Go Fish Bio
Pop music has long known the value of sampling and building upon a well-loved Motown hit. Toys R Us fights to keep shelves stocked with the latest twists on century-old board games, from Star Wars Battleship to Toy Story Memory. And with new versions of such favorite films as Karate Kid and Footloose, it seems even Hollywood has gotten the message: You can’t beat a classic. Nostalgic moms and dads are lining up with kids in tow, ready to share the growing line-up of souped-up childhood favorites. So maybe, just maybe, when acclaimed family entertainers Go Fish hatched a seemingly hair-brained scheme to bring hymns to kids, the beloved group—who, among numerous accolades, has appeared on The Today Show and performed before a capacity crowd at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center—just might have known what they were doing. They’re Kickin’ It Old School.
In the age of PowerPoint and video screens, many of today’s kids have never even seen a hymnal. But as Go Fish members Jamie Statema and Jason Folkmann know, the Truth is always the Truth, and those classic songs that have remained in our heads and hearts since childhood still have a place for families today—even if they’re played more often on iPods than church organs. “Technology has come so far so fast, and people just want the latest and greatest hip new thing. But a lot of the ‘meat and potatoes’ get lost,” says Jason, dad to a toddler of his own. “Keeping in mind our audience, that kids are our focus and especially families with young kids, we wanted to pass foundational songs down to the next generation—songs that were important to us growing up.”
“CS Lewis called it ‘chronological snobbery’—every generation thinks the previous generations were out of touch and we know better,” adds Jamie. “But so much in today’s world is man-centered. Many times even the Gospel becomes all about us, what’s in it for us. More than anything we’ve ever done, Kickin’ It Old School is definitely God-focused. For us it isn’t just about singing old songs, it is about teaching kids that the Truth is in the Bible.” After rocking it out on the title track, Kickin’ It Old School promptly launches into a “mash-up” of old and new. The chorus of the Larry Norman-penned “Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation,” originally released in 1970, is paired with the 1866 church classic “I Love to Tell the Story.” Given the 2010 Go Fish treatment, it becomes a party track, even with its opening organ chords and the band’s trademark harmonies. From “Blessed Assurance” to “This is My Father’s World” and “I’ll Fly Away,” parents and grandparents will find songs they can not only sing by heart, but will have fun teaching to the kids in their lives. Because they create children’s music, the Go Fish guys aren’t limited by just one style, bringing in harmonica on a favorite of Jason’s, “Shelter in the Time of Storm,” and featuring a special guest on another track.
“We came across a version of ‘Solid Rock’ that Denver and The Mile High Orchestra did big band-style, and loved it,” says Jamie, dad to three boys. “It was a joint effort—we borrowed his band and arrangement. With our harmonies, it is just a fun song.” Kickin’ It Old School is the latest installment of the biblical foundation for kids and families that Go Fish has been building since their 2003 children’s music debut, Splash. Leaving behind a career in Christian pop, the trio turned their attention to making music exclusively for kids after a series of sold-out concerts gave them a nudge toward an audience which might have been smaller in stature, but not in numbers. They found that good news—and good music—travels fast, especially on the mom circuit.
Between headlining MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) conventions and making a name for themselves with songs that explain why ladybugs should wear sunscreen and what would happen if kids ran church, Go Fish has followed up with more DVDs and a fistful of albums, including Superstar (2004), Snooze (2006), the Christmas release Snow (2006), Snazzy (2007) and Party Like A Preschooler (2008). “We’re just different. Our music is almost secondary,” says Jamie. “We take pride in our work and art, but our priority is sharing the Gospel and teaching the Bible to kids. Our success doesn’t depend on the next radio single. The only people that matter to us are parents, kids and children’s pastors. In fact, we hardly put money into advertising any other way—when parents, kids, and grandparents hear it, they spread the word.”
For a band that aimed to be the next dcTalk and now consistently sells-out children’s concerts from coast to coast, it is apparent how truly unique Go Fish is. While hymns might not be the obvious choice for a new kids album, you also won’t find many touring bands creating their own Vacation Bible School curriculum to pair with it. Originally released in 2009, “Backstage With The Bible” was the band’s first VBS curriculum, having been used in over a thousand churches to date. And after talking with children’s pastors around the country who embraced their program, Go Fish realized they had a new job on their hands—one they have taken very seriously in creating their second VBS for use next year, the “Kickin’ It Old School” curriculum. “Creating the music is just the first part. When we finish the CD our job is only beginning,” says Jamie. “For our Vacation Bible School curriculum, we teamed up with the experts for help. Our experience is that children’s pastors are some of the sharpest people we’ve ever worked with, so essentially, a lot of the ‘Kickin’ It Old School’ materials have been written by the people who we are writing it for.”
As with their new album, the VBS curriculum is a rally cry to join the Go Fish guys in getting back to the Bible, and both go even deeper than before because of the hymns. “If you look back and ask kids what they made for crafts or had for treats, they probably won’t remember. But the songs you learn when you’re little just stick with you,” Jamie states. Given all the things we grown-ups have tucked away from our childhoods—“You sank my Battleship!” “Wax on, wax off.” On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross—it’s good to know the important things stick with us, and that the Truth, indeed, never changes. It’s a foundation that Go Fish wants to pass on to generation after generation, keeping the Bible in the tiny hands of our children—and Kickin’ It Old School.