Peter Furler — lead vocals, guitar, drums
Jody Davis — guitar, vocals, bass
Phil Joel — bass, vocals, guitar
Jeff Frankenstein — keyboards, vocals
Duncan Phillips — drums, percussion, vocals
Throughout the group’s ten-year existence, Newsboys has gracefully bridged the realms of faith and rock ‘n’ roll. And as their sound has evolved and flourished, a corresponding growth can be found in the intimate themes which distinguish the group’s lyrics and outlook.
Newsboys’ new Star Song/Virgin release, Step Up To The Microphone, speaks literally and figuratively to the band’s present reality. Following the gold-selling success of 1996’s Take Me To Your Leader and 1994’s Going Public, and their equally successful world tours, longtime Newsboys frontman John James decided to leave the band to pursue other interests, forcing Peter Furler out from behind his drum kit and to the front of the stage as the band’s lead singer.
The title Step Up To The Microphone acknowledges the band’s evolution: “It’s like a cheeky way of saying ‘let the chips fall where they may,'” says Furler. “On this record, we’ve gone through a lot of self-examination. We’ve been thinking ‘why do we believe what we believe?’ Step Up To The Microphone means ‘make a statement,’ but it also forces you to ask yourself ‘what am I going to say when I get there?'”
Meanwhile, the rest of the band (guitarist Jody Davis, bassist Phil Joel, keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein and drummer Duncan Phillips) took it upon themselves to ratchet up their talents a few notches. The result: a rich modern pop record filled with the sound and frenzy of modern life, which also addresses the ageless concept of spirituality and examines its impact on each of the Newsboys’ lives.
From the crunchy groove of “Woo Hoo” — the album’s opening track and debut single — to the contemplative nature of “Always,” Step Up To The Microphone crackles with the energy of the Newsboys’ renewed commitment to both art and message. Produced by Furler, the album allows all bandmembers to shine, from Joel’s eclectic bass lines and additional vocal on tracks like “Woo Hoo” and “Entertaining Angels,” to Davis’ fiery guitar work on songs like “Step Up To The Microphone” and “Deep End”; from Frankenstein’s attention to sonic detail on tracks like “Everybody Gets A Shot (Truth Be Known)” to Phillip’s driving percussion all over the album.
And even in an increasingly technology-driven musical environment, Newsboys continue to focus on the heart and soul of a song: melody. “You always have to protect the melody, and at the same time, really strive to make it worth protecting,” Furler says. “It can’t be cheap, and you have to have those elements around it that don’t cheapen it or overrule it either.”
As with Step Up To The Microphone ‘s sonics, Newsboys’ vocal approach has changed as well. Gone (for the most part) is the pop sheen of past efforts, and in its place is a bit more of a rough texture, as would befit a band who’s members hail from places as diverse as Australia, New Zealand and Detroit.
Born in different corners of the globe, yet unified in their music and faith, the five group members encourage their fans to make a positive contribution to the lives of others via the public charity World Vision. Founded in 1950, World Vision is an international Christian humanitarian organization providing emergency relief, community development, and hunger prevention programs in 94 countries worldwide, including the United States. World Vision contributes over $250 million annually in the battle against hunger and poverty, in coordination with such partner organizations as Unicef, the World Health Organization, and CARE.
With the release of Step Up To The Microphone, the Newsboys explore themes which resonate both in the recording studio and onstage — and all five group members are eager to hit the tour trail and directly reconnect with their worldwide fan base. Live shows have always been essential to Newsboys’ appeal, and their powerful onstage presence has earned them standing-room-only success on five different continents. Most recently, the 1996/97 Take Me To Your Leader tour garnered Newsboys reader’s poll wins for Favorite Live Concert in both CCM and Release magazines, and they made history in the Contemporary Christian market when they performed to over 33,000 at Houston’s Astrodome in November 1997.
Step Up To The Microphone documents a new chapter in the group’s ongoing growth. “For us, it wasn’t a case of wanting to educate people,” Furler admits, “but more of wanting to show people what we’ve found out for ourselves. I hope that listeners like the melodies and the tracks, but I also hope that people will see that we believe.”
So step up to your stereo and drop in the disc. See for yourself why secular and non-secular audiences alike have been drawn to Newsboys’ thought-provoking take on pop music.