Phatfish has always been a family affair. Luke (bass) and Nathan (drums) Fellingham are brothers and Nathan is married to lead singer Lou. If that's not confusing enough then there's more. Jos Wintermeyer's (guitar) wife is Lou’s sister.
Nathan reveals it was his father's "vision and encouragement" that got the band off the ground when he, Dave Fellingham, started talking about putting “something” together and it was something Nathan felt called to do.
“Lou’s name was given to us as a great singer,” laughs Nathan, “so she came and joined the band then married me which worked out really well. Having a musical family has had all sorts of benefits!”
The band have been based in Brighton since their inception. As well as helping to build Church of Christ The King, Lou has had a growing family to deal with.
“I’ve got three children, eight, five and one [years old]. You’ve got school runs with the child on your back, pushing your buggy up the hill, conversations in the school playground and today [at Big Church Day Out] I had to make sure all the kids had a picnic, sun-cream, nappies and wipes - and then you have to go on stage!”
“As a mum - as a wife, life is busy and it’s easy to look to [a future] when you won’t feel tired, when you can lose a bit of weight and get certain things that will make your life run better. But learning to be in God - be content and trust him in the now, is such an important thing. Have big dreams and visions but always with the underlining thing of, 'But I’m thankful for what I have now.'”
Being a missionary
The band describe their church as being in a time of “figuring out” how best to reach the city of Brighton.
Brighton has been described as the most godless city in the UK. You realise you have to be a missionary
“When you think about being a missionary you automatically go to the far flung places of the Earth, different languages and cultures,” Nathan says. “But actually Brighton has been described as the most godless city in the UK. You realise you have to be a missionary. We need to learn how to relate to and bring the gospel to Brighton.
“How does that effects the songs we sing, our desire to use spiritual gifts and do that in a way that draws people into something that makes sense and is full of life? We know God is going to do big things in Brighton, definitely.”
There Is A Day
From left to right: Ben Hall, Michael Sanderman, Lou and Nathan Fellingham, Jos Wintermeyer, Luke Fellingham
One of the band’s most well known songs is There Is A Day. The band say that their song has been used at many funerals; something they find “humbling”. Nathan explains how the song came about.
“I was reading a book called The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges and I honestly can’t remember exactly what it was I was reading. But there was something in there about future hope and something about it struck me with such force. As a songwriter you live for these moments."
“You often hear phrases like: 'God gave me a song,' and it makes you sceptical; like, 'did he really? It doesn’t sound like it. It’s not that great a song!' For me there’s been a few times when I’ve got a lot of help from God in the song writing and There Is A Day is one of those because the chorus came like a thunderbolt, and I was filled with such genuine excitement about the hope we have. The form of the verses came together and you knew there was something special about it.”
The band have established a large fanbase among UK Christians. They’ve played every major UK Christian summer festival in existence and released a mixture of worship and pop albums. But do the band ever dream of secular success?
“Not really,” Lou says, honestly. “You’ve got to go where you’re called to go. I’d love to, but I don’t think that’s where I’ll ever be. The door has opened in the Christian community so my job is to fill that. I’d like to be like The Beatles and change the nation, but I don’t know if that will ever be my calling.”
Rather than pushing for mainstream recognition, the band admit to “thinking a lot” about whether their songs will work in a congregational setting; although they admit writing songs for the Church isn’t always easy.
"Love God first"
Phatfish have inspired Christians of all ages. What advice would Lou give to up and coming Christian singers?
God came for relationship with us and many years can get wasted striving for other things
“Love God first is the most important thing. The women I look up to - old or young, are those who have found God and don’t care about anything else above God. The earlier you can love God first, everything flows out of there, your security, your value, how you look, what you’re living for, where your money goes, who you give your emotions to. All those things are rooted in a relationship with God. God came for relationship with us and many years can get wasted striving for other things.”
“My desire even now is to really know God more and learn his heart, hear his voice, learn how to walk with the Holy Spirit and have that active in my daily walk. It all flows out of that and who I truly believe God is.”
July 16th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes