A little over two years since Anberlin‘s last tour, Stephen Christian is forging on with a new album from his solo project Anchor & Braille called Songs for the Late Night Drive Home that was recently released on February 5th. MEB Writer/Photographer M.J. Rawls recently caught up with Christian to talk about the ending of Anberlin, the new album, and his outlook on the music industry and changes that have occurred.
MEB: It has been since 2014 since Anberlin’s last tour. I’ve always wondered this because unfortunately, a lot of bands going on break up tours have increased. How taxing was it and stepping away from it, are you happy with the legacy that Anberlin has created?
It wasn’t taxing to step away at all, actually it was the opposite. The most anxiety and stress I have ever felt in my life was those last six months of my life in Anberlin; this was a culmination of mental, physical, and emotional fatigue. (We) I was exhausted. It took several months for me to ‘get normal’. I am very happy with the legacy that Anberlin left, I look back with so much fondness, now.
MEB did a podcast where we ranked our favorite Anberlin albums. We were going back between all of them and having a lot of fun doing so – what is your favorite album, favorite song from that album and why?
Never Take Friendship Personal – not so much because of the music but because it was the best years in Anberlin. We were too young and dumb to know any better and everything was new, shiny, and exciting. It wasn’t a career, it was a mission back then. “Dance Dance, Christa Paffgen” is my favorite song, I loved how complex everything felt, yet how smooth the song seemed to flow.
I watched a lot of video interviews that you’ve done during your last run with Anberlin and you give a very good look at how the music industry has changed (for better or worse) because of streaming..etc. Streaming as of last week is now included in the sales figures for artists. In what way do you see the industry changing for the better in order for artists to have being in a band sustainable?
Pats on the back don’t pay for groceries. I would rather have had my mortgage paid off than 100 gold albums on the walls. I am an optimist at heart, but I don’t see the music industry getting better for a few decades. There are too many distractions to return music to what it was in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Streaming music may give an artist a shiny plastic record with their name engraved, but it won’t keep them warm at night. Paying the heat bill does. Spotify (and streaming services like it) is the future of music, too bad it doesn’t give the artist a future.
Speaking of which, there’s lyrics in “Keep Dancing” – “I don’t care that the house is burning, let’s keep on dancing,”. I feel that you can apply that to many aspects that you just went through
It’s true, if you keep your eyes on what matters most you can get through anything this life throws at you. For me, that is Jesus Christ and my family.
With Anchor + Braille, especially on Songs For The Late Night Drive Home, there’s a lot of musical shift with electronic and even R&B. Is this more musical freedom with this project?
It is the definition of musical freedom, I literally could have punched myself in the throat for 40 minutes and recorded the noises and put it on the record if I wanted to. There are no restraints on A&B, its just me and a few microphones.
You worked with Ryan Bernal on SFTLDH. How different was this process this time around vs working with Aaron on Felt and Micah Tawiks on The Quiet Life?
Each producer brings his/her dynamics into the recording process, each of them specialize in different areas. Ryan can hear through my vision of a song and seemingly out of thin air produce a sound/idea/music that fits perfectly; it also didn’t hurt he was basically my neighbor in East Nashville which made for convenient conversations and recording sessions.
The first song, “Watch You Burn” has the opening lyrics -> “I’m not who I remember, I’ve moved on from what you know, well, this ain’t the same old me, I’m ready, set, here I go”. Powerful opening statement. Is that opening up a new chapter with everything that’s been going on?
Absolutely, I just did not want people to walk into this record thinking this was an Anberlin part II attempt, or even just another A&B record. Life has moved on for me and the music I create should reflect that.
You have the Art Collective podcast, working at Calvary Albuquerque. Despite how vigorous the tour with Anberlin was, do you foresee doing shows for this Anchor and Braille release?
I really hope so! I would love to do festivals at the very least, we shall see.
To end on a funny note, let’s talk your Price Is Right appearance because I always wanted to go on a game show like that. How fun was that and do you plan to try to do anymore?
That was so much fun! I would love a chance in the future, but for now I am happy I won a blender, got to ‘come on down’, and had a chance to win ‘a brand new car!’. Doesn’t get much better than that.