I got the opportunity to sit down with Anberlin guitarist, Joseph Mulligan, before their very last show in San Diego to discuss their 12 year career and their final tour and album.
Your Farewell Tour has taken recently taken you from Brazil and Australia, to Singapore and the Philippines. And now youre on your way through here. Is everything sinking in?
Joey: Not yet. The closer we get to the end I think its gonna really start getting clear whats happening. But right now, we’re just getting started on this leg of the tour so its not something different in anyway.
It still feels like a normal tour?
How have the people in the countries been taking it?
Great. <pause> Well I mean “great” in that they’ve been great. But you know, when we did our farewell shows in England and Scotland, people were crying in the front rows. Same with Brazil, same with Australia. People are making these crazy signs. So many people bringing us gifts and we get to hear some crazy stories. Its been really cool. The appreciation that’s everyone has been showing.
Are you approaching these shows like it’s the farewell tour or are you just coming into it like another Anberlin show?
We want to listen to fans and get everyone’s opinion on what they want to hear and trying to cover all the bases with the set. But its impossible to cover 7 albums into a 2 hour set. Everyone’s going to want something different or more but we try our best.
Was there any reason why you released your album on Tooth and Nail?
We originally decided that we were going to release it on our own. We were just going to put it on our website and have fans come and do what they would. But the only reason we went with Tooth and Nail is because of Brandon (Ebel), the President there, and the relationship we’ve had with them over the years. If it wasn’t Tooth and Nail, we wouldn’t have put it out on a record label because theyre more like family than anything. It was really exciting going into it. Brandon was really excited about it which made us really excited about it. It was easy.
With writing the album, did you guys go into it and approach it like a swan song or was it similar to the approach of the other 6 albums.
No, it was different for sure. We looked at it as it was going to be the last thing that people hear of us recorded. More so than any other record as well, it was a conglomerate of everyone’s ideas thrown in. Where in the past it would usually lean one way or the other, or it was typically me and Christian writing the music and Nate contributed a bit to Vital and even more so to his record so it was a different approach completely. Everyone throwing around ideas and everyone adding and subtracting. With the 10 songs that we did, those were going to be the only 10 songs. We weren’t going to do any extra stuff or bonus material or whatever. It’s 10 songs and that’s it.
Was there a track that stood out as most sincere or just something that felt closest to you?
We were pretty pumped on “Harbinger” being the last song. Lyrically it just felt right. Mood wise, it was a cool approach. It could have gone 1 of 2 ways. We could have done some big epic long thing that we normally do but it just felt better doing something more natural than something more deliberate. The track listing didn’t really come together. We didn’t know what went where but we just kind of felt it out.
You probably get this a lot, but 7 albums, 12 years, why now?
Its been 13 or 14 years for Nate, 8 years for Christian, but for me Dion and Stephen, its been 18 years playing together and 12 obviously as Anberlin. Its more like we accomplished everything we ever set out to do and got every opportunity we could ever wish for. We’ve done everything we wanted and why let it go on until people aren’t happy and are resenting each other and dragging the band into the dirt when we can go our separate ways and do all these other plans that we all have and still loving each other and still be happy being in a band and not mess it up. The timing just felt right for us.
So y’all still like each other.
Yeah we love each other. You would never assume that there was anything like that going on if you were to just walk on the bus. We’re all joking with each other, hanging out all the time, talking with each other on the phone at home, texting each other constantly. You would never think that there was any issue or anything.
For future artists, or bands that are just starting up, what advice would give to them to stay a band? There are marriages that don’t last that long and that’s 2 people. How do you make it work for 5?
It’s a pretty delicate balance. We’ve all known each other since high school so it was more like family than anything. If you can get into that dynamic where you know what buttons to push, what buttons not to push, how to handle each other like family as opposed to just dudes in a band, I think your longevity will be better for it. But I think the main thing that I’ve seen with younger bands is that the first big issue that pops up in their career, and they’re just “alright, we’re done.” If we had done that, we would have been around a couple years and then been done. We powered through everything with talking to each other, working stuff out and any obstacle that came in front of us we knew we would have to go around it, go over it, or go through it, whatever we need to do. It would be us doing it so it would be fine.
When I’ve talk to people, and the topic of influential artists whose music has affected their personal lives, Anberlin tends to pop up a bit more than others. Many people I know, in fact, have said that your music has changed them, gotten through hard times… I couldn’t imagine producing something that influences so many strangers around the world. How does that make you feel knowing that you have?
It’s humbling. You for sure don’t have that in mind when making a record or writing a song or anything. It’s the greatest thing in the world hearing something like that from someone. And like I said, its very humbling. It makes you feel like, “man I guess we did that right.” If one person in the entire world connects with what we’re doing then we did what we were supposed to do. But we’ve heard a lot of stories, and a lot of bands who have said things like that and it blows my mind every time. I still don’t know how to respond to it without being awkward. Its like… “Cool…. I don’t… Thank you? Thank you.” I mean it means the world but I don’t know how to communicate that because I don’t know this person.
This last tour, last album, you’re trying to get your fans involved as much as possible. Can you explain what you’ve been doing?
We’ve definitely tailored that show to that area. Individualized posters, individualized shirts, hanging out after the show and trying to speak with everyone that’s still there and really not taking any second of it for granted…
(At this point singer Stephen Christian gallops in the room) Sorry SORRY! Didn’t mean to interrupt!
<laughs>…And we try to stay in that moment of ‘this is happening, I need to take it in.’ We’re trying to get a feel for what people are saying online and what people thought about shows. Its makes a big difference to listen to people and individual crowds.
And I can’t get away from asking this, but whats next?
Oh man, youre going to get a lot of different answers. I know Stephen is continuing song writing with Anchor and Braille. Im going to be producing and recording bands full time which I’ve been doing recently. Nathan and his brother in law are starting their own company. A coffee company. I’m sure he is going to remain in music in some shape or form. And I think Christian and Deon are going to have a new band that they are going to be playing together in.
Anything you’d like to add?
Once we’re gone, don’t stop listening.
Lauren Wilson | San Diego Ambassador | @Twitter | @Instagram | Beat-Play & Music Without Labels, LLC