In a radio-based Christian music market that tends to skew towards the more Adult Contemporary sound, full-blown pop acts are few and far between. Enter Red Letter Hymnal, the missional insurgents bringing a multi-genre aural assault to the CCM status quo.
Fans got their grand introduction to the band--made up of Brad Lebakken, Jared Rebold, Spencer Te'o and Nathan Bodnar--with the underrated dance-pop gems Reach for the Sky (2016) and Coastal Kids (2017). Already moving into the next new album cycle, RLH has released the chill-beach-day summer anthem, "New Life X New Vibe," proving again that they're a band to watch, as they expertly hone their sound and mission.
I asked the guys some questions about their life and vibe in this season of life as a meteorically rising band focused on making Jesus known.
How has life changed for you guys since Coastal Kids?
Brad: Coastal Kids has opened up a bigger audience to play for and taught us a lot about songwriting and producing. We are better as a band and individuals because of it. In a lot of ways it's also been a catalyst for our own spiritual growth. As God has given us more opportunities since the release of Coastal Kids, there are more people watching how we live our lives. God has expanded our platform and increased our influence. It's our goal to steward these blessings well as we recognize the privilege and responsibility we have of representing Christ in our music on and off stage.
What have been some of the highlights for you as a band so far?
Spencer: It's hard to pick just a couple because this whole journey feels surreal. Some of the standout moments would have to be touring the U.S. coast to coast. That experience was so encouraging to us to be able to meet people all across the country that have been impacted by our music and to be able to hear their stories. Also, being able to hear our music on the radio for the first time was one of those moments that you dream of as a kid. And just recently we were able play our first arena show. Even just saying that, it still sounds so crazy that God let us do all of this.
What are you working on now?
Nate: We are currently working on releasing new music. We want to try some more songs with our singer Brad and our rapper Spencer doing dual vocals. We did that on our last album with the song "Come Alive" and there is such a great energy when both of them are going back and forth.
Talk about the inspiration behind "New Life X New Vibe." Did something in particular happen? What jarred you to write it?
Brad: "New Life X New Vibe" is based on 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!" We wrote the song from a conviction that we have to think of ourselves as God sees us. As a Christian, we need to reprogram our thinking with scripture and start to believe what God says about us.
A lot of times we as Christians think of ourselves as just the same old person with some behavioral improvements. God's word says we are a new creation given new desires to follow Him. We don't have to give in to sin or addictions anymore. God now sees us as new, forgiven, capable of tasks He's assigned to us, righteous and whole. Scripture teaches that there is no "saved version" of who we were, rather a new creation entirely.
How have you changed as a band since you first began?
Jered: Sonically we have developed a lot. When we first started off it was very experimental, which actually allowed us not to be pigeonholed to a specific sound. Since then we've become more fearless in how we write. We've also grown a lot spiritually since when we first started the band. The challenges we have faced has given us the opportunity to learn to trust God more. This band has been more than we can handle but that's right where God wants us to be, in a place where we have to do things by His power and ability not our own.
What is something people need to know about Red Letter Hymnal?
Nate: People need to know Red Letter Hymnal has been built on many prayers of many people, and the faithfulness of God. It's been a long road to get to this point with a lot of hard work. There's a famous quote that says, "Pray as if everything depends on God and work like everything depends on you." We summarize this by saying all of this happens by God's grace and hard work, in that order. Also, we love the TV show "The Office".
You blend a lot of styles together. Does it take forever to write songs the way you do?
Spencer: All of us in the band grew up listening to such a wide spectrum of music so it only seems fitting that our band would sound just as diverse. However, we rarely make a conscious decision to incorporate different music styles; it's just what naturally pours out. We believe that in life, everything is done better in community and music is no exception. When you can incorporate others in the writing process you also incorporate their life experiences, influences, gifting, and perspective. Finding the best way all of that fits together to make an honest piece of art is what creates the sonic diversity that is Red Letter Hymnal.
What's something new God is doing in your life?
Brad: God is renewing my love for His word. I found myself in the Bible memorizing scriptures and going out and putting into practice His word in a new way.
Not a lot of people know this, but your band was essentially birthed from a comment made by David Crowder. Talk about that for a second.
Brad: My heart was wrestling with a question of which direction should I take my music. Music for me has always been about connecting people with the gospel message, so I was thinking to myself, "Who is not being reached with the gospel and what area of music is there a void?" After months of wrestling with that question, I found myself in a room with David Crowder and a handful of other talented musicians, and one of the comments that David said was he doesn't see enough Christians doing music in the electronic realm. He said if you look across the world at what's touching people's hearts, it is electronic music. Whether it be EDM, hip-hop, or electronica, he would love to see Christians doing music in that type of field.
That was the answer to the question I had been asking myself. I've always loved electronic music but I was also afraid to venture into that lane because at the time I had very little ability or know how to make electronic-based music. Nonetheless, God still gave me a vision for that and taught me how to make electronic music. It's been a long process and a lot of hard work but that's the moment that gave birth to Red Letter Hymnal. A couple months later we released our dubstep covers of "God's Not Dead" and "One Thing Remains" and it's been a nonstop roller coaster ride ever since.
You got your start making EDM covers of popular worship songs. What are some worship songs you'd love to remix?
Brad: I'd love to remix "Reckless Love" by Cory Asbury because I think the world could use one more version of it, but on a serious note that's an amazing song! Also lately I've really been liking "Do it Again" by Elevation.
How have you been able to transition from being an "online" band with your viral videos/remixes to being a touring band?
Jered: We've been pretty blessed to have a pretty smooth transition with that. We've all been in and out of bands our whole life so touring was the natural next step for us. The beauty of those videos having so much success online is that they created an audience for us when we started touring. After having a warm reception to our first original album we knew that touring would be a significant part of the future of this band.
What's an area in life where you're praying for some "new vibes"?
Spencer: I would say that I'm praying for it in every area of my life. When I think about "vibes" and what that means I always end up back at the concept of perspective. I believe your perspective will dictate your vibe, so I catch myself praying daily for a tangible grasp of eternal perspective. When we are able to assign the proper weight to circumstances in our lives in relation to eternity there is a freedom that can make everyday an opportunity to live joyfully.
What gets you excited in this season?
Jered: In this season we can't wait to tour. It is hands down our favorite thing about being in a band. This summer tour is built on all the things we learned from touring last year. We are more prepared and our audience is bigger this time around. We've gotten better live and are eager to see what God does with the hard work we've been putting into getting ready for the summer tour.
What are some new things you're trying as a band?
Spencer: This band is consistently trying something new. Whether it be new production techniques, clever ways to make our live show a better experience for people, or even down to more innovative ways to add value to our fanbase through engagement we are always trying to learn, grow, and develop to give those who support us the best experience we can. We have seen God do amazing things with this band so we work hard to give Him our best to work with
How can people be praying for you?
Nate: Prayer for our families is always on the list, that we would lead them well, that our relationships with God would be always growing. Prayer for their health and safety while we are on the road. Also that God would help us write amazing new songs for our next album that will bless and help others in their faith.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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