Joe Brunker was juggling his marketing day job and gigs as the band Over the Sun‘s lead vocalist when he came to a realization.
“I wanted to impact people,” the Plainfield resident said.
So he teamed with the Tomorrow’s Alliance Community Rocks Project, a group raising money and awareness for the United Service Organizations and Lions Club. On Saturday, Sept. 30, Brunker and Over the Sun are playing a USO benefit show at the Brookfield VFW Hall, the first of a string of benefits planned for the rest of the year.
The commitment started when Brunker was coming off a gig participating in tornado relief projects, and he realized he wanted to do more. Rallying his troops — Colin Mackenzie of Naperville, Nick Stubblefield of Oswego and Chris Marszalek of Romeoville — Brunker and the (mostly) alternative rock band set up a string of shows where they’d donate a portion of the album sales to different charities.
That desire to serve is not surprising, considering this band of Millenials first met on a church mission trip.
Facing some drug problems in his teen years, Brunker was sent on the mission trip as part of his parents’ attempt to steer him in the right direction. “I ended up going on this trip, and I got in deep trouble because I would walk away and smoke weed.”
“He was the punk kid that no one liked,” Mackenzie joked.
“Fast forward a few years, and me and Colin started becoming really good friends,” Brunker said. “And then I started singing on the worship team at church. And Chris and Nick were already playing on it.”
“We had been a good tight-knit group of friends before,” Colin added. “We went through a bunch of retreats, built that brotherhood, built a friendship before even starting the band. Now it’s like a family kind of thing.”
The self-proclaimed “musical misfits” come from varied musical influences, all of which heavily inform their set list.
“I love pop. I grew up on pop,” Mackenzie said. “I had an older sister, so she had control of the radio. Chris grew up on ’80s metal, hair metal. Nick was classic rock and Jack Johnson, Elton John. We bring a very diverse group of genres for inspiration. It creates an interesting set.”
The band’s main sound is firmly alternative rock, sometimes with touches of reggae, but a recent show illustrated the band’s tight, timeless quality when a ’90s grunge-inspired song led into a cover of Dion DiMucci’s “Runaround Sue” — without bringing things to a screeching halt. They followed it with a crowd-pleasing version of “House of the Rising Sun,” but with a gospel twist.
“It’s all part of the story,” Mackenzie added. “When you hear a couple of our songs, a lot of the songs that Joe writes, there’s some acknowledgment of God. … We’re Christians in a band; we’re not a Christian band.”
“We’re not necessarily a religious band,” Brunker said. “We do believe. That’s the truth. … We want to reach people regardless of who they are, where they’re from, what they do and what they believe.”
“We’re not trying to save the world,” he added. “We’re trying to save one person from going down a destructive path. If a lyric can touch somebody, regardless of belief, I don’t care. As long as that person is helped.”