Kutless has revealed the purpose of the five-year hiatus along with other struggles the band faced in the last 20 years of their careers.
The Christian rock band started in 2002 when they released a nu-metal self-titled album which would become the foundation of the band's music and declared it a well-known name in the newly popular Christian rock genre.
However, during the next 15 years, Kutless turned towards a worship-inspired pop-rock genre. It was a pivotal moment in the band's journey to find its way back to heavy metal today.
On Friday, September 30, Kutless released their first single in five years, "Words of Fire," which not only shows the band's return to its metal roots but also shows the growth they have gone through to find peace in making music once again.
On October 17, James Mead, a founding member, songwriter, and guitarist for Kutless talked to HM Magazine for an exclusive interview discussing that journey of growth in faith and peace of mind.
"Words of Fire" was inspired by the George Floyd protests and riots in downtown Portland, Oregon, and the rising crime rate in 2020. Mead says that the events represented what was happening in culture as a whole, people pointing blame at others and being unwilling to find a positive role in making a positive change in society.
He compared the protests and riots to Revelation 11, a chapter that talks of two witnesses. While writing the song, he imagined the scene from that chapter in his streets at the time, which is the perspective the song takes.
"I think it’s overall an evangelistic plea. It’s a plea for people to be bold in their faith and to continue to share, even though it seems like the world wants to stop that message of truth being shared."
The song was also inspired by late-70s sci-fi movie soundtracks such as Alien, music that has a "gritty" vibe.
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Mead admits in the interview that if in previous albums it seems that there are songs that have a "rocker" feel, he either wrote them or was involved in them because he feels that is how he can be his most authentic self as a songwriter.
The five-year hiatus was described as being out of control, anger-filled and scary because the band felt as if they had been betrayed by people who called themselves Christians. Kutless had experienced backlash from these people who were spreading lies and saying evil things about them, it was during those five years that they realized they need to process and cope with these experiences healthily.
Thus the creative process began and songs began to be written focusing on topics revolving around that experience.
"I felt like we kind of reached this place in our faith where we’re not scared to bring anything to the Lord now because I know that He is gracious and merciful and kind and that He desires peace for me."
Mead says that once any negative emotions arise, such as anger, betrayal, or guilt, they should be brought to the Lord right away because He wants to walk with us in everything we go through; good or bad.
The artist also believes that putting difficult Church topics—mental health, pastor accountability, behind the scenes in churches—into songs allows people to process more easily and readily. Mead says that music is a powerful medium of art to impact people, which is why the band's feelings and thoughts of the last five years will be interpreted through song.
Despite Kutless going back to its original heavier roots, only two of the original members will be returning to the stage, James Mead and Jon Micah (Sumrall - vocalist). Neal Cameron will be playing bass for the band, Matt Christopherson will play the drums, and Nate Parrish will join Mead on guitar.
Other than writing songs to share their experience over the last five years, Kutless has also recently started a new podcast called, "Rock in a Hard Place." Not only will the podcast look back at stories from the band's hiatus, but also the last 20 years of their careers.
Starting in 2015, Kutless performed a series of free concerts in Ukraine which Mead described as "the most impactful, most profoundly moving ministry experience we had ever been a part of." They performed these free concerts to emphasize spreading the Word, preaching and that gathering with other Christians does not need to bring in a profit and be commercialized.
Mead says there are a lot of expectations and limitations when it comes to producing music in the Christian music industry. The band started to feel confined to one sound of music, one that fit within the construct of the Christian music industry and the demands of radio.
"You’ve got to say "Jesus" by 42 seconds into the song or they’re not going to play it. And it better not have any sort of deep, dark, and mysterious concepts that we have to work out with the Lord. It better be positive [laughs]. I don’t know. There were just so many rules for so long, it just felt like we couldn’t just make music."
Upon returning from Ukraine, Kutless immediately jumped to perform a tour which turned out to almost bring the artists to bankruptcy. This traumatizing experience impacted the members greatly, Mead confesses that it took him almost five years to seek help in therapy. He says that Jon Micah is also in therapy.
That moment caused Mead and his other members to ask themselves many doubtful questions, “What does it mean to seek God in this kind of area of pain in my life?” “What does it mean to trust the Church again?” “What does it mean to engage with the Gospel again, but be so frustrated or suspicious of what people are trying to do to us or want from us?”
Now, having spent time growing spiritually and mentally, Mead says that they feel like they have something important to say again. Something to help them connect with their fans, bring God into others' lives, and compel people to make a positive change in the world.
Mead says one of the particular conversations the band wants to open up is about reconstructing faith rather than deconstructing it. He says that a lot of people who deconstruct their faith are people who were impacted like he was, hurt by the people who called themselves Christians.
"It might not have even been a personal attack against you or me. I know that God can use us to help guide people back to trusting Him. It’s not because I’m special, but it’s because I’m going through the same things, and He is faithful.