“I think there’s a moment in everyone’s life where it’s this do or die moment,” Stephen Christian of Anberlin said, minutes after another terrific performance at Anaheim’s House of Blues on Dec. 3.
“You have this one chance. Do you jump off the train and try to save the day? Do you go out and create some art you don’t think anyone’s ever seen before? Do you quit your day job and go back into television or producing movies? Who knows when that moment is for you? But you have to decide.”
For Anberlin that time is now.
With shaggy hair and a stern face, some might suspect Christian to be shy and soft-spoken. In fact, the singer is quite the opposite. Charismatic and outgoing, he radiates a likeable energy to those around him, and it’s easy to see why Anberlin’s future is so bright.
The band, which also features guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney, bassist Deon Rexroat and drummer Nathan Young, is currently nearing the end of their two-month tour with Motion City Soundtrack and former labelmates Mae. They will then be entering the studio with around 20 songs to record for their fourth record and first for Universal Republic.
“Lyrically, it’s going to be more like Cities than the other two,” Christian explained. “As far as sonically, I think it’s going to be a cross between ‘Dismantle. Repair.’ and ‘Paperthin Hymn.’ Not too intricate that you get lost but a little more … epic.”
Christian was quick to point out that the album will sound like a familiar progression to fans.
“We haven’t changed at all,” he said. “Nobody’s going to be like, ‘Who’s this?’ It’s going to be very distinctive.”
Christian’s musical effort isn’t only with Anberlin. Over the last year, he has been working on a side project under the name of Anchor & Braille, with some help from Copeland’s Aaron Marsh.
“These are songs, either lyrically or sonically, which felt like they weren’t in the vein of Anberlin,” he explained. “I think Anberlin is more of like Foo Fighters/Jimmy Eat World fast rock, stuff like that, whereas Anchor & Braille is very much like Sigur Rós/Ryan Adam-ish … I’m not comparing myself to them, just that kind of genre.”
Besides music, Christian also has completed work on his first book, entitled “The Orphaned Anything’s.” He is hesitant to call himself a writer, preferring the term “tryer” instead.
“We have a lot of down time on the road, so instead of playing video games all the time, I try to pick up writing and stuff like that.”
The book, set for release early next year, is centered around the line “there’s more to living than being alive,” which could be related to the song “Alexithymia” on Cities. Christian described the story as the “monotony of life and trying to get out of the sludge and the cyclical world that we put ourselves into … It’s about turning your life around and going, ‘You know what? There has to be something more than just this.’”
Meanwhile, the band finds it exciting to be among the recent uprising of Christians in the mainstream marketplace, which this year has included the likes of Paramore and OneRepublic.
“It’s cool because we can set a lot of different examples for not only the listeners but other bands. We can go, ‘You know what? You really don’t have to do this and participate in the stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll.’”
While the band isn’t necessarily a fan of being called a “Christian band,” the lyrics aren’t afraid to touch on spiritual or philosophical issues.
“I don’t sit down to avoid the word ‘God,’ avoid the word ‘Jesus’ or something like that. That’s never my intention,” Christian said.
“If I could have any goal in lyrics, it would be to teach a life lesson. Whether out of failures or out of successes. Out of life or death or hate or whatever it is, to hopefully better people’s lives. I don’t want every song to be, ‘Girl, I want to hold your hand cause you’re pretty,’ and I don’t want every song to be, ‘Well, the third law of thermodynamics states that everything is in the process of decay’… I want a medium where I can relate to that, I can absorb that, and I can apply that to my life.”
It’s this sort of attitude which has allowed the band to already consider their career a success. No matter how their major label debut performs, it has also encouraged them to dream big and give it their best shot.
“So what if it flops?” Christian questioned. “Let’s say we only sell 10,000 of the next record. You know what? I’ve had some of the best years of my life. This has been so much fun. I’ve gotten to tour with amazing bands and live out dreams that I never thought in a million years would be possible. So it’s like, why not take the risk?”
Come this time next year, it’s likely fans will be glad they did.
Originally appeared in The Chimes