Rocking Hard for the Things of God

Seven Sorrows is something of an anomaly: an authentically and unapologetically Catholic rock band that doesn’t sing for financial profit and rocks a little too hard for some tastes.

Comprised of guitarist-vocalist Dan Anguis, drummer Mike Grothem and his wife, bassist Angie Grothem, the band is making a name for itself playing for youth groups and Catholic conferences around its home base in southern California. At each stop, they present themselves as “proud to be conservative, bound to the Holy Father, faithful to the magisterium, consecrated to the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary, and we are not afraid to speak against that which goes against our Catholic beliefs, such as abortion, contraception, pornography, premarital sex, immodest dress, drunkenness, etc.” (That’s their mission statement as posted on their website.)

Mike Grothem spoke with Register correspondent Iain Bernhoft.

What inspired you to form a Catholic rock band?

My wife and I had been in bands before, but [we] quit to raise a family. I grew tired of bad — morally bad — music, so I tried looking for Catholic rock bands. I couldn’t find any. I don’t think it has ever crossed people’s minds.

So you felt that the need was there?

We had been teaching confirmation classes for two years, and saw that a lot of kids had no idea about the basics of the faith. We wanted to find a way to bring young people into the Church and help them know their faith better.

What’s the significance of the band’s name “Seven Sorrows”?

We got the idea from Angie. She’s had a devotion to the sorrowful heart of Mary for years. It’s an awesome devotion; it’s become huge for all of us. What it says is that no matter what sorrow you have, nothing can top Mary’s sorrow. You haven’t had a sinless son who was God, then have to watch him die. But she was probably praying for his killers. All the sorrow she had brought her closer to God.

Do you share this devotion with audiences?

Yes. We talk about it all the time. We hand out prayer cards and we’ll soon have information about it on our website, I think it’s an awesome devotion for teens particularly. Being a teen is the worst; you’re always sad or angry about something.

Are teens your main audience?

We play mainly for youth groups and conferences. But we’ll play for anyone who will listen. We’re trying to get people thinking. We plant the seed and leave the rest to God. A while back, a young man told us he’d been having sex with his girlfriend, but after hearing the song “Regret” he realized his mistake and changed the relationship.

There are countless issues facing youth today. What are some major themes you address?

Confession is a huge one. It’s so important and many youths have never learned about it, or have learned to ignore it. Also, one of our main goals is to promote eucharistic adoration. Many of our songs and lyrics are written during adoration.

You also combine talks with your shows. How does that work?

We have some prepared talks that people can choose — confession, adoration and the Eucharist, along with issues such as abortion, contraception and pre-marital sex. Also, we talk between songs, saying what each song is about.

What do you think is the power of music in evangelization?

Well, it gets people’s attention. You can give the most awesome talk, and look out and see all the people are sleeping. But music can be very powerful. A woman came up to Dan after a recent show and told him, “I couldn’t always understand what you were singing, but something in your music made me cry.”

Have audiences generally responded positively to your message?

We’ve had a really positive reaction. After the shows, people come up to us with some crazy ideas, but they’re respectful and sincere. Youth leaders are really refreshed by our mission, because they know that kids respect someone who gives it to them straight. And sometimes, kids might be more willing to listen to us since we’re new faces and “cool” because we’re in a band.

You have a policy of not charging for any of your services. How does that work?

Our focus is ministry, and that’s not something you should charge people for. A lot of the time, youth groups don’t have any money. So if we were charging $300 for a show, we’d never see the ones who need it the most. We’ve reached thousands more people through giving our music away than if we charged, and donations have covered all our costs. We just received $300 from a Protestant who only recently heard of us.

How have you been received by the Catholic media?

We can’t get on much Catholic TV or radio because of our “harder” sound. EWTN said  they liked what we were doing, but didn’t think they were ready to play us because we were “too hard.”

Some might say that hard rock is somehow secular or un-Christian. What are your thoughts?

I can understand that, but obviously I don’t agree. Some music does sound very angry, but anger is good or bad depending on how you use it. Kids are raised on this sort of music, and it’s what they’re going to like. What’s important is to direct them toward things that are pure. Music reaches emotions, but the lyrics are what direct the emotion.

Your music ranges from acoustic to almost hard-core heavy metal. What direction are you taking it in?

On our new album we have more acoustic songs, specifically for adoration, and also some Latin chant. But there’ll also be songs that are heavier, with strong and clear vocals. Dan has a really good voice. We tell people, “If you don’t like our CD, listen to the other half.”

When will the album be completed?

Probably within six months. We’re also recording a video for one of our most popular new songs, “Plea for Life.” Pro-life music videos are absolutely unheard of, so we want to make this as big as possible. We’ll get it out on DVDs and the Internet, and hopefully the media will cover it and pro-life groups will support us.

Do you see yourself expanding to a national arena?

There are hundreds of churches in our diocese and area. We could play shows every week for three or four years and not repeat at a church. But it’s all about following God’s calling. Right now, it seems like we’ll be doing this for a long time, but who knows? If God just wants us to reach one person and then stop, we’re happy with that. We do want to play at some bigger conferences this summer to help spread the word about the band, though.

Is it a struggle to balance being Catholic with being in a band?

We all work on keeping each other pure and holy, and look to each other for support. I think the normal attitude is, “We’re in a band — we have to win fans and sell CDs.” But we go out and tell people the opposite of what they want to hear and somehow we’re gaining fans. Everything we do is against the world, but for some reason we’re still ahead. God keeps coming through for us.

Iain Bernhoft writes from

Spokane, Washington.