InJanuary 2014, Anberlin announced that this would be their last year of operations. Contrary to the cause of most breakups, it wasn’t utter exhaustion or artistic differences that instigated the split. Rather, as Anberlin drummer Nathan Young tells it, the five-piece wanted to wrap things up while the band was still in good shape.
“We had a sit down and it just felt like the right timing. We’ve always said that we wanted to go out on a high note. We didn’t want to just fizzle out and break up. We wanted it to be a big decision and something that we all discussed.”
Anberlin’s rationally motivated conclusion is quite unique for the rock’n’roll milieu, in which acts often persist past their use-by date or members end up hating each other. Speculation about whether this mediated explanation is a cover-up of messier circumstances is unavoidable, but Young stresses it wasn’t an arbitrary decision.
“No band lasts forever, so we knew that the end was inevitable at some point. What we did know is that we always wanted to go out on our own terms. We just didn’t know when we’d make that call. There’s obviously mixed emotions but it’s something that we were able to control. We talked about it well over a year ago but we just didn’t announce it until the beginning of this year.”
Before ceasing activity, Anberlin had a couple of important tasks to take care of. First of all, there was a seventh and final album to make. Released last month, Lowborn perpetuates the artistic progression seen throughout Anberlin’s 12-year career. It seems the impending cut-off point gave them an enhanced creative freedom.
“We could have realistically gone back and found a bunch of B-sides off our last few records, but we didn’t want to do that,” says Young. “We wanted it to sound like we’re still progressing and still wanting to make good music. It was really cool to have that mindset of, ‘It’s our last album, so let’s do whatever we want.’
“Obviously there’s pressure,” he adds. “Wrapping our head around the fact that it is our final album is pretty nuts. But I think it was really cool to try to have a fearless attitude towards doing whatever we want. It’s one of those things – like, if people aren’t into it they can go back and listen to our other six albums. For us it was a goal of doing something different and really pushing ourselves.”
While Young emphasises the band’s determined forward drive, knowing that Lowborn would be its last album surely imposed unique challenges. Questions such as, ‘Should it be a distillation of the entire back catalogue?’ and, ‘How do we effectively pen our swansong?’ inevitably beckoned.
“I think that you can listen to it and hear a mix of all of our records,” Young says. “But more than that, we wanted to not make it sound like a final album, where it sounded like that’s all we were trying to do. We didn’t want to make Vital part two or Cities part two or anything like that. We wanted to have this record stand on its own and sound like a progression.”
After completing the album, the next order of business was embarking on a global farewell tour. The plainly titled Final Tour is now in full swing and it sends the band back to Australia early next month. Anberlin have been cherished by Australian audiences since the early days of their career. As a result, they’ve made the trip Down Under more than ten times. “Australia’s one of our favourite places to tour,” Young says. “Even when we weren’t that noticeable in America, Australia always welcomed us. You can’t really talk about Anberlin as a band, and our touring career, without bringing up Australia. We feel very, very close to Australia.”
Those frequent Australian visits have slotted in around non-stop US touring, as well as successful experiences in Europe and South America. Oh, and let’s not forget the seven albums they’ve released. It seems like Anberlin’s 12-year history has been entirely rest-free. Despite this non-stop motion, when the band started out in the small town of Winter Haven in Florida back in 2002, there was no overriding career objective.
“Our goal was just to play music and to tour,” Young says. “Once we did that we’d already accomplished everything that we wanted to do. Everything else is kind of extra. That’s not to say that at times it wasn’t maybe too much. At times I got burnt out, for sure. But at the time, doing it, you don’t know how long it will last. We wanted to take advantage of people still caring and still wanting to hear our music.”
The rapid ticket sales for their final gigs in Australia prove people are still madly interested in Anberlin. Thus, having surpassed its major ambitions, Young says the band will wrap up proceedings wearing a big smile.
“We couldn’t ask for anything better. Being able to finish our last show and go home and just sit back and look at what we’ve done, I feel like it will be such an amazing feeling. I don’t know of any band that has done that, so for us it will definitely be a really great accomplishment.”