Like every theological tradition, US evangelicalism is as much a subculture as it is a set of beliefs. It’s a community built on shared practices and products, and few have been more commercially successful in the past decades than contemporary Christian music (CCM). That phrase may evoke squeaky-clean pop playing in the minivans of many an evangelical childhood. But as those children of the ’80s and ’90s came of age, many of them began looking for something more potent. For them, the Christian music worth listening to came from a record label called Tooth & Nail.
Since 1994, out of a nondescript office building in an upper-middle-class Seattle neighborhood, Tooth & Nail and its associated imprints have released 600 albums by 200 bands. There’s the wall-of-sound guitar sludge of Starflyer 59’s “Blue Collar Love” and the raucous anarchy of MxPx’s “Punk Rawk Show”; the paranoid shouts of Roadside Monument and the high-energy ska of the O.C. Supertones; the guttural growls of Underoath and Norma Jean; the strained emotion of Pedro the Lion and the Juliana Theory.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Tooth & Nail has commissioned a short documentary, No New Kinda Story. It details the genesis of the label and the alternative Christian music scene it spawned throughout the 1990s. Directed by Jesse Bryan, the film is not an exhaustive history as much as a record of Tooth & Nail’s early years, starting as a gleam in the eye of Brandon Ebel, the son of a megachurch pastor.
In keeping with Tooth & Nail’s alternative ethos, No New Kinda Story is less sanitized than you might expect from a label-sponsored project. Its black-and-white, one-on-one ...