An Interview With Stephen Christian of Anberlin
Written by: Brandon Jones
It’s been quite a while since I’ve interviewed you Stephen for Indie Vision Music. Fans are eager to hear the latest news on not just Anberlin, but about your life as well. So let’s get started
Brandon J. Tell me a little bit of what you’ve been up to the past 4+ years since Anberlin called it quits. You’ve released some Anchor & Braille material, a “solo” album and guested on some other band recordings also. What has that experience been like?
Stephen: It has been a roller coaster as far as music has been concerned. After first quitting the band I wanted nothing to do with music. I wanted to just hide out for tour buses and studios. As time went on I saw that the industry was a part of me. Songwriting was second nature and I had to indulge in both.
A&B was so much fun. I had a chance to work with my friend Ryan Bernal on the record “Songs for the Late Night Drive Home”. Honestly it is in my Top 3 favorite records I have ever put out, but I still didn’t want to tour.
Life on the other side was even better than how imagined it to be. I have time, I have energy, I have passions once again. Music is more than a paycheck, it’s a passion again.
Brandon J. Do you have a particular fondness for one project or another? How well received was the “solo” worship album last this past year? Has it opened doors for you to sing about your Faith in an open and revealing manner? Do you still play at local Churches with your music?
Stephen: The album was received well, not great. I think people expected it to be Anberlin with blatantly Christian worship lyrics and that wasn’t it at all. Those were songs that I wrote for Word Publishing but after writing them I felt like they were my story, my songs. So I just put them out under my name and called it “Wildfire”, on the label “BEC”.
Currently I am recording an ep in the same vein but better songs, production, and direction.
Brandon J. It has been recently revealed that Anberlin will play some sort of comeback show in December alongside your friends, Underoath. What has led to this collaboration?
Stephen: No COMEBACK, ANBERLIN IS DEAD. This is not a reunion but a reconciliation. We may do another show or tour down the road but we are not reforming. Like I said, we all love life on the other side of the band. No amount of money or cool experiences could draw us back in to who we used to be.
Underoath (Tim) reached out to Anberlin (his brother in law Nate) and came up with the idea. We had slowly been rekindling our friendships and it just seemed like a great way to end (?) the conclusion chapter of the book.
Brandon J. What has drawn you guys out of retirement and back on stage(s)?
Stephen: As Christian put it ‘Reformation, Reconciliation, Amendment, & A Correction’
Brandon J. Everyone is asking, will this be a permanent reunion? Is it a reunion even at all? Will NEW music be in your sights for 2019?
Stephen: No, No, & As of Now NO
Brandon J. If you do get back together and see how things go, performing again for fans and recording potential new music, will a label participate in promoting Anberlin or will you guys be going the independent crowd funding path? I noticed that T&N has shared your reunion show message, will that be the label you choose to work with moving forward?
Stephen: I am not sure we are going to record new music. If we did, it is because the people want it. We are not in the business of making this an occupation. We are in this for the past and the present. We are not trying to make this our future.
Brandon J. It has been nearly 5 years since Anberlin chose to end it. What message do you want to share with the world and fans now that you couldn’t do before during the heyday of the band? Is there a different approach to the band that you want to take now that you couldn’t before?
Stephen: I think the message is the same. Do what you love and love what you do, no matter if you are at the height of your career or it is not even off the ground. The approach is very different because we are not looking to get massive, sign a huge deal, tour extensively for years to come, etc. This is more on our time table. We don’t have mouths to feed like we did then (lawyers, MGMT, Techs, Merch Dudes, etc.)
Brandon J. How are the other members of Anberlin reacting to this new found love of performing again? Are they as excited as you to step on stage and blow people’s minds?
Stephen: They are very excited. I don’t think all of us were ready to get off the road when we did so this is going to be incredible. I actually think that we will be better performers than when we left because the fire will be back in our chests.
Brandon J. The members of Anberlin have all got their own individual bands/projects that they’ve been pursuing after the break up. Will those projects continue and what influence will their projects play on any “new” music you create? Will there be a return to the harder edge sounds of “Never Take Friendship Personal” and “Cities” or a mix of all styles found in your diverse discography
Stephen: I think they will all continue. Carrolhood has been playing out a lot recently, as well as Loose Talk. I believe they will continue just as strong. As for Joey, he is still producing in Austin, TX. with no hopes of touring at all. I know next year will be a big year for me. I just signed to First Company Management and plan to speak/play out frequently.
Brandon J. What album from your past do you feel best represents the future of this new Anberlin? What still remains a “Favorite” release that you all collectively worked on years ago? What songs are your favorite to play and perform on?
Stephen: I have no clue, I have been told “Lowborn” aged well, I am not sure. I know for sure if we are going to do it, we want it to be heavier. That’s what we were good at, that’s the energy we want at shows.
Brandon J. With so much division and a clashing of cultures not to mention unnecessary hate, what message do you want to take into this world? What voice do you feel that Anberlin has in this broken world we live in?
Stephen: I think if you asked every member of the band, we would have many different answers. For me personally, I want to be the light. I want to inspire others to move forward in their life, loves, and Faith. To me there is nothing more important I could preach from the platform I have been given.
Brandon J. Politics are such a touchy word and one that causes instant annoyance with people. How does the music of Anberlin play a part in this diverse political landscape we are a part of? Anything you would like to convey to people or share?
Stephen: I despise how that we as a generation are more known by what we hate rather than what we love, who we are against as opposed to who we are for. It breaks my heart to see the great divide. We are not The United States of America, tell me where is the unity? Where are we as a people united?
People obsess over politics now, it is their religion. They wear the hat and the T-shirt, display it on their Prius and Pickup Truck alike. They are addicted to 24 hour news cycle and thrive on spreading their self-absorbed social media evangelism, preaching their echo chamber rhetoric to those who already believe in the same thing.
And for what?
People cash in 4 years of anger and contempt to their fellow brothers and sisters for 1 day of voting, because unless you’re running for office, that is all your rage is good for.
Why don’t you turn off that channel, then a week before the election find an informed news source, gather all the information and then go vote. Then turn the TV back off. For most of us anything other than that is colossal waste of time.
Why not love one another, give to your neighbor, share what you have, treat others how you’d want to be treated, help the hurting, feed the poor….
So the question is, how is Anberlin involved with politics, and the answer is yes we are, once every four years. Then we go back to being decent humans.
Brandon J. I don’t know what it is but “The Unwinding Cable Car” still strikes me as a beautiful song with such an alluring melody. Do you enjoy that track (still) and if so what do you think people most take away from listening to it?
Stephen: I do like it, those lyrics mean a lot to me even now. Songs are like scrapbooks, when I go back and listen they give me a feeling of time and space, I can tell you exactly where I was when I finished that song, I think people end up taking away from those lyrics something different than what I intended them to be, but that is the beautiful thing about music. Music, like a piece of art hanging on a gallery wall, can be interpreted differently by different people. Fin, which I thought would never mean anything to anyone, resonates so deeply with people even though it is my story, summing up my own personal experience with the Holy Ghost. Yet years later no other (Anberlin) song has penetrated so many souls as that song.
Brandon J. What are some of your favorite Anberlin lyrics of the past and how applicable are they to your life now?
I feel like a shell of yester years gone by
Bad decisions like ghosts that just won’t die
I’m so sorry that I can’t apologize
What comes next is another long goodbye
I love that song, I have so many regrets, but I choose not to ponder on them and let them build up into resentment, instead I learn from them and leave them where they need to stay… in the past.
Brandon J. With such an explosion of music the past decade or so and easy access to millions of songs, what do you think will differentiate the music of Anberlin from so many clones, sound a likes, and manufactured goods flooding the marketplace? How does your music fit in? Please don’t tell me Anberlin will go a complete electronic/dance/pop 180 and try to get on Top 40 radio/pop playlists?
Stephen: All bands are welcome to experiment with their sound, but those who try to follow the fads fade fast. We just want to be Anberlin, if people mimic that’s cool, were not out to be anyone else but ourselves. Imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Brandon J. What are some of your favorite music groups and musicians to listen to from the past up until this current moment? Who are you enjoying in 2018?
Stephen: I am all about The War On Drugs, The National, Stevie Wonder, Kurt Vile, & Cautious Clay right now.
Brandon J. You’re a very focused, poetic and artistic guy with a heart for the written word. Are there any particular authors and novels/books that you’ve enjoyed reading lately? Anything from the past that you are just discovering?
Stephen: Right now I am on a self-awareness journey through books, some of my favorites of late are Sacred Enneagram by Chris Huertz, Better than Gold by Kevin Miller, Next Generation Leadership by Andy Stanley, and H3 by Brad Lomineck.
Brandon J. If Anberlin does reunite and play cross country/world shows, what places do you want to travel to and with what bands can we expect to see you with? Any chance for another Tooth & Nail Tour with classic bands? Any big tour opportunities that might be presented? Can we expect Anberlin to go with Bastille or Imagine Dragons or Portugal the Man? Maybe Jimmy Eat World and Anberlin? Heck ya!
Stephen: Oh man, Jimmy Eat World would be incredible, they and the Foo Fighters were the two bands that I always wanted to tour with but never did.
As far as places I would say SLC, Seattle, Thailand, London, Brazil (all of it), Australia (all of it), Chicago, & NYC.
Brandon J. How do you feel about current “Christian” artists and their influence on the world? Any faith based artists that you are enjoying lately? Anyone that you feel really impacts hearts and minds across the world?
Stephen: I am so proud of where ‘Christian’ artists have come; the topics, songs, and songwriting have come so far even in the last 5 years. I really enjoy LAEL, Royal, John Mark McMillian, & Knox Hamilton.
Brandon J. One more Anberlin question and this relates to album artwork. If there is another album, who do you want to design your art and what can we expect from a new Anberlin release?
Stephen: We have always prided ourselves on our art (except new surrender, ha) DITW and Lowborn were my favorite. Not sure what the future holds but either way It will be absolutely well thought out if it ever happens.
Brandon J. Lastly, how can us the fans best support you gentlemen and what prayer requests if any do you have? How can we support your personal ministry and walk with the Lord?
Stephen: Our families and futures, for me specifically I have taken a job at Calvary Church in Clearwater, Florida and want to touch people and help change lives in that community. Pray that the Holy Spirit gives me new and unique ideas to reach people for Jesus Christ. That God guides my decision making, and that I support the leadership of that Church and encourage the body. His will be done.
That about wraps up this interview. Make sure you check out Anberlin with Underoath on December 14th in Tampa, Florida. Tickets on sale now. Check out Anberlin website here for further info
Stephen was in New Mexico I thought working at a church. Looks like he’s going back to their home state. That’s cool
I like that your optimism for new music seemed to slowly erode his pessimism of that new music existing, to where, by the end, I am pretty sure you have him ready to record a new album.
Brandon, you did it!!!