Veteran Christian rockers return with new lead vocalist and hit album.
When Audio Adrenaline said goodbye in 2006 due to frontman Mark Stuart’s chronic vocal problems, fans thought they’d heard the last of the Grammy award-winning Christian rockers. Now with the release of “Kings & Queens,” Audio Adrenaline is back with a revamped lineup that features former dcTalk member Kevin Max on lead vocals, original bassist Will McGinniss and new members Jason Walker on keyboards, former Superchick guitarist Dave Ghazarian and drummer Jared Byers, previously with Bleach. Stuart remains involved in songwriting, production and overall brand management as the band embarks on a new chapter.
Audio Adrenaline kicked off a 30-city tour on March 1 in Morganton, NC. “There are a lot of young kids at these shows,” Byers says of the rebooted Audio Adrenaline. “By summertime we’ll playing big festivals and people would have had the record. We’ll really get an idea of what people think about this.”
So far the response seems positive. The lead single, “Kings & Queens” is at No. 8 this week on the Christian Songs chart. The band’s debut album came out March 12 on Fair Trade Services.
“We’re extremely proud of it,” Max says. “We were pretty strategic in trying to come up with songs that people would recognize as [representing] some of the older ideas and balancing those with the modern ideas. It’s a juggling act really.”
“We wanted to kind of evoke the feeling of the past with the future,” Max continues. “When Mark Stuart and I started writing the songs that was always in our minds, so you’ve got songs like ‘He Moves, You Move,’ ‘King of the Comebacks’ and ‘Seeker.’ With all of those we tried to come up with something really that felt like the past, but obviously with me singing it, it’s completely different.”
Lyrically, some of the songs on the new album echo themes that Audio Adrenaline fans have long embraced. “Audio Adrenaline is known for being up front about their faith and being very active in missions,” says Max, “but it was always under the banner of having a lot of fun. Lyrically Audio Adrenaline took on a lot of different subjects, but when you think about the classic Audio Adrenaline, there are a lot of songs about Christ doing a work in the person, the underdog, or the person that’s unnoticed and is having a rough time. They’ve always been about the message to the misfit and knowing God accepts the heart of everybody out there. The ideas of grace and redemption are very much alive in this album as well.”
Max sees the new album as a transition between the old and new Audio A. “This album is really a bridge album for people that loved Audio Adrenaline in the past and have no concept of where we’re going,” he says. “We really tried to create an album that was a radio album because we knew that we wanted to get back out there. We wanted to let people hear what we’re doing. If we came out with a rock record where radio couldn’t play anything we thought it would defeat the purpose, so, if anything, this album kind of steers on the side of being a little more pop than what I’m used to.”
Audio Adrenaline has always been known for their mission work and with the new band that focus is stronger than ever. In 2003, Stuart and McGinniss founded the Hands and Feet Project, a non-profit organization, which funds two orphanages in Haiti. Proceeds from the new album will benefit Hands and Feet.
“The Hands and Feet project continued to get bigger and bigger even in the absence of Audio A,” Stuart says. “So we felt like this was definitely a godsend. We have two different orphanages that need help that we could basically use the platform of Audio Adrenaline to propel the Hands and Feet project so we can care for more kids.”
Stuart and his wife have adopted three Haitian children themselves and the Hands and Feet Project provides housing for more than 100 orphaned children and jobs for 80 Haitian adults.
Stuart suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, which causes involuntary spasms of the muscles around the larynx. Though he’s no longer able to sing, he is still intricately involved in Audio Adrenaline’s sound and is excited about working with Max, not just musically, but in mission work as well. “We felt like Kevin was the perfect fit,” says Stuart, who had known Max for years.
In fact, it was dcTalk’s Toby McKeehan (now known as TobyMac) who took Audio Adrenaline’s demo to ForeFront Records, which signed them and released the band’s self-titled debut in 1992. Since then much has changed. dcTalk’s McKeehan, Max and Michael Tait disbanded in 2000 and began releasing solo projects. Tait joined the Newsboys as lead singer in 2009 when longtime frontman Peter Furler exited and the rebooted Newsboys have been extremely successful with Tait at the helm.
Stuart has high hopes for the new Audio Adrenaline with Max taking over lead vocal duties. “He has a real heart for orphans and what we were doing with Hands and Feet,” he says, “and talent wise—to use an American Idol phrase—he can sing the phonebook and make it sound pretty awesome!”
Tying together the music and the mission, the video for “Kings & Queens” was shot in Haiti. “This is really the anthem for the Hands and Feet project,” Max says. “We wanted to let people know that we are doing this for more than just getting back out there and rebooting the brand, we’re about raising awareness for the non-profit.”