MEB’s Jacob Testa recently had the chance to speak with Stephen Christian of Anberlin, covering the creation of the band’s incredible new album Vital, vinyl preferences, side projects, their upcoming tour with Smashing Pumpkins. Read about all of this and more in the full interview below!
I guess I just want to start off by saying a few of the things that you’ve said to describe the new album in previous interviews and little sound bites. You’ve said that your “favorite part of a show is when everybody is in utter chaos. There’s bodies on top of bodies. There’s people in the front row screaming,” where you “can see the veins in their necks,” and that’s what you want out of this record and what you think Vital “should be, the one with the fans,” it’s the one you want screamed back with them every time you play live. You’ve said it’s the “most aggressive” Anberlin album to date, and even gone as far as to say that you think that this record might be the one to define your career. I think that’s a lot of really big hype and, after listening to the album, I think that it’s spot-on.
Oh, wow. Thanks, thanks, I was nervous for a second there.
No, I’m not trying to build you up and let you back down. I guess I wanted to start off by asking how the writing started for this record, like how the process got started, about how long ago you started writing and putting together the songs for this album.
Well, immediately after the last record, Joey Milligan, our guitarist, had a massive wave of creativity just flowing, and he ended up writing, at the end, 45 songs, musically, for this record. I mean, it was like immediate. Immediately after Dark Is The Way, Joey just picked it up. It’s cool how the dynamics of the band work as far as, you know, Joey, when we were writing Dark Is the Way, creativity-wise, wasn’t really, he didn’t contribute that much to Dark Is The Way. But, as soon as we got done with the record, for whatever reason, because creativity ebbs and flows, it absolutely just struck him. He was kind of the instigator of beginning the writing process immediately after Dark Is The Way was done. And so, because of him, I began to write and try to sort through all his songs and work on the ones that really stuck out to me and listen to what Christian [McAlhaney, rhythm guitarist] was beginning to write, and Nate [Young, drummer] as well, and so the process began almost immediately after the last record ended.
So, you said you had over 45 song ideas. About how many of those became full songs, whenever you were going into the studio?
He had about 40 – no, no, I’m sorry – there were 45 basically completely done. Front-to-back, bridges, choruses, yeah. I mean, he absolutely just killed it. Which is great, because the more material that you can kind of sort through, the better, because you want to be able to work with as many different canvases as you possibly can, and hopefully one idea will really stick out and everyone will grasp onto it. Leaving, that “we really like this chorus, but we don’t like this bridge. Why don’t you replace it with this one?” Or, “we like the lyrical content of this song, but kind of transpose it into this song.” And so, the more songs that we can absolutely come up with to narrow it down, the better.
When we first came into our first record, Blueprints For The Black Market, we literally had nine songs, that was it. That’s why we actually had to add the tenth song, which was the cover song, simply because we just didn’t have the material. We weren’t ready. We were so green we had no idea that you were supposed to come in with 20-30 songs and kind of narrow it down in the studio. So, it’s much better to have more material than to have less.
Definitely. So, you said you had a ton of ideas. About how many did you plan on recording whenever you got into the studio?
I love recording more. I love recording like 20 songs, because I just feel like those songs can find a home somewhere. Those songs can end up on some soundtrack or random b-side record, or whatever the case may be. But at the end of the day, we only ended up recording 15 total, 11 of which made it to the record.
Okay, so there’s the 11 on the record, and I know that there is another bonus track that’ll be on the iTunes edition of the album. Where might the other three songs that you have recorded come out?
Then there’s going to be a Best Buy exclusive, and I believe two that are going to go on the deluxe edition, which’ll be out with the DVD right around the same time that the album is released, if not on the same day, actually.
Okay, so the DVD, will that be the acoustic DVD that you guys did of your tour stop in Brooklyn, or will that be more like the Pretend To Be Friends video that we had the teaser for a few weeks back?
No, that’s going to be Pretend That We’re Friends. That’s the DVD that we shot in the studio. The Brooklyn stuff I believe is essentially going to be given away for free. It’s going to be slowly leaked out. We’ve done that once before, where we’ve done a whole DVD and then just ended up splitting it up and putting it on YouTube. So, we feel like much-needed free content’s out there, you know?
Yeah, definitely, and I can’t wait to hear all that stuff. I was really kind of upset that I couldn’t make it out to one of the acoustic dates, so I’m hoping for more stuff like that in the future.
Aw, man, we had so much fun, there absolutely will be. I mean, I hope to do one next year. It’s totally one of those things where it stretches you as a musician, and it was really incredible.
So, I guess a little bit deeper into the songwriting for the album: I know in the past, you’ve cited poetry and historical figures as sparks of inspiration for your lyrics. I was going to ask what some of the lyrical influences were for this record.
With Dark Is The Way, I think I really was entrenched in poetry. I think that that was kind of my, I don’t want to call it my “Blue Period,” but more like my “Poetry Period,” I guess, for horrible lack of better words. This time, I think I was influenced, but I definitely didn’t make as many alliterations and make as many, you know, I didn’t draw so much from poets. I think what I did is basically be brutally honest with myself and be brutally honest with the people who are going to listen, and I think the main inspiration with that was another poet, Charles Bukowski, and he basically was one of the people that I read who really challenged me to be utterly and completely honest and not hold anything back. I think that’s why I think he was one of the main inspirations behind the songs like “God, Drugs, & Sex.” I think that the current world climate is another thing I was taking into consideration. I mean, “Someone, Anyone” is a song about how inspired I felt after the Egyptian revolution took place. I hoped that the entire region of the Middle East, and the rest of the world, including the United States, took note that peace can come from more than just a weapon, it can come from non-violent protests. So, I basically absorbed the world around me, interpreted it, and then put it to lyrics.
Awesome, I definitely have noticed that in the past, especially in the past few albums, that you have a broader worldview of things. And I think that that kind of ties back into how, you’ve spoken before about how you want your lyrics to kind of be accessible to everybody, and I think that, you know, that kind of world perspective makes that happen. So, it’s nice to hear that.
You know, it’s also kind of one of those things where, you know, the first three records, I never got out of the United States. I think worldviews come with the knowledge and experiences of other countries and cultures and books and opening your mind to different experiences that your normal upbringing or the culture that you were raised in, sometimes that doesn’t allow for you to have a worldview. But as soon as you start reaching into other cultures and mind-opening experiences, I think it’s… you’re writing about them instead of just guessing that everyone follows your American ways. And, it’s just not true.
Definitely. In a previous interview, you said that with “Depraved” you kind of sang a little bit of whatever came to mind, and I know that’s something that you’ve also said you’ve done with the ending of “(*fin).” I just wanted to ask if there was anything on this record that was written in a similar fashion.
There was, but I did it in a more systematic way. Like, there were two bridges that I wrote basically by just screaming out exactly kind of where I felt like the song was telling me to go with it. I think the coolest moment of that is on a song that’s going to be a b-side. The song is actually called “Stay Where I Can See You.” And that song, the bridge was completely impromptu. And we did it about six, seven times. The more that I would do it, I understood the narrowing of the focus. So then, I would scream this entire bridge, and then play it back, then write down the lines I liked; screamed it back, then wrote down the lines I liked. And I enjoyed the free flow of thought, but also, I wanted to do it in a way where it made sense and where, lyrically, it asked the song instead of steered the song and made it different. So that happened three times on this record, in three different spots, including “God, Drugs, & Sex,” and this one that I mentioned before.
It seems that kind of works out for the more epic kind of flowing songs that end up towards the end of the album.
It does, because I think that the freedom is there. I mean, the freedom of a last song to me is because there’s no expectations on it, you know? I mean, I’m not going “bridge-chorus-verse-chorus-ending of a song.” It’s more like, “hey, you do whatever you want because this is kind of an extra song.” And I think that freedom allows for a better creative expression.
Yeah, I think it lets you get everything out. Almost like, it’s the end of the record, you want to make sure everything is down and it’s exactly what you’re feeling.
Absolutely, absolutely agree.
Okay, so moving on to the production side of things. This is your third record on Universal, and it’s also the third different producer you’ve used while on that label. In the past, you’ve said that you felt like Neal Avron was “a mathematician,” Aaron Sprinkle is more “free and careless,” and Brendan O’Brien is like the perfect combination of the two. This is your fourth record working with Aaron Sprinkle. So, coming back to him after two records with different producers, is that relationship still the same, or have things changed at all since working with him on Cities?
Yeah, it’s definitely changed, I think for the better on all parties. I mean, I believe that he’s a much, much better producer, he’s a much, much better songwriter. I feel like he understands the equipment better. And, on our aspect, I feel like we’re better musicians, I feel like we’re better songwriters. And so, the fact of the matter is, when we sat down to kind of deliberate, like, “Okay, who are we going to go with this time? Are we going to go back to Brendan O’Brien? Are we going to go back to Neal Avron? Are we going to try something new?” We realized that, with the knowledge that we’ve gained from two of the most premiere producers in the entire world, in our opinion, that we should try Aaron Sprinkle again. I mean, after all, he was, for us, he felt like a sixth member. He was the one who helped us shape our sound. He was the one who taught us so much about the music industry as a whole. And so, we wanted to go back and try it out, using the knowledge that we had and the experience that he’s gained, and kind of give it back that “we’re back home” feel. I mean, that’s why we started the record in Seattle. That’s where we did our first three records, there in Seattle. So we just wanted to bring it back down to a home feeling, to really focus on the songs and get rid of the superfluous time abuse. Like, Aaron Sprinkle took our vision of the songs, of the record as a whole, and really shaped it. So, I could not be more happy with the decision to go to him as a producer.
So, with the sound of the record, it seems like there a little bit more emphasis on the electronic elements, especially compared to the last record. Was that something that came along with the production side of things, or was that kind of planned more in the songwriting stages of the record cycle?
It was definitely done in the songwriting, simply because, what I’m listening to now, it’s kind of like, I enjoy the experimentation with other instruments, but especially the fact that we, as Anberlin, have never done that. You know, we tour with a keyboardist and yet, we don’t use electronics. It’s kind of ironic. And you know, we’d never had a girl sing on our record before. And so, we have these songs on our record where a female vocalist appears. You know, when you’re coming to your sixth record, you’ve got to do something, we have to break out, we have to try something new, we have to experiment, and we have to progress. It’s not, we’re just rehashing the same record over and over and over again. And so, as musicians, we just cannot be bound like that. I don’t feel like this is the complete direction of Anberlin in the future. Like, I don’t know if we’ll ever have this type of electronics on our records again but, for now, it’s exactly what it needed to be. And I felt like it wasn’t the forefront. Like, we don’t have a song that’s just me and a computer. You know, it’s more like I want everybody involved, but I want electronics on top. I have to do it with this sense I enjoyed finding a new sound and finding a new beat, and kind of growing around that.
So, yeah, it was definitely deliberate, and definitely something that we walked into the studio already having pre-planned. But, there was one song in particular called “Innocent,” and that made the record, actually, and we had too many songs that were similar to that one. We had one called “Unstable,” it’s going to be the iTunes b-side, and then “We’ll Have To Speak.” And we felt like those three kind of sounded similar, so we had to pick one to go on the record. Well, Aaron Sprinkle got his hands on it and really came up with this epic-sounding chorus. And so, that was the only thing that wasn’t pre-planned that was electronic. But, we just felt like it so took the song to the next level that it was inexplicable how much that song stood out from the other two, and that’s why that one made the record. So, there were moments where the electronics were more a surprise to all of us, but other than that, I believe that we came in with the notion that this was where we wanted to head, just for this record.
It’s interesting that you mention “Innocent,” because that was one of the ones that kind of sparked that question when I was listening to the album. It seems like it lets a little bit more of some of the influences that you’ve cited in the past come through, almost in the way like your cover of “True Faith” sounds similar to the original, but it has that undeniable “Anberlin” kind of quality to it.
Well, it’s crazy because that’s one of those songs that we cover that I’m like, “I wish we would’ve written that.” You know, like, I love how dark and moody it is. I love the lyrical content, you know, it just felt like, “Wow, this is that song that I will forever wish that I had written personally.” So, you’re right, it absolutely does amalgamate with the current record perfectly.
And I definitely understand that feeling. I’ve felt that from some of your songs from time to time, so it’s nice to hear that you guys still have that sort of feeling too.
Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Kind of along similar lines, one of the things that I’ve noticed while listening to the album is that it has… you know, you’ve said it’s the most aggressive, and that really comes through. It feels heavy, and kind of dark. And that’s more in the sound of the music, rather than entirely the lyrics, which might’ve been a little different from what you’ve done in the past. Was that something that was kind of intended, where you have that kind of juxtaposition of the two sorts of things, with it being really heavy and dark in the music, and then the lyrics not being quite that sort of a feel?
Well, honestly, I felt like I had to pull back the reins a little bit. I feel like with Dark Is The Way, that may be lyrically the heaviest record, but I feel like people didn’t connect with it. The sense of hopelessness is way overwhelming and yet, easier to describe than ecstasy or joy. And so, for me, the hopelessness came across, but it was perceived almost as a depressive state. And I was not trying to say that; the whole record was designed to show that, “here are many, many different examples of darkness but, at the end of the day, there’s hope.” You know, love may feel impossible, but at the end of the day, you’re in love, and that is a feeling that you’ll never be found to be taken away, and it’s one of those feelings that is here. And so, I feel like it was kind of lost in translation. So this record, I wanted to make sure that the messages were poignant enough to be like, “oh, okay, I get what he’s saying,” but light enough that people could still relate. And I think that was a focal point of the lyrics on this record.
Now, you’ve touched on this before, with the guest vocals, and how it’s something that you hadn’t really done before. How did you get connected with… I know that one of the female vocalists you worked with was with Christie DuPree, who’s related to the Eisley sisters. So how did you get connected with her and decide that she was a voice that you wanted on the album?
Well, what happened was, we were looking for a really – I wanted almost a rough, gritty – I wanted someone who had a really pretty voice like, thirty years ago, but they’d smoked so much, you know what I’m saying? I wanted that kind of guttural, smoker’s voice. But, that’s a really hard voice to find, you know? There’s only like two or three in the industry that we found. And still, the people who we mulled over were very light, very poppy, and I felt like there was that kind of tinge, that hint of struggle in her voice – not, I’m not talking about like she can’t carry a note, she’s a wonderful singer – but that tinge of almost, like, “realism” that’s in her voice, and I really was attracted to that. But the reason that we got connected, and the reason that she was an option was because Nathan, our drummer, has a side project called Carrolhood, which is absolutely such an incredible band. And one of the guys in the band is named Reed. And Stacy DuPree, oh I’m sorry, Christie DuPree, is his girlfriend, and so that’s how we came up with that.
So it seems like that kind of sound you were looking for ties in with exactly what I was getting out of the album, where it has that feel of “experience,” almost, would be the word that I would’ve picked out of it. Like, you said you wanted thirty years of wear and tear, almost, and I think that there’s a sense of maturity that comes through on the album.
That’s incredible, that’s awesome, thanks.
I mean, thank you, for writing it. I’d read elsewhere that there were a few other guest vocalists on the album. I know that you had the cover contest a few months back, where you had fans cover songs, and you chose four to sing on “Orpheum.” So, what was that whole experience like, with getting to see a huge number of covers from all of your fans and then narrow it down and work with people?
Well, it started off with the fact that I wanted my parents to sing on this record. I wanted my mom and dad – they have this, their voices are very old-timey, hymnal, gospel, it’s what you’d imagine going in a Baptist church in the ’60s would sound like, everybody’s got this crazy vibrato and over-accentuated tones. But they live in Florida, and it’s not that I couldn’t get them up here, but the more that I listened to the song, I was like, “you know, that type of voice isn’t going to fit here, that doesn’t belong in the song. I want it to be, I do want there to be a chorus, a choir.” And then, thinking about it, I was like, how cool would it be – cause, you know, when I was in the studio, we were rehearsing for the acoustic shows, and I found this girl, which I’ve never had a chance to thank her, which I should, she did a piano cover of “Dismantle. Repair.” And I learned her part, I learned her performance, how she did it, and I played it just like she did it during the entire acoustic tour. So that was really awesome.
But then, we were all talking about it, and Aaron Sprinkle said, “well, why don’t we get fans to sing it?” And that kind of, at first, was like, “I don’t know how we would do that, we’d bring them here, we are so, we are crazy busy right now, like, how do we go about it?” So then, one idea led to the other, like, “hey, what if we do this, what if we do this?” And suddenly, from there, people were sending in videos. And we literally looked through every single one. It’s not like, some people who would just like, “Oh, just have the manager look for a few and just pick out a few, it doesn’t matter.” Nathan and Aaron and a few of the other guys looked through every single video that was posted. If people wrote “hey, this is for the competition,” they absolutely watched it. And then, it was pretty easy. We found, right away, this pizza delivery guy from, I think it was Austin, Texas, or somewhere in middle Texas, central Texas, posted a video right away. And he was just like, “hey, I just got off work doing this pizza thing, and here’s my cover.” And he was incredible. We found this group from California, and the three of them did a cover, and one of them, we were just so enthralled with her voice. And so we picked four people, and it was awesome to have it recorded and fly it over to Aaron Sprinkle and have him put it together, and it was exactly what I’d envisioned with a choir at the beginning.
So, a very, very fun process. And it didn’t feel “marketing,” you know, it didn’t feel marketed. That’s one thing I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want people to be like, “oh, they’re trying to hype up news for their record.” I was like, “how can we keep this as low-key as possible? I don’t want to announce it to the world, I wish we could just personally, like, ‘man, if I tell you, don’t tell anybody, but…'” But it didn’t feel like that. It kind of felt like, “hey, this is what we want to do, we want to put this on a song, which is literally what we have in mind. We really, really, honestly want a choir. We’re not trying to market you a product, this is what we want.” So, looking through the YouTube videos, as many videos [as] I could comment on, I would comment. And so, it just felt totally like, “alright, this is really cool to be able to connect with our fans just like this, without feeling cheap.” I didn’t want to cheapen it by any means, and it didn’t feel like that.
No, definitely not. So, on the topic of guest vocalists, I had read that Jeff from Number One Gun also has an appearance on the record. Is this true?
There’s a few parts at the end of the record where we do gang vocals. And he engineered the record, and so we dragged him in to do this few lines of gang vocals. He’s got a great voice, but it was more for fun and just camaraderie. He’s such a good dude. If I had the chance to have him engineer every record, that would be a dream come true. He’s pretty incredible.
And I know that you’ve worked with him before. There was a recent song that was released that you did guest vocals on. I know there was that one, and there was also a song you did with Hyland last year that was absolutely one of my favorite songs of last year. So I was just going to ask, how do those sorts of things come up? Are they typically more people you already have relationships with, or has there ever been just a random person that’s come up and said, “hey I have this song, would you like to sing on it,” or anything like that?
Yeah, well, with Jeff it was just kind of like, hey, he had just got done engineering our record, and Number One Gun was ramping up to put out their record. And so he was like, “hey, you want to do me a favor and just sing on this?” And I was like, “man, of course, anything.” That was more just for a friend. But with Hyland, in my time off here in Nashville, Tennessee, I write songs for a lot of different bands. Everything from Darling Parade to Every Avenue, and Hyland happened to be one of the bands that contacted us. “Hey would Stephen want to write a song with us?” And so, I listened to some of the tracks, and some of the ideas they had, and Jon [Lewis, vocalist/guitarist] came over and we wrote that song together, and I thought it was an incredible song. I was so blown away by it. So it was a really cool experience to be able to work like that. So, when they got done, they were recording, and the producer was like, “hey, do you think Stephen would want to sing on this?” And I love the song, I was like, “man, that would be a lot of fun, let me just do a few harmonies in the background.” So yeah, that was just one of those things where they had contacted me after writing the song.
Awesome. Okay, so kind of coming back to the album, there were a few things about the preorders and the sorts of packages you were offering that were really, really interesting to me, and one of those things was the vinyl package, which is two ten-inch records, which is something that I personally had never seen before. And I was kind of wondering how you came to the decision to do something like that, because it’s a pretty unique package. So, what went into the idea of doing that?
Right. Well, a couple of different things. But, the main thing is, my favorite vinyl record of all time is by a jazz musician named John Coltrane, and he wrote an album called A Love Supreme. And that’s how he had it, you know, he had two different vinyls that were ten inches, and the whole record was on both those records. And so, I was just kind of inspired, partly by that, but I also think that he really analyzed the vinyl. I don’t want to go into the whole process that goes on in my mind about why I love vinyl so much, but it’s basically because it’s tangible, it’s physical, you can hold it, it’s there, it’s not this digital thing that could be erased off of a computer and be gone for good. And so, I felt like the band’s consensus was, “the more, the better.” We could, you know, if there was a way we could cut singles like The Beatles used to, and The Rolling Stones, you know those very small, little 7″s. You know, we could do all of our songs on five different 7″s. You know, just the more, I felt like, the more the better. Also, what people don’t understand is that with 10″s, the quality is better than a 12″. I know that sounds funny, but because there’s more space, lots – anyway, it’s just music, I mean, it’s just one of those things where it’s somebody’s opinion that 10″s sound better than 12″s. So, anyway, those were a few thought processes that went into deciding to do two records like that.
Awesome. And then the other thing that I thought was really exciting about whenever you announced the preorders was the photo book that Nate put together.
Ah, it’s insane. It’s one of my favorite things that we have ever done, and I had nothing to do with it. Nate is an incredible photographer. He worked with this guy named Jordan Butcher from Seattle, Washington to do the layouts. It is probably one of the coolest band photo books I’ve ever seen. And not a lot of bands are doing that now, you know? And so, it’s just one of those things where I was absolutely out of my mind stoked to finally see it come to fruition, since it’s kind of been in the works for about three or four years now. But it’s now coming out.
That’s awesome. Do you know how many pages it is, something, a few more details?
Ooh, I don’t, man. I mean, I have one upstairs. I don’t know if the pages are numbered, but I can go find out.
Go hurry up and count, real quick.
Man, one…Okay, there it is. I don’t know if these pages are numbered, I sincerely doubt it. Oh, man. It’s not – four, five…I’m going to take a guess and say fifty or sixty. I don’t know, yeah, I have no idea.
Yeah, I don’t expect you to count or anything.
Yeah, fifty or sixty something -ish. Something about right around there. But it’s just cool because it’s not like any of the promos. You know, it’s not like the five of us in every picture all smiling. It’s like, literally all around the world. It’s very candid, it’s very open and honest and it’s just basically us as human beings. We’re not all dressed the same and smiling and pointing at the camera. It’s just literally us in hotel rooms or places we’ve been or equipment and stuff like that. Pretty interesting.
Kind of along the same line with photography, I think that the album art for the record is really, really intriguing, and I wanted to ask how you got the picture for the album and how you decided that that would be the direction you wanted to go with the artwork for it.
Honestly, that’s all Nathan Young. Look, he is very much into the creativity aspect of it all. And he found a photographer from Florida who is just incredible. Just incredible photography, just different mediums. He uses different exposures and double exposures and all that kind of stuff. So, we wanted something that was the antithesis of Dark Is The Way… as far as feeling “violent” and, to quote ourselves, “vital,” you know? And so, when we all saw this picture that Nathan had found, it was almost instantaneous where it was just like, “Wow. Like, this feels like it. This feels like the record. It feels like this massive wave just crashing over you.” And yet, kind of intriguing in the sense that the photography looks so very, not ambiguous, but very, like, surreal. Like, “is this a painting? Is this, how has this, has this been manipulated? Is this-?” So, it definitely felt like the record, and it felt like this needed to be the artwork. But again, working with Jordan Butcher out of Seattle to kind of design rest of the layout, the feeling of the entire record, was between those guys, Jordan Butcher and Nathan Young.
I completely agree, I think it has that “darkness” about it. Like, it’s clearly on a beach, but it has none of the things that you really associate with a beach. You know, it has that darkness and the excitement of the wave crashing and I think it describes the record perfectly, just like you said. You said the kind of ambiguities in it, I know I’ve seen some people saying they see two people in the image, rather than just one. So, it’s great to hear that you say that there’s that idea of, almost confusion happening in it. I think it describes it perfectly.
So, recently you guys announced some tour dates with Smashing Pumpkins. I wanted to ask how that came up.
Well, I mean, we’ve had an entire plan set. We were going to do the B-market run, and then we were going to go to the U.K., and then we were going to go to South America, we had this whole thing scheduled. And, one morning about two weeks ago – I mean, it’s really, really recent, it’s not like this is like we’ve had this planned for months – but, we got a phone call that said that Billy Corgan, the singer of Smashing Pumpkins, picked us and wants to tour. We were all absolutely floored. Like, are you serious? He’s definitely one of those heroes in life, you know? Just incredible, not only as a musician, but we were all fans of Siamese Dream and just, man, a lot of his records. So good. And so, as soon as we heard, we were like, “Okay, reschedule everything. Everything’s got to move, everything’s got to shift and adjust.” And it’s funny that people online are like, “I can’t believe they’re not coming to my town.” This is because we had to absolutely change everything and start over our dates, and therefore push our major tour, our big tour for this record isn’t going to happen until February or March of next year. That’s when we’re going to go out for like, the United States for a month and a half, hit every town. But it was actually supposed to be a part of this fall, but when the Smashing Pumpkins call, it’s kind of like, “Alright, there’s only five bands that we would readjust everything for and, uh…one of the five.”
Well, that’s incredible. I’m really happy that you guys are going to have this kind of opportunity. It’s definitely a different sort of market than what you guys typically get to play to, too, I think, which I think is great for the band.
Absolutely, absolutely. And I think again, we’re pumped to play a new audience. I mean, none of these people, 99% of these people have never heard of Anberlin because it’s just not their element. It’s not what they’re accustomed to. They may not listen to the radio now. But for us, as musicians, we kind of take that as a challenge. It’s kind of like, “Okay, let’s not only go out there and be Anberlin, but let’s be the best that we can possibly be, in hopes of maybe seeing these guys at a show in the future.” And, it’s more just an honor to be hand-selected by Billy and just – Billy Corgan, like I know him in first names here – Billy Corgan. It’s one of those things in life where I’m going to look back on life and be absolutely, not only humbled, but in awe of the opportunities that I’ve been given.
Definitely, definitely. I guess kind of on the same topic of touring, I know that a few of the people I’ve talked to have wondered if there’s ever a chance that there could be an Anberlin and Anchor & Braille tour, or maybe even, like, an Anberlin, Anchor & Braille, Carrolhood, and Sins tour, or something like that – like, get the side projects involved.
Yeah, we’ve talked about it. We’ve already talked about it in the band. We call it “The Anberlin Sideshow,” where we just open up for ourselves. We could have Carrolhood, we could have Sins, Anchor & Braille, Christian does a DJ set. When he’s in San Diego on his time off, he DJs. So we could have a dance party afterwards, and Deon can finally do that solo jazz record that he’s always wanted to put out, so…
…you can get Acceptance back together…
But, between all of us, we can put something together. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but it would be a lot of fun to put together, it would just be a riot. I mean, especially because every band would just be interchanging members. You know, we would just kind of like, “Alright, on this one, I’m going to play bass, you’re going to play guitar…Alright, I’m going to sing on this band, no, you sing on the next band.” So, it’d be a lot of fun, that’s for sure.
I would pay any amount of money to go see that. So…
It would be definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of things.
Definitely, definitely. So, on the topic of Anchor & Braille – for one, congratulations on The Quiet Life. I think that is one of the best records that’s come out this year, up there with Vital. And, I was going to ask if it kind of influenced the way that the construction of the album went. Because, with Anchor & Braille you kind of have a quieter side of things, a little bit more reserved or, it feels a little bit more, maybe planned, but still flowing, whereas Anberlin, this record is very, very aggressive. And I was going to ask if that kind of shaped both records in having both come out this year and writing both around the same time.
It does. I mean, I think that they influence each other simply because, much like anything that you practice in life, you’ll get better at it. So, if you began to play soccer or whatever, as many things as you can possibly plan, as many pick-up games as you can do, practice conditions that you can get your hands on, those only can make you a better player. And I think the same thing can be said for Anchor & Braille. I mean, it’s one of those things where it spurs a whole new level of creativity where I have to sit down to a piano and write, I have to sit down with a guitar and write songs. And, lyrically, form a new band, a new part of my brain, and explore lyrical contents that I probably wouldn’t explore in Anberlin. And all those just lead to a better record sense. And I think they [the other members of Anberlin] know that too, and that’s why they’re so comfortable with Anchor & Braille is because they know where my priorities lay. It’s not in Anchor & Braille or anything else in life, it’s very much Anberlin. But, it does, I feel like with The Quiet Life, in writing the songs with almost the sovereign-ness of not only the lyrical content but also instrumentally, it also left me wanting energy and to get back and start engaging in Anberlin again. So, I think it did spur on, if anything, the writing and recording of it only made the Anberlin record that much harder. I’m sorry, “heavier,” not “harder” as in to write in, but “heavier” aggressive, for sure.
In terms of sound, rather than experience.
Yes, yes, yes.
Alright, well I think that’s almost everything I have. I want to end on one final question, and this ties into the title of the record. I wanted to ask what “vital” means to you. That can be either in terms of the record as a whole, or you personally.
Well, “vital,” for me, personally it meant that, if I had to have one record in life define my entire musical career, I felt like for me personally – I can’t speak for the rest of the band – but, this is what I would pick as my “vital” record. This is the one that I want to be known for, personally. And so, that’s kind of where the title of the record came from. I was reading through someone’s top 100 records of all time, and I was just kind of taken aback by these artists, how these records defined them. And listening through, like, What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye and listening to what was happening and the experiences that he was having in his life while he was writing this record. And this one record, What’s Going On, will forever be locked into history in the memory banks of, when you say the words “Marvin Gaye,” this is the record you think of, these are the songs I’m going to think of. And so, for me, that was a very scary point. It was like, “Oh, man, what is going to define the career of Anberlin?” And, whether this does or not, you know, by the fan’s perspective, I think this was more of a personal decision. You know, that this is the record, Vital, this is the one that I want to be known for. Or maybe it’s just for myself, this is the one that I want to look back in time and go, “Oh, Vital. This is that record for me personally.”
That’s awesome. I think that, for myself and a lot of other fans, Cities has been that previously, and I think that Vital has a really good shot of giving that a run for its money.
That’s awesome – no, I mean I’m fine with Cities, I’m fine with any of them. It’s not like a competition, but I guess it was just kind of one of those personal things with everything from the lyrical content to where we are in life. Honestly, my favorite recording process of all time was Never Take Friendship Personal. It wasn’t because of the songs or the music, but it was because that moment in life, I just wanted to push pause and live within it. And I think I’m just having another one of those moments in life. Like, the fact that I’m still touring with my best friends. The fact that we have three records out on a major label, which is just completely humbling. The fact that we got to record this record, these songs. I think it’s one of those moments in life where I’m just like, “Wait. I want to push pause on this moment and live within these seconds.” And I think that’s why this record is so important to me.