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By Gabriel San Roman
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By Mike Seeley
Phil Neujahr plays in an earnestly grandiose indie-rock band with his two brothers. They wisely opted for the name Aushua over Neujahr.
Your band name is pretty distinctive.
We're actually all Christians, and we wanted something that reflected that a little bit.
And several of the band members are related?
Three of us are brothers. I'm the bass player, the lead guitarist and drummer—we're all brothers. I'm the oldest of the three. I took two of my brothers out of college in Minnesota to help start this band. That was about a year ago. My parents were pretty pissed-off.
Are you from Minnesota?
We're originally from Wisconsin. My parents started teaching out in California, so we came out when we were younger. But we still have a lot of ties to the Midwest, and my brothers decided to go back and become Lutheran school teachers. They put that on hold to do this band thing for a while.
You mentioned you are all Christians. Do you consider yourself a Christian band?
It comes into the lyrics, but we're not out to preach. What we say and what we do is how we live, and it reflects in our band. But we don't want to pull ourselves away from anyone else. This is who we are. If you want to listen to our band, and you want to listen to the lyrics—great. If you don't like it, that's okay, too, but this is who we are. But we're not a Christian band in terms of . . . we're not out to play at churches only.
So you play religious and nonreligious music venues?
Yeah. We do play some church shows, but we do play the bar scene, the club scene. That's fine. We enjoy it, and that's where people hear music. People don't go to churches to hear music. They go to churches to worship. We play pretty much wherever we can whenever we can.
Do people not realize you're a Christian band when you play nonreligious venues?
We don't really talk about it. Like I said, we're not out to preach. We're out there playing the songs that we love. If someone wants to buy a CD and look at the lyrics and talk about it, we'd be happy to talk about it. But we're out there to play music. That's our main goal. The music reflects how we live.
With that approach, and maybe people thinking Christian bands only play Christian venues, are people ever surprised to find out you're a Christian band?
Yeah. I don't think people really know, and that's okay with us. We want people to like our band because of our music. We'll definitely talk about it if people want to talk about it, but we're just here to play music. We're not here to tell people what to think and what to believe.
How is it playing in a band with your two brothers?
It's tough because I feel partially responsible for it. Ultimately, it was their decision. When we pulled them out, we didn't have a band. Our singer had never sung before in front of a crowd. Everything we were doing was completely new. My little brother had never played in a band before, and I pulled him out of college. It was really scary. They're super-strong individuals. Everyone in this band has really adapted into their role. It's made the decision a lot easier to take, especially for my parents.
Do people crack Hanson jokes?
Yeah, we hear that all the time. It's funny. I think that emotional bond you have with your family comes across in your music. You're able to write better music with people you can trust and get along with. I've been in those bands where you met these guys online, or they're friends of friends and you don't really know them. Making music is such an intimate thing that it's really great to be able to do that with people you love, your brothers, your family. And we all live together, so we're around one another all the time. I think it shows in the music. I wouldn't change it for anything. If our band were to never do anything . . . this has been the most amazing year of my life.