Interview: Anberlin

Published on the | 11.09.13



Could you listen to your favourite song 3000 times and still have the same passion for it? Anberlinfrontman Stephen Christian tells Daniel Cribb how the band injected new life into old hits and wrote their best record to date.

They call Australia their second home, and for a band who has visited the country nine times in their ten year existence, Anberlin are well overdue for another tour since their An Evening With Anberlin tour in 2011. In fact, they toured the country twice in ’11, the first time being Soundwave. “What’s taken us so long to get back on this record? I have no idea,” vocalist Stephen Christian begins. “Every time we tried to book, something would come up with the Australian promoter or our US tour. This will be the first time going over there on our new record and that’s really exciting for us because we’ve always – obviously by going there nine times – loved Australia, and it’s time to come back. We’re excited to be doing it on such a good record, one that we’re really, really proud of.”

Constantly touring, already circling the US three times this year, it’s no wonder they have to mix things up every now and then to offer fans something new. Taking it easy in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, the frontman explains the reasoning behind a three-week acoustic tour of the States they have just completed. “The thing is, we’ve been playing these songs for a few years now, and we just wanted to challenge ourselves as musicians; we wanted to see if we could recreate the moment. We’ve been on tour constantly this past year and played a lot of shows in the US, and so we kind of wanted to reinvent the songs and give people who may have seen us already this year something new,” Christian says.

“There’s definitely songs off our older records that we’re getting a bit tired of – it’s not that we like the songs any less, it’s just at this point, some of the songs we’ve played at least 2000, 3000 times, so it’s just fun and refreshing for the band to be able to play new songs. I think that’s for any band, as a musician, you’re ready to play new music – you’re hungry for it and the cool thing about this record, like I said before, these are songs that we all want to play and finally get to play live in Australia.”

In 2011, because they had already toured Australia with Soundwave, their set was an intriguing blend of acoustic renditions, covers, crowd requests and even a live Q&A. Because they haven’t toured their sixth studio album, Vital, in Australia yet, punters can expect it will make up a heavy portion of the set. To help them unleash their new record on Australian crowds, they’ve asked long-time friends The Maine and William Beckett (The Academy Is…) to join them.

“For us, even though it came out in October, we’re still so proud of it, and I’m sure every record, before it comes out, the band’s like, ‘This is our best record ever!’, and we never said that about this record. We were just holding our breath and hoping fans would react to the energy and passion that we had put into this record. Even from the onset we always said that we want this to be our most aggressive record to date and we feel like we accomplished that.

“After it came out, the fans reacted way better than we thought they would, and everybody loves the record. The one thing that we love about the record is that we absolutely love playing the songs live, and that’s a big deal for a band, because sometimes you get real tired of the music you’re playing pretty fast, so it’s just cool that everybody’s still so hungry and ready to play the songs off Vital.”

It’s aggressive natural is partly to do with Christian’s other band, Anchor & Braille, whose ambient new wave folk left him yeaning for a more energetic release. Anchor & Braille had just wrapped up their latest record, which features mainly slow, piano-driven numbers, when Anberlin ventured into the studio.

Dark Is A Way, Light Is A Place is more of a moody record than our other records. We weren’t as intent on making it energetic, it was more of just a darker record for us…I was ready to get back into the aggressive roots that Anberlin had because that’s what people were excited about – that’s what people like about Anberlin, and so I think all those things added up to being, ‘Hey, we need to get back to our roots and be energised and be this again’.

“Everything we’ve done paved the way to creating Vital. When you’re starved for something, especially as a musician – the favourite part of our show is the energy and the crowd screaming back at us – and so when it came to writing, we wrote a record that we wanted to play live, and that’s why the more aggressive format. That’s why songs like Somewhat Anyone and Self-Starter made it to the record.”

Meeting in high school and growing up together, 2013 marks 10 years as a band for Anberlin. Being closer than family is another factor Christian attributes to the solidness resonating throughout Vital.  “It’s one of those things where we just looked at each other and nodded, because we didn’t want to do anything gimmicky, we didn’t want to put out a ten year deluxe edition of our first record; we felt like if we were a band whose career was on our way out or we felt our best work was behind us, then we would definitely look into to doing something like that, but for us, we were right in the middle of a tour, our single was doing really well, and we looked at each other and it were like, ‘Oh, man, we’ve been together for ten years’. I mean, it’s definitely a moment of pride because not a lot of bands can stay together that long. Our brightest day is tomorrow – our brightest moment hasn’t come yet.

“From here we’ll continue to do what we do and what we love to do, which is tour, make records, and appreciate every moment, because you don’t know if this is your last moment. The next record might come out, and if no one buys it, then it’s over. So we just want to take every moment and appreciate it.”

Daniel Cribb