Rock team AUDIO ADRENALINE have moved steadily up the CCM ladder and now stand on the threshold of becoming one of America's biggest Christian acts. Mike Rimmer reports.
On their last release, 'Bloom', Audio Adrenaline said they were "Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus" and that's true but with the release of their new album 'Some Kind Of Zombie' they seem set to be promoted into the Premier League of Christian music bands in the USA.
On the eve of their very first headlining tour, it's a confident Mark Stewart, vocalist and lyricist with the band, who is on the telephone. "It's an exciting time for us," he confesses. "It's also a very intimidating time for us. It's exciting because we get to go out and play twenty songs, instead of seven. It's exciting because we feel like we've got a really good new record and we're really pushing that. But the intimidating side is that you have to play two hours of music and entertain people who've paid sixteen bucks to get into your show and not only that but you have to give them something that we feel is eternal. They should go away from an Audio Adrenaline show not just having been entertained, but having been changed positively, and being a headline act that responsibility falls upon your shoulders. You have to be really in tune with what God wants you to say and who you are as a band, and we're looking forward to really focusing on that and putting together a great show."
I ask Mark to elaborate on the band's ministry, what are they trying to achieve as a band? He responds, "I think our number one goal is to be about God's will in our music. We feel like we're all called to glorify God in our songs and to create great art, great music that represents Christ. We feel like one of our biggest callings is to encourage Christian young people with good music about good biblical truth, but also to be about evangelism and to be about Jesus Christ."
With a new album giving new energy to the bands, I wonder whether Mark ever gets sick of singing the old stuff and desperate to play the new stuff?
"Oh yeah, totally," Mark agrees. "I would say that after a year of singing them, it's time for something different but some songs just keep hanging around - you're always going to have to play certain songs but after a year, you tend to look around for something new."
Pondering this, I suggest it must be a bit weird when he's playing some new material and the fans aren't quite familiar with it yet? Mark replies, "Yeah, that can be scary because you put all this work into a new record and go 'here's a new song', and they'll stand there and look at you and go, 'Okay, now play something I know,' but you have to do it, you have to go through that stage where you're introducing new music and once you get through it, it becomes fun for about a year, then you're ready for some new songs again."
The 'Zombie' album reveals a broader sound than their previous albums and the band have made bold steps in experimenting. Why was this, I ask? "I think it was because 'Bloom' was so stripped down," explains Mark. "We decided to make a really pure, almost classic, live rock 'n' roll sound. Then on 'Zombie' we just decided, 'Let's do the complete opposite of that, whatever the song needs, let's put it on there,' so it's more of a grandiose production. We tried lots of different sounds for things and it was the most fun we've ever had in making a record. Hopefully people feel that it was a good experience."
Changes in the band's line up also contributed to the new sound. Long-term producer and guitarist Barry Blair is no longer with the band. His place on guitar has been filled by seventeen-year-old wonderkid Tyler Burkum. So was it difficult recording without Blair? "Yeah it was," Mark says honestly. "It was a little intimidating, it was scary because Barry's been such a big part of our sound, but once we got into the studio things just started to roll and Tyler, who's playing guitar with us right now, is an amazing guitar player with a killer sound and we just go for it and have a good time."
One of the songs which is destined to become an Audio Adrenaline classic is "Chevette". Mark explains, "My dad was a preacher when I was growing up and he pastored a pretty small church. The Chevette picture that's in the CD is a picture of the actual Chevette that my family's had for twenty years. The song's about a day in my life where I remember standing on the porch waiting for my dad to come home from the car dealership. We were all excited, really proud, 'cause it was the first brand new car we ever owned. The song is basically about how you don't need to have a lot of material things, you don't need to be influenced by the almighty dollar, but be influenced by the Almighty. It's about the things that are going to last forever and ever. My dad taught us about eternal economics, instead of present day economics, and that's what the song is about."
Prior to the album, the title song has been released as a single to some raised eyebrows, not merely because of the band's denser sound but because of the lyrical content. Mark explains that for a while his parents were missionaries, "The day after I graduated from High School my dad moved the family to Haiti, and I went to college. I would go there for breaks and I lived there for about half a year one time. It was very intriguing and I got to see the existence of the Voodoo religion and the real life existence of zombies, and that's one of the influences on coming up with 'Some Kind Of Zombie', from living in Haiti."
Mark continues to describe the voodoo culture he encountered. "Their god is named Loa. They don't believe they're worshipping the Devil; they just have their own religious cult that they follow. It's very intriguing and it's also very foolish and really weird. In a country like Haiti, the spiritual warfare is very physical and you can see evidences of God and evidences of Satan, just in the physical world around you. Rather than using hidden sins, like lust, or coveting people's money, it's very much a physical thing, like scaring people or using tricks, visual imagery and magic. Because it's physical on the dark side, God really shows himself physically to these people and it's really cool. They see it and react to it."
I suggest that a biblical equivalent might be Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Mark is quick to affirm, "Exactly, it's totally like that, it's very real. They want to see stuff, rather than think about it." So did Mark actually see zombies when he was living there? "Yeah, as a matter of fact it's very intimidating. What happens is a witch doctor has a potion and they can put it on your doorstep or wherever, or just blow it on you - it's so powerful, you go into a catatonic state, your vital signs drop to where you're presumed dead, your heartbeat's like one Of beat per minute, and you're buried alive. After two or three days a witch doctor will come back to your gravesite and he has an antidote and basically brings your vital signs back. He takes you back into the village where you once lived and he says, 'Look what I can do, I'm powerful, I'm a witch doctor. You need to pay me money and respect me and worship how I worship,' and he uses it to have power over the people."
Explaining the title song, Mark says, "We want to steal back that picture, take that power back from Satan, and say that only Jesus Christ has the true power of the resurrection and he can take people who are dead on the inside, in their hearts, and give them life again. And there's so many parallels that we drew from the fact that we become a new person. We want to go back into the places where we live and hear people say, 'Hey, I know that guy, there's something different about him.' To be dead to the things the world has to offer and dead to sin and now be enslaved to Jesus Christ, these are biblical principles."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.