Artist Interview: Anberlin's days are numbered, but lead singer Stephen Christian says, "we’re not leaving, we can live on forever, if you keep listening."
How does grandpa’s old saying go, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes”? Don’t go snitching or anything to the feds, but he may be only halfway correct when says that as far as we’re concerned.
For the Florida-based alt-rock outfit Anberlin, however, the certainty of the band’s final run is upon them, and the decision to go out as they did has been an interesting dynamic to watch. In January the band announced via a YouTube video that they’d be giving their fans one last album, one last tour, and one last time to see them before the maturing rockers branched out in separate ways.
Lead singer Stephen Christian says that the desire to split was nothing but amicable, and that going out in this way was to portray the utmost respect for Anberlin’s fans. The current – and last – tour comes through Denver and The Summit Music Hall this Saturday, Oct 18.
Holy moly! You’re on your last tour ever and hitting the final stretches of it all.
Yeah, it’s crazy! It came so abrupt. We’ve basically been on the road since June with a week off here and there. It’s just dawned on me like ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got less than two months to be a band.’ It’s so crazy, it came so fast.
How are the attitudes amongst you; are you all getting emotional?
I think spirits are high. It’s not like something that just surprised us or shocked us, or one of the members was like, ‘I’m leaving in a week.’ I think we’re all coming off a pretty big high of the world tour we just got off of, and I would have to say maybe it’s bittersweet except we’ve got past the bitter part. It’s just absolutely sweet from here on out. We’re really looking forward to this last run.
Being on the bus it’s usually always about thinking ahead. Now you can sit back and enjoy your time together. Are you writing still or just playing Scrabble and enjoying company?
Yeah, really just enjoying each other’s company and hanging out … goofing off. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’re all gonna miss collectively is the camaraderie. We do love being on the stage and we do love the music we’ve created and writing and all that stuff, but when we look back at times and memories, that’s gonna be the biggest to us, is just five guys that have been together for 12 years and gone through thick and thin and been around the world a few dozen times. Those are the memories that are gonna be lasting.
When the conversation of ending the run came up, was it just one of you who brought it up? Or did everyone feel the same way?
I think it was one of those things where we all knew, but we just didn’t talk about. It was already known. We all kind of felt it. It’s one of those things you don’t want to talk about.
It’s like a girlfriend. You don’t want to hurt their feelings. You both know it’s over, but you don’t wanna ... you know everyone was scared and hesitant, but after it’s over it’s a huge relief. Everybody was already there in some regards, some further along than others.
But we just, we know that each other are focusing on different passions. One guy wants to start producing records and another guy is making leaps and bounds trying to open up his coffee shop. We had already known about each other’s future goals and that people were planning out their future. It was unsaid, but everybody had already given the nod. It took one person to say, ‘Alright let’s get this out in the open.’
The cool thing is that it wasn’t out of anger or bitterness or ‘You screwed me over or you did this to me. ‘ It was more like, ‘Hey guys, one year, let’s give each other one year.’ It was done in literally the most respectful and loving way.
It’s a really unique way of going out…
Music is our passion, but a career wasn’t our passion. You set out to be in a band to play music, and when that passion for that music fades you’re left with all the surroundings, the superfluous, you’re not there for the passion and that’s all the wrong reasons to be there.
You sing in “Time and Confusion” that 'It’s not about the money we make, it’s about the passions that we ache for.' Is it interesting now going back to those lyrics and seeing that kind of foreshadowing?
Absolutely! The ironic thing is we just started playing “Time and Confusion” again the last month or so, and when I heard that bridge again I was like ‘Wow!’ It’s funny. It was like I was preaching to myself. Foreshadowing ten years later, here I am going to be singing that bridge and realizing, wow, I had already called it.
The fans are going to miss Anberlin, but at the same time it’s not like you guys are really leaving, you’ve made albums and they’re timeless ...
A lot of people say, ‘We’re going to miss you,’ but yeah, exactly that, we’re not leaving, we can live on forever if you keep listening. On that same token, that’s why we chose to end the band the way we did because we put ourselves in the fan’s shoes.
If we knew a band was going to break up I would want one more record, just to be able to embrace that one last record. Also, I’d at least want a chance to see them one more time. So that’s why we chose to do the routing we did. That’s all very calculated.
Writing the last album had to be therapeutic knowing the pressure is somewhat off?
First off, bands, before they go and record the record they have to submit demos. And then if the labels say yes or no they get a chance to record it. This was the first time where we didn’t have to submit a single note. It was just the fact that they trusted us to go and write an Anberlin record. After six records we’ve kind of earned that right. We didn’t have somebody coming down our throat saying, ‘Where’s my single, where’s my single!’
I remember one time when I was traveling and my A&R rep called me and said verbatim, ‘If this album fails it is all your fault. Not your band’s fault. Not your manager’s fault. Not your fan’s fault. This is all your fault.’ And I remember almost going into seclusion because I felt like I was going insane.
And so that pressure was gone, it was dissipated on this last record. Some of the craziest songs we’ve ever written is on this record, and that’s great. It was absolute creative freedom.
Moving forward is there music in your future personally?
Speaking for all five of us, I know that we will be in the circumference of music for the rest of our lives. Nate, our drummer, is gonna do studio work and Deon and Christian are gonna go start another band, and Joey wants to start producing records, and I’m signed on as a songwriter in Nashville. So we’ll always be there.
One of the biggest reason we left, here we are touring 200 to 225 plus dates a year. After 12 years it’s like being deployed in the military or something – not saying that our service and their service is equally important – but it feels like we’re perpetually deployed and everything we love to do, and the people we love, are left behind.
After awhile … again, going back to passions sake, what is a priority in life? I don’t think we will ever get back to that level of touring, all of us will unanimously say that we will never tour to that extent.
On this tour you guys are coming through Denver. Denver’s always got a sweet spot for Anberlin – are you emotionally ready? The shows have to be extremely emotional at this point …
It is, inevitably every night there’s somebody in the first few rows crying and you would think it would bring me to a level of remorse or pain, but instead it’s such gratitude. I don’t think I properly gauged how much impact we had on people’s lives until we started these final shows.
You can get on Twitter and explain that Anberlin is your favorite band but I don’t see that effect. Not until these last shows started, then it’s like, ‘Oh man.’ It’s just intense. I don’t know if I’m ready, I’ll let you know when I get to Denver. If I’m in tears you’ll know one way or another.