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The Final Days of Anberlin

“It is definitely a backwards ticking clock at this point, but it kind of has to be,” says Christian McAlhaney, the soon to be former guitarist of the band Anberlin. “Since we started touring on [The 2014 Vans] Warped Tour, it’s been a weird emotional roller coaster because everything that we do feels like it’s the last time we’re going to do it.” That’s because this actually is the last time the band will do these things.

The alternative rockers that make up Anberlin started playing together in 2002 and were joined by McAlhaney in 2007 just in time for the band’s third studio record, Cities, and the re-recording of their biggest hit single “Feel Good Drag” in 2008. After six albums and 12 total years touring the world and playing to the masses, Anberlin decided to call it quits. Typically bands seem to break up in one of two ways; either explosively and with no warning due to creative differences or by fizzling out after a long string of poor album sales. Anberlin, on the other hand, came together jointly and announced a planned end about a year before the actual disbandment, which is to take place at the end of 2014. “We’re very realistic about how temporal being in a band really is,” notes McAlhaney. “We never wanted to be that band where people hear your name and are like ‘Oh my God, they’re still a band?’ We always promised ourselves we wouldn’t beat a dead horse.”

Photo of Christian McAlhaney provided by Big Picture Media

Photo of Christian McAlhaney by Jake Gravbrot

In order to really close out Anberlin, the band chose to keep that horse alive and ride it off into the sunset with one final album, stylized as lowborn, and a farewell tour set. Beginning with one last round on the 2014 Warped Tour and releasing a seventh studio album through the first label to ever sign them, Tooth & Nail, Anberlin will end with a worldwide farewell tour this fall. “It was coming full circle, so it’s a weird place to be in,” explains McAlhaney of returning to Tooth & Nail for a risky short-spanned album promotion. “We’ve known Brandon [Ebel], the owner of Tooth & Nail, forever and he really wanted to be a part of it. It felt right for us because this is where the band started.” As McAlhaney chose not to reveal what inspired the album title, one can assume that it may have something to do with returning to the band’s humble beginnings.

The band took creative liberties to make this record the most diversely engineered by working with three different producers in separate studios. The group chose to work with Matt Goldman on drums in Atlanta, Aaron March for the rest of the instrumentals in Florida, and longtime Anberlin affiliate, Aaron Sprinkle for vocals in Tennessee. “We just wanted to go to studios and work with engineers and producers that we would feel comfortable with more than anything,” says McAlhaney. “Aaron [Sprinkle] has been like a sixth member of this band, so that felt good to have him as a part of this last record.”

lowborn’s first single, “Stranger Ways” instantly revealed to fans that this final album would be the most mature sound the band would create. Deviating from their initial “early 2000s hard rock” vibe, the single, as well as tracks like “Atonement” and “Harbinger,” reveal more of a progressive sound as the band has evolved musically over time. “[‘Stranger Ways’] was kind of a sleeper honestly,” says McAlhaney. “I remember when [vocalist Stephen Christian] first sent it back to me, I didn’t love it. I was hoping that maybe in the studio the melody would change, but when I got the final vocal, that song really grew on me.” The band's sound may have grown up over the years but they still ended up reliving their younger days by filming the video for "Stranger Ways" at drummer Nathan Young’s parents’ house.

Skeleton key tattoos done by Joe Who.

Skeleton key tattoos done by Joe Who.

Anberlin may be coming to an end, but the experience will always be with the members, not just in record sales and memories, but also in the ink they wear on their bodies. “Before the guys started Anberlin they were in this cool punk band [SaGoh 24/7] that had the logo of this eagle,” explains McAlhaney. “That was the band tattoo for a while. The crew had it, the band guys had it and then after I was in the band for a while I got it.” The guitarist also sports two other tattoos commemorating his time with Anberlin: a pair of skeleton keys tattooed on his collarbone to represent the Lost Songs album cover (tattooed by Joe Who of Pierced Hearts Tattoo) as well as the latest Anberlin hand logo on his neck (tattooed by Chelsea Rhea from Amulet Tattoo). “Being a musician is such a bizarre lifestyle,” notes McAlhaney. “It’s kind of a rebellious lifestyle. You’re rebelling against the normal 9 to 5 and I think tattoos are rebellious, or at least they were. I think they kind of signify you, even if you do work a 9 to 5.”

It looks like McAlhaney won’t be working from 9 to 5 anytime soon as he and the rest of Anberlin will continue to tour and enjoy the run one last time bidding their fans good bye before getting ready to start anew. “I’m going to keep playing,” McAlhaney says of his post-Anberlin plans. “There is a freedom in that kind of blank slate. This is what I love to do; this is my passion that I’ve had and been blessed enough to be able to do for ten years, so I think I have a little more in me.”