After releasing their fifth album last year and touring the globe, Anberlin are again returning to these shores for a special ‘An Evening with Anberlin’ tour in September. Guitarist, Christian McAlhaney tells us what fans are in for and what to expect from them in the future.
Music Feeds: Hi Christian. So, the most obvious question is: what made Anberlin choose Australia as the testing ground for this ‘An Evening with …’ tour?
Christian McAlhaney: We were just brianstorming on ways that it could be different, a bit more special. We come over to Australia pretty often, we were there earlier this year, so we were just thinking of ways to make it more exciting for fans and friends who’ve seen us however many times now. We thought there was no better place to do an evening where we pull out old songs and try different things than Australia. It really is a home away from home for us. It comes down to fan loyalty; it has always been a great country for us. Even from day one, when Anberlin first went there, it’s been amazing. We’ve always had good shows and it just keeps getting better.
MF: Without spoiling any surprises, what should the fans expect in September?
CM: We’re playing a good handful of songs we’ve never really played live before, at least since I’ve been in the band, that’s for sure. A good portion of it will be an acoustic session and in the middle of it, we’re doing a Q & A through Twitter, I think. The day of the show we’re going to ask fans to tweet a question and then we’ll pick some to talk about on the night. We’re just trying to get a bit more personal, intimate and close with fans.
MF: Did you ask fans what they wanted to hear?
CM: Yeah, we did. We have so many records – it’s really hard to pick setlists, so we asked fans to fire requests to Amberlin’s or our own personal Twitter. We got a vibe for what a lot of people were asking for and they were songs that we hadn’t really played much, so we’ve tried to add them into the set.
MF: Was that a challenge for the band, re-learning these songs to play live after so long?
CM: Not really. The true test is just playing them live and seeing how they go over. There’s been some times in the past where we had songs that we thought we’d really like to play live, tried them for a few shows and it seemed like they didn’t really go over that well.
MF: You’re right in the middle of your tour cycle for Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place. How’s it been so far?
CM: Great! We love that record and it’s been a great year for us touring. We’ve done a lot of overseas and had a lot of amazing opportunities to travel to parts of the world we’ve never been before, like places in south east Asia; China; we went to Russia for the first time; a lot of places in Europe. We had the opportunity to open for some pretty huge bands too, like 30 Seconds To Mars and Linkin Park. We’re having a blast!
MF: How has the reaction been in these countries you’re visiting for the first time?
CM: Each country is different. It’s totally random. You could go to a country for the first time and have it be huge. Like, we went to the Philippines and it was the biggest show we’ve ever played. We were on a billboard and had to do a press conference and there was paparazzi at the airport and it was the first time we’d ever been there! Other cities – it will be smaller shows, a couple of hundred kids, but for us, when we’re going to a country for the first time, we really don’t have any expectations. A lot of times our records aren’t even out in those countries.
MF: How does it feel to go to these far-flung places?
CM: It’s a great feeling to go to these places. Like, why in the world – if I wasn’t in a band – would I ever have gone to Russia? Most people in their entire lives will never go to Russia, nor would they ever have any reason to go to Russia, or to China. It’s an amazing blessing for sure.
MF: How did you find Russia?
CM: It was really cool, but it was really brief. We really didn’t have any time off there so we didn’t get to see much. But it was cool, especially as when we were growing up, there were definitely tensions with Russia in our lifetime and we saw the USSR kinda crumble, so it was cool just going there just to be there and see stuff you’ve only seen on TV, and the kids at the shows were great.
MF: What is it, do you think, that makes Anberlin’s music so universal?
CM: Ah man, whatever it is I’m thankful for it. That’s a tough question. Why do some bands make it and some don’t? It’s a little bit of talent and a lot of luck! What makes Anberlin who we are is everything – the songs we write, the lyrical content, the melodies Stephen (Christian, vocalist) writes. Every band that’s successful has something that sets them apart from other bands, and qualities about them that people enjoy.
MF: What has been the greatest achievement from this whole cycle so far?
CM: It’s been a great year. This whole record cycle has been excellent. Recording (the last record) was an amazing thing. We worked with one of the legendary producers – Brendan O’Brien – who has worked with a million different great artists from Pearl Jam, to Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen. That was an amazing opportunity to work with someone like that, who really wanted to work with our band too. He helped get our songs to an amazing place. We did Jay Leno’s show this year, and those tours we did with 30 Seconds To Mars and Linkin Park were some of the biggest shows we’ve ever done. It’s been a great year for accomplishments and forward momentum.
MF: So do Anberlin tend to think about the future or just do their best to live in the moment?
CM: A little bit of both. We’re constantly talking about the future, planning our year, talking about music and the future of music for Anberlin, like the next writing process, the next album, future touring. We’re always looking ahead but also living in the moment and enjoying what we have, and what we get to do and the things we’ve accomplished.
MF: And what’s the ultimate goal in the next year for the band?
CM: The biggest thing on our plate for next year is recording another record and making that the best possible record we can put out. So that’s pretty much the main focus. That’s what’s on everyone’s radar right now, what we’re all talking about and thinking about.
MF: Any early hints as to what it may sound like? A shift in sound maybe?
CM: I think we’re trying to shift our sound every record. You never want to become stale or put out the same record twice. You want to keep evolving and be inspired by what’s happening in the music world around you. There’s a lot of great artists that come out doing unique things, so our hope is we take those influences and move forward with Anberlin’s sound. We hope to get a little bit back to a heavier sound on this record. We’ll see how that turns out, but that’s something we’ve all agreed on. The next record needs to bring back some heaviness. The last record had some really cool vibe-y, moody songs. I loved it, but we definitely want to get some heavy rockers back into the record.