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A Chat with Stephen Christian of Anberlin

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In covering the world premiere of the video “Impossible”, I had the opportunity to talk to Anberlin lead vocalist Stephen Christian. “Impossible” is the first single from their latest album, Dark is the Way, Light is a Place, set for release on September 21st.

The song and video are amazing, but more amazing still is Stephen’s discussion of what inspired it. As I said previously, you’ll never be able to listen to an Anberlin song the same way again.

I’ll be covering the review of the album prior to its release date, but until then, this is what Stephen had to say… and, as promised, he responds to being compared to U2, INXS, and Muse. A very cool guy.



  

Stephen Christian discusses the making of the first video “Impossible” from Anberlin’s forthcoming album Dark is the Way, Light is a Place and the band’s tour schedule.

I guess the first question I have is about the band’s name… Anberlin. Where did it come from?

The band name came from a Radiohead song called “Everything in Its Right Place.” If you listen, at about 2:36, you can hear some background noises. Upon first listen, I thought Thom was saying “anberlin”, but upon investigation it was just noise — but we, as a band, like this band so much that we wanted to pay homage to their unique and forward thinking musicianship.

Listening to “Impossible” reminded me very much of some of my all time favorite bands. It sounds almost like someone threw INXS and Muse into a room and told them to create an updated version of U2’s “Independence Day”. It’s just that powerful. A truly great song. Can you tell me a little about what inspired it?

WOW, that is the most incredible compliment anyone has ever given this song. Thank you so much. I always admired how Dylan Thomas had this open air conversation between him and God in a lot of his poetry. It was as if God was in the room with him and they talked… or screamed at each other. I think “Impossible” is the summation of my experience with love throughout the years; the conversations, the act of falling, the ecstasy, the failure, the screaming at each other… then repeat.

Today is the world premiere of the video for “Impossible”. Your last album New Surrender (2008) was a huge success, but this feels entirely different… bigger, if that makes sense. What has changed the most for the band between the release of New Surrender and the new album Dark is the Way. Light is a Place?

We stopped ‘wanting to be’ and instead started accepting who and where we were. Good bands make fans, great bands inspire… and that’s what we want to do. We wanted to think outside the norm on everything involving the record. Our pictures, our cover art, the title, the videos — all are meant, not to gain fans, but to inspire… future art and artists, music and musicians.

I’ve heard the songs “Breaking” and “Feel Good Drag” on the radio quite a good bit over the last couple of years. Anberlin has a very unique, recognizable sound. This is probably due to your song writing process. Is there a certain way that songs come together for you guys? Like someone does the music or the lyrics first? Or is it always a group effort?

Either Christian [McAlhaney] or Joey [Milligan] or — on this record, Nathan [Young] our drummer, come up with a song and send it to me, I mull over it for a few days and see what words or lyrics I can apply. It may sound pseudo-metaphysical, but the song really talks to me. Listening through the song once, I can already tell you what it’s going to be about content wise. There’s always a mood or a feeling in music… you just have to shut up and listen and it will tell you.

The words all come from journals that I’ve kept, and still keep, throughout the years; a lot of it is random quotes, things that I’ve learned or experiences I’ve lived.

Something truly amazing happened when you went into the studio to record the new album. You were approached by legendary producer Brendan O’Brien (Stone Temple Pilots, Papa Roach, Velvet Revolver). What was that call like?

It was the worst practical joke ever — Or so we assumed when we first got the call from our manager. But it turned out that he really did want to meet with us and come watch the show in Atlanta, Ga. I remember that show specifically, because I was concentrating on every note, pitch, and sustain.

Working with Brendan was a miracle; he is beyond any level of musician or producer I’ve ever met. We joke in the band that we don’t really care how many copies we sell of our new record Dark – we just want to sell enough so that we can work with Brendan again.

You had the album ready to go when you went into the studio. What was it like working in the studio with O’Brien? Were there a lot of changes or did you pretty much roll with what you had already created?

There were changes on every song, fresh ears to music will do that. There were never any conflicts though, his ideas were gold — and he was open to suggestions and the desire to experiment beyond the normal ‘Anberlin’ record. His team was pro… and they knew what they were doing. They had all worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, and many others so, if in doubt, we would trust them.

If you could jump on a stage tonight and play with any band or musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I honestly had a dream that I played a show with Paul McCartney and woke up with a giant smile on my face. But to be honest, to share a stage with Morrissey or Johnny Marr would be a dream come true.

Who in your past, would you say, gave you the most encouragement to follow your dream as a musician?

The other guys in the band. I feel if it were not for them and their infectious love of music I would not be here today. At first my family was not to impressed by my career choice (there’s not much money to be made in the music industry currently) but the guys in the band stuck with it for better or for worse, for poor or poorer.

But all of that has changed… except for the encouragement.

You developed the organization “Faceless International” to stop human trafficking. How long have you been active in the organization and what made you decide to take up that cause?

I’ve been involved with Faceless International since the inception in May of 2006. It’s something so dear to my heart that lately any spare dollar or minute has been spent on it.

The cause buried itself deep when I walked the red light district of Kulcutta in 2007. I saw girls, perhaps 12 or 13 years of age, beckoning passersby in attempts to sell themselves. I was crushed. Here are young girls… who perhaps wouldn’t even be allowed to attend one of my shows, being forced into the sex trade against their will. It felt, at the moment, like there was nothing I could do to help.

Since that time my focus has been clear… to create a world where all people are born free, and remain free, from the threat of slavery.

What sort of activities is the organization involved in and what can people who want to get involved do to help out?

We’re working in conjunction with communities around the world to help them fight human trafficking in their area. Beyond donations and prayers we need activists, and abolitionists, of any age, sex, creed, religion… to come along side of us and fight this atrocity around the world. Anyone can come with us overseas on these humanitarian projects. Check our website for upcoming trips or email info@facelessinternational.com for information on how to fight human trafficking in your area!

Do you have a tour schedule planned?

Yes we do. It’s a tentative schedule as dates and times move and adjust, but for now we’re planning on heading to Europe in August. Headlining the United States and Canada this Fall. Hopefully hitting the UK this fall, and then Australia and the rest of the world early next year! It’s busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have you started work on the next album yet?

No. This one took it out of us. We’re in the recovery mode, but I’m sure the avalanche that is the writing process will begin soon.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything you’d like to say to your fans?

There is no Anberlin without you. I desperately hope… with all my heart, that our next record Dark changes your life like it has changed ours. Thank you for the years of support.

Photos and Video courtesy of Big Hassle Media

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