Interview: Anberlin (2012)

lauren stern conducts a vital interview…

About eight years ago, a friend gave me Anberlin’s second record Never Take Friendship Personal and told me to give it a listen. At the time, I was fairly invested in researching new music (much like I am now) and was avidly looking for new bands to listen to so I caved in and checked it out. After hearing some of the tracks – more specifically – “A Day Late,” “Paperthin Hymn,” and “The Feel Good Drag” – I was instantly hooked and have been a huge fan ever since.

For the last decade, Anberlin has been known for their pop rock sound but to me they are known as a band that consistently puts out great records. If you take the time out and listen to their entire discography, you will see this and discover that not one bad song from this band exists. It’s truly remarkable to me how this band has stayed so consistent, but yet has evolved so much over the last ten years.

On October 16, Anberlin will released their sixth studio album Vital and it’s going to be amazing. I know this beforehand because they have never disappointed me in the last eight years I’ve been a fan and they probably never will. Plus, their new single ‘Someone Anyone’ is probably one of the most solid rock songs that came out this year. Just by hearing that single alone, I know they are going to bring it this time around just they always do.

Being such a huge Anberlin fan, it was so cool to sit down with drummer Nate Young to talk about Vital, the music industry, and the band’s current tour with Smashing Pumpkins.

Pop-Break: A lot of Anberlin fans are dying to know what Vital is going to sound like. What can we expect from the new album?

Nate Young: Um, well I guess you’re going to have to wait and see. But I mean with each record we tried to push ourselves to change it up and not put the same record out twice. So I think with this record that was kind of our goal. We had to do something different, being our sixth album, we couldn’t we couldn’t redo the same things but also we didn’t want to abandon what got us to where we’re at now, the sound that is Anberlin. So, I think it’s the most changes that we’ve done in a long time but it’s still keeping that same sound. You know it’s cool because I feel like the people that have heard it, like friends and stuff, kind of said that some of the songs sound so different and that the songs are more classic Anberlin. So I think now, I guess it would just be a variety but definitely more electronic stuff for sure on this record and I think just different arrangements and different stuff you wouldn’t normally expect.

PB: With the new single “Someone, Anyone,” I find that it’s exactly what you just said. It sounded like old Anberlin but there was obvious new changes. What in particular inspired that song to come about?

NY: I mean, the intro of it was written by Joe, our guitar player. I think if you do listen to it, it is a straight forward rock song mixed in with electronic stuff and more keys. That was kind of the goal to do a song that’s still a rock song but not the same thing that you’ve heard from us or really anyone. There’s not a lot of, I’m not going to be like we’re the only band that’s ever done it, but right now there’s just not a lot of rock bands that are trying to change it up. It’s either one side or the other like super indie, just super keyboard heavy stuff and then there’s rock and they don’t mix them ever. So for us I feel like that song was a good mix of those two things. We listen to both sides of those so we just figure we tried to write songs that are a mix of those things.

PB: Yeah definitely. It’s really good, by the way, I love it.

NY: Cool!

PB: I’m excited to hear the rest of the new album, I can’t wait. I wanted to ask you about Anberlin putting out records because you guys have been around for about a decade now and you’ve been releasing music pretty rapidly within those ten years. I mean your last album came out 2010 or 2011 and that wasn’t really that long ago. Is there any reason it takes a shot amount of time for you guys to write and record new material. What’s your secret?

NY: I mean I feel like, the way the music industry is right now. If you’re not going to put out music, people are gonna stop caring, people are going to forget. I mean, we definitely don’t try and crank out stuff as fast as possible, that’s definitely what we don’t want to do. But back in the day you can take three or four years between albums not now people’s attention span is so short you have to keep doing stuff and keep putting out records so that I kind of think was the goal. It’s also there’s also more people in the band writing and we’re just constantly thinking of new things. I mean, I don’t know how other bands work compared to how we work but I think we’re just constantly thinking of stuff. So, in a year and a half, we were already writing and working on stuff so I feel like it might be just kind of pointless to wait for waiting sake. I mean you might as well keep putting out records. Not if they are good, I mean obviously if we’re not pumped about the songs, we’re not going to force anything and that’s kind of is the first rule. It isn’t when you’ve just pulled out a record to put it out. But I definitely think it’s important these days. I mean, I don’t know, people are just so into one song for a few months and then they move onto something else. I mean, we’re definitely thankful to have such a good fan base to where we’re not as much in that situation as some bands but yeah. I think it’s to put music out for our fans and to keep people thinking about us constantly.

PB: It’s good that you brought up a lot has changed in the music industry because it’s really quite weird. I mean, it went from CDs to digital music so fast and it’s becoming a huge thing right now and a huge problem too in some cases.

NY: Absolutely.

PB: So, what is your take on the direction the music industry is going right now? Do you think it’s good or bad?

NY: The thing is like people who want to get stuff in the past and are like “You know digital is awful” and all this stuff and “We’re only going to put out vinyls” it’s really just backwards thinking. I definitely think the music industry is going to crap now just because of the way everything is based on one song. I mean, it’s based on if you get this one hit song then you’re going to be a freakin’ ringtone for a few months on some soccer mom’s phone until the next band comes out and then that’s going to move on. It’s definitely, I feel like now it’s still based on quick stuff. It does suck, I mean if you write a good hit single, cool, but I feel like that’s definitely not our goal. It is what it is, I mean that’s the thing, it’s just how it is and I think it will come around again. In ten years or whatever it will be back to albums and it will be more about longevity and not about getting big overnight and making one song, you know? It’ll be about a whole band and a career not just one thing. So, anyway, but the thing is we definitely feel it is important to move forward with digital and stuff. Whether we like it or not, that’s how it is nowadays. So I feel like to just be stubborn and say we’re not going to release stuff digitally or whatever is really stupid. Yeah, so that’s kind of where were at I think.

PB: What do you think about applications like Spotify, where it’s pretty much like you can listen to an album for free? A lot of artists are having issues with royalties and stuff.

NY: I mean, personally I’m not a huge fan just because it’s the same thing to me. I mean the thing is, bands actually agree to it, so for bands to sit there and complain after, like “Okay don’t listen to our record Spotify.” They have to agree to that, to do digital streaming. So, I mean, being honest I’m not a huge fan because to me it’s not about the money but the thing is 10,000 streams equals 10 bucks. I mean, I feel like really what is the difference? Spotify is great for the listener and I know that’s important but as far as the band I’d be lying if I thought or if I told you it was a great thing. I don’t have it. But again, that’s just the way it is. Instead of being just a bunch of old dudes talking about how bummed we are, we have our stuff on Spotify. How can I not do it just based on that? It’s just one of those things but that’s just my personal opinion.

PB: Yeah I mean I definitely agree with you because I’m very old school, like I still go to record stores, I still collect vinyl. I’m young but I live like an older person.

NY: That’s awesome. Totally and people don’t realize how important that is now. I mean, our record comes out and it’s “Oh I’ll listen to it on Spotify at least I’m not downloading it.” I mean I guess that’s better than downloading it but it’s not going to keep us around, you know what I mean? Labels don’t really pay attention to that as much, you know. They’re not going to see that and be like “Oh cool, lets help put out another record” you know? So going to record stores and buying a record or buying our vinyl, that’s huge. That’s like voting for us to stay around. Spotify doesn’t do that.

PB: I wanna go back to Vital for a second. What were some challenges in writing in producing this new record? Like we talked about before, it was pretty fast the way you guys put it together. So I was wondering, is there anything that maybe held you back for a little bit?

Nathan Young

NY: I mean, not really. When we first started working on writing the songs and getting it all together, it moved pretty quick after that. I mean we definitely had some decisions to make about who was going to produce our record but with writing the songs and moving in the direction we we definitely felt like Aaron Sprinkle would do the record with us for sure. We talked to other producers and it just didn’t feel right and it was cool to back with a guy that worked on the first few records with us. We were just able to experiment a lot more, try whatever we wanted and not feel like we were held back by anything so it was definitely a pretty quick decision after we started hearing the direction the songs were going in.

PB: That’s awesome. I wanted to talk about Stephen’s solo record with Anchor and Braille. Do you know if any of the songs off that album were initially for ‘Vital’ or vise versa? Did he have problems running into that where he really wanted a song to be on one record but wound up saving it for the other one?

NY: I mean, not that I know of. It’s definitely it’s a whole lot different if you listen to his record and then our record. You can tell there’s a huge difference in the writing process. I mean. obviously with his voice and stuff, that’s gonna no matter what sound like somewhat it could be an Anberlin song or an Anchor and Braille song. But I don’t think he ran into it that much because it’s a whole different writing process. You know, writing a song for Anberlin is going to be a whole lot different just by the way we approach it then how I think he approaches an Anchor and Braille song. So, not to say we could never mix the two but I don’t think it was really an issue with him.

PB: Oh, well that’s good. So I heard, first of all, I saw on Twitter you guys were having problems getting into Canada for your first show with Smashing Pumpkins. What exactly happened with that?

NY: Oooh. Um, haha our drive couldn’t get in based on things. Yeah, we just got held up. All of us have records so we kind of, nah I’m just kidding. We just had issues with it. It’s not big deal, I mean we made it to the show which is all that mattered to us. Yeah we were just held up for a little bit.

PB: Yeah, what was the first night like for you guys? I mean what was it like opening up for Smashing Pumpkins and what was it like sharing the stage with Billy Corgan?

NY: Yeah, it was crazy. I mean, for all of us. To be on tour with them is just a little surreal because we all grew up listening to them so when we got asked, definitely was a huge surprise for us, for sure. So yeah, the first show was great. It was fun to be in the sound check and stuff just kind of hang out being around it was just crazy. Hell yeah, we’re super pumped for sure.

PB: Did you meet Billy last night and if you did, were you nervous about meeting him for the first time?

NY: Um, I actually didn’t meet him yet. It was a crazy first show because we got held up at the border and we were really late. I mean we barely got there in time for us to set up and play so it was definitely stressful. Then I freakin’ peaced out and went to sleep. So I mean, obviously we’re going to meet him, tomorrow I’m sure. But obviously, if I think about it too hard I’ll probably psych myself up and get nervous and think about my 14 year old self sitting in my room and listening to ‘Melancholy’ over and over. You know, all my flashbacks of that. So, I think we’re just pumped to be out.

PB: That’s awesome. I saw that you guys were also sharing the stage with Chris Carrabba in Brazil for a couple of days. I really wish I can be there, I love Dashboard. I’ve been a huge fan of them forever.

NY: That’s awesome. We’re excited, for sure.

PB: What are you most looking forward to about those shows? Have you ever played Brazil before?

NY: Yeah we played Brazil three years ago and we’ve been trying to come back ever since. So, yes, we’re excited to go back again. That’ll be weird, seeing my 15 year old self, so I’m pumped to go.

PB: : Last question, since 2012 is ending soon and everyone is creating their end of the year lists. I want to know what albums would be on your list for the ‘Top Albums of 2012’?

NY: Ummm. Grizzly Bear’s new record will be on there, for sure. I mean that’s probably my favorite record this year. I mean… what did come out in 2012? Umm, Crap! I mean I feel like 2012 just started but it’s already October. Umm, I mean Beach House’s new record is pretty good too. Yeah I guess those two and I’m jamming this new dude, his name is Thomas Asier. His record just came out and it’s really cool.

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