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Local band sets passion, heart on fire

Originally published in the November 19, 2010 issue

In a darkened church in the middle of the night, I experienced something mystifyingly powerful. Through closed doors in a Peoria Methodist church, melodious sounds escaped and enveloped the parking lot.

I felt as if I was embarking on an underground, private session of the band Brand New. To the members of the five-man band The Centralia Mine Fire, this was just another practice. To bass player and junior interactive media major Ryan Murphy, this is the highlight of his week.

In addition to Ryan, the independent band is composed of two Illinois State students, piano player and main vocalist TJ Syndram and guitarist Jeremy Grusy, as well as two ICC students, drummer Matt Taylor and guitarist Josiah Rosenberger.

The five combine to form an ensemble that is entirely unique, yet take influences from artists like Explosions in the Sky and La Dispute.

But these guys didn’t always have this same sound, or even the same name. Formerly Dressing Up Letters, the band decided to make the transition from a piano-pop, younger sound to a mature, meaningful one that now defines the group.

This reinvention came with a seemingly obscure name change. The band came up with the new name when they stumbled upon a YouTube video for the town of Centralia, Penn. that has become famous for an ongoing fire in the underground coal mines. It has been said that there is enough fuel in the mines to keep the fire burning for 1,000 years.

The band played its last show as Dressing Up Letters in April 2009 in Ohio and has since been known as The Centralia Mine Fire.

Since the band’s inception in 2009, they have played about 30 shows throughout the Midwest. The group is also wrapping up work on an EP they recorded at Music Creek Studios in St. Louis.

As the group can attest to, it takes a lot of work to put together an EP, especially for five college students who have busy schedules to begin with. The group spent about a week recording the four song EP, which revolves around the search for wisdom.

The band focuses their message around their deeply-rooted Christian beliefs which help to hold their music together. However, this Christian belief seems to be one of the only strings tying the members together as they are extremely diverse in most other ways.

They listen to all different types of music, which can make collaborating on their own a challenge. But according to them, this diversity makes them unique, and in the music business, being able to stand out is incredibly important.

Syndram’s lyrics tell a story the listener is left to interpret, as many of the lines have “like 16 different meanings,” according to Syndram. To him, lyrics are about poetry and they must act as that.

The last line of the last track, which has remained untitled, says “My soul waits for the lord more than watchmen for the morning.” This statement really embodies the message and purpose of the band, which is the message they wish to impart on their fans.

Murphy has worked to promote this message and the band itself and has acquired the title of “social media genius.” He maintains the band’s Facebook page, as well as a Twitter account and many other applications.

Sitting in that dark church, listening to music played in its most raw and passionate form, I felt more emotion and heart coming from these guys than I have at most concerts.