By Mike Szymanski
Luxury, had I known of them in the 1990s, would have become a favorite band of mine in my youth had I known about them. Their influences were the same as mine that I loved as a young teen, when the parents of the up-and-coming band members were giving their children albums from KISS, and Queen, and the Beatles.
What may have turned me off is that they were also loosely known as a Christian band, although that monicker didn’t come until much later in their history, and they were often considered too subversive for such a label.
The legacy of Luxury is captured well in this new documentary, and the ups and downs of this band is as fascinating as any more well-known group. And especially since three of the five band members have become ministers, and they also made a reunion album.
Matt Hinton, the director, writer and producer of this documentary, “Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury,” grew up in Atlanta, not far from the north Georgia town where most of these band members grew up and were influenced. Hinton prefers to do documentaries on familiar subjects, like his first film about Sacred Harp singers, which he and his wife perform, in the movie “Awake, My Soul: the Story of the Sacred Harp.” He knew about the incredible details of the band Luxury because he joined the group in the late 1990s and knew a lot of the behind-the-scenes stories.
The doc follows the small-town band from northern Georgia that began as a post-punk band and eventually became a well-known Christian rock group and then three of its members became Orthodox priests.
Each one of the band members came from completely incompatible musical backgrounds, but when they came together they created a sound that was punk, but melodic, and compared to Fugazi and to The Smiths.
They were controversial too, and began to draw a crowd. They were ahead of their times, according to some music experts. Grunge before there was such a thing, mixing ideas from British and American rock that seemed avant garde at the time.
But then, just as they were poised for success, they had a devastating van accident and almost everyone in the car broke their necks.
The way the story is told is through interviews and actual footage of the band. They talk about audiences where only four were in the audience, and you can see the sad showing in footage. You see the aftermath of the van accident with all their recovery video shot in hospital beds. The story is intertwined with interviews of the band and the people around them both present day and some from the past.
With two decades of footage from concerts and recording sessions, Hunton has pieced together a compelling and exciting story.
“Why didn’t Luxury make it,” one of the pundits questions. “Did Christians kill them?” The answer seems possible, according to the documentary.
In the early days there were a lot of pretty girls following around the band of sweaty guys banging on guitars with a self-absorbed front man. The band was punk in spirit, the front man was an animal.
Bass player Chris Foley heard the band, was impressed with the drummer Glenn Black and wanted to play with them. “I couldn’t believe these guys came from Georgia,” Foley recalled.
Black, from Michigan, comes from a family that traveled around a lot and joined a carnival and then he said, “It gets weirder and darker from there.”
Lead singer Lee Bozeman talks about how the group played anywhere they could: skateboard parks, libraries, bookstores and more. Then, they developed a following.
Part of their attraction was the ambiguous sexuality their band and their lyrics portrayed, even though the song writers insist nothing was meant to be sexual or ambiguous. The married and heterosexual band talked about “reaching out and touching him” and “looking down a boy’s shirt.” Then, there were the bisexual lyrics like “First if was James, now June. Any regrets?”
People thought the bad was gay, or at least a few of them. The band members played it a bit feminine. The mainstream press was scandalized, the Christian followers were intrigued and titillated.
Christian youth never saw anything like this fluidity that the band seemed to present as they sang about gender with loud guitars and soft voices. It was queer sounds from straight guys, one critic explains. And another says, “Christians have the inability to take a joke.”
“Nude at last, I make you gasp,” one controversial line went. They said they were not embarrassed by their music, or their lyrics.
One sums it up as “They were racy without being vulgar.”
A turning point was definitely the van accident in 1995 and the doc doesn’t shy away from the neck braces and cages that the band suffered. Then, one of them had a calling, and others followed. The documentary shows where all of their religious and spiritual beliefs now lie.
The last part of the film shows how Luxury came together to make a new record with the three priests in their new vocations. The record is considered one of their best.
Matt Hinton already won a few awards for this documentary “Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury” and most likely will win more.
It is also a way of discovering a band you may never have heard about and may become a fan of, and how many times does that happen anymore?