I finally got the chance to send a few questions over to Stephen Christian, frontman of rock powerhouse Anberlin. Read on to see what he thinks about labels, longevity, and saving the world.
PPJ: How did Anberlin get started?
Stephen: Anberlin formed out of the ashes of several local bands in the area, we were not necessarily the "super group' but we were just 5 guys that wanted to pursue music with all our heart. It's been an incredible journey with a lot of down and ups... but clearly more ups than downs!
PPJ: You've turned down offers from major labels, instead choosing to stay on Tooth and Nail. Why is that?
Stephen: Actually we have not made the decision to stay with Tooth and Nail or not. We LOVE tooth but are still toying with whether to move on. Tooth has loyalty, friendship, passion, and grass roots marketing. Majors have drive, radio play, can push a video to the mass, and maybe I can move out of my parents house.
PPJ: Have you seen any changes in your fan base through the years?
Stephen: Yes. We actually have a fan base that is something we have not had in prior years. It was such a boost of confidence in them by the mass amount of support that we got online, in sales, and attendance to our recent headlining tour. We could NOT be more happy and thankful to our friends and fans.
PPJ: How will you try and stay relevant to your audience over time?
Stephen: By making sure that we never ever take any fan for granted, we want to stay as close to the ground as we possibly can. We are trying to make sure we do youtube channel videos, tour journals, meet and greets, tours, etc. as we can so that they know that they are appreciated. We are not naive that they (the fans) put us here, buying the CD and coming out to the shows has been SUCH a vote.
We are going to try to stay relevant by creating music that they can relate to, that continues the anberlin sound, and keeps grounded in who we are and avoid AT ALL COSTS a big head about what the fans have helped us accomplish.
PPJ: Many people who see Anberlin live comment on how energetic your show is. How do you keep up that energy throughout a tour?
Stephen: Cocaine. Ha. Kidding. We keep the energy a couple different ways; first off we realize that being on stage is a privilege, not a right. Secondly we are determined to put on the show that we ourselves would want to attend, that puts pressure on us each night to perform to the best of our ability. Finally, we keep in perspective as to where we are and not take it for granted. For instance if you watch Christian and I during a set usually at one point in the set we will look at each other and either hold up a five with one hand and an O with the other, or will just mouth "50" to each other. We do this because one time I was remarking how one day when were 50 years old we will WISH we could have just one more opportunity to play any one of these shows. So we give it everything we have each and every show.
PPJ: Tell us a little about the time you spent recording Cities. Did you go about it differently than you had on your previous albums?
Stephen: The time spent in Seattle had its mix of emotions: anger, frustration, excitement, energy, tense, relaxed, exhilarated, anticipative, aggravated, irritated, discouraged, nervous, etc. but I believe it is all those chemicals combined that make any album. If there is no friction than there is no balance. Every person in the band envisions the album how they want it, then the producer envisions it another way... so when 6 people are going in different directions some of the people have to give. Anberlin is not a solo endeavor, it is a team effort, and we are all in this together or not at all.
PPJ: How has the reaction to Cities been, among both fans and critics?
Stephen: Honestly even though Cities walked away with rather positive reviews I don't care at all what critics say, they don't matter to me at all, what matters to me is what the fans think. I read the reviews on iTunes because I know that they are fans, I care 423423y666 times more what those say than New York Times or USA today.
PPJ: You have a side project, Anchor & Braille. Can we expect to see anything more happening with A&B other than the recent vinyl release?
Stephen: YES! Aaron Marsh and I (producer) are working frantically on the project, our bands Copeland and Anberlin are touring together in Asia and Australia, so we are planning on bringing some mic's and recording some over there. I could NOT be happier on how the songs are turning out so far.
PPJ: You have traveled to places like Haiti and India to aid people there. What has impacted you most about those trips?
Stephen: Selfishly the biggest impact on the trips that I have taken is the clear sign that I am self-centered and care way too much for comforts and material possessions. I also realize that we are all the same, regardless of region or skin color humans want the same things out of life. Clothes, food, a roof; hope, love, and faith. I plan on doing more as well; faceless (facelessinternational.com) is an organization I helped start dedicated to impacting the world for the better. We are in the throws of planning a trip to Nairobi, Kenya this winter break.
PPJ: How did you get involved with To Write Love On Her Arms?
Stephen: I have always been into anyone who is for change for the betterment of humanity as a whole. Whether it is habitat for humanity or world vision Anberlin has always tried to be on the forefront of bands in the scene to make a difference. When Jaime (twloha pres.) told me about his vision and his org. it was clear that Anberlin was going to get involved. In India we talked for several hours and came back determined to bring him out on the road with us.
PPJ: And finally, what advice do you have for people who want to make a difference in the world but don't know where to start?
Stephen: Dosomething.org is a great place to begin your search. You just type in your zip code and it gives you a list of opportunities in your area. If you like feeding into people's lives than try big brother big sister. If you like to build try habitat.org. If you are creative start your own org to help people, regardless of whether its your time or your money we ALL must "become the change you wish to see in the world". (Ghandi)