Preview by Joshua Maloni
A pulsing beat, strumming guitar and an anthemic chorus that cries out, "Run wild, against the tide/Chariots of fire on the hillside/Breathe free, it's who you are/Guided by the fires on the North Star/Stay strong, be brave/Ripples turn to tidal waves/Don't you know?"
It's a perfect song for a summer drive, top down, cruising by the water.
If you've read your Bible, it's also the story of Moses leading the children of Israel from under Pharaoh's hand and out of Egypt.
A synth beat on top of a Coldplay-like reprise and lyrics that exclaim, "Sunlight, sunlight/On her face, on her face/She wants to feel/Sunlight, sunlight/On her face, on her face."
It has the feel of a love song - and it is, but not like you'd think.
The song, you see, was written for a prostitute.
It's not for a woman of the night looking to make a dollar, but rather for an innocent child thrust into an unthinkable world.
"I was there on the day that they sold her/While she went away where they told her. ... She's a child and a bride in Sahara dune/She's a daughter of Syria and Cameroon/From the streets of Brazil/To the hills of Thailand/On the bullet-strewn fields of Uganda sand/She's maybe 15/She's American/She's praying/Are you listening/Do you understand?"
Welcome to Remedy Drive.
This is a band that's as talented as any act on mainstream radio, but, for frontman David Zach, the music is not for fame, fortune or even fans. It's about
calling attention to ending human trafficking. Zach's mission in life is to free children - young women, in particular - from being sold.
Remarkably - one might say incomprehensively or even insanely - he crafted the melodies while working undercover with The Exodus Road and law enforcement agencies in places including Southeast Asia and Latin America.
These stories, and the songs that comprise Remedy Drive's 2017 release "The North Star," will be featured on stage at Kingdom Bound. Zach and his bandmates will perform at 7 p.m. Monday, July 30, on the Darien Lake Awaken Stage
Zach recently spoke with this writer. An edited Q&A follows.
David Zach, center, and Remedy Drive. (Photos courtesy of Turning Point Media Relations)
Q: How did this become a part of your life? Obviously it's a horrible thing that's happening around the world. What made you get into this fight?
David Zach: I started writing an album called "Commodity" six years ago. Some of it was inspired by feeling like a commodity myself in the music industry; which I think a lot of us can sense that in one way or another in our careers and in our jobs - feeling bought and sold.
But then I watched a documentary about boy soldiers with my daughter and she says to me, "Dad, why doesn't God protect those boys?" And just the way she said that, like these kids are slaves; they're ripped from their families, their sisters are forced to be the child brides of the generals. And so I just started writing the lyric, like, "Jesus, where are you?"
And the more I wrote, I said, "I'm a soul inside a body; I'm not a commodity." I started getting the sense that I'm supposed to be part of this fight. And a lot of my heroes that I studied to write the lyric were Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist; William Wilberforce, who said that you can choose the other way, but you never again say that you did not know; and Harriet Tubman - her bravery going down and rescuing slaves and bringing them to safety with the Underground Railroad.
That history goes all the way back to Moses and the fire on the mountainside, and there's always been an abolitionist movement. There's always been people that know there's something awful going on, that have been able to look the other way, and then there's been other people that decided "I'm not going to look the other way any longer." And I think the more I studied from my lyric I realized I can't just be another person that sings or talks about an issue; I got to be part of this.
And in this an amazing moment of convergence, I met Matt Parker, who founded the abolitionist organization The Exodus Road; and he was looking for a band just to talk about what The Exodus Road does, from stage, and try to help raise awareness and raise funds.
And as he's talking to me, I realized this guy has three kids. I have three kids. If he can do it, I can do it. And as he's describing an undercover operation and going into brothels and going into red-light districts, spying on criminal networks and syndicated crime organizations, there was just something in me that moved. I said, "Matt, I can't just sing about this; I've got to join you." That meeting was where it all started for us.
Q: You're a singer by trade. How do you prepare yourself to go into that world? How do you make sure that you're safe? How does that come together for you?
David Zach: I like to say, jokingly, unlike Liam Neeson's character in that "Taken" movie. I possess a particular set of skills. I don't possess a particular set of skills. He does. You know, I'm a songwriter. And that was what's so cool: Matt didn't have that background, either. Even though most of the guys I'm going undercover with have a law enforcement or military/special forces background ... at the same time it's not safe for them. It's not safe for me.
And contrary to what I believe is a false interpretation of the words of Jesus, Christianity is not supposed to be safe for me or my family. That's not real. It's not supposed to just concentrate on what is positive and what's encouraging. There is something more out there that needs to be focused on. And it sounds radical, but it's not radical. That is just the purpose of Christianity, is first to go put our lives at risk for other people's freedom, for other people's needs - to lay down our lives in service to somebody else.
And it took kind to doing this work for me to realize that that's what the purpose of when Jesus said we're supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. And when they asked him who the neighbor was, he talks about a guy that put himself in a dangerous situation on a road between Jericho and Jerusalem. And that was actually a parable that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the day before they shot him in the head. And in that last speech on April 3, he said now is the time to for us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. And honestly, that quote - among all those other examples of people's bravery throughout history - is what really pulled me into this, is that one quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
Q: You sing about a young girl whom you weren't able to specifically help or to free from this life ("Sunlight on Her Face"). But I know you have also seen some of these organizations get broken up, and you have seen people rescued, and you have seen change while you've been on these trips. How important is that to you as a sort of motivation to keep going in this fight?
David Zach: Well, there's 40 million people impacted by slavery today. And I get discouraged, because a lot of times some of the undercover missions that I'm on, we don't succeed, in a sense that we don't get these girls out of slavery. And I've met hundreds of girls myself as I'm going undercover using covert cameras and covert gear, and we use cyberforensics gear, we use all this technology to find and end sex trafficking. And we find the evidence.
And it's not just finding the evidence for me; this is a person that I know now. This is a 15-year-old or a 14-year-old girl, or maybe a 22-year-old mother from Uganda or a girl from Latin America or Southeast Asia. And I know their story. We're able to translate; we're able to talk a little bit. I know her story. I know that she misses the simplicity of her live in the countryside. And that's hard for me to leave her there.
But that's what we have to do: We have to leave the girls there, and then use that evidence that we've gathered to hopefully partner with authorities to go and take down that crime syndicate, take down that brothel or whatever - whoever's taken advantage of these girls - to figure out how to disrupt that. Because that's how we create systemic change in the region. But it's not easy to leave her. I said, honestly, it's the hardest thing I've ever done. You just want to, essentially, just run with her.
But at the same time, I know that success isn't necessarily measured by how many girls we rescue. Although we do keep track of that, and I think The Exodus Road is going to hit 1,000 this year, hopefully. We're at somewhere around 940 people that have been rescued so far, and hundreds of arrests, as well, of the traffickers. But what I keep in mind, whether it's fighting against sex trafficking or helping to get people that need medicine medicine, or helping feed or dig wells, whatever we're doing, we're instructed by our gospel to do. We are instructed, which is a strong word. But when I read scripture, it's pretty clear this is what we're supposed to do with our salvation. We're supposed to be involved in these causes, in the name of the king of the universe.
But I don't feel like I'm putting a dent in it. You know, 1,000 out of a million is a virtual zero. A thousand out of 40 million is a virtual zero. But the success I measure it, is that, here we are in 2018, and slavery is abounding. It's at an all-time high on our watch, and I just want to be out there in the fight against it, because, when the king returns, he's going to end it. I don't know how he'll do it, but with a snap of the fingers it'll be over. Slavery will be a thing of history. But to look back at this time in history, when there is a few who stood against this evil and did a little thing, and it seems so small, it seems so insignificant, but I gotta maintain that naïve, childlike belief that the five loaves and two fish that I bring to the table matter. And I really do believe that it matters.
Q: I mean, when we talk about the music and when we talk about taking these ideas and this motivation and putting it to song, you know, you've got the '80s sort of vibe, you've got the '90s stuff going on, you've got hip-hop and electronic and all these different sorts of sounds that you've paired with it. I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to put a topic like this, that's so serious and so important, to music, let alone different kinds of music, different genres of music. How do you even remotely sort of wrap your brain around putting this all together into a song and try to find these different sounds?
David Zach: You know, sometimes, one moment in particular, I was riding a moped in the mountains of Southeast Asia and I just had a lyric come to mind. And I pull over. I write that in the notes section on my phone. Or if I read a quote, if I see somebody tweet something interesting, those things become lyrics. Or if I hear someone speaking, or hear another song, I just have all these couplets, little rhymes, and then it's hard to organize them altogether.
But in terms of the way it sounds, the way it feels, my brother and I, Phillip, produced the album. We started the album on top of hotels in Southeast Asia. And I'd go and do casework at night. I brought Phillip into some of these places with me. I brought my wife with me into some of these places. And then we'd go on record and write music on the tops of hotel roofs or on beaches.
The album starts with - you can hear the sound of a bird that's native to Cambodia and Thailand, because I wanted that oppression, that darkness, to find its way into the very melodies and into the way we made our sounds. And at the same time, in the studio, when we would come up with a sound, even though we have those '80s elements and some of that synth and electronica, we tried really hard to keep everything organic. And we built our own sounds from scratch, rather than just using stuff that existed, just to breathe as much of our humanity into the craft of the music as we could.
Q: So, like you said, I mean, this is a big fight. It's not something that everybody is running out to do. But, for the people that read this article, for the people who come and see you at Kingdom Bound, how can people get involved? How can they support the causes that you and your band are supporting?
David Zach: At first, when I started talking about this stuff, I had to dial back, because I thought, "Man, why isn't everybody doing this?" And I do agree with you that not everybody's moved to this particular area in the arena of justice or mercy or compassion. But for those that are, I think we are all, as followers of the king, instructed to be involved in something.
And The Exodus Road
is one of many cool organizations that are fighting slavery. If you wanted to find out when a rescue happens with The Exodus Road, you can text Remedy to 51555, and then you'll get a text on your phone saying two girls were rescued in India, or five girls were rescued in Thailand.
And those things make my day, when I get those messages. And even if you're not gonna get involved, just to do that. But if you do that - text Remedy to 51555 - you'll get a link with an opportunity to either support operatives in the field, financially, or maybe buy spy gear. There's people that have done car washes or spaghetti feeds or concerts that help fund and raise awareness for the work of The Exodus Road. So, there's a lot of cool ways to get involved.