A lot has changed for Brothers McClurg in the three years since Light + Life first covered this worship band from upstate New York.
Several touring members have changed. The band has switched from Integrity Music — one of the largest Christian labels — to the 1-year-old Sprig Music label in its home state. The band’s sound also has evolved to include styles that echo the music of past decades.
Other aspects of Brothers McClurg haven’t changed, such as the band’s two front men — brothers Chris Hoisington, the worship leader at Colonial Heights Free Methodist Church in Niagara Falls, and Anthony Hoisington, the director of worship ministries at Northgate Free Methodist Church in Batavia, New York — and their desire to see lives changed through worship music.
Earlier this year, the band released two albums, “Home” and “Around the Mic” on the same day. After nearly three years since the band’s last release, “Join in the Sound,” the group wanted to release new songs that didn’t all seem to belong on the same project.
“They were two separate ideas,” Chris said. “It just felt like they should be on separate albums.”
He described “Home” as having more of a full band sound with “a country folk feel” while “Around the Mic” incorporates the “old feel” of traditional and Southern gospel music. He said the latter album was recorded on analog tape “the way they would have recorded the music like that back in the ’60s.”
Chris, age 31, wasn’t born during the decade that inspired the recording process, but the new projects bring the Hoisington brothers closer to the musical heritage that began when their maternal grandfather, Pastor Bill McClurg, founded the McClurg Family Singers.
“Our parents traveled and sang Southern gospel music in the ’70s and ’80s,” Chris said. “When we got around to recording ‘Home’ and ‘Around the Mic,’ I had started listening to some of their vinyl again.”
The brothers wondered: “What would it sound like if we put our own spin on that kind of Southern gospel vibe but mix it into modern worship music?”
They feared the new music might alienate longtime fans, but it instead earned them critical praise while keeping and expanding their fan base.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” Chris said.
After leaving Integrity Music, the band raised enough money on Kickstarter to record “Home” before being approached by Sprig Music, which asked to release that album and invited the band to record “Around the Mic” in the label’s own studio. Instead of focusing on sales or producing “anthem-sounding worship songs,” Chris said, Sprig is “trying to take music back to a place of making great art that glorifies the Lord, that helps people connect with God through worship.”
The move to a smaller label has not hurt the band’s ability to attract an audience. This year, Brothers McClurg played the large Creation and Kingdom Bound music festivals. While continuing to be booked at worship conferences that feature pop and rock music, the brothers are exploring opportunities to perform at Southern gospel festivals.
While many worship bands try to sound like U2, Chris said that approach doesn’t work for smaller churches that may have a lone worship leader singing and playing guitar.
“Ultimately, worship starts from singing from your soul,” he said. “That’s what people are going to connect with the most.”