Anberlin - 09.15.08

Interviewed by
Anberlin - 09.15.08Let’s start off by stating your name and what you do in Anberlin?
Stephen: Stephen Christian and I sing.

What is it like being on the new label? And why did you guys decide to leave Tooth and Nail?
Stephen: I really really enjoy being on Universal Republic. They are all a very tight, hard working, and passionate label. They have given us opportunities (neal avron/warped tour) that we would have never had previously. Regardless of what anyone says or any rumor out there we love Tooth and Nail. I couldn’t think of one bad thing to say about them if i tried, but the truth is we felt as a band it was time to move on. They worked right along side of us and we owe a lot to where we are today to some great people (john, chad, derrick, etc.), but to be honest there were a lot of people in power in the EMI system that did not believe in Anberlin or our music. After we found that out we knew it was time to progress somewhere else. Republic had been wanting us to join since before Cities and through their persistence and dedication to Anberlin we decided if there was any label to move on to it would be then.

Did you guys feel more pressure to write and record for Universal more than it did for Tooth and Nail?
Stephen: I have never felt pressure from labels, including now with Universal Republic. Fortunately for us, we are an established band and Universal Republic knew what they were getting into when they signed us. They never once came to the studio and breathed over our shoulders. They never once asked us to ‘write a single’. They really trusted us more than I thought they would and let us develop our own album the way we saw fit. I think the biggest pressure comes from trying to meet fans and our own expectations. Reviews don’t bother me, criticism from labels doesn’t really hurt, but if a long time fan is let down by a new record it keeps me up well into the night. The pressure is from you and me! Not the major.

You once said, "The first CD (Blueprints for the Black Market) was childish in the manner that it was Man vs. World in the lyrics. The second (Never Take Friendship Personal) was Man Vs. Man. Cities is more adult in the manner that it's Man Vs. Self." What is the progression for this album in that train of thought?
Stephen: The progression of this record for me is now to start thinking outside of myself. When looking back at the meanings and topics of the last three records the statement man vs. ________ began to appear very selfish. With this record I wanted to start thinking outside myself. Sure there are songs on NS that have a more personal experience but as for the whole of the record i really wanted to get away from being so egocentric.

How has Christian McAlhaney impacted the band in the way of writing songs, since this is the first album he has recorded with Anberlin?
Stephen: Well Joey appreciates it very much. Joey has written 3 records by himself so finally he has someone to bounce ideas off of. I think we all appreciate Christian, not only is he an incredible guitarist and singer, he brings our songwriting to a new level, and has a very positive attitude on and off stage. Unlike former members of Anberlin, Christian is the first guitarist to actually record his parts on this record. As far as song writing specifically he has an amazing sense of rhythm and like i have said in a few interviews before Joey has the right hand and Christian has the left. (guitarist's will know what i mean).

What was it like working with Neal Avron instead of Aaron Sprinkle on the new album?
Stephen: Nerve wrecking. Exciting. Anxious. Thrilled. Etc. So many emotions; but we knew we could not just make a Cities part II. We needed to progress and grow, enter Neal Avron. Neal pushed me harder than I have ever been pushed. Previous to this record we would end a tour, head right into Seattle and begin recording. We would feel absolutely rushed and I was usually writing songs in the studio, while the rest of the guys were tracking. It felt so unorganized, and hurried. I never had time to revamp as much as I would have liked to because the first draft I wrote had to be sung on the next day. On this record we took our time. We had THREE MONTHS of writing on our own before we walked into the studio to record. We came up with close to 30 songs and eventually chopped it in half to record.

I find it so funny when people say online that we 'rushed' this record because honestly Blueprints took 3 1/2 weeks to record, Cities took 4 1/2 weeks, this one took us over THREE MONTHS to record from start to finish. Rush? This was like a vacation compared to the other records, but we honestly used every possible second during this recording process. We were working in 2 different studios at the same time just to complete it on time.

Do you feel the new version of "Feel Good Drag" is an improvement, and/or does it at least accomplish what you guys were going for?
Stephen: I really like the new version of feel good drag. I think that the guitars are very much improved. People are upset about the lack of a ‘scream’ there but we have not ‘screamed’ live in years. I wanted to sing it like I do live.

When will you guys be releasing the video for it?
Stephen: Well we just postponed the video due to the fact we realize that now most bands videos go straight to youtube, we want to devote more time to other ways of getting our music out right now, but its coming. I promise.

What are your thoughts on the album being leaked?
Stephen: It is hard to explain to be honest. I am not naïve to the fact that records leak. Every single one of Anberlin’s has. However, one main frustration was due to the fact that it was illegally posted/stolen over 1 ½ months before the release date.

I think that the days of music being considered valuable are over. Music is considered meaningless in our society, people wont say it, but their subtle actions prove it.

HOWEVER, this does not stop any passionate musician. If any musician got in this for the money they got in it for the wrong reasons! However, i think its not a money issue, or a soundscan issue but a CREATIVE issue. I want people to experience the entire process, the packaging, the lyrics, the art direction, pictures, the songs as they are on the tracklist. I want people to appreciate the value of music again.

I once read a book called ‘How Soon Is Never,’ a fictional book about the Smiths in which the author describes purchasing his first Smiths vinyl. He said after he saved up his money for more than a month he purchased ‘The Queen is Dead’ from his local record store. On the way home he clutched the vinyl to his chest the entire way as if fearing someone was going to steal it. Once home, he listened to the entire record front to back. 2 times.

I want to return to this day where listeners appreciate music, vinyl or CD. I don’t care about leaks and illegal downloading. I care about the dying art itself.

Is religion a big factor when writing as a band? And has it ever had a negative effect on anything you were doing as a band?
Stephen: I think the only ‘big factor’ religion could have on any aspect of any album would be on the lyrics. I don’t think Deon sat down to write a God-fearing bass line, or Nathan coming up with the perfect praise and worship beat. For me though, I have never sat down and tried to write a ‘religious’ lyric in my life. I just write. One’s faith should be like DNA. No matter what they are involved in, no matter what career choice, no matter who they encounter it simply should be ingrained and a part of them. My faith is simply a part of me. I can no easier remove my belief in Jesus than remove my cells or heart.

We are not a Christian band, and we do not create ‘Christian music’. When you really analyze Christian anything it really makes no sense. Does our CD’s have a soul? Can the songs choose right and wrong? But alas, people like to put music into genres and neat little packages and i am now comfortable in whatever people classify us as. As long as they give us a chance.

I think the negative is not in the faith itself, but in the narrow minded people that don’t listen to any music where any religion is present. I am convinced that it is absolutely closed minded to refuse to give any band a chance just because one of their members has strong spiritual beliefs. Iif its good music listen to it! If it sucks than don’t. It’s as simple as that.

Most people who know or know of you are of the impression that you are an absolutely wonderful person and a true class-act. How do you feel about how much he is adored and does it put pressure on you to not want to disappoint these people? Do you (and the rest of Anberlin) view this position of role model as a gift or a curse or perhaps a little of both?
Stephen: I think with any platform whether hip-hop or President of the United States comes different, but still a heavy, degree of responsibility. Whether musicians like it or not they are being watched, studied, and imitated. From fashion to failure someone is watching. I must admit it is hard. Sometimes it doesn't allow for the proverbial 'us' (the people who are trying to be positive role models) to be human and truly expose that we make mistakes and falter. On the other hand, some people have taken their role in the opposite direction and used the license that 'fame' gives them to take advantage of people, live 'above the law', and live selfishly with little or no repercussion's.

I view being a positive role model as a gift! Hopefully, we get up there and inspire people to get involved with a charity we are supporting, or teach musicians that you don't have to get up there and scream at fans to 'mother #@(*$ move' or scream any other adjectives that my mother might find inappropriate. For me, I want to teach anyone who will listen about my failures, and how i recovered and learned from them. That is why i started modesty.blogspot.com, an online blog where I interact with 'seekers' like myself.

Was there an inspiration or prior experience behind what you sang at the end of (*fin), since it was improvised? And what is the song about?
Stephen: I honestly just went with it. It was a rather spiritual experience for me. I have not a clue what i was saying. The great thing is to google it and see what other people think it said. Its hilarious. (*fin) is by far the most personal song in the arsenal. It is about being raised around suffocating religion and questioning the people who say they come in the name of ‘faith’ but are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

How did Stephen get involved with Faceless International?
Stephen: For those who are not familiar, Sarah Freeman and I co-founded an organization called Faceless International, a humanitarian and justice non-profit who take trips around the world fighting against such attrcities as human trafficking, helping farmers from mano, haiti to fair trade coffee growers in guatamala. if you would like to go with faceless please check out facelessinternational.com as we are going to los angeles, the ukraine, and india this next year.

As far as an immediate focus i have really been challenged by becoming more environmentally involved lately, and i have a whole new outlook on pacifism. i am not sure how my life is going to change because of these two topics but they have been weighing heavy on my conscience lately.

Do you have plans to write another novel?
Stephen: I had a tremendous time writing the book and the response to “The Orphaned Anythings,” was beyond comprehension. I would be foolish not to write another. I am currently working on a ‘Modesty’ book with editor Julia Arnold, which include extended elaboration from modesty.blogspot.com post’s, with art integrated. Also, I have plans and an outline for a book called ‘Patient’ about a man who fills his companionship and longing for love by faking disease’s at local hospitals to get sympathy from other patients and staff.

When will the next Anchor and Braille record going to be released?
Stephen: Anchor & Braille takes a distant 2nd to Anberlin. I have to wait until New Surrender has run its course, BUT the CD, with producer Aaron Marsh of Copeland is DONE! I am currently looking for a label and a timeframe before I make any more upcoming plans with the project. I would love to tour with A&B, but right now Anberlin requires my full attention.

Anything else you wanted to add?
Stephen: Now its your turn! Go and write, or draw, or paint, or create! INSPIRE SOMEONE!
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 73
10:39 PM on 09/16/08
Blake Solomon
every outcome's such a comedown
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Blake Solomon's Avatar
love love love love this man. preorder this record now.
06:41 AM on 09/17/08
take apart your head.
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parawhore10's Avatar
one of the greatest bands EVER..
06:44 AM on 09/17/08
Down and almost out
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vandalroyale's Avatar
Perfect review. I felt so satisfied at the end.
08:19 AM on 09/17/08
We never met, you and I
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awakeohsleeper's Avatar
He's inspired me!!
10:32 AM on 09/17/08
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aradiantsunrise's Avatar
Great interview. Stephen is the man.
11:11 AM on 09/18/08
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Posthardcore's Avatar
Good interview but kind of short!
03:14 PM on 09/18/08
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cassusriff's Avatar
Great band. Great man. Great interview.
03:20 PM on 09/18/08
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radxbandit's Avatar
stephen/anberlin is king
08:38 PM on 09/18/08
Only In Uranus
Registered User
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Only In Uranus's Avatar
wow. loved how he mentioned that he doesn't incorporate religion into his music. Just as he said, true faith/beliefs/who you really are should automatically be seen in everything you do in life. It should not be something you just "put on". Amazing man. Much respect.
10:39 PM on 09/18/08
these are not just mountains
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sidekicksuicide's Avatar
wow. loved how he mentioned that he doesn't incorporate religion into his music. Just as he said, true faith/beliefs/who you really are should automatically be seen in everything you do in life. It should not be something you just "put on". Amazing man. Much respect.

11:29 PM on 09/18/08
Registered User
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jnnlopez's Avatar
He is really inspiring! I would love to get involved with Faceless International. Sounds like an amazing expierience!
11:42 PM on 09/18/08
All I need are sounds of ecstasy.
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Imperfektion's Avatar
Stephen is a great man. He's so honest and passionate about what he does. Absolutely inspiring.
10:40 AM on 09/19/08
Anton Djamoos
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Awesome interview.
10:51 AM on 09/19/08
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Great interview, great band. i love reading interviews w/ stephen... he always seems to have at least a couple of interesting things to say.

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