The Curious Tale Of The Band Luxury, Who Escaped Tragedy And Embraced Faith

Originally published on July 8, 2019 8:52 am

The rock band Luxury started out like many other punk and indie bands in the 1990s, as college kids just looking for other people to make music with. Less common was their cultural context: They hailed from the small Georgia town of Toccoa, in a solidly evangelical milieu, and while the members were Christians they often found the venues and retailers of that community didn't quite know what to do with their brash lyrics and stage presence.

Still, Luxury's star was beginning to rise by 1995, with an expanding audience and plans to tour nationally. Then came a harrowing setback: On the way home from a festival, the band's tour van was involved in a life-threatening traffic accident, hitting the median and flipping several times. The members sustained severe injuries, including more than one broken neck — but survived, and recovered.

Today, the band is still making music, but there's one more twist: Three members are now also Eastern Orthodox priests. Their story is captured in the new documentary Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury. NPR's Renee Montagne spoke with the film's director, Matt Hinton, who joined Luxury in 1999 as a guitarist, as well as bassist Father Christopher Foley.


Interview Highlights

On the band's unlikely formation

Hinton: I wasn't in the band at that point, but from the outside looking in, what I saw was four people with very different influences, that kind of could only have formed a band in that context: In this small Southern town in the '90s, at this Christian school, they were sort of the only non-mainstream rock-and-roll guys. The drummer was into heavy metal and classic rock. The singer, Lee, was into The Smiths and that type of thing. You had Father Chris, who is more into punk rock, and particularly D.C. stuff like Fugazi and Rites of Spring. And then Jamey, who is sort of an alternative guitar guy. So those four guys had no business being in a band together. And that, to me, is what made it distinctive.

On the 1995 car accident that disrupted their career

Foley: Lee [had] a few days when he was in ICU, and they didn't know quite if he was going to make it — his internal injuries were so severe. It was just an awful, tragic accident. ... Initially, the band just got put on hold for a little bit; once everybody started healing up, we just continued to do what we did, which was to get together as soon as we could to start writing music again. I think it wasn't until maybe a few years later [that] we began to realize how deeply this affected us, and it started to change the trajectory of where we were headed. The fame and fortune and the dream of living this rock star life, it just started to fade, and what became more important was our families.

On the members' current relationship to religion

Foley: I think what drew me to the punk rock scene, initially, was this authenticity: people coming together, reacting against the evils in this world and wanting to make a change. But the Christianity that I was a part of while in college was just, in a sense, playing a single note, and I was longing for a chord. I guess you can't get more countercultural than embracing an ancient Christian tradition. And so the more that I discovered about the ancient Eastern Christian faith, it just resonated on a deep level.

We would never dream of having a rock-and-roll liturgy or something like that. ... But we also live in this world, and we are products of our culture. And so in a way, what I liked about Orthodoxy is it kind of blew away the distinctions and the dichotomies between sacred and secular. You know, we try to find a way to bring God into the midst of our talents by using them and offering them up.

Hinton: The film is called Parallel Love, [because] you have two different trajectories that run parallel to one another. They're not exactly the story of bringing rock and roll into Orthodoxy. It's people of faith living authentic lives and doing the things that they feel gifted to do.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The band Luxury started out as college kids in the 1990s who just wanted to rock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FLAMING YOUTH FLAMES ON")

LUXURY: (Singing) Please don't be so mysterious. There isn't time.

MONTAGNE: Hailing from a small town in Georgia, the band was on the rise in the punk rock scene. That's until a tragic event changed their lives. Today, the band is still making music. Three members are now also Eastern Orthodox priests. Their story is captured in the new documentary, "Parallel Love: The Story Of A Band Called Luxury." We spoke with the filmmaker Matt Hinton, who later joined the band, plus Father Christopher Foley, the bassist. I started by asking why they were on a Christian music label when they first started out.

MATT HINTON: You know, we didn't feel particularly comfortable with the Christian label. We were on a record label that was from the Christian music scene, but they really felt like they were trying to, you know, sell to both markets, trying to get some college radio airplay. But certainly when we would play Christian venues, you know, I think people didn't know quite how to take us. We were maybe a little bit too edgy.

MONTAGNE: Let me play a song from your first album. It's called "Bitter, Once Again."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BITTER, ONCE AGAIN")

LUXURY: (Singing) He's cursing the chastity belt, hoping love could be bought.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, cursing the chastity belt; other songs, by the way, not just this one, sexually suggestive lyrics.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BITTER, ONCE AGAIN")

LUXURY: (Singing) Never look down a boy's shirt 'cause nature will let you down.

MONTAGNE: How did this go down in a very evangelical Christian milieu?

HINTON: This is Matt. Records that were distributed to Christian bookstores and places like that, you know, would get returned because of lyrical content. But I think that from the outset, the idea was that that label had reach within the so-called general market, not necessarily the Christian market.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BITTER, ONCE AGAIN")

LUXURY: (Singing) Oh, isn't that what they say?

MONTAGNE: For listeners who aren't familiar with the band Luxury, it had a very captivating - one could even say hot - frontman, Lee Bozeman, whose brother was a guitarist who shredded until his fingers bled - that was Jamie Bozeman - and a gifted, extremely intense drummer, Glenn Black. Let's take a listen from some fans in your documentary.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "PARALLEL LOVE: THE STORY OF A BAND CALLED LUXURY")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I've been mildly obsessed with Luxury since I was 14.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It let you know who the sensitive guys were (laughter) or weren't if they would dress up with you and go to a Luxury show.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: And I thought, God, I can't believe these guys are from Georgia.

MONTAGNE: How quickly did Luxury really hit, Father Christopher?

CHRISTOPHER FOLEY: You know, the '90s was such a unique time in the music world, you know, after Nirvana broke and all these underground bands then all of a sudden became on the forefront. So we were touring around the southeast doing a lot of weekend gigs. We were starting to get bigger shows in Atlanta and Athens. After the first album came out, you know, there was this trajectory of, you know, we're going to play larger venues, maybe start touring in other parts of the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUXURY SONG)

MONTAGNE: And right at that moment, the band is leaving a festival, and something terrible happens.

FOLEY: Yeah, correct. I was in the car following the van that had - I don't know - nine folks maybe in the van. The driver lost control and tried to overcompensate and wound up going into the median and landed after flipping a few times. A few of the members got thrown out of the van. It was just an awful, tragic accident.

MONTAGNE: Potentially deadly.

FOLEY: Right. Yeah. Our singer, Lee - I mean, there was a few days where he was in ICU, and, you know, they didn't know quite if he was going to make it.

MONTAGNE: In the documentary, you actually see Lee Bozeman talking about this.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "PARALLEL LOVE: THE STORY OF A BAND CALLED LUXURY")

LEE BOZEMAN: They had to open me up and found that my bladder had burst, my urethra had been severed and then a lot of broken things. So my pelvis had been flattened, basically.

MONTAGNE: What effect did this have on the band and the band's ambitions?

FOLEY: I think once everybody started healing up, I don't think we sat down and had a discussion. I think we just continued to start writing music again. I think it wasn't until maybe a few years later looking back we began to realize how deeply this affected us and how it started to change the trajectory of where we were headed. I guess the fame and fortune and the dream of living this rock star life, it just started to fade. And what became more important was our families. You know, many of us were married young and started having kids.

MONTAGNE: Well, in that moment - let me just put this in a little bit of perspective. In America's rhythm and blues tradition, musicians traditionally, in fact, come out of the church. But becoming priests in the Eastern Orthodox Church...

FOLEY: (Laughter).

MONTAGNE: I can hear you laughing - I mean, you know what I'm saying. It's very unusual.

FOLEY: Yes. I think what drew me to the punk rock scene initially was this authenticity of people coming together, reacting against the evils in this world and wanting to make a change. But the Christianity while in college I felt like was just, in a sense, playing a single note, and I was longing for a chord. I guess you can't get more countercultural than embracing an ancient Christian tradition. And so the more that I discovered about the ancient Eastern Christian faith, it just resonated on a deep level.

MONTAGNE: There is a tension in the fact that, generally speaking, the Eastern Orthodox Church does not use musical instruments.

FOLEY: Well, there certainly is a tension there. But, you know, we would never dream of having, you know, like a rock 'n' roll liturgy or something like that. In a sense, that's what drew us to Orthodoxy was the fact that kind of transcended kind of a modern cultural expression of, you know, rock music. It was kind of the opposite of that. What I liked about Orthodoxy is it kind of blew away the distinctions and the dichotomies between sacred and secular. You know, those that are in the world, you know, we try to find a way to bring whatever talents we have and just lift them up and to try to bring - I don't know - somehow God into the midst of our talents by using them and offering them up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GATES OF PARADISE")

LUXURY: (Singing) The half-life is strange. Here, there is constant decay. Give praise where praise is due, I still say. Do I feel love where I used to feel hate?

MONTAGNE: This last question is to you, Matt Hinton. You are the filmmaker. What is Luxury a story of?

HINTON: So the film is called "Parallel Love." That gets at something there - that you have two different trajectories that run parallel to one another. They're not exactly a story of bringing rock 'n' roll into Orthodoxy. It's people of faith living authentic lives and doing the things that they feel gifted to do.

MONTAGNE: That was Matt Hinton and Father Christopher Foley of the band Luxury. The documentary, "Parallel Love," is out in select theaters now. Thank you both for joining us.

HINTON: Thank you.

FOLEY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GATES OF PARADISE")

LUXURY: (Singing) This side of paradise. When you close your eyes, do you ever pray? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.