Tony Cummings reports on the gradual rise of CCM hitmakers LUMINATE
The steady rise in popularity of ambient rock band Luminate is almost a template of how Christian music artists of today can still find a large following in a scene which seems in a constant state of flux - namely spend a few years developing a state-wide following and releasing a few low budget independent CDs, get signed to a Christian music offshoot of a multinational who will test the waters with an EP, and enjoy national tours and good budget album releases once radio play has been established.
Luminate frontman Samuel Hancock is from Washington, Indiana. Deciding between business school or music, he chose music. Hancock went to Visible School of Music in Memphis, Tennessee where he met bassist Dusty Jakubik, who is from Tyler, Texas. At the time, Jakubik "was looking for a fresh start after his current band fell apart after signing a major label deal." Jakubik's first thought was that he "liked the music Hancock was writing, and while he wanted to start a band, he was wary of working with someone who still had some growing up to do. Sam was coming out of a period of rebellion in high school". Jakubik went to consult his hometown friend and guitarist Cody Clark. "I already knew I wanted to work with Cody. We both shared the idea that we wanted a band that was a brotherhood. We wanted to be close and for the Lord's hand to be in everything we did. I told Cody, 'I don't know about this kid, Sam, but he's incredibly talented.'" Eventually, those concerns were put to rest and they sought out two more members for the band, adding Dustin DeLong (keys) and Aaron Matthew (drums), who performed with CCM stars By The Tree and Kari Jobe. The band was finally formed in the autumn of 2005.
The band toured around and over the next few years recorded three independent EPs, 'Luminate EP' (2006), 'Bright And Beautiful' (2007) and 'Miracle' (2008). Eventually they attracted the attention of EMI CMG's Sparrow Records who released the EP 'Luminate' in 2010 to introduce the group to a wider audience. Luminate's song "Come Home" became a Christian radio turntable hit. Sam Hancock told allaccess.com the story behind the song. "'Come Home' is a personal story about the struggle between trying to build a life of success on my own or chasing my purpose and destiny by following Christ. In the past I made some life decisions based on personal gain and worldly success, and I started to wonder if that was really where God wanted me or was I out on my own claiming God's will for me? The overwhelming challenge I feel daily is asking myself: Are we willing to leave behind our broken empires even if they look and feel amazing, and let God rebuild and restore us into what he created us to be? I believe that to surrender to the voice and purpose of Christ is the only way to measure success in this life."
The 'Come Home' album, produced by big hitters Ed Cash, Paul Moak and Ben Glover, was released on 25th January 2011. With a lot of touring, the album, described by Cross Rhythms' reviewer as "a perfect blend of passion and rock" which sits "with ease alongside the sounds and styles of big mainstream bands such as The Fray, The Killers and Coldplay, their ambient rock sound [carrying] their positive messages of hope and love far beyond the boundaries of the walls of the Church," sold well. Luminate's touring was not without its humourous aspects, as Hancock recounted. "We played a week long camp in Michigan. We had to drive at 5:30 in the morning for an early radio interview and to make sure we could return back to the camp on time. As a vocalist I can say that voices are not meant to sing that early, but we took a stab at singing our last single 'Shine (Love Is an Action)' anyway. It was all good till the chorus came; and then I hit a note I hadn't heard before, it slipped out. We all started laughing. The only way to salvage it was to start over. Good news was that the interview was pre-recorded."
Now Luminate's second full length album 'Welcome To Daylight' has been released. Said Hancock, "Every record we have strived to consistently evolve lyrically, spiritually and musically, but for 'Welcome To Daylight', we went all out. I believe that this record touches all emotions: the moments alone reflecting, the moments standing as the body of Christ, and moments of telling the Devil he is a liar and he has been defeated. It's a record full of hope and joy, leaving our past regrets behind, allowing the Holy Spirit to overcome our fears, and embracing the life of hope and purpose that God has for all of us. You might even find yourself wanting to dance to a song or two."
Sam continued, "We spent over a year writing this record. A lot of songs didn't make the cut either, but that is a good thing. Cody has become the mad scientist on the computer, everyday coming up with ideas and places to venture out to musically. I'm pretty sure I ended up writing and rewriting some lyrics four or five times before being confident in the message and direction. That happens because I always write about what I am learning or going through, which is always changing since we are always growing. Whether it was just me and Cody, or if we co-wrote with our friends, we always fought to push the song to the furthest point we could, then reel it back in to where we felt it should be."
The lead single from 'Welcome To Daylight' is the powerful anthem "Banner Of Love". Said the singer, "'Banner Of Love' is a huge jump for us musically. We are always wanting to find the next step without losing the core of who Luminate is. We wanted this song to be high energy because it's a song of motivation about being the hands and feet of Jesus in our everyday life. It's denying ourselves by ignoring the flesh and serving others even when it's awkward or uncomfortable. When I was writing, I didn't even realise how much it would affect our everyday life by bringing that awareness to surface in the band. We are always on the lookout for a way to raise up a banner of Christ's love to the people we interact with."
This autumn Luminate will be the opening act on Newsboys' 35 plus date tour of the US, bringing, of course, unparalleled exposure to 'Welcome To Daylight'. Enthused Sam, "We can't wait for the world to hear it. It's kind of like you have planned a huge surprise party for someone and it takes all of your energy to not just blurt it out before the day of the party. Everyone is saying it's refreshingly different, but lyrically challenging and encouraging at the same time. I was called at a young age to take the gifts God has given me to the world, and we take that mindset as a band as well. We will take the message of purpose and true fulfilment in a life pursuing Christ as far as God allows. The tool that we use to do that is music and ministry on the road."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.