... features: articles :::
back to selection

feature article - Cross Rhythms Magazine (in English)

from: Cross Rhythms Issue 33 (June/July 1996)
author: Tony Cummings (UK)
website: http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/magazine/


With wacky humour, a full tilt gospel message and now a sci-fi edge, Australian pop rockers the NEWSBOYS recently made the US pop charts. Tony Cummings reports.

ALL IN A LINE: (l-r) Jeff Frankenstein, Jody Davis, Peter Furler, Duncan Philips, John James, Philip Urry

Anyone who saw their truly stunning live appearance at Greenbelt ´95 would know that the Newsboys were even more thrilling live than their infectiously engaging CDs had led us Brits expect. Now with the release of 'Take Me To Your Leader' the band - John James (lead vocals), Peter Furler (drums, lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Jody Davis (guitar), Duncan Phillips (percussion), Jeff Frankenstein (keyboards) and Philip Urry (bass, lead vocals) - make sure their new CD reflects the band's on-stage capabilities. Where previously albums had utilised session musicians, on 'TMTYL' all the parts are played by the band themselves. It also is far more guitar-based than the band's previously highly successful 'Not Ashamed' (1992) and 'Going Public' (1994).

Again co-produced by band member Peter Furler and artist-in-his-own-right Steve Taylor, on 'Take Me To Your Leader' the Boys create a sound that Peter describes as the result of "The Clash and Abba having children". The album zips with the feel good pop of the first single "Reality", zaps with the laconic wit of "Breakfast", rocks with the guitar-wailing "Lost The Plot" and sighs with the acoustic benediction "Breathe". Recently, some US journalists got the Aussie/US sixsome around the a mike. The result proved that picking any topic the Newsboys will wax lyrical.

Peter: "In the studio, a band can come off very sterile. We've fought with it for a long time because we're a very dynamic band live. But once you get into the studio and see that red light go on, straightway something jumps up inside and disturbs you."
Jeff: "Most of us have never recorded anything on this scale. We were a bit freaked out but we set up the gear and started jamming."
Jody: "We started writing in January and pretty much worked on it all year. We blocked out about three month at the Sanctuary (a Nashville studio) and left our gear there and worked every day. Basically, the songs got arranged on the spot but we might go back and change or add things. That helped keep more of a live feel."
Peter: "When we worked with studio musicians, we had to explain what we wanted from them. These guys didn't need direction because they know what the band sound like."

Peter: "On this album we didn't use any sequencers or loops or anything. I didn't want to rely on a computer to make it sound good. I was sick of keyboards. I'd just had enough, and I didn't really find any inspiration from the keyboard with this record. With the last two records I really hadn't found any inspiration on guitar. But with this one I did. I would sit down at the drum kit and record a drum groove for about three or four minutes, then I'd pick the guitar and come up with a riff. That's really how it came about; it was just a new love for the guitar that came back on me. I don't know how long it'll last; I may do it for another couple records and then go back to keys!"

Jeff: "A lot of the things on this album didn't come out until we were three quarters through recording it. Pete would come in and say, 'I've got this line for a song,' and everything would build on top of it."
Peter: "It came out better than what I could have got any guys to play. These guys are great players and everyone came to the party and took over their section of the band. It really brought out individuality. You don't just hear one guy's head making a record. You get to hear Phil playing bass like a fresh instrument. Jody likes to take a track home and really work on his part. Jeff, the same thing."
Jody: "We used so many different amps, so many different guitars. Just everything we could get our hands on to try. Did a lot of unusual things, too, like we ran bass and keyboards through guitar amps. Because we had more time, we could be more experimental."

John: Tempo-wise, this album definitely rocks a lot harder. We wanted to take a lot of the energy we have on stage and capture it on the record."
Duncan: "On this album, there's some danceable stuff but there are heavier songs like 'Lost The Plot' that are not danceable at all."
John: "I think spiritually and message-wise it's a lot more mature."
Jody: "Lyrically, I think it's super-strong. It's touching on some solid issues. I'd say it's the most serious and strongest album that we've done."
Peter: "We just try to be who we are on a record. We don't want to be someone we're not because then you have to live with that."

(where concert-goers participated in impromptu recording sessions)
Jody: "We already had the gear out on the road and Steve Taylor was opening for us and Russ Long was his sound guy (and chief recording engineer for the album). Since we were doing the tongue-in-cheek 'Breakfast' and it already had whistling, we decided to a big sing-along. At the end of the show, we announced that everyone who wanted to sing on our album should stay afterward. Everybody pretty much stayed. They set up a couple of mikes, taught the audience, and played the tracks. We did that at three different shows and took the best one. They all sang surprisingly well."

Peter: "We're really a band who've let our mistakes come out in the recording. Some bands come out with a smash first record but we've left all our dirty laundry out in the yard. We've made some bad records - it's kind of embarrassing - but at the same time, people have gotten to see the growth of a band."

Peter: "When grunge was popular, our lead singer was in a silver suit - the total opposite. A lot of alternative bands come off as sort of dark and we're not that at all. We're pretty happy people. Because of Christ, there's always a glimmer of hope even though life is not always a bed of roses."

Peter: "I really like to talk to fans and read their letters because they really don't live the same life that we do."
Jeff: "Fans go, 'I wish that I could be like them' and here we are on the bus wishing we could live a normal life like everyone else."
Peter: "Staying in touch with people who listen our music is pretty important because I like to see what makes them tick in the same way that they like to read our interviews. For us, being with the crowd is very important because they're the ones you're wanting to serve."
Jeff: "When a band gets bigger, it's harder to keep in connection with the fans. We really appreciate our fans because they're some of the most psycho (an Aussie compliment), greatest fans a band could ever want."

Peter: "Mingling with fans keeps us within the bounds of reality. The other night John and Phil were walking through a crowd of about 1,500 handing out Vegemite (a famed Australian food-stuff). People don't expect the lead singer and bass player to be out there with them. Doing show after show, I can lose reality of what it's like to see a band you're excited about. We like to whack on a baseball cap and go out and listen to what people are saying as they're walking in. It's something we really need to do. And people need to realise that we can be a turkey just like they can be. We have to be normal to stay normal."

John: "We played with tracks for a while and got the rest in that. And if anything, it held us back as a band."
Jeff: "We started playing everything live on the Steven Curtis Chapman tour and we bonded musically and started growing leaps and bounds."
Duncan: "We've always been mates but playing live has caused us to become a lot closer. You come off stage and know you did it."
Jeff: "And laugh at each other and at the mistakes we made."
John: "We're one of those bands that people like to slam. They accuse us of lip-syncing. Just the other day, someone was slamming Jody. saying that he wasn't playing guitar, that he was just miming. What can you do? We just laugh and take it as a compliment."

Phil: "It's a lot better than some words we could've put on there."
John (with false sincerity): "I think it's definitely a breakthrough. (Sincere sincerity) I think it was appropriate. It summed up what we were saying about the guy in the song ("Reality")."
Jeff: "And it rhymed too."
John: "We spent a lot of time really trying to lock in on what we wanted to say. On some songs, there were three sets of lyrics written. Since the last album, we've all grown as people and we there was more we wanted to say."
Jeff: "We've always been really straightforward with our message but I think on this album we've gone for a more personal approach - more than just stories."
John: "We looked at circumstances that turned our lives around and talked about how, if God can touch our lives, he can touch anyone's life. We talk on the bus till sometimes three or four o'clock in the morning about good times, bad times, things the fans told us at the last show. Since the last album, we were ready to write because so much has happened."

Jeff: "We've all been through a lot of changes spiritually. It's really hard being on the road and trying to keep yourself spiritually fresh. The song 'Breathe' was written about that. It's so easy to get bitter and go through the motions on stage. Especially in the last few month, we've been going through a kind of mini-spiritual revival."
John: "Peter's father, who is a missionary, has been on the road with us really challenging the band to be real and always be mindful of why we're doing what we do and never take it for granted."

Peter: "When we got to the lyrics, I knew our weakness. I had written most of the music for 'Not Ashamed' and recorded a lot of it. I had titles and choruses for most of the songs, but it was the verses I couldn't get. No one ever praises you for going out and finding a great lyricist. Most bands say, 'We can do it ourselves', and then go and put out a crappy album. No one ever said, 'Hey, that was smart to get Steve Taylor, because he's what they needed in the lyrical department.'"

John: "It's been really hard to make it through the end of this tour. You don't want to do a sort of set routine instead of letting people on the inside. Eventually it becomes a spiel and, although it was birthed from good intentions, because you're doing it so many times, you can find yourself getting really stale and really empty."
Jeff: "But people aren't stupid. They know when it's not real."
John: "As a guy who's a frontman and vocal up front, you've got to be mindful that God has given you an opportunity. I really in my heart try purposefully to say nothing I've said the night before."

live at Greenbelt 1995

Phil: "I think that most of us are pretty much visionary-dreamer kind of people."
Jeff: "When the band thinks up something cool, we'll organise it, plan it, and get it done as fast as we can - no matter what it takes or what it costs."
John: "If we're gone for too long, we'll load the bikes (off-road motorcycles) in the truck so we can have adventures."
Jody: "We tour so much. When we do these adventures, they usually so intense, you can't think about anything else. It really releases you and gets you away from everything so you're able to have more endurance on the road. It's kind of a release for us."
Phil: "The same thing with the album premiere we're doing at NASA. Before someone could number-crunch it or reason us of it, all plans were started. Everyone was so excited and enthusiastic about it."

John: "We're talking about getting back to what we used to do at the festivals, setting up in the dirt or on one of the side stages."
Jeff: "We did that a couple of times last year in Canada."
John: "On just a little side stage. No big pa, just a couple of amps, one microphone, a little speaker there. That's us. That's the Newsboys."

Peter: "People get tied up with the image and marketing but I've seen stuff go out about us that I'm pretty embarrassed about. I always think, 'What would the Lord Jesus think about this?' The bottom line is that Jesus came to serve, not sign autographs and act like a big star. I'm not saying we're Christlike because we're far from it but that's our aim."

Peter: "I hope that we would be a band that becomes a lot of memories for people. It may not have been the biggest band in the world or sold a trillion records but it was the band that gave someone a great summer and it changed their lives to be somewhere that we played. That would be where I'd like it to finish because the day we stop doing that is the day we have to stop."

Tony Cummings is the editor of Cross Rhythms. Much of this material was gathered by Michael Nolan and appeared in his article in Release Magazine.

ChrossRhythms Read Rerun:
Cross Rhtyhms 6, June/ July 1991
Cross Rhythms 24, December/January 1995



The Newsboys are on a mission to boldly go where no Christian act has gone before. The band paired up with director Geoff Moor, NOT the CCM star but the chap who recently lensed the Goo Goo Dolls' "Name" for the unconventional sci-fi music video "Take Me To Your Leader".

The video is certainly an attention grabber. It opens with the band members appearing as spacesuit-clad astronauts who descend from a spaceship onto a barren, beautiful planet. Images of gigantic flowers and curious aliens flash to an undercurrent of clipped vocals and catchy harmonies. Shot near Kiama Beach in the band's homeland of Australia, the video showcases the Newsboys' energetic style as they explore the foreign terrain.

With its colourful look and warped camera images, the clip is easily comparable to funky, high-energetic clips from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Presidents Of The United States Of America. However, the Newsboys' leader, Peter Furler, admits that the band's video image has not always been so close to the cutting edge.

"We've been a band that hasn't had a great video career," Furler says. Many Christian artists have been plagued with low production budgets and less-than-inspiring videos. The Newsboys, impressed with Moore's promo reels, which they received from underground production company Palomar Pictures, hooked up with the director in an attempt to make a better video.

Moore says that he took on the project "strictly because it was a good song and a good opportunity to go to Australia and work with Australian crews." The Newsboys' Christian faith and following did not dissuade the director, who is best known for his mainstream rock career.

"It's irrelevant to me. They are just a bunch of surfers to me," says Moore. "I was reading this article about Whitney Houston and Mary J Blige started out in church. U2 with 'The Joshua Tree' is another good example. It's kind of ridiculous to classify them because of their beliefs. I'm a film-maker, and I went to do a video. I wouldn't have done it if I had thought they were extreme or preachy."

Moore says that working with the Newsboys wasn't much different than working with modern rock acts. "They wanted a normal, cool video. I told them what I wanted to do and they were really into it... They actually showed a trust in their director."

Furler says that the band and director had no real disagreements about the creative concept. "There are plenty of videos that don't rely on a nude girl walking around," says Furler. "Putting aside my beliefs, I still wouldn't have had something like that in it. There are plenty of creative people who don't share our beliefs who don't need that kind of thing in their video. Creatively, I kept looking at bands like REM that relied on brain power more than putting some woman to shame."

Besides, he explains, the band prefers a light-hearted, humourous approach. One of the video's images shows the band hoisting a flag over the alien landscape a la the famous photograph of US soldiers on Iwo Jima. "Geoff Moore came up with that," says Furler. "I prefer to make a video where you can laugh. Geoff had this great concept and added a story without making a documentary. I think we're more into humourous videos because we don't take ourselves too seriously."

The Newsboys are being taken seriously by Virgin Records in the US, which recently signed a deal to bring the veteran Christian act's album 'Take Me To Your Leader' to a more mainstream audience. Star Song will continue to distribute the disc to Christian music and bookstore retailers. Although the Newsboys are likely to be known to a wider audience soon, the band did not intentionally create its video to appeal to mainstream viewers, according to Furler.

"This isn't the first time we've used a mainstream director for a video," says Furler. "It's really about trying to make a good video. If it went mainstream, it would scare me. That's not our goal. Our goal is to make great music."

The video has already grabbed attention at Z Music, which in the States programmes 24-hour Christian music to 17 million cable households and broadcasts part time to 13 million homes. The channel is airing the clip in heavy rotation. "The video leaps out at you as being very different," says Graham Barnard, Z Music network programming manager. "It would grab attention on Z and anywhere else it played. It's really imaginative and in touch with the ´90s vibe. I love when a video is fun and kind of quirky. It breaks down the stereotypes of what people think about Christian music and videos."

Barnard says that the Newsboys' latest video style doesn't necessarily mean that the band is trying to cross to a mainstream audience. "What we are seeing now is the result of the (Christian music) industry just getting bigger. With the bigger budget and quality directors, you can turn out a better video. As the music grows, the delivery system gets better. They've got their eye on getting a wider audience - who wouldn't? But on another level, they are just artists who want to be heard." ««

band :: disco :: songs :: web :: features :: guests :: board :: grace :: fun :: shop :: news

© 2001-2007 by shineMedia  :::  site-info  :::  home.