In 2005, Seattle band Acceptance seemed poised for success. Their second EP led to a deal with Columbia Records, and the group released its debut album, Phantoms. Despite the initial excitement surrounding the record, issues with their label began from the get-go.

"We're like the road map for how to become a band and how to not be in a band," lead singer Jason Vena said.

Many labeled Acceptance's music as Christian rock because of references to prayer, Christ, and heaven in early songs such as "This Is Only a Test," "December," and "Seeing Is Believing." Its members also identified as Christian. "When I joined the band, I still considered myself a Christian. However, I was raised in a fairly liberal church," drummer/guitarist Garrett Lunceford said in an e-mail. "I knew the guys had a much more conservative interpretation of the Bible, but they made it clear to me that we weren't a Christian band."

After building a solid local fan base and self-releasing 2000's Lost for Words, the group decided they needed a higher-quality EP to sell at shows. So they pooled their resources and reached out to producer Aaron Sprinkle. "I felt like they had a unique freshness to them, and Jason's voice... I instantly loved the way he structured his lyrics and melodies," said Sprinkle. Thus, the band recorded the EP, Black Lines to Battlefields, at Seattle's Compound Recording Studios in 2003.

After sending the EP to several major labels, Acceptance met with Rick Rubin, producer extraordinaire and owner of American Recordings, and Matt Pinfield, former MTV VJ and then A&R rep for Columbia Records, who were both interested in signing the band. Acceptance eventually decided that Columbia was a better fit overall.

Before the band could step into the recording studio, Lunceford revealed he was gay. "I'm not sure that most of the dudes cared really, more than trying to figure it out," guitarist Christian McAlhaney said from his home in Florida. "When you're in your early 20s, and at that time, that wasn't a very common thing... some of those guys didn't know any gay people. There were no gay people at their high schools." After band discussions and what the group now refers to as a breakdown in communication, Lunceford and Acceptance parted ways. Lunceford declined to comment for this story on whether or not he was kicked out, but nonetheless, a band called Acceptance did not appear to accept their gay drummer.

All Lunceford would say is this: "If I, the gay in question, feel as though things have been resolved, I feel that should be enough for folks." McAlhaney added, in a post-interview e-mail, "We really do not want people to dwell on the past. We've reconciled and are in the best place that I think this band has ever been." Today, Lunceford no longer considers himself a Christian, and Vena said the band is inclusive of all backgrounds.

After Lunceford's departure, Nick Radovanovic took over on drums, and the band entered the studio with Sprinkle to make Phantoms—a pop-rock record that blends upbeat melodies with heavier guitar and thundering percussion, backed by lyrics about falling in and out of love and trying to find your place in the world, struggles twentysomethings know all too well.

But before Acceptance and Sprinkle could celebrate a job well done, first-week sales took a dive after Phantoms leaked months before its April 26, 2005, release date. The physical CD also featured a harmful copy-protection software called XCP that forced Sony BMG, Columbia's parent company, to recall 27 titles, including Phantoms, from stores.

The label also pushed the ballad "Different" as the lead single, while the band thought the up-tempo "Take Cover" was more representative of the record. "To use a poker analogy, it's like you have an unbeatable hand, and no one will bet," Sprinkle said. The trifecta of label problems, paired with Columbia's lukewarm reactions to demos for their sophomore album, proved to be too much. One year after the release of Phantoms, Acceptance called it quits.

"We'd all got so beaten down from not catching a break ever and feeling totally passed over. I think there was relief for a fresh start," said McAlhaney.

Over the next 10 years, some members continued to pursue careers in music, while others chose to leave the industry. McAlhaney and Lunceford joined other bands. Radovanovic works as an engineer and producer. Vena, who, post-Acceptance, sang on tracks by pop-punk quartets All Time Low and Ivoryline, works as a sales manager at a car dealership. Zwiefelhofer works in digital marketing, and guitarist Kaylan Cloyd drives a wholesale milk route.

But Phantoms continued to grow in popularity, much to the band's surprise. In 2013, Bad Timing Records rereleased Phantoms on vinyl, and the first 1,000 copies sold out in four hours. "There was this weird effect... you found something, but you couldn't see it," McAlhaney said. "It becomes this legend. All you have is your imagination of who these guys are and what they did."

The six musicians rarely spoke over the years, but when they did, discussions usually circled back to the idea of writing new music or reuniting. After McAlhaney's group Anberlin disbanded in 2014 and Acceptance received an offer to play the Skate and Surf Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey, for the second year in a row, the band—now the sextet of Cloyd, Lunceford, McAlhaney, Radovanovic, Vena, and Zwiefelhofer—hit the studio together for the first time in more than a decade. "By the third practice, it was like we never left each other," Vena said. "I have a lot of love for Garrett. I feel like we have a really great relationship and we had a really great relationship 10 years ago. The band is wholly united and really loves Garrett in all his gayness."

Acceptance released their first new song, "Take You Away," in May—a track that wouldn't sound out of place on Phantoms. "We want to find a new home for the band and hopefully try to put out a record at some point, keep the band alive," McAlhaney said. "I don't think I could ever see us going on tour in the normal sense of the word. But it's fun to do this weekend stuff and work on Acceptance songs here and there." The majority of the reunion shows have sold out, and there are only a few tickets available for the band's upcoming gig at the Showbox.

"Everyone feels very grateful and very blessed to get this opportunity again," McAlhaney said. "Most people don't get a second chance." recommended