Fair Trade Services
After calling it quits in 2006 due to frontman Mark Stuart's vocal problems, Audio Adrenaline is revving up again with former dc Talk member Kevin Max taking over as lead vocalist for the Grammy-winning Christian rock band. The rebooted Audio A has signed with Fair Trade Services and are working on an album due next spring. The lead single, "Kings and Queens" will hit Christian radio in November.
"I'm just really super excited. These are guys I look up to," Max tells Billboard exclusively as he glances over at Stuart and bassist Will McGinniss. "It was a no-brainer for me. The only [question] that I had in the whole scenario was: 'What's this going to be like musically?'"
"There's been a consistency to the Audio A message," says Stuart. "It's important that that continues, but the music is going to sound a little different. Kevin is going to sound a lot different than me, a lot better than me."
Max has a long history with Audio Adrenaline. In fact it was dc Talk's Toby McKeehan a.k.a. TobyMac whose new album Eye on It topped the Billboard 200 last week, who took Audio Adrenaline's demo to ForeFront Records. The label signed the band and released Audio Adrealine's self-titled debut album in 1992. dc Talk and Audio Adrenaline frequently toured together and members of the two groups became friends. dc Talk'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.
"Kevin was an obvious choice because he's super talented and we've known him for a long, long time," says Stuart, who suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, which causes involuntary spasms of the muscles around the larynx. Though unable to sing, he's still involved with the band as a songwriter and producer. He also heads up Hands and Feet, a non-profit organization launched by Audio Adrenaline in 2004, which funds two orphanages in Haiti. Proceeds from the new album will benefit Hands and Feet.
"I was intrigued by the band and the idea of putting one of CCM's [contemporary Christian music's] iconic bands back together with a new twist," says Jeff Moseley, president of Fair Trade Services. "Having Will and Mark involved was key. The other factor was involving one of the most recognizable voices in our genre, Kevin Max. Finally when I heard the music and learned that the band was donating all their proceeds to the Hands and Feet Project, I was in. Our hope and belief is that the music will connect on an emotional level that will remind listeners of what they liked about Audio A, but give them a musical enhancement that they did not see coming. I think we have that."
McGinniss says they went in the studio armed with 50 new songs and whittled it down to a dozen they've recorded. "Kevin and I are the consistent writers on the record," Stuart says. "We've worked with some different people and we've written together. We're definitely enjoying the process. I personally feel like this record has a lot deeper content than any Audio A record we've ever had and a lot more energy has been put creating this record than any Audio A record in the past. Sometimes making an Audio A record, we would write for three weeks and go make a record. Those are awesome because you capture a moment in time, but this record, we've been working on for months and months and the content is awesome."
Moving forward, Stuart will be involved in writing and production, but the band now consists of Max, McGinniss, guitarist Dave Ghazarian (formerly of Superchick), drummer Jared Byers and keyboardist Jason Walker. Tyler Burkum and Ben Cissell, who were part of the band when Audio Adrenaline called it quits in 2006, are not part of the new line up. "Tyler and Ben were approached to be a part of this," says McGinniss. "Tyler is very busy. He's been playing guitar since we came off the road for different people and he hasn't stopped. He does a lot of studio work, but he's also got a band of his own called The Leagues and they are a killer band."
Cissell spent five years running Rockettown, a skate club/youth ministry venue, and recently left there to pursue film work. "He's making movies and just really has a heart for youth culture and the skate park and touring venues and young bands," says McGinniss. "He's pouring into all that."
The band is in Haiti this week filming a video for "Kings and Queens." "It's just an incredible song about this idea of when we love the least of these that God wraps these little orphans in his majesty and they can become kings and queens," Stuart says of the song, which was written by Max and Juan Otero. "It gives you that idea that these are God's favorites, these little kids that have been forgotten. There's going to be a special place in heaven one day because of what they've been through here. It's just a triumphant, majestic song that just connects so deeply with Hands and Feet and the message of Audio A right now."
Though Audio Adrenaline has signed with Fair Trade for marketing and distribution, they've also partnered with the non-profit Know Hope Foundation. "Fair Trade allowed us to do a partnership with a foundation that basically funds the record and then all the net proceeds of this record goes back to the Hands and Feet project," explains Stuart. "So when people basically buy the new Audio A record, they are essentially helping to support orphans."
Moseley is excited about the partnership with the band and Know Hope and being able to use music to change lives. "These men are the best at what they do and are eager to showcase those strengths as well as showcase a new path to profitability, a profitability that is monetized by lives being changed and children rescued," he says. "If we both do our very best in letting people know about the record and the story and the lives behind this mission, everything else will take care of itself. We want to sell music, and we want to have a voice in culture. Most of all, we would like to see those orphans in Haiti taken care of and given a chance to succeed in life. My expectations are that we can build ten foster homes in the next few months that will revolutionize the Hands and Feet Project. Rarely do we get to see such a tangible result to what we do. This will be one of those cases."
Expectations are high for the newly revamped Audio Adrenaline and indeed Tait's success with the Newsboys has set an interesting precedent. The Newsboys' first studio album with Tait as lead vocalist "Born Again" was released in July 2010 and debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
"Everybody's goal here is not just to come back and put out a couple of records and have a good time, but actually to go to the next level," says Stuart. "We want to make the platform bigger than it's ever been for Audio Adrenaline. Raising the bar is what I think makes it exciting for us and a little scary."