With its debut album, PFR became one of the most popular Christian rock acts of the 1990s. Pray for Rain, released in 1992, earned the group both a Grammy Award nomination and the Dove Award for Best Christian Rock Album. PFR’s two subsequent releases of original material, Goldie’s Last Day and Great Lengths, were also critical and commercial successes, and the band was a popular concert act as well. However, by 1996 band members had tired of their professional commitments and announced that their next album, Them, would be their last. Member Patrick Andrew formed another band, Eager, while Joel Hanson and Mark Nash worked as pastors and songwriters. In 2000 a request to record a track for and album titled Roaring Lambs brought the bandmates back together and led to a full-fledged reunion of PFR. Disappear, the band’s first album of original material in five years, was released in 2001. “I think you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone,” Andrew told Christian Retailing. “We broke up, and it was a good break. But we realized we are never going to have this chemistry with anyone else. We have something special, and I think now we all see that. As our producer said, ‘You guys never really broke up; you just stopped making music.’”
The members of PFR grew up in Minnesota, where Joel Hanson and Mark Nash met at a Christian youth camp around 1987. The two teenagers were working as counselors and led religious services there. Before long, Hanson and Nash started to think about putting together a band with Nash on drums and Hanson on guitar. The two recruited Patrick Andrew to play bass for the new group, which debuted as the Joel Hanson Band. While he did not identify himself as a Christian before joining the group, Andrew soon shared his partners’ religious outlook. After several name changes, the group settled on the moniker Pray for Rain, from a poem Andrew had read. After its first album came out, the band discovered that another group was already performing as Pray for Rain and decided to carry on simply as PFR.
The trio of twenty-somethings scored an immediate hit with their debut on Sparrow Records in 1992. With its singles “Do You Want to Know Love?,” “Let Go,” and “Pray for Rain” popular on Contemporary Christian radio stations, the album Pray for Rain gained a Grammy Award nomination for Best Christian Rock Album and won the 1993 Dove Award for Rock Album of the Year. In 1994 PFR released an album that solidified its reputation as the leading power-pop group in Contemporary Christian music. Although the title of Goldie’s Last Day was taken from a song about the death of a dog, most of the tracks feature upbeat tempos balanced by soul-searching lyrics. The same style permeates PFR’s 1995 release, Great Lengths, an album Billboard praised for its “high artistic caliber.”
With the release of Great Lengths, PFR also made headway as an international act with tours across Europe. However, the pressures of touring and promoting its work took a toll on the band. Going into the studio to record its fourth album, Them, PFR had already decided that this project would be its last. The decision was mutual and amicable and PFR’s members were quick to dampen any rumors to the contrary. “Mark, Pat, and I certainly like working together,” Hanson told Billboard. “That’s not the reason this is the last record. We have been doing what we do together for eight years.… This is the time for us to move into directions that may be different from each other.”
Although it had a harder edge than the group’s previous efforts, Them turned out to be PFR’s most successful album with critics and fans. “Over the past eight years, [Andrew and Hanson] have taken the vocabulary of the top pop writers which have come before and used that song writing language to compose their own chapter in Christian music history,” reflected Bruce A. Brown in CCM Magazine. “No matter what their accomplishments as individuals, Them should help us remember PFR as an exciting and innovative band.” Rick Foux of Cmusic Web agreed: “A milestone in Christian rock, Them features some of the best music of the nineties decade,” he wrote. Them was PFR’s bestselling release with about 120,000 copies sold.
The band capped off its farewell release with the Now You See Them, Now You Don’t 12-city tour. “We are excited about these changes,” Hanson told Billboard. “We don’t want people to feel sorry for us or wonder if there are ulterior motives. This is just something that
Members include Patrick Andrew, vocals, bass; Joel Hanson, vocals, guitar; Mark Nash (born on April 29, 1971), drums.
Group formed as the Joel Hanson Band in Minnesota, late 1980s; released debut album, Pray for Rain, 1992; disbanded, 1996; re-formed, 2000; released Disappear, 2001.
Awards: Dove Award, Rock Album of the Year for Pray for Rain, 1993.
we believe in, and we are glad to be ending the group with such a good record and a chance to go out and say good-bye to people who have been so helpful to us.” With a final show in the group’s hometown of Minneapolis on September 28, 1996, PFR officially disbanded. A greatest hits compilation, The Late, Great PFR, was released in 1997.
Each of PFR’s members pursued music-related careers after the band broke up. Hanson worked as a songwriter in Nashville for EMI Christian Publishing before moving back to Minnesota in 1998 to take a position as a worship pastor. Andrew formed a new band, Eager, also based in Nashville, and after Eager disbanded, he set up a recording studio in Arizona and worked as a worship director. Nash served as a producer for other bands before joining the staff of Squint Entertainment, a division of Nashville-based Word Records, in 2000. Nash’s wife, Leigh Nash, was also on the roster of Squint Entertainment as the lead singer of crossover Christian band Sixpence None the Richer.
In 2000 Squint Entertainment was planning to release a compilation album of various Contemporary Christian artists under the title Roaring Lambs. When a producer asked Nash if PFR would be interested in contributing an original track, the three members quickly reassembled to work on the project. “Joel wrote the song [“Kingdom Come”] in a couple of days, [then] came and recorded it,” Nash told Jen Abbas of FamilyChristian.com. “We had a really good time recording. The chemistry was still there. It was like all of the reasons you get into music in the first place—just the joy of it. We talked a lot during that session. ‘What if we took this a step further?’”
When “Kingdom Come” was released to radio stations, its popularity demonstrated that PFR had not been forgotten by its fans. Still, the group went into the recording sessions for the comeback album Disappear determined not to be intimidated by the desire to match its past success. “We went into it after discussing how we could just have the joy and the fun of creating an album and not all the spin about positioning and marketing and all that,” Hanson told Christian Retailing. “We really want it to be about the music.” Whereas Andrew and Hanson had been PFR’s primary songwriters, the creative process on Disappear ed all band members sharing writing credits on the album’s ten tracks. “The only meditated decision musically was, ‘Whatever we do, let’s make sure that it’s the music we would be making now if we would’ve continued,’” Nash explained in a Jamsline interview. “We sort of wrote a four-year history for ourselves.”
The result was an album that Christianity Today called “a ravishing modern rock masterpiece that is both vibrant and melancholy, playful, and passionate.” Rick Foux of Cmusic Web echoed the sentiment, concluding that “These songs weave a masterpiece that even the least of PFR fans won’t be able to put down anytime soon.” For their part, PFR’s members were characteristically modest about the praise for Disappear. “I think maybe we just looked at [this process] more as adults now than we used to be,” Nash told FamilyChristian.com. “Before it was fun and meaningful, but it was mostly a ride we were on. [Now] we’re just trying to be really wise and [we want people] to look and go, ‘You know, those guys meant that.’”
Pray for Rain, Sparrow, 1992.
Goldie’s Last Day, Sparrow, 1994.
Great Lengths, Vireo/Sparrow, 1995.
Them, Sparrow, 1996.
The Late, Great PFR, Sparrow, 1997.
(With others) Roaring Lambs, Squint Entertainment, 2000.
Disappear, Squint Entertainment, 2001.
Billboard, March 11, 1995, p. 58; June 29, 1996, p. 10.
COM Magazine, August 1996.
Christian Retailing, http://www.christianretailing.com/article.php?sid=40 (April 19, 2002).
“Christian Rockers PRF to Return for Good after Four Years,” Allstar News, http://tinpan.fortunecity.com/drake/617/articles/pfr.htm (April 17, 2002).
Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/artists/pfr.html (April 17, 2002).
Cmusic, http://cmusicweb.com/ (April 18, 2002).
Jamsline, http://www.jamsline.com/b_pft.htm (April 18, 2002).
“PFR: Ready to Reappear,” Family Christian Stores, http://www.familychristian.com (April 18, 2002).
“The Late, Great PFR,” Praise TV, http://www.praisetv.com/artists/artist_profile.asp?artistid=70 (April 17, 2002).