Fri, 22 Mar 2013 10:54:17
Anberlin remains one of the most exciting live acts in modern alternative rock. However, we wanted to dive deep into their live show with singer Stephen Christian and see how they built a set list, what they learned from touring with The Smashing Pumpkins, and so much more.
See the interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino below!
How have the songs from Vital morphed and changed live?
They were really crafted for the live setting. I think that's the beauty of live music. That's why you go for almost the jazz-like element in this where each night it could evolve and change. If not, you could just press "play" on your iPod or CD player, turn it up full blast, and that'd be it. You go for those elements of surprise. They do change each night. Sometimes, I'll create something there on the spot, and I wish I could go back in time with the song like this. A lot of bands aren't afforded the luxury of going out and playing their whole new CD live before they go into the studio. The songs definitely have changed a little bit. We try to keep it as tight as possible on stage. That's one thing those four musicians are well-known for. I think they do change. That's what brings people to experience live music over and over again.
Was there anything you learned from The Smashing Pumpkins tour?
I learned if you want to keep your band going, stay relevant and relished, and make it so people want to see you again, you need to be able to not only pull off your music, but continually do it. They're well into twenty-five plus years of playing music, and each night I was continually blown away by how professional and unbelievable Billy Corgan was on stage. If you're going to continue to be a band fifteen years down the road, you have to be able to pull off your music, and Billy does. The Smashing Pumpkins are amazingly tight. They're like going into a time machine and sitting in front of them in the nineties. They're that tight and incredible live.
What's the art of sequencing a set list?
There are a couple of different things. I hate going to see a show where all the artist does is play his or her new record. I don't know the new songs yet. I haven't fallen in love with them yet. I'm sure I will, but it takes some time. We definitely tried to make sure at a minimum the show is 60 percent songs off other CDs. We don't just play the new album. We also like to throw in some curveballs. We're on a big kick with a B-side from New Surrender called "I'd Like to Die". It's one of our favorite songs to play.
What's the story behind "Unstable"?
It used to be just acoustic guitars. We reworked the entire music so we thought, "Why not experiment?" We want to do what's best for the music or art. It's not about what's getting the most "hits" on YouTube or the most plays on "Spotify". It's about what feels the best for us as musicians and artists. For me, "Unstable" was one of those moments of poetry. The song is a little more on the poetic side. You're watching a life formulate opinions. We draw so much from other people—whether it's family, friends, or society that basically auto-corrects us through words. It's that moment of coming out into your own person. For some people, that takes longer than others. Sometimes, it happens right out of high school. For others, it's mid-twenties. For everyone, it's different. It's watching the progression of a life come into its own. Each of us writes his or her own coming-of-age novel. The novel is completed at different stages of life. It's about coming into one zone, and that's "Unstable".
Who's on your playlist right now?
Good question! It varies. I'm on a random Metric kick. I like them a lot. It's quality rock 'n' roll. Patrick Watson's new record is awesome. "White House" is unbelievable. I love Bombay Bicycle Club. This is so random. I've never listened to opera at all, but I find myself every morning going, "Why not?" I like it because the vocals are so unique. It's different from anything on the radio or any of my playlists.
Have you seen Anberlin?