LL Cool J once opened a title track on an album with “Don’t call it a comeback / I’ve been here for years…” It’s hard to label Audio Adrenaline as a comeback due to the fact that there are four completely new bodies assembled to carry the Audio A banner — a flagship brand in contemporary Christian music if there ever was one — in a move that was, frankly, quite bold.
We’ll continue that sentiment with regards to the release of their tenth studio album, Sound of the Saints. Okay, if we must acknowledge the giant elephant sitting in the room (we must—it’s right over there!), those who consider themselves devoted fans of CCM will have to admit to executing a double-take at the announcement of former DC Talk member Kevin Max fronting the band. Then, after just one album and a quick exit to stage left, it’s as if the collective sighs rippled in unison when it was announced that Audio A will be releasing a new album in 2015 — without any of the former band members.
Whew, now that we’ve acknowledged the elephant, let’s move forward.
Funny thing about all of that head-shaking and hands-on-faces — while we were busy introducing appendages to noggins Audio Adrenaline has been reuniting brand name to audiences, and album sales to charts. At the time this article will publish, press releases will have reported Sound Of The Saints debuting on Billboard’s Christian charts at Number 1 — a peak position held by only one other Audio A album, Underdog in 1999.
Having also been here for years, founders Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss know what they are doing. Of course, time will always tell, but it seems that they’ve found a successful combination in Adam Agee (lead vocals, formerly Stellar Kart), Brandon Bagby (guitars), Dave Stovall (bass, formerly Wavorly), and Jack Campbell (drums). If chart positions don’t do it for you, we suggest letting the music speak for itself — and once again trusting in Stuart and McGinniss. They are still very hands on with the band as writers (Stuart co-wrote the current title track with Agee), artist development, leading the beloved Hands And Feet Project, and providing overall official Audio A stamps of approval.
We asked the current torch bearers their thoughts upon accepting such an audacious responsibility. “Unbelievable—an honor—a privilege,” the guys each stated without hesitation. After weighing the options of joining Audio Adrenaline versus accepting offers to tour with other high profile acts, Bagby recalled, “I decided that if I am going to play music it needed to be for a higher purpose. For me, God’s timing was perfect in the way He orchestrated this opportunity coupled with the proven ministry focus of Audio A.”
After a dozen-or-so years fronting Stellar Kart, Agee was unsure of where his path would meet opportunity. A music industry veteran, it took a complete surrender before God prepared his heart for this current journey. “I finally got to the point of saying to God ‘I’m open to what ever it is You have me to do, even if it’s not music.’ My wife and I prayed about it, and her main thing was that she didn’t want me to be away from the family just to play gigs—there had to be a huge ministry component if we were going to continue in this business. Audio Adrenaline was definitely something that we saw ourselves getting on board with,” a thankful Agee stated.
“Being a part of this band is inspiring. It’s just another crazy opportunity that I’ve experienced where God has proven Himself to be so real. Every night when we are on stage I find myself praying, ‘Alright God, thank you for showing up and for reminding me that You’ve got this.’ When we let go of what we think we can do on our own, He inevitably shows us something greater,” added Agee.
In addition to the budding and critical success of this current reincarnation, God immediately began delivering greater things. A spring tour with Newsboys before new music featured on Sound Of The Saints was available in take-home form was a great kickstart to Audio Adrenaline’s evolving timeline. “It’s the biggest show in Christian music,” said Campbell in his outback accent. “They blew us away every night. I grew up listening to them in Australia, so to have toured along side them in America was amazing.”
Stovall chimed, “It’s was great watching Michael Tait perform every night. Even off stage that guy was always dressed to the nine’s! Everything he said from stage was always meaningful—he had the crowd in the palm of his hand every time he spoke. [Laughed] They were never quiet for me when I spoke on stage, so I took notes on the way that their show flowed and how they were able to entertain while also maintaining a worshipful reverence at the same time.”
It seems that it wasn’t just Newsboys that caught the attention of the audience at these slew of recent springtime shows. “It was a really worshipful moment when we played [title track] ‘Sound Of The Saints’ on this tour because every audience inevitably stood up, raised their hands, and sung ‘Hallelujah’ at the end of the song,” said Stovall. “One night in Michigan at the end of ‘Saints,’ the crowd began clapping, but didn’t stop—they just kept on going. At first I thought to myself, ‘Wow, they really like us,’ but after it continued we realized that they were responding to the Holy Spirit, as if it were some sort of praise-applause. I’ll never forget it.”
No longer mind that elephant seemingly lingering in the room.
“’Sound Of The Saints’ is a song I co-wrote with Audio A founder Mark Stuart,” answered Agee when asked more about the album title. “The song talks about the trees of the field, the echoes of a cave, and all of those different elements of creation that express their praise, but nothing compares to the sound of God’s children singing their praises back to Him. Like [Dave Stovall] was saying, hearing the people sing that song each night, whether it was for the first time or perhaps they had heard it before, made for some special moments.”
When considering the musical legacy of Audio Adrenaline, one constant throughout the tenured outfit is the approach to songwriting. “They were a huge influence on me as a songwriter. The unique twist that Audio A adds to their positive and uplifting themes is that they will also challenge you. We want to continue that legacy and encourage people to take the extra step to actively live out their faith,” said Agee. This is supremely evident on the opening track “Move,” which was a fan-favorite on this latest tour.
“’Move’ is a momentous song, but it’s also another song that represents what Audio Adrenaline has stood for from day one—getting out of your comfort zone, going out into the world, and no matter what it takes telling others about Jesus,” affirmed Agee. In true Audio A fashion, Agee also added “It’s also just great rock ‘n roll—a lot of fun.” The NFL Network has picked up the song and MLB Network is featuring ‘Move’ as one of their themes for the show MLB Now.
So how has Audio Adrenaline passed the eye and ear tests for recent concert-goers with, no doubt, some attendees being fans from the band’s inception as A-180? Agee said “We spent at least an hour with the fans after each show and one of the coolest things from this initial tour was the young audience members expressing to us that they didn’t know of Audio Adrenaline, but were won-over after experiencing the live show,” another staple in the fabric of Audio A’s composition.
Bagby added, “The greatest thing was the lifelong fans approaching us with their encouragement and letting us know that we were doing a great job. Coming from them, for sure, we understood the weight of what that meant and it helped us to stay focused on doing what we feel we’ve been called to do from this established platform.”
It’s not a comeback. Audio Adrenaline has been around for years, and they never really left. “Rules” are made to be broken, and the continuing lineage of Audio A is an embodiment of what the guys—all of those guys—have been singing about for years: getting out and moving away from our comfort zones. His understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:5. What elephant?