Anberlin Moves Past "Christian Rock" Label
After years of fighting the label of being a "Christian rock" band, lead singer Stephen Christian and the band are finally comfortable in their own skin and have moved past the limiting title. Their latest release, Vital, is arguably their strongest, most confident, and aggressive to date and demonstrates how much the band has evolved over the years.
New Times: How have fans responded to Vital, and to Anberlin's evolution over the years?
Stephen Christian: I think they've grown with us. The term "sellout" is so overused and rehashed that it doesn't even bother me anymore. I think people see through that now. All they want to know is that their band has remained loyal to who they are. Anberlin didn't come out and announce, "Here's what we're gonna do, what we're going to be, or what we're not going to be." We just decided to be as close to Anberlin as we could possibly be, and I think people see that. We're not trying to be cool or evolve past them or sell out for financial gain. People realize that we're staying basically the same, staying true to ourselves and our songs, and that this is who we've been all along.
I think they've absolutely grown with us. I didn't feel any kind of whiplash when we signed with a major label or started working with other writers or hanging out with the Smashing Pumpkins or anything like that. I feel like people were just like, "That's natural and normal for them."
What was the inspiration behind "Type Three?"
The song is autobiographical. Every segment of that song is about me in some facet. I have this friend who really looks inside of people and tries to make them the best person they can possibly be. Whether that's giving people the shirt off his back or encouraging them to read a book that's affected his life. He told me about this test called an enneagram. It's like a Jesuit priest test; not so much a personality test as it is a betterment test. I thought "This is so fascinating. I should tell the rest of the guys about this."
And so because of this conversation I had with Chris, I wrote this song as a way to look at what I took away about myself and those around me from the test. That song taught me that I'm so ADHD. I had read somewhere that the average person has like 15 conversations per minute in their head, and I thought, "That's ridiculous. I must have like 500!" So every minute it feels like I'm thinking 100 miles per hour. The whole song is just little excerpts of an autobiographical conversation within myself.
Do you still get tagged with the "Christian rock" label sometimes? How does that sit with you?
I think it bothered us at first simply because there's a lot of pre-judgment when you say something is "Christian music." In their heads people just automatically make certain assumptions about the band. They start thinking along the lines of Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith, and that really bothered us because we aren't focused on creating Christian music or emo or rock. We're just focused on being Anberlin, and whatever that means is what it is. We just felt like people were not giving us a chance simply because of a label or a tag.
But now we don't care because people have already formulated an opinion about us by now. We don't tour in the Christian realm. We've played with 30 Seconds to Mars and Smashing Pumpkins, so it's really not bothersome for us at all now. It did in the beginning, but now we just realize that people love to put bands in boxes with the whole label thing and it's just a part of human nature. Bob Dylan was labeled as folk and he hated it. Tegan & Sara are labeled as a girl band sometimes and they hate it.
There's nothing new under the sun, so for people to label us, and for us to scream and shout and pout and stomp our feet and say, "We're not this or that," is absolutely pointless because it's going to happen anyway. It's inevitable, so you might as well just say, "Hey, let's be the best band we can possibly be and let the labels be labels."
Anberlin with Paper Route and All Get Out, 6 p.m., Monday, February 18, at Revolution, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $21 at the door. Visit jointherevolution.net.