“We’ve actually never played this song live before,” Zandy Fitzgerald said as she stepped up to the mic with her electric guitar.
The band had come back on the stage after 30 seconds of students chanting “one more song.” When their performance was finally over, all four of them made their way into the crowd of college students dancing to the after-concert music. The whole band joined in for a few minutes before heading to the back to sell t-shirts to the long line of people that was already starting to form.
The New Respects band, based out of Nashville since 2011, is a group consisting of siblings Lexi, Zandy, and Darius Fitzgerald, along with their cousin Jasmine Mullen who is the lead vocalist. Mullen, daughter of well-known Christian recording artist Nicole C. Mullen, and the Fitzgeralds grew up around gospel music and ministry. They began performing together in high school, calling themselves the John Hancock Band and playing music with an indie-folk flavor. After high school, the band’s style of music began to shift to alternative, informed by R&B, blues and early rock.
“We were gonna be the first black Mumford and Sons, banjos and everything. And we were terrible,” Zandy said, laughing, as she introduced the next song they were about to play, which sounded nothing like Mumford and Sons. When the song began, Darius popped a bright red twizzler in his mouth and finished chewing it as he started drumming an energetic, soulful beat.
In 2016, the group changed their name to The New Respects when they signed with Capitol CMG, and soon after released two singles, “Hey!” and “Trouble.” On March 10, 2017, they made their debut, releasing the Here Comes Trouble EP. Now, they travel and perform alongside bands and artists such as Needtobreathe, The Lone Bellow, Jon Foreman, and Gavin Degraw, as they work to create more of their own music.
The synergy among the four musicians on stage paired with the skillful way in which they involved the crowd with their music set them apart as quality entertainers and artists. Now, in their early twenties, having grown up together and having traveled and performed as a group for six years, they communicated on stage with simple glances and grins that the audience enjoyed watching but couldn’t understand. And that was the beauty of it.
Sharing in each other’s joys and struggles, they also shared with the Union students in attendance about their purpose in performing and how hard it can be at times. Twin sisters Lexi and Zandy said their philosophy is to go to places where the people listening to their music would be initially offended by the name of Jesus.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, but coming to Union, I feel like I’m home,” Lexi said.
They don’t call themselves Christian artists, because it would be a major turn-off in some of the places they perform. But their songs are full of gospel messages and their goal is to be a light, even if it requires a specific strategy.
“The New Respects were an amazing band to work with,” said David Kagaruki, sophomore Christian ministry and missions major and assistant sound engineer. “From setup to sound check, getting to know them and hearing them perform, I was encouraged by their vibe and the way they interacted with students. The way they infused their relationship with Christ into their music and performance was something that really grabbed my attention.”
Photo courtesy of Gretchen Foels