You might not think that a first-century Jewish rabbi-turned-missionary who originally hailed from ancient Turkey, and four guys in a 21st-century rock band from Tulsa, Oklahoma, would have much in common.
But you’d be wrong.
Likewise, the apostle known as Paul probably never could have imagined that one day, 21 centuries after he lived, a band called Pillar would deliver the very same message of Christ’s love that he did—this time around via the incendiary crunch of distorted power chords paired with roaring vocals, over the cacophony of crashing drums and the bone-rattling thump of the bass.
Paul wouldn’t, however, be surprised at the message he heard in those songs: “Fight through the hurt, fight through the pain,” Pillar front man Rob Beckley sings on the title track of the band’s fifth full-length studio album, For the Love of the Game. “Without the ache, there is no gain/And we live our lives for the love of the game!”
That arena-pounding anthem sets the stage for the ten-track project about tenacious faith, as the chorus echoes Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
“You’re going to face trials,” Rob says, talking about the spiritual catalyst behind this song and the album as a whole. “But those are what sculpt us and make us stronger. Just like in a battle, just like in a sport, just like running in a race, it’s pretty cut and dried. You only have two choices: It’s win or lose. There are no overtimes or do-overs or tie-breakers. You only get one shot. And so with that thought in mind, we really want people to get this vision on the record. It’s very important to us to see people come to Christ, to have their walks with Christ encouraged and strengthened.”
Continuing that sports analogy, Rob also talks about how the album title reflects the strenuous training and discipline elite athletes undergo in their pursuit of total domination. “Think of how a football player is constantly preparing. In the off-season, there’s training and preparation. There is never truly ‘time off’ from the game. And if you start to look at the spiritual application of this idea,” Rob continues, “you see a parallel. If athletes can put in that kind of training, what kind of effort should we be putting into our relationship with Christ? As the Church, I think we need to be even better, we need to put in the time and training to be everything that God has for us. What we’re trying to say is that pursuing Christ equals ‘the game’.”
“But just because we’re training hard doesn’t mean that we can’t have some fun in the process…having a blast is an integral part of ‘the love of the game.’ We’ve regained focus on who we are as a band,” Rob says. “We’re a festival band. We want to see mobs of people singing along.” The result of said refocusing? A driving and dynamic album—100% old-school Pillar.
Some might suggest that the massively-hook-laden, fist-in-the-air rock anthem went the way of the dinosaur in the early days of the ‘90s. But Pillar hopes to bring that endangered species back from the brink of extinction. “One of the things I told our producer, Travis Wyrick (P.O.D., Disciple, Spoken), who’s done all our records, was that we wanna go back to a kind of era that was all about the big songs,” Rob says. “Stuff that you can just move to and get sweaty to and sing along to. Stuff filled with hooks—you know, just open up Grandpa’s tackle box and take out all the hooks you want.”
In the spirit of infectious, gang-style vocals, one of the band’s goals on this album was simply to have fun. “A couple of words that we really focused on were big and fun. And I think we captured that on the record,” Rob notes. “We love what we get to do. We get to say that we play rock ‘n’ roll for a living. We get to see people’s lives changed.”
Whether it’s the band’s raucous battle cries to get in the spiritual fight on “For the Love of the Game,” “Throwdown,” “Get Back,” and “Reckless Youth”; their plea to engage in world missions in “State of Emergency”; their poignant message from the perspective of a deceased loved one in heaven in “Smiling Down”; their challenge to fence-sitters to make up their minds on “The Runaway” and “Forever Starts Now”; or the reflective reminder that God wants us to give Him the reigns of control in our lives in “I Fade Away”—there’s no mistaking Pillar’s passion for its message and its music.
One track the band is particularly proud of is “Turn It Up.” “It’s a tribute to Christian music,” Rob explains. “Every lyric in that song is an album title or song title from another Christian band, with the exception of two lines. All in all, there are 34 bands represented in that song, bands whose songs have influenced us and impacted us. Here’s an example of one line from ‘Turn It Up’: ‘In the healing rain (Michael W. Smith)/There is beauty for pain (Superchic[k])/But the scars remain (Disciple).’”
Rob also shares, “In preparation for writing and recording For the Love of the Game, I listened to a whole lot of Christian music. Prior to Pillar, I didn’t know the Christian music world existed. Over the last year, I’ve fully come to understand just how well the Christian music world is established. In today’s music market, Christian bands are starting to set musical standards. Bands like Underoath, for example, are really making a huge impact on the music scene, and that is really cool to me.” And, Rob notes, he’s proud to be a part of a genre that knows how to rock even as it delivers an eternally life-changing message of hope: “I want people to know that we are a Christian band. We love the fact of who we are. This is what we’re a part of. So don’t be ashamed of Christian music. Turn it up!”
Good old-fashioned hard-rawking power marks For the Love of the Game as one of the most potent efforts in this Tulsa quartet’s career. Beckley says simply, “I think arguably it’s our best record to date.”
Consider yourself warned: This is Pillar reloaded.