From humble beginnings in high school punk bands to traipsing dizzying heights in the alt-rock world, American rockers Anberlin have never strayed far from the hearts and ears of their diehard fans - even when they called it a day back in 2014.
But as with many bands lately who stepped back from the spotlight and into breakup infamy, the gents who inadvertently captured fame with their game-changing release ‘Cities’ back in 2007 rose from the ashes late last year to play some “reconciliation” shows in their hometown, which ultimately led to the announcement of their first headline tour in five years in their honorary second home: Australia.
Now poised to return to stages down under later this month, there’s of course a growing speculation amongst fans that the Anberlin lads may answer their prayers and officially reform. But regardless of the ultimate outcome of these shows, one thing’s concretely certain: Anberlin have not lost their spark or their musical passion in their five year absence, and we grabbed resident Anberlin drummer Nathan "Nate" Young to chat advice, live shows and their ongoing Aussie love affair that’s led them back time and time again.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Nate, how's it going?
NATE YOUNG: Good, Tiana, very good. How are you?
TIANA: I'm great! Where am I speaking to you today?
NATE: I am in Tampa! I'm actually just checking out at the grocery store (laughs). Very basic.
TIANA: Oh I love it! Multi-tasking at its finest! I hope you're buying some very exciting groceries while we're chatting.
NATE: Just some tortilla shells, not that exciting...
TIANA: Nah, I'm into that. I'm definitely going to copy you and do the same myself tonight.
NATE: Totally! Team tacos for dinner!
TIANA: Now, aside from that. I'm quite keen, as many Aussies currently are, to have yourself and Anblerin coming out to Australia yet again. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this upcoming headline tour later this month is actually your 14th trip out here as a band??
NATE: Yeah! Man, I think so?! I think I lost count after 12, but I think you're right. It's either 13 or 14, I could probably figure it out. Our bass player Deon (Deon Rexroat) always knows that stuff. I can't believe it's been that many times, but it makes sense because I feel like it's our borderline second home.
TIANA: Well I'm not sure if you're actually aware, but I'm pretty sure that because of that we now have to legally adopt you guys. So - congratulations! I'm pretty sure you're all officially Australians now.
NATE: (laughs) That's great! There's a reason why we've been there that many times and I feel like we'd all be totally down with that.
TIANA: I know you guys have spoken about it a bit in the past, but what is it actually about Australia that keeps bringing you all back here? I mean, we're very happy Anberlin keeps coming back, but is there something in particular that you love?
NATE: Yeah totally, I think for us it was when...I think the first time we went over there was in 2004 or 2005, something like that. And at that time for us - our shows in the States were ok. But when we went to Australia they were some of the best shows we've ever had, as far as the crowd and just everything, really. So, for us, that was such a cool thing that we'd been still trying to get in front of people in our own home country. And then to go over there and have you guys be as rad as you were...it was a no-brainer for us to just keep coming back as much as we could! For us, every time we go back it's just been better and better. I remember one year I think we went almost three times in one year?!
TIANA: I'm actually positive you've seen more of the country than I have.
NATE: Yeah! (laughs) It's crazy, it really is just such a funny thing that's been that much. But honestly, like I said, it's the shows and the people and just that it's such a welcoming place, even when we were nobodys at the time. Which was really cool.
TIANA: It has been a while now between shows now for your Australian fans, and fans in general, and this upcoming tour is actually your first headline tour since Anberlin called it a day all those years ago. Rumour has it you guys are gonna be busting out some classics, obviously some from 'Never Take Friendship Personal' and 'Cities'...but you guys have such an extensive catalogue to choose from, is it an easy process all these years later to craft a set-list for these sorts of shows?
NATE: For us it was...I mean, it'll be five years away for us by the time we go back, which is crazy! But, our whole thing was that these shows are to be the most fun that they can possibly be - for everyone! For us and for you guys. When we were talking about the set-list we kind of started going through the songs of what we thought we'd wanna play. And we kind of just felt like it made the most sense to play the records that people were the most into. And obviously I know people liked our last record, but we never got the chance to really tour it...so for us the goal wasn't to push a new record or even to further our career as a band. Because we're not technically a band anymore. So our whole thing was just: "what would be the most fun?". How can we all just have one big party and kind of all hang, and we kind of landed on playing stuff from 'Never Take' and 'Cities' and the older stuff just seemed like probably what people would be most stoked on. We'll play some new songs, but I think we might even end up playing only one off 'Lowborn', which was our last record. And just because we kind of felt like that record didn't get pushed hard because we only toured on it for like 8 months, or whatever it was when it came out. So - it wasn't too tough, we just kind of went through it all and we just looked at how many albums we had, and the set-list filled up pretty quick. And that's the thing, you can't play everything and you're not gonna be able to play every song that everyone wants to hear, of course, there will be some left out that people want. But it filled up pretty quickly once we started going through it, it was like "oh, we GOTTA play this, and this and this!". And before we knew it, we had like 20 songs (laughs). It's weird that we actually do have so much material, but it's cool!
FEEL GOOD DRAG (ANBERLIN)
TIANA: It is awesome, and it's interesting how you mentioned the goal with this upcoming set-list and tour was to make it fun...which dovetails quite nicely into my next question. I've seen you guys talk about just focusing on these shows with no real plans for an "official comeback". But, because of that, has there been a significant change in how you guys interact as a band now that that pressure is essentially off, and you can actually just focus on playing these epic tunes and just go out onstage and let rip?
NATE: Yeah, absolutely. That's genuinely what these shows are about. I mean, that final year that we did, it was when we decided to call it quits with Anberlin being a full-time career and what we did for a living. And that final year was for our fans, and to be able to say a proper goodbye, to be able to see those people who had been there for us for all of those years. But, admittedly that last year was really tough, just across the board. Just by how much we toured, and also just coming off like 12 years of grinding and grinding, and travelling as much as we did. It was all amazing, but it hit that spot where those final shows - they were amazing and we were so thankful, but it was so emotional and so heavy. And just really intense, for lack of a better word. So for us now...we're doing this, and it just should be fun. We literally are just going to have an amazing time. It comes across sounding a little selfish - but these shows are actually about us. We're just excited to get onstage where the only object is just to play these songs and have fun. We don't have to stress about "ok, so what's our next move as a band" or "we need to go start working on a record!". And I don't say those things like they were bad. At all. But, when it's your career, you make decisions and you kind of look at it through a different lens. And so right now, just getting back together to have fun? It's just cool, and its very exciting to know we can just get onstage and just be like "Yo! Here we all are together, and people care about us and about these songs". It'll be kind of the first time ever that we've done that. I mean, we played two shows this last December, and that was kind of a whirlwind too because they were our home shows, and they were just really intense. But for us to be able to go to Australia and get onstage together - the only goal is to have fun, and there's nothing else outside of that.
TIANA: I genuinely don't think there's anything selfish in that, especially considering you're coming all this way to play for us! And you did mention just now your hometown shows you played late last year...I've read Stephen (Stephen Christian - Lead Vocals) label the shows strictly as "reconciliation" shows, not reunion shows. But walking onto that hometown stage as a band after all this time and all that has happened...can you talk me through a little bit what that moment was like for you? Was it really emotional, or perhaps it just felt like a well-oiled machine kicking back into gear?
NATE: It was a little bit of both! We started practicing for these shows, and thinking we'd have to practice so hard and all that stuff. But when we started playing together, it was like we'd played a show last weekend together, it all just came back and it was just this funny moment of: "man, we thought we were gonna have to focus way harder!". So going back onstage, it was was more relaxing than I imagined it would be. I thought it was gonna be more of like "oh, I gotta remember this part". But it really was just like: "oh man, all the muscle memory is just back!". It was just fun! And there was those emotions, but not even close compared to that final tour that we did, just because there was just so much involved there. The best way to describe it is just fun! It really was, we did a smaller secret show before we played another show the next day with our friends in Underoath. The show before that was just a small room, and just so many people and it was such a good time!
TIANA: It's especially nice that those shows have led us here, we feel so privileged that we are getting the first Anberlin headline shows here in Australia off the back of those hometown shows. Now. One last question before I let you go and make your tacos...obviously you guys came up at quite an interesting time in the music industry, I mean - the early 2000s was a pretty unique and ever-evolving landscape for musicians and the industry in general. But I'm interested to know, if you could go back in time to a teenaged Nate Young in those really early days of your musical career - what piece of advice would you offer him, and why?
NATE: Oh man, that's a great question. It's one of those things where I've changed and I've looked back and I'm like: "man, what could have been, what would I do now?", and all that stuff. But I kind of found with life...there's been a lot that's happened, even since Anberlin has been over, personally and within my family. And looking back I find that it used to drive me crazy, I used to really hang onto that stuff, like "if I only would've done this, it would've changed that". It was hard for me to be peaceful because I kept doing that, and I kind of hit that spot where I was like "well, it's all led me to this point". So, I wouldn't change anything, but advice-wise? I would probably tell myself that. Like: "hey, don't really worry about everything", I would always get so worked up and stressed about all the stuff, and worry about record sales and that sort of thing. I think it took me a longer time than I would've liked to realise that that's not really important, and to take each day at a time, each hour at a time. And to really be present and not be thinking about the future while I'm thinking about the past. I did a lot of that during my touring time, I was always like "oh, this record's gonna do well, what we can we do to make the best one better?". And it's good to push yourself and work hard on that, but I would've wanted to maybe enjoy where we were at more and really take it in. I didn't feel it til like the last maybe 4 or 5 years of us being a band where I really took it all in, and really stepped back and enjoyed it all and realised what an insane thing it was that we were able to do.
TIANA: I feel like you are absolutely making up for that and doing that. As you mentioned earlier, this is all about the fun and about embracing this moment and being present. And your Aussie Anberlin fans are so grateful you guys are gifting us with some public displays of reconciliation - and it'll all be kicking off in a couple of weeks!
NATE: Awesome! Yeah, so soon! It's crazy. Oh my gosh?!
TIANA: Well, wishing you a very safe journey out here, I cannot wait to see Anblerin in action, and thank you so much for your time as well today.
NATE: Of course! Thank you so much.
TIANA: And thank you also for helping me pick what to have for dinner as well.
NATE: (laughs) Yes! Awesome. Thank you so much, see you soon.
BY TIANA SPETER