On March 10th, I was able to sit down with Stephen Christian, lead singer of the band Anberlin, right before they performed for a sold-out crowd at The Glasshouse in Pomona, CA. He was kind enough to take some time out of their insane 2007 schedule and discuss what’s going on in the Anberlin camp!
First things first, introduce yourself however you please!
My name is Stephen Christian, and I am the ruler of the free world…I am the singer of Anberlin as well, It’s my day job.
You’re out on a headlining tour right now, tell me a bit about what that’s been like for you?
The first headlining tour for us, it’s been amazing and it’s been humbling in the fact that all but one show has sold out. It’s my favorite tour of all time because all of the guys get along. Even better, all the bands are not only great musicians and bands that we love but they’re really cool people. It’s definitely the best tour we’ve been on.
Your support is quite diverse musically, who picked the lineup?
We all pitched in and gave our own ideas. Jonezetta is our favorite band on Tooth & Nail right now as far as the new bands coming up, we really wanted to take them under our wing. Meg & Dia we wanted to a chance because their music is solid and we want to see them succeed because we don’t feel like there are enough girls in rock right now. Bayside have been good friends with us for like two and a half years and they just had a record come out so we thought it was perfect.
You made your ‘television debut’ on Craig Ferguson, how comfortable were you guys performing straight in front of the camera?
No way, we were dead nervous! Everybody was just sweating and I was shaking. We actually did a take and a half because my vocal mic was off. Half way through the first take I forgot some of the words. I remembered them at the last second, but I was freaking out cause I was so nervous. Second take was a lot better.
You’re supporting your third full-length album, Cities, how has the response been to the newer material?
It’s really picked up steam as far as people singing along because obviously when you go out on tour the day your CD comes out, a lot of people don’t know the new songs. Each and every night we see more response to the new songs. It’s been awesome, we try and play half old songs and half new songs.
The sales have been great, people seem to love it. The reviews on iTunes seem to be pretty positive for the most part. It’s been really cool.
With Cities you decided to go back with Aaron Sprinkle, what was different this time around?
We didn’t initially want to go with Aaron Sprinkle because we didn’t want to make a Never Take Friendship Pt. II. We started to look around at different producers and really didn’t feel comfortable with any of them. We started to talk to Aaron and think of what we could do differently on this record. He suggested we could get a new engineer, a new studio- we went to this place called London Bridge where they did Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana. We got a new person to mix the record, Chris Shipley, he did Andrew WK’s I Get Wet. We just made it a lot bigger. We made it everything Anberlin was but we made it a lot bigger and a lot fuller. We kind of wanted everything as far as conceptual stuff like the artwork to match the CD, we wanted it to correlate instead of everything pieced together. We had an overall vision of what we wanted the record to look like.
Just out of curiosity, have you been to all of the cities on the online City Pass?
I haven’t been to Hong Kong, I think there was a couple we haven’t. I haven’t been to South Africa, but one of the guys has. I think all but two or three.
After the success of Never Take Friendship Personal, I’m sure you had the option to go major, what made you want to stay with Tooth & Nail?
We haven’t gone back to Tooth & Nail, we’re deciding right now between major and going back. Both have pulls, there’s the security in Tooth & Nail and also the passion and friendship. On the other hand, they have the money, backing, the power and the push. We’re weighing out our options right now, it’s been on our minds the last couple of weeks.
A Full US headlining tour & brand new album is usually a full schedule for bands in three calendar months, but you also headed up a recent trip to India, can you tell me about that?
In May of 2006, we took a whole bunch of our friends, Seth our tour manager and Nate, our drummer to Haiti. We got to work on some humanitarian projects and I realized that it was an experience I wanted to share with as many bands as possible. I approached Tooth & Nail and said, ‘Can I have some bands and some money to help fund this trip to Calcutta?’ Tooth & Nail pitched in thirty percent of everybody’s way there which was awesome. Some bands off of Tooth & Nail came with us, and the same things happened when we got there, I just felt like I wanted to do this again with any bands that want to go. We’re heading up a trip to Nairobi, Kenya this December. We’re just starting to get the project rolling and it’s looking like it’s going to happen!
What was your purpose for going? What did you do while you were there?
We really worked with this organization called Apne Aap (the US go-between is the TEN organization) which is anti-human trafficking for the next generation. Taking girls that might be out on the streets and putting them into a safe environment with education, great leadership, practical skills and some useful tools (Including developing an item to sell here). We thought it was just amazing and something I want to do again. I think we made a definite impression but in the long run we’re still going to support these girls to make sure they have an education for the future.
(Photos from the trip)
I’ve read in interviews, where you ask yourself the question, “what are you going to use your celebrity for?”…it’s obvious that you chose to make an impact where one is very much needed, what was the catalyst to make that choice?
I think it’s a lot of different things. My uncle spent a lot of time in Singapore doing humanitarian work and aid and even at five years old I wanted to do that. At twelve years old my parents brought me to Mexico City to work in the dumps to hand out rice, beans and bananas to as many kids as we could. Little things like that made such a lasting impression on my life. At seventeen, I read Ghandi’s autobiography and in there he said all of these great things and also my faith. My religion says that, ‘pure religion is this, to love the widows and orphans’ and that’s something I connect with. I think everything in life is interwoven, I think it all comes together to serve a greater purpose. It’s just something I want to continue.
Jamie of To Write Love On Her Arms went with you to India and is out with you on tour, how did you first connect with the organization, and what motivated you to bring them with you on tour?
Jamie and I have been friends for years. He tried to steal my girlfriend when I was 20 years old. He buddied up with me cause he really like her and after a couple weeks I was kind of tired of her so I was like, ‘you can have her, it’s no big deal.’ She was as boring as a brick wall. They never ended up hooking up but we became friends through that where years later we reconnected and laughed about the whole thing and then started talking. He worked at a surf brand called Hurley, we’d call each other at least once every other week and just talk. I told Jamie he really needed to get out of here and that this wasn’t what he was called to do, to be working for a surf company. I said, ‘you need to just quit and get out.’ A couple months later, here comes a situation where he gets a chance to write the story. it’s awesome to watch it develop. Ever since the beginning I’ve been a fan of Jamie and whatever he was going to do. I don’t care if it was be homeless or hang out at Hurley for the rest of his life, it just didn’t matter to me. It was something I wanted to get behind. When we saw he was really getting involved in this, Anberlin was the first to sign up. We’ve been a fan of To Write Love and of Jamie’s because he’s such a stellar guy.
Being socially conscious and active has almost become trendy now with the popular movements of organizations like Invisible Children, ONE, and To Write Love On Her Arms, what advice would you give to someone who feels they’re doing their part by giving monetarily, but wants to do more?
The least of it is monetary! America is so good at just casting money at people and saying go solve your own problems. It’s all about volunteer. That’s sad that it’s trendy, I really hope it lasts forever. I hope its a reciprocal process that will never end. There’s organizations you can get involved with like DoSomething.org is a website you can type in your zip code and it will give you a list of things that you can get involved with and volunteer at. There’s great stuff like Habitat For Humanity and World Vision. There’s soup kitchens and orphanages that are great places to start and you don’t have to go overseas to make a difference. It starts in your own community. Definitely get involved. It’s not about the money it’s about making a difference in your community.
Transitioning back a little bit, how are things working out with Christian?
AMAZING. Christian is working out so great, I cannot wait to get him in the band. We’re kind of still feeling him out because we’ve had so many rhythm guitarists in the past. We’re just so stoked cause he adds so much live in his guitar playing but he can sing and his attitude and the whole nine yards. He’s the complete package.
Anchor & Braille is a new musical venture for you, what was the motivation to do that? Can we expect anything else from it?
The motivation is strictly out the fact that I hate sitting around during off time. So Aaron Marsh from Copeland and I decided to work on my project. I had written a lot of songs that I knew weren’t going to be for Anberlin and so I took the next step and asked Aaron to produce. The end of January we put out a vinyl with just two songs on Wood-Water which is a label I started to put my stuff out, I’ve always wanted to run a label. There’s going to be more, we’re going to keep recording more and hopefully around Christmas time next year we’ll have more!
Any last comments?
No, I think that’s it. Thank you very much for the time and thanks for making sure people get involved! I appreciate it.
A huge thank you to Libby Henry and MSO PR for setting up the interview!
Photo by Michael Schneider