Wednesday 6 February 2013

Anberlin // Interview & Live Review, Manchester Academy

After over a decade in the industry Florida five-piece, Anberlin remain as strong as ever. Now on their sixth record, "Vital", the band are back in the UK on a headline tour. After postponing the dates to take up a support slot with Smashing Pumpkins [we'll let them off] the tour finally hit Manchester Academy 3.
Est.1987 headed down to check out the live show and caught up with lead singer Stephen Christian to chat about the new material, the change in the industry throughout their life as a band and why you should walk out of at least one interview in your career

You guys rescheduled the tour to go join Smashing Pumpkins in North America. So firstly we have to ask how was it?
It was really great; I mean the crowds were just massive. It was just such an honour to see your child hero on stage every night and to go into the crowd and become part of it and just watch as he sings all the songs that you grew up on. That was just incredible and he hasn't lost a beat. He still sings great, they're a really tight band and the show was really phenomenal. 

Anberlin front-man Stephen Christian in Manchester

How have the UK shows been going so far?
This is our sixth time back and I think as long as the band’s around we're just going to keep on coming back. It's incredible and we learn new things about the cities every time we come. The shows have been really great. 

It’s going to be ten years since your first album- are you going to celebrate? We caught up with ANDREW WK on his ten year anniversary tour and he played an album in full 
Not really. We haven't planned anything simply because we're in the midst of "Vital" just coming out, so for us to push pause and take a break to go back to older stuff it would feel a little forced at this point. 

“Vital” is your sixth album; how do you look back on your earlier stuff? Do you approach those tracks differently now, especially to play live?
I mean we still play them live because we realise that it's a part of how people discovered us and it's still part of why they like us. And it’s great because we haven't changed sounds, we're still recognisable and enjoy playing those songs. We try to retranslate them live, whether it's breaking it down and doing an acoustic version or switching it up a little bit.

You’ve said in the past that you’ve been inspired by poets and historical figures; did that feed through onto the latest album? Is a different poet embedded on each album you’ve made?
It kinda changes and usually it's what I'm reading at the time that can inspire it. But this one was a little more life driven in the fact it was more circumstantial on what was happening around the world. 

Stephen Christian on stage at Manchester Academy

You said you wrote an abundance of songs for the record- how did you whittle them down to the ones that made the final cut? Was it hard?
It wasn't a hard process because songs kind of talk to you as far as you can think “would I even listen to this song?” One of our guitarists wrote like forty five songs and obviously we can't record them all so I'd sift through them and whichever I felt grabbed me then that's the one I’m going to write to. We went into the studio and we had about twenty five songs with lyrics and melodies and right away everyone had their favourites and they were all pretty similar. We narrowed it down to fifteen before we went into the studio.  

And you returned to working with Aaron Sprinkle again. Why did you decide now was the right time to work with him again? And what was it like being back in the studio with him?
I feel like both Anberlin and Aaron Sprinkle had grown. We'd learnt so much from Neal Avron and Brendan O’Brien and so to go back to Aaron Sprinkle it felt cyclical. It felt the right time and he'd definitely become a better producer in the four years we were apart. We always felt like he was a sense of home; we recorded our first records with him so there was that familiarity. When we jumped into the studio by the fifth day of pre production, not even going into the studio, we had already done a song on the record. It was done; it was that quick. We worked so well together and it just made logical sense for us.

Christian McAlhaney on stage in Manchester
You have so many songs now; what is the one song that sums you up?
That’s a great question, I don’t know. It’s so hard because if I pick one then it alienates a whole section. If I had to show someone the middle most song, it would probably be “Paperthin Hymn” because it’s heavy, but it’s still melodic.  

How have you seen the industry change since you guys first started out?
Oh my gosh, it’s not even the same. Well, there’s no more money [laughing] but besides that I think technology now is the foundation piece. Like, if you’re not technologically savvy I think you’re lost. I mean I’m not talking about heritage acts, like The Beatles don’t have to do that; they can do what they want, but as far as new bands go and when you’re trying to get fans. There are positives and negatives to it. The negative is that people are going to download tour music, but the positive is things like when we go to Brazil our record isn’t out there but we sell out shows; obviously they’re downloading it. The bigger you get the bigger the chasm between you and your fans, so social media brings that back together.

So when you guys were starting out and you kept getting asked about how you got your name you would make up different stories to journalists. Are there any questions you keep getting asked repeatedly now and just want to make up stories to make it less tedious?
Well, it drives me insane when journalists still, ten years into it, ask us that same question. I told myself the other day that the next time someone asks me it, think I’m going to stand up and walk out. I’ve never done that in an interview and I feel like just once I need to do it. It would be so funny just to stand up and walk out; you have to do it once in your whole career [laughing]. But yeah people still ask me that question and I’m like “dude, there’s a thing called Wikipedia, you should just go and have fun with it, pretend you know the band”.

And finally, what’s next for you guys?
Absolute touring. From here we go to the US, then we go to Brazil and Canada and Australia and Asia and then hopefully we’ll come back and do Europe proper. I’m going to get a lot of frequent flyer miles [laughing]. So it’s going to be a good year, just very busy.

And here’s what happened when Anberlin took to the stage…

Anberlin in Manchester
Anberlin fans have had to wait a little while for this tour to finally come to UK shores. The Floridian five-piece postponed the tour to accept a support slot that they were personally invited on for Smashing Pumpkins. And, let’s face it, who can blame them. By the time the tour hit Manchester the audience were truly ready to get stuck in and were anticipating something special.

“Little Tyrants” taken from the most recent album “Vital” kicks off the evening and serves to prove that this may be the band’s sixth record, but they are by no means sitting back on their laurels. Gritty vocals, heavy percussion, intricate riffs and a melodic soaring chorus sees the opener fuel the audience for the evening. With a career spanning over a decade and a huge back-catalogue to choose from, tonight is a musical journey that truly satisfies fans old and new.
“Paperthin Hymn” (as front-man Stephen Christian described) is the perfect balance of heavy and melodic and is immediately infectious. A huge discography means they can pick and choose to allow the set to be the perfect combination of tracks such as the fast, percussive and more aggressive “The Resistance” with it’s heavy breakdown, to the more melancholic synth based “Art Of War”.

Classic Anberlin songs such as the high energy and anthemic “The Feel Good Drag” serve as only icing on the cake to the already impressive set. Fans young and old couldn’t ask for anymore, the majority of the room singing along to every single word. Anberlin certainly know how to put on a show. Slick and effortless, creating an electric atmosphere, the quintet has to come back on for an encore to satisfy the audience with the powerful “Someone Anyone” and finish with “Godspeed”.
Stephen, the perfect front-man, offers some words of wisdom out to the crowd; “If anyone’s in a band, keep going, don’t ever give up”. Anberlin has undoubtedly grown and changed over the years, and shown that they have resilience and aren’t afraid to experiment with their sound which ultimately translates into the live show. The wait for the tour may have been long, but it was definitely worth it. 

Catch Anberlin on the remaining dates -
6th Feb- Sheffield, O2 Academy
7th Feb- London, The Garage