The Modern Post, one of the bands at Mars Hill Church Orange County, are known for their upbeat, synth-laden and bass-heavy sound that leads the congregation to praise the creator with freedom and joy.
Their name connects to the idea of how the Gospel is news to be declared, with content that is relevant and current regardless of what era one is living in.
The musicians in The Modern Post come from extensive and diverse musical backgrounds. Deacon Dustin Kensrue, their frontman, played with the acclaimed rock band Thrice for fourteen years, releasing eight albums and touring internationally. In addition he has released two solo albums and has lead various worship bands at Mars Hill and other churches. His testimony speaks of God breaking him of “intellectual hubris”, and coming to see God’s sovereignty in his salvation. The lyrics in both his previous musical endeavors and his worship songs communicate this, pointing people to the God who owes them his justice, yet gives them his grace.
Brothers Phil and Lee Neujahr comprise the rhythm section of The Modern Post, playing the bass and the drums, respectively. They both played music together for six years in Pacific Hurt, a band formerly known as Aushua. Prior to serving at Mars Hill Church, the Neujahrs were roommates with Pastor Nick Bogardus, the lead pastor of Mars Hill Orange County. Dustin had also expressed interest in playing worship music with them years prior. In his timing, God reunited them at Mars Hill Orange County. They had missed playing music together, and at Mars Hill both brothers came to see the importance of serving with their gifts. The Neujahrs now provide the driving rhythm that lies behind The Modern Post’s songs.
Jonny Sandu, the synth player, has played the piano since he was five. Classically trained, Jonny has performed internationally, and played in other bands and churches as well. Although initially apprehensive at the idea of playing in one of the Mars Hill bands, Jonny came to see the value in serving after hearing one of Pastor Mark’s sermons on that very topic. Using the skill that God has given him, he simultaneously accentuates and brings atmosphere to the band’s music.
Dustin, and the other members of The Modern Post, appreciate the stylistic freedom that Mars Hill music provides. The band’s sound was not one that was originally planned for. In Dustin’s words, “it happened”. Having the perspective that much worship music can be overly sentimental, they choose to push against that by creating music that is celebratory and upbeat. As a result, The Modern Post’s sound is one that bespeaks robust joy, and leads people to exult in the good news that Jesus is relevant for all generations.
“The gospel is the most timeless and timely of news—always. And as the church, we have the great joy of not only being recipients of this news, but its heralds as well.” –Deacon Dustin
The Modern Post is a band who believes that the good news of Jesus should forever be the headline. The Mars Hill Orange County band’s first EP, Grace Alone, debuts soon, on August 14.
Fronted by Deacon Dustin Kensrue, the band has crafted a mix of upbeat, synth-laden and bass-heavy songs that go beyond styles. Kensrue is joined by brothers Phil and Lee Neujahr (pronounced like “new year”), who provide the driving rhythm of the songs through bass and drums, respectively, and Jonny Sandu’s synth. It’s a sound that defies indifference. The four guys talked to us about the band, playing with your sibling, and the old days sleeping on a bunk bed in Pastor Nick’s garage.
DUSTIN KENSRUE (VOCALS, GUITAR)
Mars Hill Church: What’s the thought behind the name the Modern Post? Are we talking fences here? Blog posts? Is this in contrast to the Outdated Post?
Dustin Kensrue: “The Modern Post” as a band name is obviously a bit of a riff off of the term “postmodern.” But what I really like about it is the fact that “post” is associated with news, with an announcement. Whether it’s a letter delivered, a newspaper, or on the latest blog, the post is proclaiming something.
As the church, we are the recipients of the greatest post of all time: the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. This news is for all people, at all times, both in and out of the church and is therefore always modern or current. Far from being something made obsolete by its antiquity, the gospel is the most timeless and timely of news—always. And as the church, we have the great joy of not only being recipients of this news, but its heralds as well.
MHC: Did you know these guys before forming a band together?
DK: I knew Phil and Lee since they used to live with Pastor Nick [Bogardus, lead pastor of the Orange County church] and were also in a great band together. I had actually tried to hook up with them a year or two before to do a worship record, and the timing didn’t work out. They are some of my favorite people and one of my favorite rhythm sections anywhere.
I met Jonny when he came out to the first official worship audition we had for Mars Hill OC and I knew right away that I was going to snag him for one of my bands.
MHC: Did you know the sound you wanted to go for, or did it just come together as you all played?
DK: I had an idea of a sound I was looking for, but it quickly went out the window. The way it sounds is very unaffected and is just what happened when we started playing together. We wanted it to be upbeat and joyful in general, but beyond that it’s just the combo of players in the pot.
“We didn’t want to do contemporary worship music that is safe, slow, and boring. We wanted it to be fast, driving, upbeat, fun, and joyful. We wanted the songs to be dynamic, and even somewhat urgent and aggressive.” –Lee
LEE NEUJAHR (DRUMS)
MHC: So do you and your brother share some sort of special “brotherly wavelength” that gives you perfect rhythm?
LN: “Brotherly wavelength” sounds pretty awesome, but I would attribute Phil’s and my blend together simply from the fact that we have played together for so long. We got this way from jamming in our bedrooms together as kids, long hours of practice, touring nationwide in our former band, to playing and arranging songs at Mars Hill Church. We simply know what to expect from each other and what the other one enjoys hearing in our music. Our musical abilities are certainly a blessing from God, and we have our family to thank for nurturing that blessing while we were growing up.
MHC: How have you seen fans respond to the music? What’s it like having those “fans” be people in a church on Sunday morning?
LN: Phil and I both agreed going into playing at Mars Hill that we didn’t want to do contemporary worship music that is safe, slow, and boring. We wanted it to be fast, driving, upbeat, fun, and joyful. We wanted the songs to be dynamic, and even somewhat urgent and aggressive. For me, I was very apprehensive as to how our songs would be received by the congregation on our first Sunday, especially with having just met Pastor Mark for the first time that morning and him being in attendance to preach. But thankfully, by the grace of God, people sang out joyfully in response to the message of the lyrics and the sound of the music. I don’t like to think of the people in church on Sundays as “fans,” but rather a family of believers united in praise to our risen Savior. How cool is it to hear everyone singing and shouting so loudly along to music that we created for worship? To me, that’s a pretty extravagant privilege.
MHC: We heard you and Phil lived with Pastor Nick at one point. What’s it been like watching him go from bachelor to pastor?
LN: To this day when I see Pastor Nick on Sundays, it is still such a trip to think that just a few years ago I lived in his garage on a bunk bed. He was such an encouraging individual to have lived with while we were in our indie band. He was always so busy with the bands he managed, but would never hesitate to give us a word of advice despite his busy schedule. He enjoyed our band and was always cheering us on, and now we have the privilege of him cheering us on as we lead worship on Sundays. My most fond memory is trying to teach him how to play and sing a song on piano (to no avail) in order for him to impress this wonderful girl he had just started dating (now his wife).
“I think King David would have had our band on his iPod.” –Phil
PHIL NEUJAHR (BASS)
MHC: What’s one of your favorite things about playing with your brother?
PN: Lee and I have a lot of great memories playing in bands together that we’ll be able to reflect on for years. We’ve got a third brother who also played in other bands with us so I’m all about playing with my family. When you play music with your brothers, everyone gets on the same page really quick. We’ve been playing together since we were kids so we know each other quite well. I think the band bond is a lot tighter because you can’t let your brothers down, you’re a stronger team—they’re your brothers for life. God blessed us with the opportunity to develop our music abilities together and I will always appreciate that.
MHC: What are you praying for at Mars Hill OC for the next few months? Next few years?
PN: I pray that God would continue to bless the worship bands at all of the Mars Hill locations. It’s not always easy for any of these bands to find time or a place to rehearse due to work, family, schedules, etc. I pray for God to bring musicians to Mars Hill OC because we need the help leading worship on Sundays. My hope and prayer is that over time, Mars Hill can change the culture of Christianity in Orange County and get people excited about Jesus again.
MHC: What parts of the Bible have influenced your music? Psalms? Ecclesiastes? Romans?
PN: I think the music has the youth and color of Genesis but also an epic quality from Revelation. I think King David would have had our band on his iPod.
“If I weren’t a Christian, my music would be different in the sense that it would offer nothing—it would just be prideful advice at best.” –Jonny
JONNY SANDU (SYNTH)
MHC: Were there any hesitations to joining a church band?
JS: After hearing Pastor Nick give a message on what it means to serve, I knew right away I had to put my hesitations aside, and start serving the church. There was an announcement that same day about band auditions and so I signed up, even though I was unsure about serving as a musician. Ultimately it came down to a lot of prayer about where and how I would serve in the church, and I knew that if it was God’s will, I would take the opportunity to praise and worship our Savior with the musical gifts he has given me.
MHC: We heard you got baptized while you were playing on a Sunday at Mars Hill OC. What was that day like for you?
JS: Yes I did, it was a really exciting day in which I got to fulfill Jesus’ command [to be baptized]. I was a bit anxious because in that first service of the morning I had the opportunity to see so many baptismal dunks while playing, so by the time the second service rolled around, I just couldn’t wait to stop playing and get baptized. Overall that Sunday was pure awesome. I publically professed my faith in him, identified with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, and then got to continue worshiping while trying to keep my synths dry.
MHC: How has Jesus changed the way you play music? How would your music be different if you weren’t a Christian?
JS: Jesus changed the way I play music entirely. God blessed me with the abilities to carry a tune, yet I spent the majority of my life playing for myself or others. A few lessons in humility, a lot of repentance, and a few practices later, I have an unending energy to worship him and share the good news that is Jesus Christ. If I weren’t a Christian, my music would be different in the sense that it would offer nothing—it would just be prideful advice at best.