Anberlin – Interview – 03/04/05
Nicole sat down to interview Stephen Christian of Anberlin on March 5, 2004 at Clutch Cargos in Pontiac, MI
First off, tell me who you are and what you do in the band.
Stephen: I am Stephen Christian and I sing for the band.
Nate: My name is Nate and I play drums…
Stephen: …in the band
Tell me a little bit about Never Take Friendship Personal. Recording, writing, distributing.
Nate: Well it was fun, we had a good time. We recorded at the same place in Seattle with Aaron Sprinkle and it took us about two months, it was good, it went well.
Nate, I heard you recorded NTFP in your underwear, is that true? Just to clear up the rumors.
Nate: Oh wow, well this is awkward, haha. That’s a rumor, I wear boxer briefs. Yes, I did – I was bored. I think well… do you really want me to explain it?
I think it was just a little bit tense, I just wanted to joke around a little bit to be different… it worked. I can tell you the songs I did it in too if you want.
Stationary, Stationary was the first one I did it with, that’s one of my favorite songs, you can tell.
What do you think of the response from the new CD? Was it more than expected or just about right?
Stephen: Oh man, it’s been amazing. This is the first tour you can notably tell the difference in the crowd. Before, maybe 10% of the crowd would sing if we weren’t on a headlining run, but now it’s just like everyone’s singing all the words, it’s just amazing. Nothing makes you feel better than people dancing and singing along knowing every word.
Nate: It’s not like they’re dancing just because it’s a show, but they know the lyrics – you look out from the stage and see them singing along.
Quickly compare and contrast Blueprints for the Black Market and Never Take Friendship Personal.
Stephen: Some of the biggest comparisons are: if you put in the first CD, then you put in the second, the second one blows you away, as far as quality goes. The thing cool think about it is, Aaron Sprinkle, who did both of our albums, had never seen us live before we recorded the first album, so when we went in to record our second one, he knew about our energy, momentum, and how it’s a lot more gritty and raw in your face stuff like that. So it’s a lot more powerful. We left more room for air for the songs the drag on, like if there was feedback at the end of the song, we’d just leave it how it was, so it’s more like the real experience.
Other than that, we as musicians have gotten a lot better with our instruments, vocally, and lyrically – just like you’d hope in any band – you want them to mature. Any other comments?
Nate: Nah, that’s about it, that’s good. I played in my boxers.
Stephen: Did you really?
Nate: Yes, I did.
Stephen: Tell me about it, what songs did you do them on?
Nate: Stationary, Stationary.
What is the ghost conspiracy on the last track about?
Stephen: Ah, the ghost conspiracy. We don’t know what it is, or what happened. Between the recording phase to when it actually came out, somewhere in there somebody got into the studio and found a track and added it. When we got it back, we were like “Did you hear that, what is that?” We were kind of upset at first, but everyone said they didn’t do it. It’s kind of creepy, but then again it’s not because someone had to do it.
I heard it was also in a Morrissey song.
Stephen: Yes, yes it was, I had heard that too. For awhile it was like “Don’t listen to us in the dark” for sure…
Nate: I thought it was “don’t leave us in the dark”
Stephen: Well, either way you look at it, it’s really cool. We don’t know how it got there, but I love it.
If you could live in any of the places you’ve traveled to, where would it be and why?
Stephen: We both know
Together: One, two, three…
(Simultaneously): Stephen: Nebraska! Nate: Seattle!
Stephen: Just kidding, Seattle.
Nate: Oh my gosh, it’s just amazing. We lived there when we recorded our album, and it’s the best city ever. It’s perfect, everything we want is there.
Stephen: Yeah, for sure.
Nate: The mountains, just everything.
No Paris or London?
Nate: I’ve been to London and it was amazing, but I couldn’t live there. Seattle for sure.
To someone that’s never heard of Anberlin or your CD, how would you describe your group and how would you describe your music?
Stephen: We’re really good, haha. Next question. Haha, I was just kidding.
Well then, what makes you different from other bands?
Stephen: Hmm, what makes us different? Well, live there’s just something there. It’s not just energy; we put on a show that we would want to see. If I went to a show, and I paid what, like $20 to get in, I’m not going there to listen to people play their music exactly the way it was written and recorded, because I can just pop in a CD or DVD and listen to it in my iPod.
I’d rather see someone get into it and really enjoy what they’re doing, so that’s what we’re trying to present. As far as musically, well I’ll let Nate talk about that. I think lyrically I write songs that people can relate to. I don’t write songs so they’re pretty you know, people get warm fuzzy feelings inside. I write songs that happen in my life, I can point out every song and there’s a different segment of someone I know, or an experience I went through or a failure I had that I’m trying to teach other people about. So what sets us apart from other bands is that we’re not just a general “pop rock, three chords, oh baby, I love you” type of music. We’re like “This is tragedy or this is amazing and this is real life,” so people can listen to it and think “Oh yeah, I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.” That’s what it’s all about.
Yeah I can relate to Naive Orleans – when I get down I just listen to that song and I feel a lot better about situations.
Stephen: Yeah, see! There you go! Awesome! That’s how it is, my past, this sucks, this happened, but you know what? I can move on, I’m just going to get up and move on. I think that’s what sets us apart from most bands. Nate, what sets us apart musically?
Nate: Umm, I don’t know… the drumming is incredible. Did I tell you I recorded in my boxers? Haha, this is getting old. Personally, I think it’s the guitars. Joey’s amazing and writes really catchy stuff. I think that’s what most people say, the guitars are really thick, catchy stuff. I think we all write together really well as a whole. Joey’s got crazy solos that are awesome.
What CD do you currently have in your player right now?
Stephen: Well the last CD I bought was John Legend “Get Lifted”
Nate: … and I bought Gwen Stefani
Stephen: I think we’re both really into Brit-rock bands, I love Mew, Blonde Redhead, Coldplay, Travis..
How about Muse?
Stephen: Yeah definitely, I really love them. Hmm, what else do we listen to? Appleseed Cast, Red Sparrow, Circle of Birds…
Nate: …Norma Jean, the new record is really, really good, go buy it after you buy ours.
How about Joe Satriani?
Stephen: Yes, I know of Joe Satriani.. Steve Vai, all of them. But that’s like technicality; this is more instrumental, orchestra like Circle of Birds type of thing. We both really like Frou, Frou too. She had that big song on the Garden State soundtrack (both begin singing it).
What band do you think deserves to make it big?
Stephen: (chuckles)… Anberlin. Just kidding, Mew. The most underrated band in America is definitely Mew. They’re from the UK and they don’t have a recording contract here in the States, so you have to buy their stuff online. They’re indie, I guess they’re sort of like our level over there – not a lot of distribution, but man, they’re so good. I’m not even sure how to find them. I think you can search Google. Actually, here’s how it went: Matt Thiessen from Relient K gave it to Dave from Mae, who gave it to John Fraser, who gave it to us, but I love it, it’s amazing.
What is the one necessary item you just have to have with you on the road?
Stephen: iPod for me.
Nate: My computer, that’s what it would be. It’s just a good thing, you can do schoolwork, watch a movie, download music, go on the internet. I have a MySpace account too.
Haha, we’re all so scene.
Stephen: Yeah, we’re all scenesters.
Nate: I thought you just said we’re all sinners.
Stephen: Well, that too. Oh, and besides the iPod, I need a tooth brush, it’s kind of necessary.
Did you know about those throw away brushes?
Nate: Yeah, the ones that you just put on your finger and brush… Brush Ups.
Stephen: Oh yeah, I tried those before, I don’t like them.
Nate: It feels like you’re rubbing baby powder all over your teeth
Stephen: It doesn’t feel like your mouth is any cleaner. If you rub your tongue over your teeth, it’s just blah. It doesn’t feel good.
If you could live in any time period, when would it be and why?
Stephen: Ah, that’s a good one. You know I thought about that one a lot. Actually, I would love to take modern day technology like guns and gallon guns and go back to the Revolutionary War and settle it real fast, so not a lot of people had to die. Or go back to Civil War and tell people they were idiots, so I’d make sure it was over real fast. You know what I’m saying? Like in the Revolutionary War, they’d be like, “Ready, aim, fire!” and they’d shoot a fireball. Just use a machine gun and the war is over. Or take a jet and dive bomb England a couple of times, then the war’s over in ten minutes! So if you could go back into any time period, where would you go?
Nate: Lord of the Rings time.
There was no set time for LOTR though?
Nate: YES THERE WAS!
Stephen: He really believes in hobbits and elves
Nate: Awww, come on!
Stephen: One time, he was seriously being honest and said he wants to get plastic surgery to get his ears raised.
Nate: Haha, yup!
Stephen: And he wants to get hair implants on his feet so he can be part hobbit.
Nate: I want to get a tattoo on the inside of my lip that’s all Elvish.
Stephen: and it’s going to say “BEER”
Nate: No, no, stop it.
Stephen: But what’s it going to say? Beer? Star Trek has a whole alphabet and language dude.
What do you look for in a potential mate?
Stephen: Let’s see, I’d like her to be wearing a green jacket, some blue jeans, blond hair, I like her eyes, I’d like her teeth to be white, that’s nice.
Nate: She’s gotta be real tall, pretty, cute bun.
Stephen: But honestly, the thing that’s important is personality. She has to be a cool person overall. You’re going to be old one day, and that person isn’t going to as attractive as they once were. Actually, you want a best friend that’s the opposite sex. That’s what I want. Wow, how can you sum that up in an interview, this could take me half an hour, there are so many aspects to it.
This is such a crucial decision in your life, you’ve got to pick someone you’re going to marry, think about it, you’re going to spend three-fourths of your life with this person, it’s unreal. That’s why I think it’s so funny when people date for a week, then get married in two weeks. You hear about people that date for three months and get married. Even a year seems so short compared to the 50-60 years you’re going to spend with them. People go into relationships, especially marriage, thinking that this person is going to make them happy, and that’s not what marriage is about. It’s about you being content and happy with yourself, and then having them come along, and they’re happy and content with themselves as well. Then you connect and it’s just amazing.
People go into relationships, especially marriage, thinking that this person is going to make them happy, and that’s not what marriage is about. It’s about you being content and happy with yourself, and then having them come along, and they’re happy and content with themselves as well. Then you connect and it’s just amazing. You’ve got to go into relationships knowing that they’re content with themselves.
You’ve got to go into relationships knowing that they’re content with themselves. That’s why there are so many divorces, something like 60%. They go into relationships thinking this person gives them butterflies and they’re the greatest, and they make them happy. And then one day, they’re not going to make you happy – they’re going to make you mad. Instead of going out on Friday night, you’re doing their dirty laundry. Sometimes those feelings will fade, and that’s where commitment comes in, are you really happy with your life right now or is there something you need to resolve? If that’s the case, then you go take care of that and we’ll meet up after that; or let’s be friends and hang out every day because I’m attracted to you and you’re a great person, but you’re not happy with yourself, so this isn’t going to last.
What do you think about televangelists? Specifically Benny Hinn.
Stephen: Wooah. Actually, Benny Hinn is a really big topic. My mom and dad went to one of Benny Hinn’s meetings, and they were like “No, no, no, we saw stuff that was unexplainable”, but for me, all I see is the TV. I’m very biased.
But here’s how it is there’s an old lady who’s about 80 years old in a Catholic church, she’s getting all that she can get from God. God is completely blessing her with all she needs, and she feels unified with God right now. But if she went to Benny Hinn she would be freaked out, she would think “Wow, this isn’t right”. But then there’s other people out there who follow Benny Hinn, and God is completely touching their lives.
So for me to sit here and judge and say the Catholic Church is way too traditional – God can’t be there, or for me to say God can’t be there with Benny Hinn because they’re too liberal, and those people are crazy jumping up and down aisles. But for me to say God isn’t there, number one is limiting God, number two I’m being too judgmental and number three maybe that’s not for me but the Bible says we should work out our salvation through fear and tremble. So my relationship with God will be different from the old lady at the Catholic Church, or this young girl who is running up and down the aisle at one of Benny Hinn’s crusades. So either way, I’m not one to decide that.
If you’re against it, just go to it and see what it’s like. I think people should experience other religions, you’ll find one that you fit in to, and for it me, it was Christianity, and I think many other people will find that too. I think you need to go seek out truth. If you’ve never been to a Buddhist Temple you shouldn’t say you don’t like Buddhists, or that they have no truth.
But if you honestly think that there’s something compassionately wrong with a ministry, like Benny Hinn, then next time he comes around, go to one of his crusades and think, “God, you tell me, you can show me the way.” You can sit there and say, “This isn’t right, this isn’t for me” or you’ll sit there and think “You know, this isn’t for me, but that lady over there is seriously in love with the Lord right now, she’s on fire, she’s getting something here that I can’t see with my physical eye.” You can walk away thinking, this definitely isn’t of God, which could be true because there are a lot of false teachers. I’m not one to judge that guy I’ve never seen him.
You could also think, “Wow, this is incredible.” But you’ve got to realize other people’s situations, you know a lot of those people are sick and Benny Hinn is a healing ministry. My mom said she saw a lady with a tumor the size of a tennis ball, and Benny Hinn literally pushed it in. My mom witnessed it from the fourth row, she said, “I can’t say that it wasn’t real because I saw it with my own eyes.” But I don’t know, I can’t judge the guy, I’ve never seen him.
Ignorance and stupidity is the failure of seeking out intelligence.
If you’re really compassionate about finding out, you should go to one of his meetings and see for yourself what’s going on. Ignorance and stupidity is the failure of seeking out intelligence. If you sit there and think you’re biased because you don’t know and because you don’t know, you’re prejudice and you judge, then that’s just stupid and ignorant. You need to go and seek out truth, no matter what level – spiritually, knowledge, whatever it is, you need to go seek truth. Sorry, I sort of went of on a tangent there. Anything you’d like to add? Nate: Yeah, Benny Hinn’s my father, Haha, no, I think you pretty much summed it up.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to an average 15-17 year old?
Nate: My parents have taught me a lot. I think a big one for me is that I’ve learned so much with my parents, respect your parents. There are so many people now that just trash talk about their parents, thinking they know more than their parents know, and they haven’t been in situations. It just bothers me because my parents have lived so much longer than I have, they know so much. I’ve learned to respect them, that is my big one as far as a piece of advice goes.
Stephen: That was good Nate, I don’t want to top that. Respect your elders, there you go.
I’m just wondering what you would tell someone who’s struggling in faith. How do we know Christianity is the one true religion?
Stephen: Well, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I would be a Christian if it weren’t for the Christians.” The problem is, sometimes American culture has seen people that are Christians, fail. Sometimes they look at them and think “Man, I would never become a Christian because they’re all so judgmental.” If you strip down the Christians, we all fail – to look at another person and judge them based on their belief system, you could not get from Point A to Point B through them. Honestly, you need to go back and strip away your biased-ness, and go read about it, even if you take Jesus as a philosopher, read his philosophy.
Here’s how I came to the conclusion: I didn’t become a Christian until I was 18 years old. I was raised in the church, it was more of a social life type of thing for me, I never believed any of it, it was just someplace to hang out on Wednesday and Sunday nights – my parents made me go. So at age 17 and 18, I started looking around at different religions. I started off with Buddhism because it seemed most attractive, then Hinduism, then Confucism, which led to Islam, and eventually it led me back to Christianity. These religions are the ones that have stood the test of time.
Buddhism seems peaceful, there’s so much in it. Buddhism seems so profound. But here’s the thing, with all of those religions of the world, except for Christianity, they are all egocentric, they’re all egoist, it’s all about me. Think about Buddhism, it’s all about enlightment, it’s all about yourself, and you need to get yourself in tune. You need to become “one”, and it’s not until you become enlightened that you can experience reincarnation, and you can start serving other people, you can teach them, but you can not minister them, they’re not even on your level until after you become enlightened.
With Islam, it’s all about rules and restrictions, you know, you have to this or that, three times a day, everyday, etc etc. You earn your salvation, or the way to your god. So it’s all about me, me, me.
But then when you come to Christianity, here’s a man who walked on the earth, and every principle he said was for everyone else, “give and it shall be given.” Someone asked Jesus, “What is the greatest of these commandments?” Jesus said, “You know what, love God, and secondly love your neighbor as yourself.” Where in there does it say find yourself, or become yourself, or grow. For Christianity, it’s always humbling yourself so you can make other people look better than you.
There was a parable about a rich man who put on a banquet and he said “Always sit at the last seat so people can go before you”, everything was just about external. I was just like “Wow”. If I were to come up with my own religion, it would be so selfish, it would be about myself, money, drugs, drink alcohol, just because it feels good. Nowhere in my rules would there be anyone else because we’re human and we’re automatically greedy and selfish. So, being a human, if I were to set up a religion, it would be all egocentric. All of those world religions are so egocentric, and yet Christianity is the only one that is giving out.
You’ve got Muslims, and they’re all about rules, rules, rules, regulations and earning your way. During CS Lewis’s time, they were having a big debate in his cellar about world religion and what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. CS Lewis came down to get a drink of water, or something along those lines and as he was walking back upstairs.. keep in mind that these guys have been debating for 4 or 5 hours already, they ask him, “What sets Christianity apart from all other religions?” CS replied, “That’s what you’ve been debating about all this time? It’s simple, grace.”
Grace. Here’s God saying I don’t care who you are, what you’ve done in the past, who you’ve murdered, if you sincerely want to turn your life around and give it to Jesus Christ, you can do that by grace. That’s all you have to do. And now, what’s the first step after becoming a Christian? Give to everyone else. Jesus Christ once said, “This is pure religion”, he didn’t say, “This is pure religion, you HAVE to give 10%, you HAVE to give away all your possessions, me, me me, rules, rules, rules”
Pure religion – let’s break it down. It’s to help the widows and orphans. How much more of an amazing religion do you want? That’s it?! That’s what you want God? Just to love you above all, and secondly help others in need?
It’s so simple it’s difficult.