Stellar Kart has the youth camp menu memorized: ham ‘n eggs, hamburgers, Sloppy Joes, and typically there’s spaghetti in there somewhere. Admittedly, it’s not gourmet, but these guys just can’t pass up a free meal.
Of course, playing music for kids is the real reason behind their camp craze, and new Word Records power pop-punk band Stellar Kart has a mission to connect with youth. “We love camps because we’re right there with the kids,” says lead guitarist Cody Pellerin. “A lot of bands just want to play shows, which is fine, but I really enjoy using music as an opportunity to relate to youth.”
It’s the best possible venue to meet kids one-on-one,” says Adam Agee, Stellar Kart’s lead singer. “Sure, they might think you’re cool because you play in a band, but they see that you still have your head on straight, that you can be a Christian and still rock.”
Four guys who range in age from 20-24, Stellar Kart is now raring to carry its mission beyond camp borders. With an album title that means “full speed ahead,” All Gas. No Brake drives the group’s music and message forward, encouraging high schoolers to go all out for God.
They’re responsive to our music and lyrics because we just came through that period ourselves,” says Agee. “Stellar Kart is definitely geared toward youth group kids because that’s where we got our start.”
Phoenix-based Stellar Kart’s frontman Agee and drummer Jordan Messer did indeed start leading worship in a youth group, adding Pellerin to the line-up about three years ago and most recently Brian Calcara. The band has recorded two independent releases, performed about 100 dates each year, and played with bands like Jeremy Camp, By The Tree as well as Seven Places.
In its early days, Stellar Kart admits to being an Audio Adrenaline tribute band but says that when it wore out Bloom, members began writing their own material. “We got tired of playing the same Audio A songs. We were waiting for them to put out another CD, so we decided to write our own stuff,” jokes Agee.
Actually, the band has always written its own music. Even now, Messer and Agee take on the lyrics, while all four contribute to the music and arrangements. A self-produced record, All Gas. No Brake features only one worship song, while the other tracks capture Stellar Kart’s unique blend of straight-ahead pop-punk.
The band’s affinity for camp settings is easily heard in “Gone Fishin’” and “Student Driver.” Songs written on location, they’re full of catchy music with simple messages that are easily understood. In “Student Driver,” Stellar Kart uses a fun, rockin’ tune to communicate the idea that so many Christians want to be in control, want to be in the driver’s seat, but are really just along for the ride.
Stellar Kart also addresses pressing matters in the lives of teens using its own distinctive style. The energetic “Superstar” is actually a song about someone considering suicide. Says Messer, “I’ve had friends that died from suicide, so I felt it was an important issue to address in a song. So many people are not feeling the love of Christians around them. We wrote ‘Superstar’ to stress how crucial it is for us as a family to reach out to others.”
Through its work with youth, the band says that it continually meets kids who think they’re unforgivable. It wrote “Second Chances” to remind those kids that no matter how many times they mess up, God will always provide a second chance. The song originated from Stellar Kart’s ongoing work with Silver Ring Thing, an abstinence program. Silver Ring Thing puts on high-tech presentations full of video, music, comedy skits and light shows to encourage kids in abstinence.
Talking with kids about life and second chances is what motivates Stellar Kart. “Junior high and high school were really difficult for me,” says Pellerin. “Not being a Christian, those years were just a train wreck. I accepted Christ right before I turned 18. I went to a camp two weeks later, and it was life-changing.
“There are so many high school and junior high kids living a life with no direction. If we have the opportunity to help them, that’s great. It fires me up, keeps me grounded to think about how God’s using me to help other people.”
Stellar Kart takes this new role seriously, as it prepares to impact more with All Gas. No Brake. “It’s a huge deal,” Agee says. “No one’s perfect. We can only help others if we ourselves are committed to holding each other accountable and staying in the Word.
It’s definitely not easy. It’s just something you make a conscious decision to do, and we have.”