"I want to impress upon people that each day is a gift from God, and a day is huge when you think about all that can be accomplished in it," says Josh Penner, one of the three Penner brothers comprising the band Jake.
With that thought in mind, Jake sets out to mobilize a generation with its sophomore release, Army of Love, because to Toby and fraternal twins Marty and Josh, it's not enough to say you love someone-you need to show that love.
"We're watching our world becoming a fearful, closed-off place," says Marty. "It's not enough to say, 'let love rule,' and then sit back and do nothing. With Army of Love, we want to stress that love is something mobile and active."
"Army of Love represents our focus," says front man Toby. "It's a meaningful song in many different ways, not just in the music, but in the message we hope it relates to people."
More than just a title, Army of Love is a multi-level ministry for the band where its desire is to encourage individuals to become involved with organizations and outreach ministries in their local communities.
For Jake, this outreach is fundamental in reaching people for Christ. "As Christians, we are called to help one another and make a difference in the world," states Marty. "Our plan is to get people plugged into organizations that are spreading love in our country and throughout the world, beginning in their own towns."
"There are times, especially after the September 11 attacks, that we feel helpless," adds Toby. "But we are not helpless. We can join together to become an 'army of love,' and Jake is about letting people know there are practical ways they can show love in their communities. When each person begins to show love in his or her own practical way, who knows how far-reaching this will be?"
As part of the Army of Love campaign, when in town for a concert, Jake will expand its opportunity to encourage community involvement by conducting clothing and food drives through rallies at local Christian schools and by partnering with local Christian bookstores.
The title track resulted from an experience the band had in April 2001, when co-hosting a call-in radio show entitled L.O.V.E. (Let Our Violence End) in Little Rock, Ark., where youth called in from around the country about issues and questions dealing with violence.
"The whole theme of the show was forgiveness," remembers Josh, "that the only way to heal was to let go and forgive. At one point in the interview, the host mentioned the phrase 'we need to be like an army of love.' He turned to Toby and said, 'That might be a good song idea.' About a week later, Toby had written the lyrics."
The band then chose ten other songs to include on Army of Love, including the standout tracks "This Is Love," "Brighter," and "Now I See." "I John 4 talks about how we can love others because God first loved us and that whoever claims to love God must also love his brother," says Toby. "'This Is Love' expounds on those verses and is an extension of 'Army of Love.' We cannot even claim to love God if we don't love and help our neighbor."
In the upbeat "Brighter," the band shares the message that the love we have to share with others is brighter because our outlook on the world is reflected through God.
"'Now I See' is one of the first songs I ever wrote," Toby says. "You know you need God in the desperate times, but it's easy to forget that you need God when things are going right, too. Even though you may lose sight of Him, He never leaves your side. That message of love is important for people to remember."
Army of Love really is a progression for the band, as Jake has moved away from the acoustic driven sound of its debut album to an edgier electric guitar base. "It's still pop driven because we like hooks, but it definitely has more rock to it," notes Toby, the band's principal songwriter.
The new album also finds the guys taking a more hands-on approach in its creation. "We were heavily involved with the recording and production of our first record but even more so on Army of Love," says Toby.
"That sets us apart from other 'boy bands,'" adds Josh. "People think of Jake as a boy band, which isn't necessarily true, aside from the fact that we are boys and a band."
Not only has the band been differentiating itself from other boy groups, while touring as Jake over the last two years, but the Penner brothers have also been tucking quite a few lessons under their belt, bettering their craft as musicians, singers, songwriters and live performers.
"God is showing us more and more why we're out here," says Marty. "While being out on the road over the past year, we've been able to connect with so many people and have seen so many doors of opportunity open. On realizing that potential, we know that now is the time to maximize it the best we can to further the kingdom of God."
If Jake is only now realizing its potential to reach audiences, the guys certainly have good things to look forward to-backed by previous nominations for a Juno Award and two Canadian Radio Music Awards, and participation in a national ad campaign with leading Canadian clothier, ROOTS for HIM.
Raised in a Christian home in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada, the guys' parents, Jake and Marie Penner, instilled in their sons the Christian's need to make a difference for God's kingdom, a lesson Toby admits they are still learning. "When we first thought about 'becoming' Jake, we just had the vague goal of playing cool music without hitting people over the head with any big message. But now as we get more involved in the music industry, we see the impact our songs have on people and the opportunity we have to create awareness in people's lives.
"That has been a big change in my mind over the last year and that challenges me to talk about the things I'm passionate about," he continues. "With everything that has happened in the world over the last several months, I know our lives have been reprioritized. We have a whole new mission."
So it is with a new point of view that Jake sets out with Army of Love to show this generation what love can accomplish one day at a time.
NOTE: Jake doesn't sing together anymore. The group stopped singing around 2003.