Christian crossover bands bring dance moves and funky grooves to Winter Jam

When most people think of Christian rock, five outrageously dressed guys nicknamed Crouton, Fatty and Chap Stique pumping out hooks and humor like the Mutant Ninja Turtles of electro glam-pop isn’t typically what comes to mind. But Atlanta’s Family Force 5 is part of an increasingly eclectic group of Christian crossovers that bop from secular clubs to massive Christian festivals like Winter Jam.

It plays the 20th-anniversary Winter Jam on Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena with Skillet, Jeremy Camp, Francesca Battistelli, King & Country, Building 429, Newsong and speaker Tony Nolan.

“The day after our tour with (Christian artists) the David Crowder Band and Mercy Me ended, we flew to the UK and played a festival with Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Rammstein and Motley Crue,” says guitarist Derek “Chap Stique” Mount. “We have been able to play in front of a lot of audiences most faith-based bands don’t get to see.”

Witnessing the band’s colorful live show or over-the-top videos wouldn’t necessarily clue you in to their religious affiliation.

“Family Force 5 has always just been a party,” says Mount. “We don’t cater the show on Warped Tour or the show we’re going to play on the Winter Jam to (a particular kind of crowd). It’s a really fun, joyous occasion. It’s a big dance party. We believe being authentic and true to your calling is a big part of faith and how we live our lives.”

With seven bands and Nolan (not to mention a pre-party), there will be plenty of time to testify, emote, and get serious about God, and FF5’s songs are all silly pop tunes.

“We believe in the body of Christ. Instead of being the folded hands, we might be the dancing shoes. There’s a time and place for everything. People love the relief and the laughter and the tongue-and-cheek elements whether they’re watching one of our videos or coming to the show. We want people to laugh and have joy and escape,” he says.

Family Force 5’s eclecticism can be traced to its diverse roots. Brothers Solomon, Joshua and Jacob Olds are the sons of 1980s Christian artist Jerome Olds; they toured as a boy band called the Brothers in the ’90s.

“The three brothers were performing at (the massive) Creation (festival) and played with DC Talk, the Newsboys, and Carmen. They grew up understanding this world a lot more than I did,” says Mount. “I went to see a lot of hair metal bands, Kings X and Dream Theater.”

That’s not to say the members don’t have music in common.

“We’re all Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine fans and experienced the grunge era,” he adds.

Winter Jam will be the first time for many FF5 fans to see its new lineup. Drummer Jacob moved to vocals when his brother Solomon decided to leave the band to focus on family. But by all accounts, Jacob “Crouton” Olds may have found his calling.

“It was the best decision for him and for us,” Mount says of Solomon’s departure. “We’ve been on the road 200 days a year, and the rest of us don’t have any children. It’s been hard for him to miss a lot of his son’s childhood.”

Adds Mount, “It’s been awesome having Jacob up front. He’s got incredible dance moves that were hidden.”

They chose new drummer Teddy “Hollywood” Boldt after seeing him in “this amazing orange suit with cool zebra striped socks and bright blue shoes,” Mount says, laughing. “That’s kind of our trademark – being out there with our fashions.”

How did the re-energized band react?

“Solomon and Jacob definitely have different voices. We stumbled upon this new sound that fits Jacob’s voice really well. It allowed us to embrace this new wave-y, Passion Pit, Tears for Fears sound with stacked falsetto vocals,” he says.

But that also meant tweaking old songs.

“Solomon used to scream, and Fatty ended up having this amazing scream. Everybody just stepped up our roles. We view it as how Van Halen changed from Roth to Hagar or (Genesis’) Peter Gabriel versus Phil Collins … explore new sounds, but keep familiar elements,” he says. “People who grew up with Family Force 5 have said it sounds more like classic Family Force 5 than it has in the last few years.”