Tony Cummings met up with British rock three piece ELECTRALYTE
In recent years there's probably been no Christian rock band whose debut album has been more eagerly awaited than Electralyte's. To judge just how large and enthusiastic the grassroots support for this Essex-based band actually is one only has to read the howls of protests and annoyed readers' comments that greeted Cross Rhythms review of Electralyte's self-titled independent EP of 2005 with which the CR reviewer wasn't particularly impressed. With memories of those withering denouncements of Cross Rhythms' inability to spot true rock 'n' roll originality, I met up with the trio just prior to the release of their debut ICC album 'Breakout' wondering whether the band would greet this particular Cross Rhythms representative with a hail of abuse, or something worse. In fact, the group - Matt Leeder (vocals, guitar), Paul Leverate (bass) and Jon Mitson (drums) - turned out to be both gracious and friendly. And Paul even has a theory at the heatedly, passionate fan base response to that lukewarm review. "I think a lot of it was the result that Electralyte has been born out of the Salvation Army. A rock band are such a new thing to have in Salvation Army circles, and young people are so happy to have a band from their own people that they've got very much on board with us. It's really exciting for us but also quite humbling."
Matt explains a little more about the band's origins. "The Salvation Army wanted to start a rock band to help young people worship in a style that is more accessible to them. Now it's grown to something bigger because we're looking outside those walls."
Although not all the members of Electralyte worship at the Salvation Army
themselves, they still do regular performances for the denomination.
They've also worked with famed singer/songwriter and worship leader
Paul explains how the connection happened. "That probably come about through me mostly. There's a guy at my home called Chris Spring and he's been writing some material and playing keyboards with Paul Oakley. Chris got together with Paul and did some co-writing with him and then Chris introduced him to me. I do a lot of recording and work as an engineer and producer. So Chris and I produced and mixed Paul's 'Antiphony' album. It sort of grew from there. Paul wanted to take the songs on 'Antiphony' live, there had been some changes to his group, so he was looking for some new guys to join him. I volunteered Jon and Matt to pitch in as well, and that's how we've been playing with him ever since."
When asked about the differences in style between playing with Paul and that of Electralyte Jon says, "If I'm honest I don't think it's different at all. I think that the way we see it is all that we play is worship. We write the songs that we play in Electralyte to worship God, just the same as Paul plays his to worship God. So we just give our best and give our all and return the gift that God has given us back to him."
Giving up their "day jobs" to go full time Jon describes as a "big faith step." The band were almost forced to follow God's lead and he has certainly provided for them. Whenever the group have suffered financial problems, money would arrive on their door step, and many doors have been opened to help the group progress and reach out to more people. Jon says, "It's just little things like that that confirm that we should be doing what we're supposed to be doing."
In late 2005 Electralyte signed with Eastbourne's ICC Records. 'Breakout' has 12 original Electralyte songs, some of which feature a Salvation Army brass band. Paul comments, "We were very privileged to have the opportunity to work with their International Staff Band which is fairly acclaimed in brass band circles. One of their number arranged one of our slower numbers. We're hoping to work with them again, hopefully to do it live as the score is already written."
The album, which contains exhilarating new versions of "Hope" and "Freedom", songs that originally appeared on the 'Electralyte' EP, was produced by renowned Irish studio whiz Trevor Michael. But Electralyte insist they did a lot of the arrangements up front themselves and already had a template of what they wanted to do. One of the highlights of the album is the band's new version of "Freedom". Says Paul, "'Freedom' has been something we've worked on with the Salvation Army. It was born out of a project they did for Lent which is an on-going thing they're doing, working into human trafficking issues. So we wrote that song as part of a specific campaign. That song means quite a lot to us and the guys at ICC were keen to bring that across because they thought it had a lot to say."
Many purchasers are already calling 'Breakout' one of the outstanding albums of the year. Here's hope that's the opinion of the Cross Rhythms reviewer.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.