Sisters of Headbanger Trio GFM Offer a Mess of Sweet Contradictions

Jacksonville sisters CJ (from left), Lulu, and Maggie English make beautiful dissonance together.EXPAND
Jacksonville sisters CJ (from left), Lulu, and Maggie English make beautiful dissonance together.
Photo by JW Lee
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They sound like the fury of a thousand angry motorcycles rushing out of the depths of Hades, guided by the sweet voices of angels on the warpath. The power trio behind this melodic cacophony is the band Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. GFM, as they’re otherwise known, are sisters CJ, Lulu, and Maggie English, from just outside of Jacksonville.

Most will peg them as a Christian rock band, a label they don’t shy away from, but they’ve also coined a genre they feel is more fitting: “beautycore.” It’s a collaboration between positive messages and riot grrrl energy. It is a jarring juxtaposition this contrast between lyrics and loudness, but more uncompromising is the group’s faith and dedication to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, an uncommon bravery in a modern world that tends to push back hard on musicians who evangelize.

We spoke to GFM ahead of their show in South Florida this weekend, and their forthrightness, their unabashed confidence in their relationship with their God was endearing. They were not shy about being vocal on a number of topics, including the idea behind beautycore.

Musically, the easiest and, frankly, laziest comparison would be something approaching the band Evanescence. However, their sound is something more along the lines of the ladies from '90s pop-punk outfit Verruca Salt fronting a hardcore screamo band. It’s a shame Warped Tour is no more because GFM would attract a dusty, yet praiseworthy mosh pit to their set.

To their credit, they list Paramore and Slipknot in their bio to give new listeners an idea of their sound, despite the fact that the latter is very much not Jesus-approved. “The bands that we reference, we don’t listen to them all because we just choose not to,” Maggie explains. “We don’t agree with the message they’re promoting. But we know a lot of people know those certain bands.”

They aren’t interested in “vulgarities” or adding to anyone’s misery. “There’s so much negative stuff in the world,” CJ says, “so why put more of it, on purpose, into your mind?”

Despite this credo, because of their style and sometimes because of where they play, GFM get accused of something very ironic. “Some people are gonna call us a Christian band; some people are gonna call us a positive-message band. People are gonna call you whatever they want,” CJ says. “People sometimes call us devil-worshippers, which doesn’t even really make sense.”

While they have played plenty of church venues, despite the loud-as-hell-rock-'n'-roll, a genre fundamentalist Christians once described as “savage” and “the Devil’s music,” GFM members claim they’ve received mostly positive feedback, even from shows where the crowd was shocked — mainly because the bookers didn’t know what they’d booked.

CJ recounts one particular reaction after a show in Texas City, Texas. “Some older people came up to us and said, ‘We don’t necessarily like your genre, but we came to support because we love your message and we want to come to help.’ They know the kids want to relate. They put the youth as their focus and wanted to find a way to connect. The fact that they did that blew me away.”

Part of that message, according to Maggie, is positioning GFM at the forefront of a women’s movement that looks to normalize the inclusion of girls and female fans in a “very male-dominated genre.”

“As an all-female band, we want to bring that confidence into the market, and say, ‘Hey, we’re girls, but we can do the same thing the guys can do,’” Maggie says. “Sometimes that means we have to work twice as hard, but it’s definitely worth it to put in all the effort if it brings confidence to these girls. We have little girls coming up to us after our shows saying, 'Oh my word. I didn’t know girls could listen to this type of music and headbang' and do all this stuff too. Guys are bringing their girlfriends, [saying] ‘I didn’t like metal music, but I like you guys.’ Dads are dancing with their kids now.”

Perhaps it’s due to a concrete system of deeply held beliefs or the boldness of youth (they’re all 20 or younger) or a strong family bond that goes beyond three sisters in a band managed by their mom. Whatever it is, they never shied away from any of questions, responding with the same energy and vigor as any of their songs.

In general, GFM is a friendly, lively, outspoken band. And if there is one comment that summarizes their outlook, it comes from Lulu, a seemingly self-contradictory sentiment, that still kind of makes sense.

“At GFM, our whole thing — we’re gonna do what we want. It’s our band. Even if someone does disagree with what we do, that’s their opinion, and that’s great for them, but as far as we know, we’re going to stick to the Bible and then do what we want.”

Liliac. With GFM and Exigent. 8 p.m. Friday, August 30, at Piper's Sports Bar & Grill, 6376 Forest Hill Blvd., Greenacres; 561-439-8249. Tickets cost $15 to $45 via piperssportsbar.com.

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