Members: Josh, Dave, Justin, Stev, Bryan
An electric pulse you can't escape. That sparkling description of the omnipresent God jumps out from the lyrics of "Providence," one of six energy-gushing songs off the self-titled debut disc by new San Antonio rock act Abandon. The poetic phrase could also describe the band's sound, a steady rush of uncommon creativity that has both modern flash and worshipful depth.
Take it from EMI CMG Director of A &R Chris York, who signed Abandon to Forefront Records. Sitting in a restaurant last spring, his attention was drawn from a nice dinner over to the club next door where five young men were pounding out their U2-meets-The Killers tune about a force that rules the human race . . . the hand of providence.
"It's definitely the strangest way I've discovered a new band," he admits. "I could hear these guys playing on the other side of the wall, and it sounded really, really good." Critics agree. Abandon's recent EP was called "the next big thing . . . a stellar introduction to the group" (The Christian Manifesto) and built up buzz about how "the future looks bright for Abandon" (JesusFreakHideout.com). It also earned the band ranking among the "Best New Artists of 2008," according to ChristianityToday.com.
The band's story is indeed providential. Brothers Josh and Justin Engler had moved from their home state of Indiana to Texas while in high school, where they met Dave and Stevan Vela, cousins, at church. Gelling by jamming in the worship band, they felt a growing desire to write original music together as well. But after tracking a song at a local studio and playing some shows at secular clubs, there was still a desire to put more purpose into their performances.
"We needed to find our vision," says Josh, Abandon's singer and primary lyricist. "So we prayed about what we were doing and felt led to book a tour of churches and youth camps into the Northwest. We had no real experience doing this and just used the Internet to make contacts and Google maps to chart our course."
Along the road, Abandon befriended a band involved with the Seven Project, an outreach that visits schools to talk with students about seven different issuesâsex, drugs, violence, alcohol, making good choices, etc. The conversations are nonreligious, but the weeklong process culminates with an off-campus rally and concert where faith is freely discussed.
"We have stayed involved with that program since then as well, and it has helped us to see better the needs of young people and stay focused on reaching them," says Josh.
The music on Abandon does indeed reach out with a rare blend of non-alienating spiritual commentary and artistic relevance. Produced by Chris Stevens (Sanctus Real, Shawn McDonald, Delirious?), the set conveys classic Bible truths in a fresh voice (Peter's denial in "Providence"), fashions vulnerable prayers into memorable, soaring alternative pop songs ("Be Alive in Me"), and praises God while wearing the creative influences of The Beatles and Coldplay on "All Because of You."
There's an especially discernable unity in Abandon's playing that comes from the guys writing their music together. The scrappy-then-sublime interplay between rhythm and lead guitarists Justin Engler and Stevan Vela is a language unto itself. On "Here Waiting," drummer Dave Vela and newest member/bassist Bryan Fowler hold down a steady beat that allows Josh Engler to passionately paraphrase what God would have us know: This world is crazy and it's not the safest place to be . . . come with Me.
That theme of danger and hope shines throughout the album. Radio single "Hold On" depicts a struggling teenage girl from a broken family. Hold on. Someone will find you. Look for the searchlights, Engler assures her with his controlled, contagious yelp. Additionally, the message of thinking less about self and more about God points to the meaning behind Abandon's name as well as its stellar closing track, "Atmosphere."
"It's all about the atmosphere of God, the electricity of His presence," says Josh. "I must decrease; He must increase. Healing happens when you're in the atmosphere of God."
With its forthcoming release, Abandon, an electrifying live act as several YouTube clips can attest, will keep building its story on tour throughout 2009.
"We're excited to talk with people about faith and relate to them on a musical level," Josh concludes. "We love to see people changed, to bring peace and hope. At the end of the show, if people have more hope, we've done our job."
Abandon: a band on mission.