Rebels is the follow up to Los Angeles-based worship group Influence Music’s debut live album Touching Heaven. As a studio concept album with a cinematic companion film, Rebels breaks new ground for Influence Music narratively, sonically and visually while staying true to the core elements that made Touching Heaven a breakout success: radio-friendly ballads from Melody Noel, Sunday morning anthems from Matt Gilman, the raw, soulful vocals of Michael Ketterer and the pop sensibilities of Medina. Produced by Jordan Sarmiento and Michael Barkulis and recorded out of Anaheim Hills, Rebels aims to be a voice for anyone whom religion is so quick to judge. This new collection is slated to drop worldwide on July 19. In the days leading up to the album release, Influence Music shared with us some insight into the challenges of making this new collection and the call to action behind these new songs.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of Rebels! What does it mean for you, as a group and personally, to be so close to release day?
We are so excited for this album to finally be out in the world! Our team has put in so much hard work and I think as a group this marks the beginning of a new season! We haven’t done these songs in a live setting outside of our church yet and we can’t wait.
Can you give us an idea about how long this project has been in the making?
The writing camp for this project was in April 2018. During that songwriting camp is when we began to notice there was a similar theme stirring in our hearts. That week is when the title track “Rebels” was written and it really inspired our train of thought for the rest of the songs. We continued to write throughout the summer and the final songs were completed November 2018. December 2018 is when we started to shoot the short film to coincide with this release…the film will probably be complete the day before we release it! We definitely work better under pressure!
How would you compare the evolution of this album to your previous release, Touching Heaven?
Our prayer for 'Touching Heaven' was that the Lord would establish the work of our hands. He definitely did in an accelerated amount of time! Everything about 'Touching Heaven' felt very organic and effortless. The process for 'Rebels', at times, seemed like a series of roadblocks - both with the songs and production. In retrospect, the Lord was moving pieces around in a way that would ultimately serve the project in a way that was FAR better than we could have planned. The process of pushing through resistance lyrically and musically forced us to develop patience and trust throughout the creative process. It was worth it!
Can you share a little about the meaning behind the album’s title and how Rebels is a reflection of the collection?
'Rebels' is a call to action for the church to go into the dark places and love the people whom religion can be so quick to judge…the outcasts, the sinners, the lost. The song is special to me because I feel extremely connected to the message. It’s probably the truest thing to my personal story I’ve been a part of. It set the tone for the rest of the songs because it got us thinking about the place of first love and igniting a fire of adventure back to our faith.
Which track are you most looking forward to sharing and why?
The “Rebels Finale” on the album featuring Voices of Hope is phenomenal. The first time we heard it as a group we were all crying. Its a medley of all the songs on the album and was arranged brilliantly by our producers Jordan Sarmiento and Michael Barkulis. The vocal direction of their Choir Director, Sarah Grandpre, is stunning!
Who or what were some of your biggest inspirations, spiritually and musically, in developing this collection of songs?
We all have different inspirations that we pull from. I think on this record, you hear everything from super congregational high praise that came from our love of songs by Darlene Zschech, Michael W Smith, and Matt Redman. However, there is this whole other side to the record that is inspired by artists like Jon Bellion, Julia Michaels and even artists like Kygo who is doing some pretty cool things in the Electronic space. At the end of the day, we are storytellers and we appreciate and look up to other great storytellers!
Success is defined in many ways. What is your definition of success for this album?
Since the beginning, we have set out to awaken the “God-craving” part of the human spirit. We believe each person is born with a longing to be in relationship with their Creator (whether they know it or not), and if this album ends up being the alarm to wake up their spirit to the knowledge of Jesus - then we will have succeeded in our mission. We also hope that this album will inspire creativity within the church. The same way that Delirious inspired a whole generation of songwriters, we pray that our music would inspire the next generation of creators within the church both sonically and visually.
What lies ahead for Influence Music after the release of this record?
We are heading back up to Big Bear in August to work on our next record. We have no details on what the theme is or what God wants to do yet. Our hunch is that it will be a live worship record because our hearts have been really stirred to create songs that our church can sing on a regular basis. During our time up in the mountains, we will be intentional about listening for the voice of the Lord and praying together about what the future holds.