Band Talks First New Song Off 'Vital' (Out Oct. 16): "We all knew we had to change"
The aggressive, electronic-tinged sound of "Self-Starter," the first track to be issued from Anberlin's upcoming "Vital," is a harbinger of what the Florida alt-rock troupe got up to on its sixth album.
"When we started writing this record, I think we all kind of knew we had to change and really step out of our box and change it up," drummer Nathan Young, primary composer of the musical end of "Self-Starter," tells Billboard. "We're a rock band, but we've got to progress with a sixth album. We wanted to keep it to that rock thing but just change it up." Frontman Stephen Christian, meanwhile, says "Self-Starter" perfectly fit into the "vision" he had for the album.
» Hear an Exclusive Stream of "Self-Starter" «
"I wanted this to be just electricity, just vibrant -- that's how we came up with that title, 'Vital,'" he explains. "I wanted that almost youthful, energetic energy. Our favorite part of any show is when people are absolutely going mental, screaming at the top of their lungs, dancing along, having the best night. We felt like if that's what gets us off, makes us excited to play, why don't we just wrote a whole record like that. The whole record's not like that, but that was kind of the guiding vision."
Christian says the quintet sorted through between 60-70 songs for "Vital," about 40 of which came form guitarist Joey Milligan. Fifteen were recorded with 11 slated for the album, which comes out Oct. 16, and the singer credits producer Aaron Sprinkle with encouraging Anberlin to inject even more electronic elements into the mix. "He was the interpreter, the grand translator of how to add that stuff and make it sound like Anberlin," Christian recalls. "It's just a plethora of different keyboard sounds." Young's machinations on the song "Innocent," which Anberlin considered "a little too ballady," wound up netting it a spot on the album.
Young, who writes on keyboards rather than guitar, says that "Vital" shows off new influences he and his bandmates have embraced, such as M83 "and all these bands that don't sound anything like Anberlin." He almost held "Self-Starter" back, however, thinking that it was "too different" for the group. But when Christian responded positively to a late-night e-mail of the song -- "I flipped out. I told him it was like the best demo I'd heard for the album," the singer says -- Young was confident it would work.
The song also features a female vocalist, Nashville singer Julia Marie, for the first time ever on an Anberlin recording. Three of "Vital's" songs sport female vocals, in fact, while the track "Orpheum" features fans who entered a YouTube competition the band held to look for extra back-up vocalists for the song. Lyrically, meanwhile, Christian gets topical on "Someone Anyone," which was inspired by the Egyptian revolution of 2011, but he says most of the songs "are just about relationships and friendships and encounters and experiences, the usual stuff I draw on when I write."
Anberlin begins its touring cycle for "Vital" in early September, with trips planned to Australia, the U.K. and Europe as well as "a quick run" of North America and holiday radio shows in December. January will take the group back overseas to Africa and the Middle East, with Canada in February and more European dates to follow.
Anberlin's last album, "Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place" in 2010 was the group's first Top 10 entry on the Billboard 200 (No. 9), selling 95,000 copies according to SoundScan and launching the Top 5 Alternative Rock hit "Impossible."