The Evolution of Kutless
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CBN.com Madison, WI Charles Dubois once said: “The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” Nobody understands this better than the current members of Kutless. Huddled around each other before a concert in Madison, WI, Dave, Jon-Micah, James, Nick and Jeff looked content -- content with each other, their music. The men known as Kutless are content with whom they are, whom they’ve become and -- with God's blessings -- what they will become in the future.
“This is who we’re supposed to be,” says guitarist James Mead.
As the members of Kutless have come and gone over the past few years, only two original members remain – Jon-Micah Sumrall and Mead. This past April original member Ryan Shrout resigned as guitarist to attend to his newborn daughter’s medical condition. While that might have rocked some bands to the core, Kutless knew immediately how to fill that gap. And they didn’t have to look too far. Blount’s replacement was only a few feet away, acting as the band’s guitar technician. Enter Nick Departee.
Departee started playing guitar at age 10 and formed his own band at age 15. In June 2006, bass guitarist and friend, James Mead, asked him to join Kutless as the guitar tech. After spending time with Kutless on the road, Departee knew this was where he wanted to be and recognized it was the end of the road for his own band, but it was the beginning of a much larger plan that God had already scripted.
“My whole last year kind of flashed before my eyes,” Departee said as he reflected on this new opportunity. “I saw my first guitar lesson with my dad. I saw the garage my band learned how to write music in. I saw the kids who my band played for throughout high school. I saw my band playing our last show and our meeting which ended our group. I saw the entire last year of touring with Kutless – all the good, all the bad, and most of all I saw God gracefully moving in my life. I saw Him opening a door in front of me and telling me, ‘This is what I’ve been preparing you for. It's time to take My hand and move."
Departee’s arrival as a permanent member of the band has been a change, but a “good one”, according to the rest of his peers.
“There’s been immense impact on every aspect of the band for every member change,” says Mead. “Some members have come and gone, but thankfully the Lord directed the steps of all these guys to be here and be part of the family. Every time there has been fresh blood in the mix, it has affected our chemistry with each other, our stage performance, and our music. We feel, this day, confidently that this is the group of five that the Lord intended for Kutless.”
So what was missing before?
“With every band member change, the group evolves,” says drummer Jeffrey Gilbert. "There are seasons that come and go and each band member change becomes a part of the flow…our evolution. It’s been a really natural thing. As we change, there are things that we recognize from the past that didn’t work. With the addition of Nick, there’s more of a completion of who we are and where we’re moving.”
Bass guitarist Dave Luetkenhoelter is quick to add: “I think what’s interesting is that when you add something new that the Lord has intended for that spot, you don’t really realize what was lacking until you see the fulfillment of what you can be. We weren’t going around saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait until we have the real members of the band.’ As it’s evolved, we’ve seen how each person has taken advantage of the position he’s been given and using the talent God’s given him.”
And how does this change impact their communication with each other? To watch these guys, one couldn’t even imagine a bad day or a cross word between them. There’s a visible bond, and Mead validates that with: “Honestly, we all have really good communication. Sometimes we bust on each other so much – kind of on purpose – that we wear each other out. It’s just us goofing off. But honestly, I’ve watched the dynamics among ourselves and among our family members…and there’s not a word for who we are. We’re closer than a brotherhood…closer than a friendship. It’s honestly more like marriage than anything else because we have to communicate with each other and expect the best out of each other always.”
Additions and departures to the band’s roster obviously impacts Kutless’ music, but Luetkenhoelter has a smile when he reflects on how change has only led to the strength of their band. “We’ve had to tame ourselves to listen better. There are new people, and we have to focus again. We have to get back to square one. Going through that motion puts us in a position to start playing better. All around I think it’s improved us individually and as a band.”
So how does Kutless see change affecting their next few years? “We’ve seen bands with great potential come and go and for some reason the Lord has continued to use Kutless,” says Mead. “We have surpassed the normal life cycle of a normal rock and roll band in the Christian music industry. We don’t have a plan. Weekly and monthly, we say ‘Lord, is this still what you want us to do?’”
“We have aspirations to keep growing,” adds Gilbert. “I think we’re all hoping for growth and hoping to do the best we can. I would be shocked if we weren’t a band in five years, because I really see the Lord’s hand in this and these specific five guys. Sorry if you’re sick of us by then, but we’ll probably still be playing our music and doing our thing.”
Change is all this band has known for a few years, but what has remained the same? “This is going to sound like a canned Sunday School answer, but the truth is God!” Mead says. Nothing is going to change that!
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