Aaron Wiederspahn of the Band Dear Ephesus
North Park College
April 18, 1998
By Linda T. Stonehocker
Pictures by Shari Lloyd
Dear Ephesus feels its way
through everything. For want of a better category, what they do is called
"emo," short for emotion; a feelings-based rock music style. Purists, however,
don't consider Dear Ephesus to be an emo band, which is fine with the band's
founder, Aaron Wiederspahn: "We'd never even heard of emo. There are a
few bands that I listen to that were classified as emo, but I didn't know
that. I'm a really big fan of Sunny Day Real Estate. Later, we found out
about the emo scene, and people were classifying us because of my interests.
Then record labels started, just as a marketing thing, to give us that
tag. I guess they say 'emo' just because we're emotional, but it was an
as long as people understand that the emotion that comes into our music is because we feel passionately, intensely strongly about it."
Offstage, Wiederspahn is an explosion of artistic creativity. In addition to penning all of Dear Ephesus’s lyrics, he writes poetry, plays, and is even developing a screenplay. "I just love the medium. I love the beauty, and how it can capture so many emotions and feelings and send across so many messages. It can provoke so many people to thought and it is already communicating spiritual themes, just not the spiritual themes I would hope that it would."
The urge to communicate led him to host a radio show in his hometown, Orlando, Florida and establish a coffeehouse. Inspired by his admiration for pioneer recording artist Keith Green, he and his wife have opened their home to others who share his vision of exploring new ways to share the Gospel artistically. "We're trying to build a community of Christian believers who love each other, and out of our love, and servanthood and growth for each other, have an effect on our community and society in Orlando. I believe so much of American society is caught up in materialism. We're not free to really spend our energy and time concerning ourselves with the things that God wanted us to be concerned with because we're so worried about our mortgage."
Wiederspahn began his career
as an actor. "I was a professional actor five days after I graduated from
high school. It was a weird time. I had just become a Christian and I was
weak. I left my hometown for the job, I wasn't discipled, and boom! I was
in the whole secular world of art. It is pretty much anything goes. I had
theater professors who would tell people that if you are a virgin, you
need to have a sexual experience because you
need to draw from as much life experience as possible to relate to your characters. Without Jesus I could've totally slipped away into the New York City underground life, experimental theater of the absurd, the whole artsy world. I would have been totally content to do that type of stuff."
He quickly moved from commercial
work into missions, but the issue of being real began to nag him. With
a friend, he began writing and playing acoustic music. "God brought me
the love and the joy, and started teaching me this lesson about putting
aside all this pretentiousness and this quest to make it to the top that
so envelopes people of the world. Other friends joined, and Dear Ephesus
was born. “I'm not interested in building up fans,
I'm not interested in building up some kind of a scene, I just want to share what God has given."
Standing in front of an audience would be a natural arena for Wiederspahn'’s acting skills, but he knows the difference between reality and fiction, and is choosing to simply be himself. "On stage, I've always been a decent entertainer, but God stripped everything out of me. There have been several incidents on stage [with the band when] it's been totally unplayable. God has moved my heart, and I've broken down crying. I feel like an idiot, but God's trying to impart the point about breaking down all barriers with each other, just being real, being vulnerable. I love art. I love beauty. I'm really intense and passionate about things I believe in. I feel like every other human being does, and that's what I want communicated to people, but it is hard sometimes because you risk a lot."
Dear Ephesus spent last winter touring with ska and punk bands. Said Wiederspahn, "The audience were not people who would ever go for music like ours. It was a bummer because we were not ever in front of a crowd that was there for our type of stuff, but it was cool because we exposed people to stuff they had never heard, and gained a new audience. People are starting to understand our message and what we're about. They're there because they want to be inspired, they want to be moved, they want to be touched, they want to feel something. I'm not about trying to convert people to my style. It's just that this is the way we're looking at it, and I love it."
The band may use warm fuzzies
and hard fury to convey their message, but according to Wiederspahn, what
they want to accomplish is simple and direct: "A sincere and pure love
for Jesus. Simple devotion as followers of Christ. The band's name comes
from Revelation 2. It's a call to the church to return to our first love.
That's what we're about, and we're
sincere about it."