For nearly a decade, Anberlin has been taking the alternative rock scene by storm. We caught them on their latest tour with The Maine, which featured a high-energy set filled with both classics and new material. Even for as long as they’ve been around, they still bring the audience to life when they come onstage, and their live performance is one of the best we’ve seen. Alex had a chance to sit down with their vocalist Stephen Chrisitan and chat a bit about what the band has been up to, their opinions on spirituality, side projects, and more.
You guys are about to wrap up tour. How have things been so far?
Stephen: Really great. I mean we just love the bands that we’re out with. From Indian Lakes are some good friends and it’s just been awesome to hang out with them and to get to know The Maine. Luckily for us, because we’ve been on tour with them for about a month, I’m just stoked that we had the opportunity to go out for this long. We started the tour in Australia and Asia and then kind of came back. So it’s been really fun.
You guys have been touring in support of Vital for a pretty long time. What’s coming up next for you?
We just put out kind of a deluxe edition last Tuesday called Devotion. We did b-sides, 3 new songs, some remixes, and an entire live show on there. That kind of got us really excited to start writing again so I think we’re gonna start writing in December and hopefully be in the studio by like February 1st.
Do you guys write on the road or do you mostly get it done at home?
We try but honestly it’s like your own little home setup and whatever is better. Your niche and your place. Christian goes to Seattle and the coast, he has a friend out there who owns a hotel so he goes out there. Joey goes to Austin. I’ve gone to New Orleans once to write. We all kind of have our little niche places to go.
So I’m assuming that you guys collaborate online while writing? Or do you ever get together to sort of hammer things out?
Both. I mean, everything is written online so that way we can kind of send it back and forth and be like “Hey I like this, I don’t like this, try this…” And then after htat’s done right before we go do pre-production for the record, we’ll all get together and play it out.
So with every album cycle, you guys tour quite a bit. What would you say have been some of your favorite moments from the past couple of tours you’ve been out on?
I mean yesterday was one of my favorite moments. We had a day off and we went out and played football with From Indian Lakes. We played for like three hours so both bands today are probably both gonna be onstage today just sitting on couches and wishing they were dead. Stuff like that is a lot of fun, but I mean some of the best shows we’ve had so far….Thailand was definitely a lot of fun. Singapore was incredible. We just got done with a great Salt LakeCity show that was really nice. There’s just been a lot of highlights.
I’m sure our readers would love to know who won the football game?
Ok. So we LET them win the second game but the first game we totally crushed them. We’re in for a rematch now because it’s like 1 to 1.
Jumping back to your re-release on Devotion, what kind of prompted the decision to do that? A lot of bands will put out a re-mastered version but you guys added a lot of extra content as well. What sparked all of this?
It was for the fans but there was an ulterior motive to that. I mean we put out Vital on UniversalRepublic records and you know it was awesome and they’re a great label with a lot of great people…major label, all of that stuff. But honestly they totally dropped the ball on this record. They kind of just let Vital go, they were kind of just like “Well, whatever.” For us, we were so in love and enamored with this record that we just were like “we can’t spend months of our lives and so much energy and passion into one record just for a major label to kind of brush aside.” So we teamed up with another record company called Big Three and they decided “Well take it, we’ll re-release it. We’ll buy you out of your contract with Universal. We want it” you know? So that’s kind of like the ulterior motive. That Anberlin is just absolutely enamored with Vital and we just didn’t want it to be lost on the sidelines.
You guys recently did an AMA on Reddit. How did that go?
That went really well actually. I’ve been on Reddit for a long time and I look through AMA’s all the time and usually they’re BRUTAL. Usually they’re just like “You suck, you’re….this expletive” and all of that stuff so to go and have so many people say such great things and just be overly nice to us…I was just waiting for trolls! You know only like three or four showed up.
One of the questions that really stood out to me was in regard to your faith. One user said that he “couldn’t believe Anberlin was a Christian band,” to which you responded “Why promote it? Our faith is crucial to us but Jesus isn’t a marketing tool.” Do you guys think that maybe some fans would have been turned off if you openly promoted your faith? Or is it just something that you choose to keep personal to yourselves?
I mean it’s not that it’s so personal that I don’t ever talk about it or anything or that I’m ashamed of it. I don’t hide it. It’s like anybody that does three seconds of research on Wikipedia or asks me knows where I stand and what I believe. We just don’t really want to be that band that replaces the word “baby” in every song with “Jesus” in an attempt to sell more records you know? To be honest you can make way more money in Christian rock. You can go play youth groups and churches and they pay you SO much money but for us it’s just kind of like…that’s not why we’re in music. We’re not in it for the money. We’re in it because this is what we all want to do, this is what we all believe. This is our passion. So we don’t want to be that band.
There’s nothing wrong with people who do it though! If somebody is out there and they’re just like “Oh this is the kind of music I want to play,” there’s nothing wrong with it! If it’s real and genuine then that’s awesome and they should be there. I feel like there’s a place for everything. There’s a place for Justin Bieber. There is literally a place for Justin Bieber. There’s a place for Miley Cyrus. Everybody needs each other. Every genre of music needs the other genres because if we all sounded the same or we all looked the same or we’re accessible to only type of people, then music would be boring. There wouldn’t be anarchist punk rock if there wasn’t The Beatles you know, or if there wasn’t mainstream pop. Every market has their niche and we just don’t feel like our niche should be, has ever been, or will ever be the Christian rock scene.
So this one is directed towards you a bit more personally, Stephen. Last year you released new Anchor and Braille music. Can we expect anything in the future of your side project?
Oh man I wish. It’s just, here’s another time to be honest… like Anchor and Braille is totally just so exciting for me. I enjoy it because…and not that there’s anything wrong with Anberlin…I just enjoy it because it’s ALL me. The pressure is on me and also the money. I’ve spent just thousands and thousands of dollars to be able to go on tour to make these records. All of that’s coming from my pocket, I don’t have the funds. The first was just on me and the second was a license on Tooth and Nail so it’s all just my financial responsibility and just in the long run I look back and I’m like “Man I lost so much money” that I think I might make another record, but I doubt I’ll ever tour. Simply because I’m just not rich.
It’s hard to break even with side projects isn’t it?
Yeah it’s a lot of fun to do and I wish to God I could tour again but I would just have to…I don’t know, win the lottery or something. Like labels don’t pay the bands to tour anymore. There’s no tour support. It’s more like “good luck!” and they pat you on the back and set you off.
What about the other guys with their side projects?
Same thing. We all love our side projects. I was just talking to Nate the other day and he was like “I don’t think Carrollhood will ever play a show man.” And that’s crazy. It’s just such good music and such a cool band but they’ve just all got jobs and that includes Nate in Anberlin. It gets fiscally crazy. You have like every single band on the road right now so it’s just like… I don’t know it’s a different world from like 30 years ago when there were like 20 bands on the radio and they were all like billionaires you know?
Considering the fact that you guys are definitely veterans of the scene…what do you do to keep things fresh among yourselves? I can imagine that there’s a point where you’re dragging your feet to get back out on tour. What do you do to keep yourselves motivated to get back out and do things?
I think that we motivate each other. These are some of my best friends that I’ve ever had. I’ve literally spent more time with Nate the drummer than I have with my own brother. You know there comes a point when just going out to be with them and just to hang out…also we love to do it. That hour on the stage is just the best hour of my day. If the fans stop showing up or if we feel in our hearts that the passion isn’t there…if we ever do come to the point where we’re dragging our feet, then I think it’s time to quit. If you’re not doing it because you love it, then just stay off the bus. If it comes to “this is my job and this is what I have to do to pay the bills,” then man, there’s like fifty other jobs out there that I could take and spend more time with your friends and family at home. I don’t feel like anyone is dragging their feet yet.
Given the amount of time you’ve been a band, you guys have a pretty considerable influence. You kind of bring yourself into this niche market where you have a lot of influence on a lot of heavier bands as well as on a lot of indie bands. There are plenty of groups in many genres that cite you as an influence. Where would you personally like to see music going?
I think the coolest part of the 10 years that we’ve been a band is just watching music like a cell divide and divide and divide. It’s just….you’ve got to think like 20 years ago we had maybe like 10 genres. Now we have like 400. There’s dubstep, techno, house, trance, just in the EDM world. And then here you have post-hardcore, and hardcore, and indie and indie alternative. The cool thing is just that there’s something for everything. It’s not like “oh I hate this band but they’re the only band on the radio so I have to buy their record.” I think that’s the coolest part. Just being a part of this generation of musicians. Everyone can do their own thing and it’s not like taboo or weird. It’s not like “you’re crazy, that’ll never work,” instead it’s like “holy crap man…you did it. You made it work.” It’s a cool time in music.
When you guys are on the road, what kind of bands have you been listening to lately?
The new Active Child EP is great. I’m really into Caveman. I think they’re really cool. Probably the National is my favorite band right now. They’re really doing it.
What are any up and coming bands that you guys have been watching and supporting?
From Indian Lakes is the band. I mean when we found out we were gonna be co-headlining with The Maine they were the band that we wanted as far as we just listened to their stuff and it’s really good. We kind of set our sights on them really early in this process.
What do you guys have planned for the future?
Right now aside from writing, that’s it. We’re just gonna tour and keep writing music as long as we can.
Anything you want to say to your fans?
Wow well thank you guys for supporting Anberlin. I just encourage everyone out there to please go and donate your time and efforts and energy to non-profits in your community. Just today I donated to Habitat for Humanity. Not that it’s a big deal but the fact of the matter is I can’t always volunteer time. Whatever you can do, whether its money or you have a few extra hours. Please donate your time where you can and make it count!