says. “But this time we focused much more on writing as a group. We wrestled over thirty or forty songs in order to find the best eleven for the album. We were determined to make sure that every single track had the same kind of life-changing potential as “My Help Comes from the Lord.” Another shift involved enlisting just one producer, Pete Kipley (Phil Wickham, Matthew West, MercyMe,) to bring the songs to life with aural continuity and depth. In addition to his requisite studio proficiency, Kipley pulled musical performances from the band members that he believes will fully demonstrate their true skill level to listeners. “Besides writing such amazing songs,” Kipley enthuses, “these kids can really, really play. There is a skill level here that you just don’t come across in young bands these days. Loyd’s expressiveness on guitar creates a fantastic tonal landscape and Josh is such a powerful and tasteful drummer. Plus, I am absolutely convinced that Chris Brink is one of the best bass players I have ever heard! He’s like Olympic gold-metal good.”
Beyond improved sonics and musicianship, Richter believes that the new album, entitled My Only Rescue and scheduled for release August 28, 2012, takes the band a significant step further in both their creative and spiritual calling. The first single, “Love Will Find You,” was written months earlier for a friend who felt impossibly distant from God due to personal mistakes and sin. The song’s relevance was confirmed when the band travelled to the Philippines with Compassion International. “There we were, after multiple long flights, a two hour van ride, a ferry ride, and then a rainy ride on boats so small only four people could fit on each one – to get to an island with just four families on it. We were literally on the other side of the world, and God was already there. On His behalf Compassion was there showing His love to people who had survived a terrible hurricane. Although we had written the lyric months earlier, we knew this would be the theme of the record; ‘You can run ‘til you can’t find home. You can sail ‘til you can’t see land. There is no place you can go; Love will find you where you are.’"
The lyrical scope of the record moves from global, including the band’s foundational social justice passion and vision for the Church as the hope of the world, to very personal. Another defining moment came as Richter was preparing to cut the vocals for the title track, “My Only Rescue.” The band had written the song together during a writing retreat in a cabin in the woods of North Georgia, but on the day Richter was scheduled to record his vocal parts he came down with a terrible stomach virus. Already weakened and feverish, he got a call from his wife on his way into the vocal booth. The young couple had recently found out that they were expecting their first child. The news that day, however, was life-changing. “She called to tell me that she was losing the baby,” Richter remembers. “She miscarried three days later. It was just devastating to us. The lyrics I had written just a few weeks before were now ministering to me. ‘Give me the faith to wait on You, give me peace to be still. You’re the only hope I lean on, give me faith to wait on You.’”
Throughout My Only Rescue, The Museum accomplishes exactly what they set out to. “We are called to write songs for the church,” Richter adds. “Whether they are heard on the radio, at one of our shows, or on the album, we hope that our purpose rings out loud and clear. If we are not living lives that bring glory to Christ and that show His love to the hurting and vulnerable, we might as well not bother singing worship songs at all. In Amos God says ‘Away from me with the noise of your songs, but let justice roll on like a river.’ Do we really want to create something that adds to that noise? We put a lot of thought into every lyric and every song that we write to make sure that it is something that is true to our hearts and, more importantly, true to God’s word.”
Still only in their twenties, the mission of The Museum combines the maturity that comes from ministry experience with the zeal of youth. “Our concept of worship continues to expand,” Richter adds without missing a beat. “Singing is an aspect of worship but worship is so much more. Whether we are challenging someone to trust God through their valleys, or moving people to get involved in ending slavery in our generation, it’s all worship. We’re excited about this record, the upcoming tour and our continuing relationships with Compassion International and Not For Sale. But mostly we are excited about what God can do through simple people like us.” Josh Kirk, the one who thought of the band’s name years ago, continues to draw inspiration from his experience in Romania. “We want to sustain this revolution,” he says. “Like that little museum, we want to show the evidence of continuing spiritual revolution in our own lives and through these songs.”