The Rolling Stones did it. Led Zeppelin did it. Fleetwood Mac is doing it again.
There are a lot of reasons why iconic rock bands reunite, make new records and take the whole shebang out on tour after years of being out of sight and off the charts. For some, it’s the love of the music. It’s the thrill of the spotlight. They’re almost always back by popular demand. And at the bottom line, it’s almost always about the money.
For multi Grammy-winning Audio Adrenaline, the ‘90s Christian rock band who called it quits back in 2007, none of those reasons were good enough.
As Christian bands go, they’d been there and done that. They had a huge following, charted 17 No. 1 hits, sold over three million records, garnered two GRAMMY? Awards as well as multiple Dove Awards. They’d paid their dues on the road, headlining big tours. Their music had already impacted a generation. So when Mark Stuart, lead singer/songwriter for the band, who had been diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, had exhausted all medical options and showed little signs of improvement, AA was left with no choice but to say goodbye.
Frankly, their priorities had shifted when, in 2003, Stuart and band mate Will McGinniss had founded the Hands & Feet Project, a non-profit ministry in earthquake-devastated Haiti. By 2012, Stuart and his wife had adopted three Haitian children of their own, and with the help of his parents, the Hands & Feet Project had begun providing care and housing for over 100 orphaned and abandoned children in Jacmel and Grand Goave, and employment for 80 Haitian adults. “I was 100% focused on Hands & Feet,” Stuart says, “so the idea of relaunching Audio Adrenaline wasn’t even on my radar.”
Having enjoyed life off the road with his wife and children, McGinniss wrestled with the bigger issues of motivation and how reviving the band might distract from the mission. “[Hands & Feet] is not some fleeting commitment without any depth,” he explains. “This is a lifetime dedication for Mark and I to give back to the children of Haiti.”
Serving orphaned children in Haiti had trumped anything Audio Adrenaline had accomplished in its successful career, but when their friend and manager Wes Campbell suggested that the band could play an integral role in the mission, the wheels began to turn. The only meaningful reason to relaunch Audio Adrenaline: to make music that directly, financially benefits orphaned children in Haiti.
No longer up to the vocal task, Stuart connected with Kevin Max of dcTalk fame, and miraculously things just began falling into place. Max, who was adopted as a child, jumped at the opportunity to be part of something bigger than the music. “I’ve known these guys from the beginning of my career, and what I loved about this idea was that whatever came out of it would be greater than the sum of its parts.”
Kings & Queens
With Stuart taking a key role in production and songwriting, the group solidified with even more surprising additions: former Superchick guitarist Dave Ghazarian, drummer Jared Byers, formerly of Bleach, and keyboardist Jason Walker all jumped on board. Through collaborative efforts, Stuart, Max and McGinniss whittled 50 new songs down to ten, and what emerged was Kings & Queens—with a portion of the net proceeds going to benefit AA’s Hands & Feet Project ministry.
Set for release in March of 2013, Kings & Queens delivers the energy and passion Audio Adrenaline fans have always expected from the band, along with a renewed sense of mission and purpose. “Over 17 years as a band, we’ve sounded different on almost every record,” Stuart explains. “This record keeps pushing and yet thematically and lyrically, it’s dead center where AA always has been.”
The title track, “Kings & Queens,” written by Juan Otero and Kevin Max, personifies everything Hands & Feet represents as an organization. “We shot the music video in Haiti at our homes in the village of Cyvadier with all these beautiful Haitian children,” McGinniss says. “It’s so amazing to think of how God surrounds these children, the vastness of their potential and how He’s writing this huge story in their lives. They are God’s little ones, and they will impact their culture from the inside out with God’s love. We tried to capture that idea in the vastness of the landscape, the ocean and the cliffs, the greenest greens and in purple the color of God’s majesty.”
Destined to be a radio favorite, the tune “Believer” is a fearless declaration, a sonic revelation of AA’s mission: “I can see through the darkness, I hold up a flame, I’m not afraid, I’m a believer....” As so many AA songs have been, it’s a powerful reminder for believers that the power of Christ is alive in each of us. The theme of fearlessness continues on the percussion-driven anthem “20:17 (Raise The Banner),” one of the most unforgettable moments on the record. Add this one to the history of AA touring favorites, a captivating battle cry for this generation to put faith into action to change the world. “...Put the armies in the back and the singers in the front... raise the banner high, march with I and I, lift your voices up loud and high... strength and unity, faith and victory, ...we put our weapons down, we raise up worship...”
“Change My Name,” a driving rock anthem of rescue and restoration that showcases Max’s distinctive style and vocal range, is fast becoming a fan favorite. “He Moves, You Move” cranks out the dance-party guitar groove AA is known for, packing a lyrical punch: “Right now is all you ever have, so forget the past and don’t worry about the future. He’s the author of your story, so let Him take you on the journey....”
In these and all the songs on Kings & Queens, Audio Adrenaline establishes a new benchmark in artistry and purpose.
“Honestly, I feel this is one of the best records, if not THE best, AA has ever put together,” Stuart says of Kings & Queens, “God gave us songs we could never have written without Him. And it’s not because of the Hands & Feet Project. I know it might sound weird or cliché, but I can sense something really powerful is happening. It’s about bigger themes; it’s about redemption. It’s about the Gospel itself. It’s about inspiring others to dream bigger and to move toward redemption, grace and love, no matter where they are in life.”
The power of redemption to change lives is ancient truth, but it’s never been more important because these men resolutely believe that God has bigger plans for Audio Adrenaline than what fueled their band before.
“I was always somewhat motivated by fear of failure and people’s opinions, which is ridiculous,” Stuart says. “So putting this band back out is pretty intimidating. This isn’t ‘Make a record and do ten shows and see what happens.’ This is a group of men coming together, making a commitment for years to come to do something significant, in terms of music, communication and ministry. It feels right for all of us.”
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