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Young rocker gives it up to God

by Jordan Green

William Clayton bounds to the door at Tate Street Coffee, wearing a wide smile on a face framed by a buoyant mass of blond hair.

Running a couple minutes late for a 9:30 p.m. appointment he clutches a green plastic to-go mug and presents it to the barista. He asks if this would be considered a free refill, and then graciously accepts the counterman’s answer that no, this will have to be a new purchase because he hasn’t been on the premises of the business continuously.

The UNCG sophomore, a communications major, looks remarkably upbeat for someone who lost his band two months ago.

The Angry Canadiens, for whom Clayton sang and played rhythm guitar, could be considered minor legends in an ephemeral moment of the ever-evolving Triad rock scene. They gained a reputation of sorts for their quirky name, their frequent showing in Greensboro nightlife guides and their comfortable presentation of blazing, cathartic pop-punk rock and roll with worn-on-the-sleeve Christian faith.

It wasn’t always easy to square the rock realm, with its tacit approval of illicit intoxications and transgressive sexuality, and the righteous mandates of the church that guides their faith.

In fact, the final show on the band’s itinerary before they dissolved did not come off because of a misunderstanding along those lines. Scheduled for Memorial Baptist Church in a North Carolina town unknown to Clayton, the show was yanked because people associated with the church took offense at a reader comment “that wasn’t very positive” posted on the MySpace page of the band with whom the Angry Canadiens shared billing, he explains.

Instead, they played their last show on July 29 -‘ perhaps more appropriately – at Café Jam, a Christian concert venue on High Point Road run by Greensboro-based EagleRock International Ministries.

“It was really neat,” Clayton says. “We got to play with some friends of ours.”

It was a positive experience, he explains, because the two band members who had announced plans to leave the band were pursuing passions: a film program at UNC-Chapel Hill for bass player Ernie Gilbert and business studies at UNCG for lead guitarist Joshua Roll. A farewell message posted on the Angry Canadiens’ MySpace page would seem to dispel any notion of controversy with its proclamation, “We still love like brothers, but God has different plans for our lives.”

Clayton, a home-schooled non-denominational Christian who works part time for his parents’ embroidery and screen-printing business in addition to his academic responsibilities at UNCG, expresses confidence that God has called him to rock out for Christ. And so it seemed a fairly seamless transition – even part of God’s blueprint, Clayton suggests – that Friday Never Counts, a self-identified Christian indie rock band with whom the Angry Canadiens shared their last stage, “just happened to need a guitar player, a screamer and a guy who’s crazy about music.”

With his sights set on making a living in music, Clayton reflects on his purpose.

“I strive to be a Christian in every aspect of my life whether I’m onstage and rocking out and having a good time or not,” he says. “It’s about trying to be something positive, trying to be that Godly light, and striving for unconditional love.”

He has heard about the pitfalls and temptations of the rock life.

“There are those people who want sex; there are other bands that are into drugs,” Clayton says. “I just have to say, ‘I’m not into that.’ It’s not condemning other people.”

He also considers the sometimes adverse imperatives of the music business.

“There’s always the potential of being able to get into a bigger, more successful band and having to give up the more outward pronouncements of my faith,” Clayton says. “I would not be okay with that. I don’t think that would be being real to myself, my family and my friends.”

Before he gets up to leave in the white Toyota Tercel station wagon he drives – a vehicle plastered with bumper stickers, including one that commands, “Mosh for Jesus” – he laughs about his prospects.

“It’s just riding on faith,” he says. “It’s exciting and scary to think about what might happen.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com

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