Sonisphere UK 2011 Interview: Anberlin – Stephen Christian

Formed in 2002, Anberlin quickly ditched the ‘rising stars’ label to become one of the most dominant worldwide forces in alternative rock and in recent years their success has saw them tour from everywhere including here in the UK to Australia or Hong Kong.

With each and every album release Anberlin become a stronger unit, selling more albums and cementing their status as veterans of the industry.

Recently the band were announce to perform at Sonisphere, a long way from their comfort zone but that didn’t worry the band as they took to the stage before Cancer Bats and certainly won over many hardcore fans simply standing in wait.

Before their set I had the opportunity to meet with Stephen Christian, the bands vocalist, to talk about their latest album, their new live album and even their new album which is currently in the works. We also touch on his favourite Glaswegian band Mogwai along with his non-profit organisation Faceless International and lots more.

Be sure to check out the bands official website and follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

EspyRock: How are you?

Stephen Christian: I’m doing unbelievable Michael, it has been a really really good day.

Are you looking forward to getting on stage and performing later on?

Oh yeah, you know we’ve never played a metal festival so I’m very curious to see how the crowd react and if they want a human sacrifice or not [laughs]. I really have no idea what to expect.

Have you managed to check out any of the bands or are you planning to over the day?

We just got here probably two hours ago so I’ve been doing press since I got here, go get something to eat, play the show then go see Slipknot! That is kind of my day.

The next gig for you after this, well one of the key shows anyway is the free London gig.


I wanted to ask you about that because obviously you cancelled the original tour date due to personal issues and it was completely out of your control but fans really seemed to give the band some amount of abuse for it which was completely uncalled for. Did that upset you with that reaction that you received from fans?

Yeah it crushed us. The fact of the matter which people probably don’t know is that we were only going to be in Europe for six days so our management said ‘listen, if I can reschedule it, we’ll go for a month over there’ so we’ve now been over here for a month. We were really bummed that we would have to cancel shows but the fact we knew we would be over here for a longer time, play the free show in London and then we get the chance to play a cancer benefit show in Manchester in a few days and that to us was a big deal. To us, that made it worth it, to be able to play that free show and then raise some money to help fight cancer and spend a month in Europe was absolutely great and we couldn’t have played Sonisphere today so it was definitely worth it in the long run but in the short run we got a lot of hate tweets and a lot of hate mail [laughs].

Yeah especially when the band does use the social networks to constantly keep up to date with fans so did you go into hiding for a little bit?

[Laughs] Yeah, it did get rough and we were like ‘we will be back, we promise’, then just having to work it all out.

Do you think that is one of the major components now for bands to stay afloat, to use social networks and continually interact with the fans so they feel like a member of the band almost?

Yeah but sometimes it’s hard and it can become difficult. It’s one of those things, it’s like a catch 22, you want to be friends and hang out but then you still want that moment of mystic but there’s no more of that, mystic is saved for eighties bands you know but I’d rather count a fan as a friend.

Speaking of the London date and touring, you also have the “Evening With Anberlin” tour in Australia which is quite a bit different.

Yeah, it’s way different, we’ve never done anything like that but it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Ever since that announcement though fans are now crying out to have that tour in Europe, UK and America.

I think we’re just going to save that one for Australia because that is a really special market to us and stuff like that but you never know, maybe in a few years but not right now, we’re going to hold out for Australia.

That will break a few hearts, maybe some more hate mail coming your way [laughs].

[Laughs] Well you just never know.

Anberlin Dark Is The Way Light Is A Place Artwork‘Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place’ is your most recent release from September last year, were you pleased to see such a massive reaction to this album, it has been seen as easily the best album the band has released.

Absolutely, I think in years to come people will still look back and realise it; I think it is our best record. People do really seem to love it, they sing-a-long to it at every show and that’s how you can tell if it’s a decent song or a good album.

I have to ask, what was it like to work with Brendan O’Brien?

Aww it was a dream, like a surreal moment.

When you look back at the bands he has worked with like Pearl Jam…

Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty; aww dude the list, I feel honoured to just be on that list.

I’ve always been interested in the artwork for that album as you never really know how to perceive it.

Well the artwork actually comes from an artist in Australia, his name is Michael Zavros, he’s a really great artist and the reason we chose this is because when you look at it, there are millions of artwork, I mean like covers for bands, and we wanted something that you had to look at it, like really look at it and it made you feel something. We wanted that kind of feeling when you look at it like ‘wow’, like a moment when something just hits you and I think that’s why we went with this, something that is really just a punch in the face and I felt that was kind of like the summation of the record, you just had to really look at it to fully understand it.

When you say that about really focussing on it, when you really focus on the band’s sound, in general over the albums but especially with this album, it does feel somewhat a little more mature, not that it wasn’t before, maybe tighter and more structured than it has been before.

Absolutely and that is also something Brendan O’Brien brought out in us.

Personalities and people change over the years and while there have been the odd line-up change, what is it that is making this unit feel tighter now?

The reason it has worked so well is that we have moved from being a band to being friends and then being friends to brothers and now we are just a band of brothers for sure.

Coming from the album the most recent release you have is the live album from the House Of Blues. Is that the first live album you have done?

Yeah that is the first live album and we put it together with a DVD which is like an interview and a couple of songs on there. We’ve had so many people ask for it so we did it and it was raw, straight off the board and just gave it to whoever wanted it.

For a lot of bands the live album is always sort of regarded as a milestone, they have done so much over the years so to finally release a live album makes a significant goal in their career so how do you feel to finally have one out, although I think it is fair to say you don’t really need to mark your career now.

I personally don’t like live albums [laughs]

[Laughs] Why is that?

I mean it sounds bad, the quality is never good and it is just all so rough. You can never tell what is happening because I might be in the crowd but all you can hear is [makes wind noises and crackle sounds] so I never liked live albums but I want to always be conscious of what the fans want because it is not about what I want, it is about what they want and I’m going to give them what they want.

Have you heard your own live album back?

I don’t want to hear it [laughs]; I know it is going to be horrible. I actually listened to about thirty seconds then I just thought ‘I don’t want to hear this crap’ but as long as the fans like it then that is all that matters.

Anberlin Band PictureNow you’re already in the process of writing for the new album, the one song title that you mentioned is ‘Control’ which is influenced by the events in Egypt. What was it about those events that made you want to write the song?

Oh man I feel like that is just one of those things in life that you don’t think you will ever experience in your lifetime. Hundreds of countries around the world have had revolutionary wars but I’ve never seen one happen right in front of me. It was the fact that it was a revolution but a peaceful revolution is unbelievable. Something I think the rest of the world should marvel at and just try. I think the UK should have a revolution and I’m not talking just about politics but it could be a revolution against illiteracy or homelessness or stuff like that. So I feel the world should look to Egypt as a role model with the thought that they can do that there and revolutionise the whole political system without one bullet then we can do that too.

So how is the rest of the material coming along?

Good, I think we might be ready to enter the studio in January but we’ll see. I don’t want to give too much away just yet.

Building upon your mention of a revolution against illiteracy or homelessness, doing something for a good cause, you have a non-profit organisation to help fight against human trafficking.

Yes I have a non-profit organisation called Faceless International which is to fight human trafficking and we just go out of our way to defeat slavery around the world.

What made you decide that human trafficking would be your cause to fight as it’s rare to hear, well certainly over here, that as the main cause of an organisation?

Well for me I think everyone should pick a cause and I was so naïve to the amount of slavery in the US. There is an estimated 300,000 slaves in the US and that’s disgusting and then you think of the rest of the world like Indonesia is massive for instance, Thailand and there are all these horrific atrocities that happen to these little girls, it’s just disgusting and that’s why I felt like I had to make a stand against it.

How big is the organisation that you work with?

There are a number of us, like we have a president of the company and a lot of people working there.

I hope you succeed with it and at least benefit some people’s lives.

Thank you Michael, hopefully through this interview the message will spread.

Back to music, as we’re at a festival and as a musician it is always good to find out who people are listening to so who currently are you listening to?

I can’t get enough of The National, they are just incredible. Temper Trap is another great band and I enjoy the new Kings Of Leon record but probably The National is the mainstay of those bands.

I know one band that you are a fan of and they come from Glasgow which is Mogwai.

Oh yeah, I’m a massive Mogwai fan! Aw dude. I don’t know who but when we were in Glasgow last time, on the guest list was Mogwai plus two so we didn’t know if they were at our show, we didn’t know if it was the tour manager or the guys from the band but I flipped my lid! I was like ‘I have to meet them, can they make it in’ [laughs] but yeah I’m a massive Mogwai fan. I’ve even done it were, because you know they are mostly instrumental, just for me I could never put it out, but I’ve recorded songs I’ve written over their music you know like I’ve sang over their music with choruses and stuff like that because I thought how cool would that be to team up with an instrumental band but I’m a huge, no, massive Mogwai fan.

Next time you’re in Glasgow you will need to buy yourself a Celtic football club shirt, they will grow to love you that little more. They have the song ‘Scotland’s Shame’ which is about their opposition.


Anberlin Band PictureWell that is based on a banner Celtic fans had pointing to our bitter rivals [Rangers] which was to say they are Scotland’s shame.

That is awesome.

So grab yourself a Celtic top next time you’re in Glasgow.

You got it, I’ll do it and I’ll Mogwai written on the back.

Last question before we finish and I’m asking all of the bands across the weekend. If you could back to when you first started music with all of the knowledge you have gained about the industry, touring, yourself through this experience and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?

Aww dude, there is hundreds of things and I mean hundreds of things! Ah dude there is so much; that’s overwhelming. I think it would have to be don’t give up because there were so many moments I was like this close. Maybe if I could say ‘hey, it’s 2011, I’m in the middle of the UK playing a giant festival of 70,000 people’, and if I could just tell myself that then I would have enough hope to make it through those most detrimental dark moments so yeah I would just describe today to myself and that’d be it.


About ??

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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