(Photo: Caleb Kuhl)
San Antonio's Abandon joined the Christian rock community in 2002 and have risen meteorically ever since. Begun as a church worship band, they're now ministering to the mainstream with catchy, openly spiritual rock singles.
Control, the group's sophomore album, saw release in April and has since reached all manner of music fans with its danceable rhythms and high energy. The especially infectious "Live It Out," an upbeat alternative rock anthem, has infiltrated The Food Network's “Food Network Challenge” and ESPN's “SportsCenter” as well as its 2011 Espy Awards.
In an interview with The Christian Post, lead vocalist and guitarist Josh Engler explains how courting crossover appeal has been his band's objective all along. Speaking before a gig Tuesday night in Ohio, the singer said Abandon testifies on each and every tour date for the Lord.
CP: What inspired you to name your band Abandon?
Engler: We pulled our name from wanting to live selflessly like Jesus. We took inspiration from Matt 10:38 to "take up our cross and follow Christ."
It's been a desire of ours since we were all in youth group to understand how God could have come to Earth as a king and came as a peasant instead. We were inspired by that aspect of his story.
CP: You play with your brother Justin, Abandon's rhythm guitarist, in your band. What's it like playing music with not only your friends but your sibling too?
Engler: It's been cool. We have the support of our family and I'm not in a band with strangers. We all feel like brothers now given we were friends before the band, but it's gotten even better since then. We're all just one big happy family and the longer we go at it the smaller the world is.
CP: Your latest album, Control, came out last April. What's the title's significance?
Engler: We honestly believe that when God leads your life and has control over it things go better for you. It's not about using faith as a crutch but making a better choice every time. We want to let God have control and just let go.
CP: Do you have a favorite song from Control? Why?
Engler: It's like picking your favorite child. You spend so much time working on them and writing, it's hard to pick.
There's a couple that really stick out. "Live it Out" is in our blood and it's all about what we want to do. We want to live out our love of Christ. "Why Did It Take So Long” is a real heart-on-our-sleeves kind of song.
In all seriousness though, I love them all.
CP: Speaking of "Live It Out," the song has achieved mainstream success having appeared on the Food Network's “Food Network Challenge” and ESPN's “SportsCenter” as well as the 2011 ESPY Awards. How does it feel hearing your song on TV shows?
Engler: It's awesome. It's also ironic that this song "Live It Out" is doing what it was written for. It's taking Christian music and putting it on almost every major television network. We wanted to see the love of Christ shone to the world and it's getting all these placements on TV.
It's really humbling for us and we find it incredible. It's kind of like getting a Christmas present.
CP: Abandon released its first two records independently before joining ForeFront Records in 2008. How has achieving greater success changed Abandon, if at all?
Engler: We have a team behind us now. We understand that everything we do now is going to have a lot more professionalism and we thus strive to be the best.
When you're independent you can do whatever you want and who's going to criticize you for it? We love it now. It hasn't changed our focus but our reach.
CP: What other musicians or bands do you admire? Why?
Engler: I like a band from Nashville called Paper Route. We're all listening to the new Switchfoot and Coldplay albums and they're great. We're going to tour with the Newsboys in spring and we're excited to play with them.
CP: Abandon offers you a huge platform for sharing the Gospel with listeners. How important is discussing Christianity with your fans?
Engler: It's absolutely important to us.
Our first tour we did a concert in a public high school and it changed our lives. We were born in church and lived sheltered lives. The band has given us a chance to spread our wings and see the world.
We want to share the Gospel with not just our music but our lives. God is helping us live out our dreams.
CP: Abandon plays alternative rock music. Do you ever receive criticism from the Christian community for playing a more contemporary style of music?
Engler: We do receive criticism for the style of music we play.
Christians can be some of the most judgmental people in the world and they should be the exact opposite. When God saves you, he saves all of you – your spirit, your soul, and everything else. We try not to pick fights. That's not what we're about at all. If you're on stage, though, people will talk about you both good and bad.
You have to follow your heart and let God's will work out on its own. Everyone's selfish and has an idea of what life should look like. It's like water off a duck's back for us. I'm open to having coffee with anyone who wants to discuss us.
CP: What do you hope to accomplish next with Abandon?
Engler: We're looking at doing another a new record, more touring and showing as many people as we can about Christ. Touring with the Newsboys will be cool. We'd even love to do a mainstream tour with Paramore, One Republic or Coldplay.
At some point I'd even like to settle down with my wife and have some children. If you seek God, you'll find Him.