Futuristic Fridays And Sentimental Saturdays: Audio Adrenaline 3.0 (or 4.0) – When Does A Band Become A Brand?

Audio-Adrenaline flashback

Audio Adrenaline 1.0

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Audio Adrenaline 2.0

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Audio Adrenaline 3.0

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Audio Adrenaline 4.0

This week on a combo post of Futuristic Fridays and Sentimental Saturdays I will be speaking about why I think band members change, and what happens when bands change so much that it becomes almost like, or even exactly like a brand, and how we as fans of the band deal with the changes. I will be sentimental in looking back in the history of one band in particular and forward into the future of the same band with a new lead singer.

In probably one of the most bizarre and out of left field announcements in CCM history, Audio Adrenaline, who previously was founded by Mark Stuart and Will McGinnis in the 90’s, endured it’s most radical change yet, with the 4 current members (all the members of Audio A 2.0) as well as original member Will all exiting the band and 4 totally brand new members stepping into the roles as of a few days ago. This sudden news was met with excitement from some and disappointment from others, with every range of every other emotion shown in between as well. This led by to think about a pertinent question in this musical climate, which I am going to briefly touch upon today. The question of when does a band become a brand is relevant in this case, and because throughout the years many bands have changed their signature sound as well as their lead singers, I thought I would touch upon the topic, offering my insights and hopefully come to some sort of conclusion as to why Audio Adrenaline, the iconic and popular group, has no more original band members.

Band names are a funny thing. The founders choose the name, yet if the founder/s leave the band, the name, which is probably licenced and owned by the mangers and a label, stays. It make sense though, as names are often similar to brands that people attach themselves to in some cases. People buy a song or an album, and attend shows, partly based on the reputation of the band name. Sometimes people pay attention to the band members, and see that they have been constant throughout the years (Third Day, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Delirious?), and so fans become even more excited and active in these artists’ lives, as familiarity brings forth reliability and trustworthiness in the most case. People see that the guys behind the microphone and on the stage are all good friends with each other, and their authenticity and friendship can translate into a great show, and also increase fan base.

But also, sometimes new changes, usually in the form of a new vocalist, can reenergise the band and bring it new life, and sometimes fans like it when a lead singer steps down and another comes in. While there have been calls in the past for bands with wholesale line-up changes to change the name of the band, particular in the case of the new singer changing the style or musical direction of the band, either intentionally or unintentionally, does this apply to the new Audio Adrenaline, particular when none of the 4 members were officially in the band a couple of days ago?

Though not as drastic or radical, massive changes in bands are nothing new. In 1998, John James, lead singer for the Newsboys, stepped down from the role, choosing to focus on his family and trying to control his drug and alcohol addictions, while drummer Peter Furler stepped in on Step Up To The Microphone, and that later turned into a full time gig. Fast forward 11 years and Peter Furler exited the band due to burnout. To the surprise and some disbelief of many longtime fans, Michael Tait, previously from dc Talk, replaced Peter as lead singer. Now, Newsboys are one of the most popular bands today in CCM, and Michael has made the band his own with 4 albums and counting in this new era.

Hawk Nelson’s Jason Dunn left the band in 2011, wanting to explore different expressions of songwriting and guitarist Jon Steingard stepped in to be lead singer, which ultimately changed the direction from pop/punk to pop. Made released in 2013 to critical acclaim, and Diamonds releases next month; hopefully many lives are touched for that particular album. Kutless, Jeremy Camp, Sanctus Real and The Afters have all made the transition to CCM/pop and worship, following a beginning when each of the artists were more harder and edgier musically. Point Of Grace also have moved genres, from adult contemporary/pop to country. These aforementioned bands and artists, while still admirable as their passion for God is undeniable, may irk some who would prefer that bands stay in the genre that they start in for as long as possible; but the truth of the matter is that all bands and artists evolve and move to where God is leading them. But in Audio Adrenaline’s case, where there have been 3 incarnations of the band since 2012, is it a case of ‘flogging a dead horse’ and the label desperate for cash? Some people think so, but I hold a different view.

In 2012, when Audio Adrenaline 1.0 (consisting of Mark Stuart, Tyler Burkham, Ben Cissell and Will McGinnis) had been dormant for 5 years because of Mark Stuart’s deteriorating singing voice, an announcement was made that Audio Adrenaline 2.0 would form. Will would return to bass, with Kevin Max, previously from dc Talk, on lead vocals, and the remaining members being Dave Ghazarian, Jared Byers and Jason Walker. An album titled Kings And Queens released in 2013, and though there was apprehension and disbelief, sometimes bordering on disdain, for Audio Adrenaline 2.0, the new comeback album on Fair Trade Services was a major hit, commercially and critically. When it seemed like Kevin Max and co would be releasing the second album with this new lineup in late 2014 (as many songs were written), another change occurred, as Kevin opted out of the band to release a solo album. Jason and Dave left the group also, with Josh Engler (previously from Abandon) joining the band as lead singer and Dwayne Larring on guitar. These changes reminded me of the Newsboys during the 90’s, however nothing could prepare me for what occurred recently.

The song “Love Was Stronger” was released to radio this week, and last week (before I had even heard the song) I was eagerly anticipating Josh Engler singing the song with gusto and passion. I had seen the live hand held youtube videos of Josh singing old Audio A hits in concerts, and he was pretty good, so I thought that this new record with him at the helm would be great.  Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine a complete overhaul. Adam Agee (of Stellar Kart) is now the lead singer, with Brandon Bagby, Dave Stovall and Jack Campbell the other three members of what is called Audio Adrenaline 3.0 or 4.0 (do we include Josh Engler as lead singer an incarnation of the band?). Anyway, response to the new single has been mixed, and many longtime fans have been resistant to this unprecedented change, while others have embraced it wholeheartedly.

What do I think? I love the song, it’s very catchy and one of my favourites of 2015 so far. While it sounds Stellar Kart-ish (like something from All In), I was confused from the get-go as to why there are no original members now, and all 4 members are completely new (maybe it was what had to happen, as all the members of Audio A 2.0/3.0 could have dropped out voluntarily for various reasons), however whatever the case, with Will and Mark both being behind the new band, and Adam supporting Mark and Will’s work at the Hands And Feet Project; I’m willing to give this ‘new’ band a change. While I can see how the band name is a bit weird, and that perhaps a new band name should have been formed; I’ll make my judgement come May 5th when The Sound Of The Saints drops. For now, check out the news on IVM, Jesus Freak Hideout, as well as Mark Stuart’s remarks in response to the criticism, here on facebook. Adam Agee also posted a video about the decision to be Audio A’s new frontman, what do you think of the video?

So after nearly 1500 words of me ‘rambling’, what have we learned? Should we abandon Audio Adrenaline’s new upcoming album (in favour of albums like Abandon’s Love Prevails or even Kevin Max’s Broken Temples which releases in March?) or shall we stick to this new band and see how it goes? I’m more inclined to choose the latter, but it’s up to you. Love them or hate them, the new incarnation of Audio Adrenaline are here to stay. While we may never know why some band members left or why the label made a decision like they did, what matters is that it is made, and we all have to live with it. Maybe God has a plan and the album gains lots of lives for the kingdom. Who knows? But from the lead single, the band has a bright future! So stay tuned, cause The Sound Of The Saints is coming!

2 thoughts on “Futuristic Fridays And Sentimental Saturdays: Audio Adrenaline 3.0 (or 4.0) – When Does A Band Become A Brand?”

  1. I’d say let’s stick to the new band Josh as you’ve concluded. I started listening to AudioA since 2013 as their Kings & Queens was excellent. That’s when I started digging up Kevin Max’s old albums but when I heard that he was leaving last year, I felt bad. This whole change can mean something good. I have never listened to any song from Stellar Kart and I didn’t know Adam Agee before Tuesday but I’m glad he’s their new front-man. I love their new single and can’t wait to hear more from AudioA 3.0 or is it 4.0? :) I really enjoyed this post. Thanks Josh.

  2. I agree with Mercy-I had never listened to Audio Adrenaline before, until their Kings and Queens album came out. Just as I really started to like them-BAM!-Kevin Max left. :( That always seems to happen–just as I get into a group, the group’s style changes or the lead singer leaves, or something like that. I have never really heard of Stellar Kart and haven’t heard any songs by them obviously, so I’ll have to check AA 4.0 out sometime—though I don’t have high hopes since I’ve heard virtually nothing about them in the CCM industry since the “rebrand”. That’s a shame that ALL the members left too. :(
    *Sunny

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