Chad Gardner of Kings Kaleidoscope, is a singer and producer, and worship leader at Mars Hill. Kings Kaleidoscope is known for having a unique approach for a Christian music act–not worship music, yet very explicitly Christian.
Gardner talked about his mindset behind the group:
“I don’t want to be just Christians in a band. Because that’s sort of everyone. I mean, the amount of times I read that in articles from a teenager on is like infinite. ‘Oh, well, we don’t call ourselves a Christian band; we’re just Christians in a band’. It’s like, how unoriginal and boring is that.”
Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Kings Kaleidoscope is an indie rock worship ensemble affiliated with Mars Hill Church Ballard. At the helm is Deacon Chad Gardner, the driving force behind this dynamic band comprised of approximately twelve musicians, featuring a string trio, a horns section, two drum kits, and of course, a couple of cymbals.
The current lineup includes Chad Gardner, Zawadi Morrow, Zack Walkingstick, Blake Strickland, Daniel Steele, John Platter, and Jared Buck. Noteworthy alumni like Ryan Ponten, James Kim, Julianne Smith, Nadia Essenpreis, Andrew Nyte, and Lindsay Gardner, continue to make appearances on Kings Kaleidoscope releases and occasionally join the band for performances.
While Chad assumes the role of the band’s sole full-time member, spearheading the majority of songwriting and production, his wife Alex takes on the responsibilities of the official band manager. The remaining members contribute their musical talents, background vocals, and occasional songwriting. Despite their commitments outside the band, most of them travel with Chad during tours.
Musically, Kings Kaleidoscope stands out for their innovative fusion of rock, pop, EDM, and hip hop. Their lyrical content predominantly revolves around personal experiences, emotions, and faith-based themes, creating a distinctive and resonant sound that sets them apart in the indie rock worship scene.
INTERVIEW: David Taylor talked to Chad about his journey and his music
Chad Gardner, the frontman of Seattle’s King’s Kaleidoscope, found solace in the public expression of his grief. As the lead singer of an increasingly popular alternative rock band, Chad’s music and lyrics served as a journey through the various stages of grief. In anticipation of their second-ever UK performance, David Taylor delved into a conversation with Chad about his personal struggles and the role of music in navigating difficult times.
Chad, you went through a challenging period that would have tested the resilience of most individuals. Could you open up about what you experienced?
While I hesitate to say it would have finished most men, it certainly marked the end of certain aspects of my life and brought about profound changes. During the creation of our first album, my wife and I made the decision to leave both our church and jobs.
We faced the heartbreaking loss of our first child due to stillbirth, as well as the passing of two other family members. Adding to the weight, my wife’s father unexpectedly succumbed to brain cancer in a mere ten weeks, and she also endured a car accident. It was an overwhelming series of events in a relatively short span of time.
As someone with a Christian background, did you feel adequately supported by the church and your peers during this challenging period?
Fortunately, I did. We were fortunate to have an incredible network of friends and family who offered unwavering love and support.
Tell us about King’s Kaleidoscope (KK).
King’s Kaleidoscope is a band that originated from a church plant. I served as a music director and led a diverse group of individuals who consistently played together until I parted ways with the church. Our inaugural album came to life in 2014, and here we are in 2020, still creating music. While the lineup of musicians may vary on the road, we make a point to involve most of our alumni when working on studio albums.
Your albums serve as a personal odyssey, transparently expressing your emotions towards God and society. Was this intentional?
Being forthright is my nature. Whether for better or worse, I choose to wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s a natural approach to creating music and a consistent means of processing my own faith.
In ‘Backwards,’ a track from your latest album Zeal, you mention being ‘sick and tired of church and chess.’ Can you elaborate on this sentiment?
In a live interview, I might turn the tables and inquire about your interpretation! I’m expressing poetically the tiresome cycle of church politics that can be distracting and endless.
Does being a Christian add a unique dimension of pressure to the journey of grief?
I haven’t experienced that pressure. Christianity forms the bedrock of my approach to grief and hope. Navigating challenging times without hope for the future and the redemption of my pain is unimaginable for me.
Many men cope with grief by assuming a caretaker role, feeling compelled to be ‘the man’ in the situation. What advice do you have for them?
Such a scenario seems like a coping mechanism to me. I would urge them to rely on their community and loved ones, being open and honest about their emotions. Most importantly, confront those feelings with brutal honesty before God, allowing Him to provide comfort and healing.
Zeal concludes on an optimistic note, with you singing, ‘It’s gonna be okay, with a little bit of grace.’ Do you consider the journey complete, or do you foresee more to come?
The journey remains ongoing on this side of heaven for me. I believe I’ve only scratched the surface, uncovering about 1% of what Zeal has revealed. It’s a continual commitment to persist in the fight for faith.
During your London gig, you shared a personal experience of a family member’s suicide, shedding light on the alarming statistics of male suicide in the UK. How does this impact your music, and what message do you have for those struggling?
Addressing this sobering issue, I dedicate songs to those grappling with such challenges and advocate for open dialogue. Encouraging men to talk and seek help is paramount, especially in confronting the pervasive issue of suicide, particularly among men under 40 in the UK.