If passion lights a fire inside of an individual, it will always burst into flames. Alt rockers ANBERLIN know that too well; having started a career with cash left over from small punk shows, the Florida quintet have seen the blood and guts of music for almost a decade now. Before their headlining set in Toronto, guitarist Christian McAlhaney noted that even after five records, the fire inside the group is still burning in a vicious fashion.
As a group, you’ve said your latest release is your best album to date. Has the band changed at all the past two years?
I’d say the time we had was different. We were more focused and had more of a collective idea of what we wanted to do with the new record. New Surrender came out quickly as we had just signed to Universal and they wanted a record and we thought we could just give it to them. With more time we were able to put together cohesive ideas.
Those ideas helped create an album that’s more dark and meaningful, but the songs are still a bit vague. Is that a problem or does the mystery add to the allure?
I don’t write lyrics but as a fan, I don’t like it when people reveal the meaning behind every song. Some songs do that on their own, but they’re more meant for people to create their own meanings. Songs are templates. I’ve had so many people talk to me about certain ones and ask me if they have a certain meaning and it’s like probably, I don’t know (laughs). If it means something specific to you then that’s what it means.
Why do you think your new album separates itself from the rest?
You’re always pumped and happy about the project you’ve just worked on. In your mind, your best work is what you’ve done in the past. As a band you strive to do the best you can. Dark Is The Way.. is a picture of Anberlin; we’re getting older, this is our fifth album in almost ten years now and it shows how we’re progressing and changing. It’s evolve or die when it comes to music. That doesn’t mean we’ll change our sound. We’re just maturing and pushing ourselves as songwriters because if you don’t, you’ll just get bored.
Did the switch to a larger label help you mature or was it more personal?
As a songwriter, what label I’m on has nothing to do with the kind of songs I’m going to write. That’s always been the case. I’ve been on indie labels to no labels to major labels and I think the switch didn’t affect us. The band just grew. Universal signed Anberlin because of the sound attached to the name not because they wanted to make us write pop songs or cross genres.
It’s every child’s dream to be rich and famous; would you say what you’ve accomplished is how you define success?
Success comes from achieving goals and we’ve done that. This band has been a band for a long time. I don’t think we ever thought we’d reach this point, not that we’re a massive or a huge group (laughs), but the band’s more successful than ever. Like we started out of a van and paid gas out of our pocket to play in front of nobody, so I’d say we definitely have achieved a lot.
Would you say you’re still on your way to achieving more?
Once you accomplish certain goals, you set more for yourself. I don’t think there are bands out there that plan to call it quits when they sell 17 million records. Look at U2, they put out the most bizarre, eclectic collection of albums. They achieved success creating music one way and then tried putting out an album that was a bit techno in a way. Constantly setting goals is a way of life.
You mentioned in an interview the recording process in Los Angeles seemed more like work than fun, but now you’ve relocated. Is Nashville any different?
Los Angeles was just rough as there’s so many people there. We would travel about seven miles to get to the studio and sometimes it would take several hours, so you’re drained by the time you get there. Sitting in traffic in a mini-van is mind-numbing (laughs). I don’t think we’ll record our next few albums in Nashville because the city of Seattle is special to us. We would love to record there again.
Did the band face any other obstacles while recording?
Not really. It went a lot more smoothly than New Surrender which was pretty bad because no one had a good feeling about the material we were writing. It’s a great record but the new one just flowed and everyone had fun. The only obstacle was Joey and I writing together as two of the main songwriters now. It was more like growing pains, with heated debates but it all worked out because we just talked it out. It’s best to talk about issues because you want to be happy with what you create. The album isn’t going to disappear, your name is going to be on there forever.
While on tour, the band has played the odd cover. Is it because you think it’s important to pay homage to those who helped you gain success?
Absolutely. I think it would be weird to turn your back on the individuals who have been there for you. We tried to create a great mix of songs that would satisfy new listeners and those who have been around for almost ten years. There have been a few oddball tracks we thought about playing but no one was really feeling them in practice. It’s funny because when you realize you’re choosing from so much material, you notice you’ve come a long way since playing for the first time.
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