Jacob’s Ladder recently caught up with London-based worshippers Eyes like Elijah to discuss their call to ministry, their approach to worship and branding, the dilemmas created by the social media age, and their forthcoming debut mini-album Beware Of The Wide Gate.
Jacob’s Ladder: So, who is Eyes like Elijah?
What are the creative roles that you and your wife assume in Eyes like Elijah?
So far, l’ve been responsible for most of the writing, playing the keyboards, and programming the sequenced parts of the tracks.
However, Ladidi is increasingly becoming more involved and has written a couple of songs, which we’re hoping to complete by early 2020. One song in particular is partially sung in the West African language of Hausa, and is accompanied by various traditional West African instruments, which is inpsired from Ladidi’s West African heritage.
It sounds like you guys are expanding on your sound.
(laughs) Oh yes, we do keep evolving!
Do you consider yourself a band or a duo?
Neither really. I see Eyes like Elijah as being an electro-ministry. We are the antithesis to being a musical act, with little concern for album sales, touring, or merchandising.
If you follow the format of being a band, or duo for that matter, then there is a risk that your primary focus will be on yourselves and not God. Our focus is on worshipping God, and introducing people to Jesus.
How did Eyes like Elijah come into being?
There wasn’t a particular “aha” moment; it certainly wasn’t the road to Damascus….
When the Spirit spoke to me I think I was actually on a train going to Croydon! (laughs)
The Eyes like Elijah worship has been an evolving journey: I was in various bands when I was younger, but I guess as time went by, I lost interest in making music, due to the usual pressures of a career and living in a busy city.
About 10 years ago, I started to write music again, although initially without any particular focus. Then, the Holy Spirit gave me a message: “Don’t leave them behind.”
How did you translate the Holy Spirit’s message into what is now your worship ministry?
I have a lot of secular friends that like electro music, and I do talk to them about Jesus. But I don’t think any of them has given their life to Christ yet.
I believe that the Holy Spirit was telling me with this message “Don’t leave them behind” to reach out to my friends – and others – through electro worship music, instead of relying upon conversation to spread the Gospel.
Also, my wife and l both attend Hillsong Church in London, which has a strong culture of making excellent worship music, so the notion of using music to both worship God and to reach out to the world seemed to fit with what I felt the Holy Spirit had said about Eyes like Elijah.
How did you come up with the name ‘Eyes like Elijah’?
Eyes like Elijah is just another way of saying that we should have faith, or vision, like the prophet Elijah.
Could you explain how this image of Elijah is applicable to us today?
Yes of course! Imagine you have been invited to a BBQ by some secular friends. In a modern day application of (1 Kings 18:20-40), the host is having trouble lighting the BBQ, when one of the guests sarcastically suggests that you should light it because surely God would help you!
Would you lean on your faith, or would you resort to worldly solutions like adding lighter fluid to the BBQ? What if you poured water on the BBQ and then started to praise God, just as Elijah did (1 Kings 18:31-38)? I can just imagine the shocked looks on the faces of the other guests!
So, you don’t get invited to many BBQ parties then?
(laughs) Sadly not! But all jokes aside, Elijah is one of the superheroes of the Bible, and we wanted to make that central to our worship ministry.
In what way?
When people think of superheroes, they often have images of say, Iron Man – he’s courageous, equipped with extraordinary powers, and he’s an overcomer. So, we based the Eyes like Elijah logo around that type of superhero image.
What material have you produced so far?
However, our biggest achievement is our forcoming mini-album, Beware Of The Wide Gate, which is our debut.
What is the inspiration behind your forthcoming mini-album?
Well, the title is inspired from (Matthew 7:13). To be honest, the story behind the conception of our mini-album Beware of the Wide Gate is a little embarrassing! (shakes his head and laughs)
As I have previously mentioned, I started writing about 10 years ago. The songs on our mini-album originated during this time. At one stage, Beware Of The Wide Gate actually had the working title No More Procrastinating, because I had written something like 70 songs and not actually recorded any of them! (laughs)
But you obviously overcame your procrastination and recorded some of those 70 songs!
(laughs) Yes, we have now recorded 10 of them, most of which we want to use as our debut mini-album early next year. So far, 5 of these have made it onto YouTube, although it is likely that the versions that appear on the mini-album will be different mixes.
That sounds like you’ve been on quite a creative journey.
Yes, we have! (pauses) God always has a bigger plan though: All of our hard work has paid off, and we have just been asked to appear for the next 12 months at the Saturday Night Life worship event in London hosted by justworship.org.uk. They invited us after having heard just a couple of our tracks on YouTube!
It must be an amazing feeling to be able to take your music live to the public.
(nodding in agreement) It definitely is! And the great thing is, because of our extensive repertoire, we are now in the position of having quite a selection of songs to perform. Therefore, we’re currently concentrating on recording some of these, plus working on rehearsing the live performance side of our worship.
What is your listener profile?
In terms of reaching out to the world, our worship has a very retro-electro style. In fact, somebody commented recently that we sounded like one of the bands from 1982! (laughs) Lots of these bands are now reforming and embarking on comeback tours, so there’s defiantly an interest in the retro-electro genre.
That being said, we find that our music appeals to a broad age range: Some of our listeners grew up in the 70s/early 80s listening to artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre, OMD, or Kraftwerk. On the other end of the spectrum, we have younger audiences, who include secular artists such as Christine and the Queens, or Chvrches in their listening repertoire.
Regardless of their demographic, our listeners mean a lot to us. I really hope that anyone that hears our worship will be touched by the Holy Spirit and brought to Christ. It might not be an instant conversion, but I do hope that it might be the beginning of a glorious journey for some secular listeners.
I really hear your heart for ministry in your words.
Oh absolutely! (pauses) I know this will sound like a cross between a cliché and a car sticker, but it really is about “Don’t follow me – follow Jesus”.
To build on what I said about using music to both worship God and reach out to the world, I guess that the worship element should be based on the Word of God – to be pleasing to God. Most of our work quotes directly from the Bible, and I hope we are achieving that objective.
Your debut mini-album is entitled “Beware Of The Wide Gate”. What was the spiritual journey for you in making the tracks?
For me, it is always wherever the Holy Spirit leads me. Sometimes that can be with a simple riff that can be hummed or whistled; other times there can be a specific Bible verse that I feel the Holy Spirit guiding me towards, which we then marry together with a tune that we’ve been working on. Either way, I always feel guided by the Holy Spirit – even down to minute details, such as when to take a break for ten minutes! (laughs)
Talk to me about the sound of your forthcoming debut mini-album.
Beware Of The wide Gate will have a very retro-synthesizer sound. Although the retro genre of synth music is something of a niche, we feel that it is our specific calling.
Could you elaborate on that?
In the Bible it states that we are all called to go out into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
As Eyes of Elijah, we believe that we have been sent as disciples into the genre of retro-sounding synth music.
To some, synthesizer-based worship music may seem very unconventional, and a far cry from the traditional image of worshippers strumming accoustic guitars – dare I say possibly with a tambourine or two in the mix. And that’s great that God has sent disciples into those music genres.
However, there are whole swathes of people that listen to retro-synth music in the secular world, with some of the secular acts filling huge arenas and even stadia globally. Our calling is to introduce them to Jesus.
How much does your choice of musical genre influence the Gospel that you wish to portray to your listeners?
Although the synthesizer sounds are really important to us, they are only being used as a vehicle for delivering the message – and that is the Word of God.
Hence, we always quote the biblical inspiration alongside the song title. Sometimes the title is a direct quotation, such as our track “Iron Sharpens Iron” (Proverbs 27:17), whereas others may be less direct, such as “God’s Telephone Number”, based on Matthew 6:6, which tells us to go into a room alone to pray.
So, making that transparent connection to Scripture in your songs is an integral part of your ministry?
I think it is important to give the Scriptures origin, as it enables people to read further. It also keeps us as artists in check; we don’t want to meander and start offering our opinion – we want to spread God’s Word.
In recent years, some Christian artists have broken out onto the mainstream charts with music that expresses a more discreet biblical message. What influenced your decision to compromise commercial acceptance for the Gospel?
I did initially wonder if directly referencing Scripture would make the tracks commercially unviable – which actually convinced me that it was the right approach! However, we don’t want to start making compromises – you should never compromise when it comes to God!
The whole purpose of our ministry is about worshipping God, not about gaining acceptability – especially commercial acceptability. You cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24).
That is an admirable approach to serving.
I think there’s a differentiation between being a musical act singing about Jesus, as opposed to being a worshipper. I’m not being critical – we all have different callings – I’m just noting the different approach.
An alternative approach would have been to introduce the Bible by stealth – sort of, “Do you like our track? Hey, great! By the way, do you know it is based on scripture?”
I think that approach is fine, and quite a few other artists take that route. It just wasn’t the way I felt the Holy Spirit lead me with Eyes like Elijah. Jesus tells us, “Those who deny me before men, I will deny before My Father” (Matt 10:33). It has to be about Jesus first.
I guess the ‘Jesus first’ guides everything about Eyes like Elijah?
Definitely! But there’s been lots of dilemmas along the way. As I say, we don’t compromise…but many decisions have shades of grey as opposed to clear black and white demarcation. For example, giving the band a name could risk taking focus away from Jesus, hence we felt compelled to have a scripture-based name. We’re not anonymous, but we’re not overly forward about identifying the members of Eyes like Elijah, because it isn’t about us – it is all about Jesus.
Deciding how and when to promote ourselves is another dilemma. For example, we do have merchandise, but it always has a strong Christian theme – and we tend to give a lot of it away anyway!
What role does social media play in informing the world of Eyes of Elijah?
Ironically, the dilemma we struggled with most when forming our ministry was social media. We recognized that this was an important way to spread God’s Word, but it is also an area of the internet filled with numerous pitfalls. There seems to be an obsession in society with obtaining social media ‘likes’. Worship is for God, and I don’t think He uses the thumbs-up icon on social media! (laughs)
So, what online platforms do you use?
In the end, we decided to only use LinkedIn for networking, and YouTube for making the worship tracks available. Additionally, we will also have links to all of the tracks on the mini-album via our own website www.eyeslikeelijah.co.uk
Where can l download or purchase your music?
Again, we were influenced by the biblical principle of not serving both God and money, so we decided to just release our tracks free of charge via YouTube, as opposed to charging for them.
We’re hoping we can maintain that approach with the mini-album – although we may have to consider how we would pay for the cost of production if we release it in CD format.
Of course, having a retro style, it would probably lend itself towards being issued on vinyl and cassette!
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today and for sharing the ministry that God has placed on your hearts. We wish Eyes of Elijah all the best in their future endeavours, and are thoughts and prayers are with you.
Thank you for having us on Jacob’s Ladder! We too, will be praying for your ministry!
Eyes like Elijah will be appearing in London at the Saturday Night Life worship event hosted by justworship.org.uk on Saturday 19th October 2019. Tickets for the event are available from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/saturday-night-life-tickets-65101041969