“When you’re on your sixth record, you take a self-evaluation of why you’re still doing this,” stressed Stephen Christian, frontman for Florida-bred rockers Anberlin while discussing the genesis of the band’s new album, Vital. In an exclusive interview with CBS Local, Christian discussed why his primary influence going into making Vital were the band’s notoriously raucous live shows.
“This isn’t the ’90s where everybody is selling millions of records, so it’s obviously not for the money,” he explained. “The best part of being in a band is honestly just being on stage. For me, my favorite part is not only when everyone is singing along, but when the entire room is gripped by this…tension. It’s so close to being a pseudo-riot, the feeling that something is about to happen. People are dancing, moving, screaming at the top of their lungs…that’s why I wake up in the morning, excited to be on the road. I wanted to formulate songs around that feeling, hence the more aggressive songs. That’s how I came across the passion to write Vital.”
While the album does indeed boast some of the most incendiary songs of Anberlin’s career, Vital also finds the band branching out and experimenting with new sounds, including touches of electronic music, particularly on songs like “Intentions” and the ballad “Innocent.”
“There was that moment when the Rolling Stones encountered the Bee Gees, and the Stones added that disco element to their music,” Christian surmised about the influence of electronic acts like M83 and Active Child on Anberlin’s new music. “In the same way, I feel like electronic music is our current Bee Gees. Sure, it’ll be around in some form ten years from now, but I don’t think it’ll be as prevalent. The goal was to add all of our influences tastefully, and in a way that the guitar is still the primary instrument. I never want to have a song that relies on a keyboard or a DJ.”
Achieving that precarious balance was made possible by the band returning to work with producer Aaron Sprinkle, who manned the boards for Anberlin’s first three studio albums.
“We had just got done working with two of the most incredible producers in rock music today with Neil Avron (New Surrender) and Brendan O’Brien (Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place) on our two previous albums,” Christian elaborated. “If it wasn’t for the two of them, we wouldn’t have gone back to Aaron. But we learned so much from their production styles and techniques. There’s so much confidence instilled in us from working with them that gave us the liberty to go back with Aaron Sprinkle. Now that we know who we are as a band, it’s the perfect time to reconnect with someone we all feel like is an original sixth member of the band. He did a great job of allowing us to be ourselves and influenced by outside sources while maintaining Anberlin as a whole.”
For fans eager to hear the aggressive and electronically-tinged new album, Anberlin has graciously offered us this exclusive stream of Vital for your listening pleasure.
Anberlin is taking their new clutch of songs on the road during an extensive American tour. The band has dates scheduled across the country through mid-December, when they play a radio show in Ontario, CA. After a well-deserved break for the holidays, the guys pack it up for an extensive UK tour in January and February.
Vital hits stores October 16th. Pre-order now via iTunes.
–Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local