While many would argue that Sonicflood has helped to redefine the modern worship sound, the group is not content to rest on past awards and accolades and views redefinition as more of a process than a destination. Cry Holy is the next step within this process and though the sound of modern worship continues to evolve, Sonicflood's focus remains the same as they seek to help thousands meet God fat to fact through their divinely inspired artistry.
We're not trying to do the biggest events in the world, and we're not out to save a million people in the year 2003," drummer Brett Vargason says. So world domination isn't on their to-do list, but going where God leads and connecting others to Him through worship certainly is. "We're just a group of musicians that God has called to sing and write music that edifies the church," Vargason modestly explains.
And that's who they've always been. Known for a contemporary pop/rock sound that appeals to teens and beyond, the band doesn't sing about God or about Christian trials or triumphs but songs to the Lord. Singing worship is what they are all about and not just another thing they do. From the beginning they've always been all about worship.
Sonicflood front man Rick Heil was traveling in style with three time Grammy-nominated group Big Tent Revival when he left behind the cushy tour bus and regular salary of that established band to become a member of the fledgling group Sonicflood. There were no gold records yet. The band was still traveling around in a van, driven only by the desire to lead the church in worship.
They soon saw success, but with only one album to their credit, the band members parted ways, leaving Heil to figure out how to fulfill the tour dates to which the group had already committed. Not sure where to turn but sure that God had a calling on Sonicflood, Heil knew that in order to honor God Sonicflood needed to keep their contractual obligations and so he picked up the phone and called friends who also had a heart for worship. Enter Vargason, keyboardist David Alan, lead guitarist Todd Shay, and bassist Tom Michael.
As they toured, the group's desire to lead worship grew stronger and a genuine camaraderie developed between the fivesome. In the same way, audiences seemed to connect with the new incarnation of the band. So they moved forward prayerfully, eventually partnering with the young INO Records and releasing Resonate in 2001, which sold over 250,000 units and spurred two top ten hits.
Two years of consistent touring and praying together honed the bands sound and focus even further, creating a strong foundation on which to build their latest project, Cry Holy. Under the guidance of producer Marc Byrd (City On a Hill: Sing Alleluia) and engineer Julian Kindred, the band took on the difficult task of finding just the right mix of original songs and new classics.
"It was a privilege for me to be a part of this record. I was encouraged by the guys' openness to explore new ideas musically and stretch themselves creatively. We were able to capture the heart and vision of the band on this recording," says Byrd.
The result of their musical collaboration is a collection of tunes linked together by their lyrical transparency. "What we were really striving for were songs where you could see the songwriter's heart was moved by the Lord's awesomeness while writing the song," Heil says. "I think the most beautiful writing is when somebody is completely honest and open. To be real seems so rare in our churches these days and yet it's the first step toward being relevant to a hurting world."
The first song to fit those criteria is the title track, "Cry Holy," which was a true collaboration. While Byrd (who penned "God of Wonders") was the primary songwriter, Andrew Thompson also contributed and Heil helped polish the song, taking inspiration from James 4:6 ("God resists the proud, but He draws close to the humble"). "Often when the Israelites were worshipping God in pride, you found that the Lord called their songs 'noise' and 'clanging symbols,'" Heil reminds. "I think that's a very timely scripture reference for all those that desire to worship God. You can't worship Him if He's resisting you."
Other songs were inspired more directly by everyday life. "I Will," a stirring song of surrender also penned by Heil, can be traced back to the songwriter's two-year-old daughter. "The concept of a person surrendering to anybody or anything is quite foreign in this society. We're very independent and yet the Lord says, 'come to Me as a child.' Then I look at my little girl and she can't do a thing for herself. She needs us to feed her, to wash her clothes, to dress her. And when you see her vulnerability, you see what God means: 'Come to Me as a child and depend on Me rather than whatever you think you have got going for yourself.' God doesn't need our help. He wants our love and our dependence on Him. That's all part of worship."
The band also applied their smooth, polished pop sound to Chris Tomlin's instant classic, "Famous One." In fact, Heil was so moved by the song that it was his first emotion-filled take that made it on the finished disc. "The imagery of the song is so strong, and at a time when everybody is so hung up on fame, to think of Jesus as the Famous One is very apropos because He is the only famous one in existence," Heil says. "As we started building on the song musically, it began to really stand out as a shining moment on the album."
While their hook-filled pop songs with an eternal focus have won the band many fans, they know worship is about more than just music. That's why they take time throughout their set to explain to concertgoers that worship is the way you live your life. It's more than a song, worship is reaching out to the poor and needy. Then, through World Vision, they give their audience an opportunity to put that into practice. That practical approach may account for why the band has seen more than 5,000 children sponsored during the last two years at Sonicflood shows, making them one of the organization's top groups in terms of sponsorships brought in.
But the music and the ministry would mean nothing if they weren't living out what they sing about. "We're just guys who want to live lives of worship in our relationships with each other and in our relationships with our families," Heil says.
Only then comes the music, songs they see as a gift back to God, the One who gave them the words and the melodies in the first place.
Byrd sums up what the guys hope could be said by anyone that Sonicflood comes in contact with. "I was inspired by their focus on the holiness of God and their message of worship. I'm extremely excited about this record. Spiritually, musically, and creatively this record is already a success to me."
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