It has been said that God has a perfect plan for each of us, and that He’s equipped us in just the right way to fulfill that plan. There are tragic tales of sad souls who never quite figure out their purpose, and joyful testimonies of those who just know they’re fulfilling their calling. And then, in between, there are those who have a pretty good idea of what God wants for them and yet somehow, inexplicably, they fight it. We’ve probably all been there at some point.
Todd Larson, front man for new BEC Recordings artist An Epic, No Less, knows exactly how it feels to see God’s path and still try to go your own way. “I had been playing music for a long time. I knew where God wanted me. I knew He wanted me playing praise music, but I just told Him, ‘No. That’s the most neutered, boring style of music there is. I don’t want to do that.’ So I just played in these rock bands. I would have tremendous bad luck, and God would make it clear it wasn’t the right thing for me to do, but I would just pour even more energy into the effort, and it ended up really frustrating me.”
For Larson, surrender finally came in a faraway place. “I went on a mission trip to Uganda with some people from church. I know there’s nothing magical about ‘going to Africa’, but I just told the Lord, ‘As long as I’m getting so far away from home I would really like to take this time to focus on what You want me to do.’ I just separated myself from everything. I was working at this orphan’s hostel, alone, scraping concrete off these walls; it was monotonous. There was an inch of water on the ground. It was dark and cold. That’s where the Lord reminded me of a short sentence: the gates of His kingdom are called to praise. All of a sudden, I felt myself being able to have the faith and the strength to accept the path the Lord wanted me on. I felt my spirit be able to accept that.”
And so begins the story of An Epic, No Less. Larson’s transition did not happen all at once – he states that “It took me about a year to really be obedient” – but he knew right away that he was finally allowing God to work. His church shocked him with start-up money. His producer immediately jumped on board, pouring in songwriting ideas on his own time and his own dime. “I was in this stream,” Larson recalls, “where all of a sudden things were going the right way. I wasn’t fighting against the current anymore. I was going the way I was supposed to. It’s been our effort to remain in that stream, to not grasp onto things so hard, to let God take control. It’s just our job to manage the pieces that He gives us.”
Larson founded the band alongside best friend and drummer Daniel Chancellor. The two met at a little country church in Carbondale, Illinois, while both were attending Southern Illinois University. Dan’s marriage to Hannah Chancellor created the opportunity to expand. Larson describes her contributions: “Hannah plays keyboards and sings. I was flattered that she would want to be in the band. She’s so intelligent, and she has that spark that people are drawn to.”
Conversations about how to round out the band ensued, and the idea to feature a live string player emerged. The so-called “stream” of God’s will was still flowing strong, and the band met a young virtuoso violinist, Britney Stutz, who just happened to be enthusiastic about playing worship music. Finally, a big dose of skill and experience was added when guitarist Neil Endicott joined. Neil splits time between Epic and Run Kid Run. Recalling their meeting, Larson said, “I talked to him about what the Lord was doing with us, how we were excited about it. I could tell he and I had the same passions as far as praise and worship music. I remember him saying that, in the end, we get to play songs that help people in worship. I could tell that was satisfying enough for him.”
That theme – helping people in worship – became the band’s rallying cry, the goal statement towards which all decisions would be made. “I’ve tried to do stuff by myself before,” Larson confesses, “and I’m terrible. I know that it’s God using me that makes all the difference. When it comes to my time on Earth, I know that I want to be seeking after the kingdom of God. I want to help people in worship and prayer.”
The thought even led to the band’s curious name, which comes from a quote by John Eldredge that came from Dan’s journal: “… because they knew the Christian life as an epic, no less than the greatest myths the world has ever known.” Larson explains: “I didn’t want my life to be just boring and mundane and mediocre. I really wanted my life to affect other people. I know I was created to sing songs and make art and help people, and I just felt an urgency in my mid- to late-twenties that I needed to spend as much possible time doing those things to make my life really matter. I was blessed that God gave us this outlet to do those things. That’s what I want my life, and this ministry to be: no less than the greatest thing that God has for it.”
Released August 14, 2012, the band’s debut album, “Echo of Love”, chronicles their part in the epic. Their bright, engaging sound complements lyrics that set simple truths in the context of insightful imagery. We Need You is a prime example. The song was born in a moment of frustration, when a failed songwriting effort was finally scrapped. Someone grabbed a guitar and the foundational words came: “We need You!” Basic principles like these rely on a deep and rich foundation, and the song does not ignore the sublime bedrock, with lyrics like these: “If You’re hope for the broken, we are shattered glass. But there’s a light that glows between the cracks.”
Lead single Mercy Light emerged from the Biblical account of the request of Moses to behold the glory of God. The chorus voices that desire. “You’re my mercy light, in the darkest night. All I ask, don’t hide Yourself from me.” The song’s video by Tennyson S. Tanner tackles the issue of human trafficking. It’s a harrowing visual that reminds us that God’s rescue can be actualized through the church if we don’t just talk about good, but actually do it. Similarly, Echo of Love declares, “We are the hands, we are the feet, we are the love of God that people will meet.”
These songs are just complex enough to engage the listener without falling off the cliff of inaccessibility. Production by Dustin Burnett (Newsboys, The Wrecking, Augustana) ensures vocals and instrumentation combine in a unique and identifiable sound. And throughout, the band continues to enjoy the swift-flowing current of their God-ordained mission: to echo love through worship and prayer.