I had a chance to speak with Anberlin lead singer Stephen Christian – we discussed a number of interesting topics including: the band’s current headlining tour, reuniting with longtime producer Aaron Sprinkle, Universal Republic, and the future of Anberlin.
HHM: Well, to start off – how has the Tour de Vital been going so far?
Unbelievable man – it’s been so good, it’s been incredible to be out on the road again headlining our own tour – we haven’t headlined in over 2 years, and the bands on tour with us right now: All Get Out and Paper Rout are just incredible so this whole tour has just had such an amazing vibe and is one of my favorites we’ve ever been on for sure.
HHM: Sounds awesome, so what do the upcoming cities have in store for them?
Well tonight we’re in San Francisco; I just learned that Third Eye Blind is coming to the show – they were like childhood heroes, and they’re fun to hang out with too so I’m really, really excited about it! Seattle’s coming up and that’s basically hometown part 2, and New York City is in a couple weeks or so – it’s going to be a really fun tour.
HHM: How did you guys pick your set list this time? With 6 full-lengths and Godspeed you guys have gotten to that veteran point where there’s just so much to choose from.
Well, we do a couple different things – obviously we do things on social media: like we’ll ask fans “Hey what songs are your favorite right now? What do you want to hear?” Other than that, we go to places like iTunes and see what fans are buying and listening to – that way we can see what songs they want to hear. So we like to throw in random B-sides like on this tour we’re doing this B-side called “I’d Like To Die” and it’s just one of our favorite songs; you not only have to give the fans exactly what they want but you definitely have to make the show exciting, even for you and have passion about every song, every note. So that’s kind of how we do it 50 percent fans and 50 percent passion to invigorate the whole set.
HHM: How did you guys decide on Paper Rout and All Get Out for support on this tour?
Well, Paper Rout have been friends of ours from Nashville for a while – they’ve toured with a lot of our friends’ bands, and I think live they are just incredible man! They put on an incredible show and we’re fans of their music. We had no idea they’d come – they were just on tour with Fun right before so we were like “Man they’re probably going to blow up, get huge” but they were just like “Yeah, let’s go on tour with you.”
HHM: Does having a strong opening act like that help keep you guys on our toes?
Yeah! The crowd’s already excited, and they’re ready – after watching we go out there wondering like “Oh no, now the crowd’s dead!” [Laughs]
HHM: So, “Someone Anyone” did pretty well on the Rock Charts – how did you guys decide on that track as the first single?
We didn’t actually – that’s not at all what we wanted, that was a label decision. We actually wanted “Self-Starter” to be our single. “Someone Anyone” is a good song, it’s a solid song but we didn’t feel like it was the best song you know? It’s a “Godspeed” it’s a “Never Take Friendship Personal” that’s just all it is – it was label decision and one that we didn’t stand by – Vital is just a lot deeper than what “Someone Anyone” presents to the radio world.
HHM: How was it working with Aaron Sprinkle again for Vital?
It was great man! I mean, we’ve always called him “the sixth member of the band” because it felt so much like home you know? His studio, his production, his sound. Anberlin was always supposed to be with Aaron Sprinkle, and I think Aaron Sprinkle was always supposed to be with Anberlin – we just needed to take a break from working together because I think both parties needed to learn. I feel like that’s why this record stands out from all the other ones because now the musicians and the producer have both grown and they know exactly who they are, and we had a specific style we were going for and it just clicked, it just worked – I mean, we had 10 days of preproduction in Seattle, and You know normally when you’re in preproduction you just kind of go song by song, you go over stuff, and usually by day 10 you’re just kind of biting your nails hoping everything’s done but instead we walked out of Seattle already recording; we had already finished a song and a half off the record! That’s how fast he moves you, that’s how well we work together.
HHM: I just saw the new video for “Unstable” and it was actually pretty moving – can you tell me about the concept and what it means to you?
Well I think that’s a question better suited for Nathan Young: our drummer – he was kind of the brain child of the video. We wanted the video to be epic, we wanted an epic scenery; the video was supposed to be for “Someone Anyone” you know, that’s what the label wanted but we wanted to try something different – I mean, using a B-side that you can barely find and spending that amount of money on a video seems just kind of asinine but we realized that everything we do is art, whereas the corporate structure wants to be more about promos and content: in there, I feel like the art can get lost – like album covers, labels would spend like 30 grand on the cover and now nobody cares about cover artwork because it’s a freaking thumbnail on your iTunes. So Anberlin wanted to return to art – we watched the video and played all the songs on the record to see what feels the best, what song will articulate what the video is already trying to say? And it was crazy because all of the band was animate about “Unstable” and we were like “It sounds crazy and way out of the box but let’s do it – maybe this song is one that people would never hear so why not put it in?”
HHM: On a different note, now in the long run – how has the experience been working with Universal Republic as opposed to Tooth & Nail?
Well I mean they’re two totally different entities. Tooth & Nail was very friend oriented, I mean, I had great friends on that label. You know, we were one of the biggest fish in a small pond on Tooth & Nail and now we’re on Universal: the largest label in the world but Universal’s great, they’re just wonderful people to work with and we’re happy with the success we’ve had with them.
HHM: You released 3 full-lengths on Tooth & Nail, and you’ve now released 3 full-lengths on Universal – So I was wondering if the deal with Universal was the same as the deal with Tooth & Nail with respect to the number of records you’re obligated to release?
They weren’t similar at all but our Universal contract has expired now so we’re just kind of debating “Do we want to put our next record on Universal?” You know “Where do we want to go?” I don’t know if Universal is the right choice for us, in all fairness they might not even say the same; so we’ll see, I’m sure the coming months will kind of be a telltale sign about Anberlin and where we’re going to be in the future. We’re just fully concentrated on pushing Vital and staying out on the road – we’re not even concerned about the next record, for us; it’s just all about Vital and we just want any label that will push that record with all of their heart.
HHM: I just wanted to clear this up – I’ve heard some buzz that you guys are actually pretty deep into your next record? Just rumors?
Actually, I’d love to say yes; that would be a lot less pressure on me, honestly some of the guys in the band are writing – but as for me, honestly, I’m not – I’m taking a break, Vital took a lot out of me and we’ve been on tour nonstop since the record came out so I haven’t even had a moment to sit down in my room and start hashing something out. At this stage for me it’s probably about writing the next Anchor & Braille record: that kind of inspires me to keep going and usually from there it goes right to Anberlin.
Interview by Matt Crane – HHM
CATCH ANBERLIN ON THE TOUR DE VITAL: VISIT WWW.ANBERLIN.COM