Timing It Right

Anberlin carefully chooses its path to latest album

It kind of makes sense for a band from a city called Winter Haven to be on tour in the ice and snow, except for the fact that Anberlin’s Winter Haven is in Florida. But the alternative rock band refuses to be stopped by winter weather, so they will end a month-long vacation by trekking across the Midwest for a January tour. “We’re pretty excited for the year,” guitarist Christian McAlhaney says. He says the band has done this sort of cold weather journey before, having played in the northern U.S. and across all of Canada a year or so ago. Common logic dictates that bands usually stay off the road during this time of year. “Everybody knows you don’t tour in January,” McAlhaney says. “You don’t go into the frozen tundra.” But people still go out in cold-weather cities even when snowflakes and temperatures drop all around. The result for the alternative rock band Anberlin on their trip to the great white north ended up being success, he says. “I thought we were really making a killing,” McAlhaney says. He and his band mates are optimistic about similar success this time around, he says. McAlhaney is the last member to have joined Anberlin. He started playing rhythm guitar in the band about four years ago, replacing Nathan Strayer. He says he settled into the band’s line-up easily, having toured with Anberlin when he was in a band called Acceptance. Anberlin drummer Nathan Young had even filled in on an Acceptance tour. There was already a lot of history when McAlhaney joined Anberlin permanently. “It was honestly pretty seamless,” McAlhaney says. “It just kind of clicked.” Around the time McAlhaney joined, Anberlin was in the process of signing with Universal. At first, it brought up memories of McAlhaney and Acceptance’s turbulent time with Columbia. “I was highly against signing to a major label when I joined Anberlin,” he says. But McAlhaney says his experience with Anberlin and Universal has been polar opposite of what it was like when his old band was on Columbia. Anberlin signed to Columbia shortly after Tooth & Nail, their first label, had released Anberlin’s Cities. Since Tooth & Nail controlled the rights to that record, Anberlin rushed into making a follow-up for release on Universal. That album, 2008’s New Surrender, came out just over a year after Cities. “That experience had such an impact on us,” McAlhaney says. So, for the band’s latest record, Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, the band decided to take it slowly and not place bookends on the writing process. “We waited until it felt like the right time and we had the right songs,” McAlhaney says. Dark came out on Universal in September 2009 and was produced by Brendan O’Brien, who has produced albums by Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Matthew Sweet and Train, as well as recent releases by Bruce Springsteen. While the band did bide its time for the right material, McAlhaney says the band pretty much didn’t stop writing once they finished New Surrender. In fact, the band is constantly writing new material. As the band has increased its profile and settled into its relationship with Universal, its old association with Tooth & Nail has shed much of Anberlin being pigeonholed as a Christian band. McAlhaney says the band’s songwriters are Christian, so that perspective does come through, but it’s not the band’s core identity. In his view, the band doesn’t preach or write worship songs, he says. “Whatever people want to call us is fine,” he says. “People like to put things in their place.” McAlhaney says he thinks people should judge Anberlin’s music on just that — the music. Other bands aren’t labeled according to the beliefs of their members, and at the end of the day Anberlin is trying to write good songs, without alienating people who might not share their religion. “The ultimate goal is to have your music in front of as many people,” McAlhaney says. Anberlin w/ Circa Survive and Foxy Shazam play Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St., Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Visit onepercentproductions.com.

posted at 12:24 pm
on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

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