There are moments in a band's career where you need to get on board or be left behind. Moments where a band makes a great leap forward, surges to the next level, and becomes something infinitely greater than they've ever been. This is one of those moments for Anberlin, a rock band who has been honing their style and sound since 2002. The band's last album and major label debut, 2008's New Surrender, ascended the Central Florida group to a new level of both popularity and skill. The record's first single "Feel Good Drag" became the No. 1 radio track of 2009 and the No. 30 track of the decade. The positive reception the disc generated set the band up for an even more successful and powerful follow-up.
On this fifth album, Dark Is The Way. Light Is A Place, Anberlin found themselves in a new headspace, recharged with creativity following their touring cycle for New Surrender. The band was unsure which producer to use for this effort, but fortuitously that decision was made for them when Grammy-winning producer Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen) approached the group. O'Brien had followed their career after being alerted to Anberlin by his daughter and felt that this was the right occasion to collaborate with the musicians.
"The fact that he liked our music and he believed in us and he was standing behind us as a band was huge," Stephen says. "Compared to his roster we're not that big, so having him behind us really bolstered our confidence and pushed our desire to achieve something greater on this record. People have told us they're proud of us, but for Brendan O'Brien to say it was truly solidifying for us as a band."
The band recorded the disc over five weeks, on and off throughout March, April and May of this year at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. The process was both challenging and empowering, with O'Brien urging the band members to step out of their comfort zone and take their music to new heights. The resulting album is 10 tracks that resound with a newfound sense of self and an assurance of identity.
"It was about Brendan empowering us to make the best record possible," Stephen says. "He gave us the tools and showed us how to tighten things up. For us it was just a different caliber and I think we rose to the occasion. We played as hard as we could, we practiced as hard as we could, we wrote a lot and experimented. It was an all-encompassing session of empowerment."
The album veers from powerful opener "We Owe This To Ourselves," which Stephen wrote after hearing a NPR piece about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, to the urgent single "Impossible," a track about the delicate balance between fateful love and love as a choice, to acoustic number "Down." The album as a whole is both pensively dark and optimistic making the band's choice of title, drawn from a poem by Dylan Thomas entitled "Happy Birthday," apropos. It's a record about both being in the dark and recognizing that there's a way back into the light, say Stephen.
"Hopefully these are songs people are absolutely able to relate to, whether it's love, whether it's friendship, whether it's family," Stephen explains. "There are moments where it's going to hurt and there are moments where there's going to be pain involved, but at the end of the day it's the people we surround ourselves with that's going to matter the most. There will be setbacks in life and problems and pain, but it's through perseverance that life is worth living and can be amazing. Most of our music can be summed up as bringing you to a dark moment then showing you that at the end of the day there's hope, there's light and there's a way out."
Dark Is The Way. Light Is A Place is the product of five thoughtful musicians who have something significant to express. Stephen is also a published author (The Orphaned Anything's came out in 2008) who is currently working on his second novel. He also co-created a charity called Faceless International, a non-profit that helps defend the plights of people in unfortunate situations around the world. Nathan is a photographer and model, and began an art collective called Golden Youth with Underoath's Tim McTague and artist Justin Nelson. Christian does avid charity work, using Anberlin as a venue to encourage people to make a difference both locally and around the world. Collectively, Anberlin is composed of contemplative, genuine musicians who have made a record that defines both themselves and their career.
"For us, this is the best record that we can ever accomplish," Stephen concludes. "We were absolutely in our element on this record. I hope that everything we were able to convey on this album is inspiring to our fans. We want to bring them on this journey with us and I hope when they hear our new record they feel as empowered and confident as we did while making it."