I know what your thinking: who are those guys? Well, friends, that is the new Audio Adrenaline – (l to r) Brandon Bagby, Adam Agee, Jack Campbell, and Dave Stovall. The group took up the mantle of Audio A about 6 months ago, taking over for the band’s previous incarnation fronted by the great Kevin Max. Oldsters like myself may remember the group’s original lineup anchored by vocalist Mark Stuart who was forced into retirement a decade ago due to vocal issues. Stuart has stayed involved in the life of the band and has offered his ringing endorsement of “Audio Adrenaline 3.0”. I got the chance to speak with new lead singer Adam Agee in the days leading up to the release of the band’s tenth studio album, Sound of the Saints.
conversation has been minimally edited for the sake of clarity
Ryan: First off, congratulations on the success on the new record that’s on it’s way out. It’s a very cool time to be in, I’m sure.
Adam: Thanks. It’s been a crazy six months.
Ryan: I’m fascinated to hear what the call was like when you found out that this was going to happen. Did you know the guys from the band already? Did a manager call and say, “hey, are you interested?” How did that all go down?
Adam: Yeah, I’ve known Mark [Stuart – founding lead singer] and Will [McGuiness – founding bass player] for a long time and I love those guys. It’s pretty well documented that they had a huge influence on my career over the last twelve years in [my former band] Stellar Kart. We were under the same management as Audio A for the last three years and they had been watching us.
So they came to me and said, “hey, we’ve got this thing happening. We need a singer and we’d like you to be the front-man for the band and help write.” Stellar Kart was kind of winding down so I thought about it with my wife and prayed about it a lot. The guys from Audio A came back and said that they wanted to keep things going to continue to raise awareness for the Hands and Feet Project and that ministry. So, my wife felt like I couldn’t just go back out on the road to play music. There had to be a huge ministry aspect involved in order to leave the family. With all of those things adding up, it felt like a good fit.
Ryan: What about the rest of the guys? You are all new to the band. Were they guys that people knew already or was it everyone thrown into a room all at once and, “Hey, good to meet you,”?
Adam: It’s a little strange. We all kind of new each other from other bands or church or mutual acquaintances. I know that Mark and Will had Dave, our bass player, on their label with his old band, Wavorly, so they knew him very well. Then Brandon [guitarist] and I went to church together, and Jack [drummer] I knew because he’s been out with Newsboys helping them out for the last couple of years. So, we all kind of knew each other, but at the first couple of rehearsals it was like “hey, man. How ya doin’?”
One of the freakiest moments – it was our fifth or sixth rehearsal – Mark and Will come in and they are sitting at the soundboard. And I’m thinking: “Well, this isn’t awkward at all,” as we’re about to play “Big House” in front of them. It’s like “What is going on, man?”
Ryan: How different does it feel now when you walk on stage under the name Audio Adrenaline than it did when you going out as Stellar Kart both in terms of purpose and emotion?
Adam: It’s not a whole lot different than what I’ve been doing for the last 15 years. It’s still going out there and putting on the best show I can. I think that the added element is making sure that we do justice to the catalog of songs that Audio A has developed over the last 25 years. We want to make sure that we are honoring that and that it is as awesome as it can be. In terms of the new stuff, I was able to write a bunch of it and we formed it as a band. So, all that stuff is coming together great and it seems really easy on stage and it’s just so much fun. I feel like the pressure is less than it would have been, had I not been preparing for the last 15 years to be a frontman in a band.
Ryan: What are you feeling from the fans as you meet them one-on-one? The fans have gone through a phase of acclimating to Kevin [Max – former lead singer] over the last few years. I’m sure that when they walk into the venue, they aren’t sure exactly who they are seeing. How have they received you and what kind of conversations have you had around that?
Adam: The knowledge that the fans have coming into the show is pretty mixed, but the reaction after the show has been overwhelmingly positive. I was almost surprised the first couple of weeks of the tour at how well people responded and how encouraging they were. It was much better than I could have hoped. Of course there are people who really liked the old way, but the response has been great. The younger fans that come up that may not even know about the history of Audio A are really excited about the new stuff and they love it. We’re able to inspire a new generation the way this band inspired us, so it’s very special each night. Then the fans who have been fans for 25 years come up to us and say, “Man, you did a great job on the old stuff and we really like the new stuff.” This band really changed their lives back in the day and they’re glad we’re keeping it going.
Ryan: Audio Adrenaline’s bloomrecord was really drew me into Christian rock music…
Adam: Same here.
Ryan: I’ve recently shared that record with my 6-year-old son. It’s maybe a bit of nostalgia, but man that record really holds up well. I have to imagine you’re probably getting the same thing – parents who love the old stuff and now they’re bringing the kids out to the show and experiencing something as a family.
Adam: It’s really special and a true honor to get to do that every night.
Ryan: Alright. Rapid fire: What’s your favorite Audio Adrenaline album – can’t say your own?
Adam: (laughs) I would probably say bloom for the same reason you were saying. The way it holds up… it introduced me to Christian rock music. I didn’t even know that that was a thing. I grew up in Arizona and so we didn’t have a lot of the “Bible-Belt” circuit. Hearing bloom, I thought it was pretty awesome.
Ryan: What’s your favorite AudioA song to sing – old or new – and what’s your favorite one to listen to out of the catalog?
Adam: Ok, I’m going to have to go new on the singing one. My favorite one to sing is the first track on the new record, it’s called “Move.” It’s one that just slays every night. It is so much fun. The crowd just goes nuts. I’ll give you one from the old catalog, too. I love singing “Ocean Floor”. That’s one of my favorite moments from the show, 2,000 people worshiping to that song. I love that.
As far as listening, I really like the bloom record. I like the songs from Underdog, too. That’s one of my favorites. Then Worldwide is awesome. All the guys in the band want to work up “Some Kind of Zombie” so we can play that live. There’s just too many good songs, man.
Ryan: I’m sorry, but I’ve got to tell you my “Move” story because we were listening to it in the car the other night on the way to soccer practice with my 6 year old. He was really getting into it and he says, “We’ve got to take this out to the soccer field. This will get everybody moving!”
Adam: (laughs) That is awesome!
Ryan: So, your on tour with Newsboys right now. You’re probably playing mostly new stuff. What are you playing from the old stuff? What does the setlist look like?
Adam: We’ve been playing “Ocean Floor” and “Kings and Queens” and a medley of “Big House” and “Get Down”. Then mostly some new stuff. We’re doing our first headline show at the end of this month so we’ll be getting to play more of the back catalog like “Hands and Feet” – I think we’ve got a couple of others that we’re going to work out for that.
Ryan: I know back when Kevin came in, Mark was travelling with the band a little bit. Is he still keeping his hands on the project? Is he out with you guys at all?
Adam: He’s not on the road, but he actually co-wrote the title track, “Sound of the Saints” with me and a couple of other guys. So, he’s definitely got a piece of this album. And like I said earlier, he and Will came to the studio for rehearsals and were speaking into the live shows saying, “Here’s what we did on this song back in the day. Here’s something we tried that worked out real well for this.” So, of course, we’re going to do that.
Ryan: So, I’ve been listening to the record and trying to remind myself that this is Audio Adrenaline – TODAY. But beyond changes in sound and personnel, one thing that really stood out to me was the lyrical content. Obviously, the band has never backed down or shied away from the Christian faith, but it felt like the songs on this record were a lot more explicitly evangelical. These songs are very strong in their message, whereas some of the older songs were a little more pedestrian or a little more grounded. Is that an intentional move on your part to write in a certain way? Is it just a matter of the people who were in the room writing? How does that mesh with the history of the band, lyrically?
Adam: I think it just happened organically that way. There were over 50 songs written for this record and it just wound up that this is the direction that we wanted to go. It is that unapologetic, “This is what we believe.” And it’s got a couple of moments of that Underdog vibe, where anybody from anywhere – it doesn’t matter if you think you’ve got all the skills or if you’ve got all the answers – anybody can make a difference in the world, and change the world, and tell the world about Jesus. That vibe is what we’re going for. It’s the whole message of Audio, whether they were explicit with it or you had to dig to find it. It’s always been that, “Here’s what we believe and anybody can make it happen and Jesus can use anybody.” So, that’s what it’s all about.
Ryan: You mentioned that you’ve got your first big headline show coming up. What are the plans for the summer after you finish up this tour?
Adam: We’ve got some festivals coming up this summer. We’re working on a headline tour this fall. We’ve got some international shows coming up this fall as well and those are always fun. Just honing in the live show and working on blowing up the show for the fall.
Ryan: “Love was Stronger” is out now. “Move” is available. Is that being pushed as a radio single or is it just available to buy now?
Adam: I don’t have the final clearance on it, but I would certainly hope so. It’s already gotten picked up by NFL network and MLB network. So it is one of those – like you said, your 6 year old knew it needed to be played out on the soccer field. They’re doing that for sure.
Ryan: I head that first song and I thought that it was really listenable and while it may be a little bit of a change of pace for the long-term fan who doesn’t know what they’re getting when they pop it in, it’s such a listenable record. It’s definitely radio-ready and something that’s going to be catchy for whoever listens to it. So, congratulations on putting out a great piece of work and best wishes to you and the rest of the guys throughout the summer and whatever comes next.
Adam: Well, thank you man, I really do appreciate that. We really hope that the songs can not only hold up to the legacy that Audio A has already had, but can continue to push the envelope and get better and better and better and take it to even new levels. That’s the goal.
Check out the review of the new album Sounds of the Saints.