There are moments in a band’s career where you need to get on board or be left behind.
Moments where a band makes a great leap forward, surges to the next level, and becomes
something infinitely greater than they’ve ever been. This is one of those moments for
Anberlin, a rock band who has been honing their style and sound since 2002. The band’s last
album and major label debut, 2008’s New Surrender, ascended the Central Florida group to a
new level of both popularity and skill. The record’s first single “Feel Good Drag” became the
No. 1 radio track of 2009 and the No. 30 track of the decade. The positive reception the disc
generated set the band up for an even more successful and powerful follow-up.
On this fifth album, Dark Is The Way. Light Is A Place, Anberlin found themselves in a new
headspace, recharged with creativity following their touring cycle for New Surrender. The
band was unsure which producer to use for this effort, but fortuitously that decision was made
for them when Grammy-winning producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen)
approached the group. O’Brien had followed their career after being alerted to Anberlin by his
daughter and felt that this was the right occasion to collaborate with the musicians.
“The fact that he liked our music and he believed in us and he was standing behind us as a
band was huge,” Stephen says. “Compared to his roster we’re not that big, so having him
behind us really bolstered our confidence and pushed our desire to achieve something greater
on this record. People have told us they’re proud of us, but for Brendan O’Brien to say it was
truly solidifying for us as a band.”
The band recorded the disc over five weeks, on and off throughout March, April and May of
this year at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. The process was both challenging and
empowering, with O’Brien urging the band members to step out of their comfort zone and
take their music to new heights. The resulting album is 10 tracks that resound with a
newfound sense of self and an assurance of identity.
“It was about Brendan empowering us to make the best record possible,” Stephen says. “He
gave us the tools and showed us how to tighten things up. For us it was just a different caliber
and I think we rose to the occasion. We played as hard as we could, we practiced as hard as
we could, we wrote a lot and experimented. It was an all-encompassing session of
The album veers from powerful opener “We Owe This To Ourselves,” which Stephen wrote
after hearing a NPR piece about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, to the
urgent single “Impossible,” a track about the delicate balance between fateful love and love as
a choice, to acoustic number “Down.” The album as a whole is both pensively dark and
optimistic making the band’s choice of title, drawn from a poem by Dylan Thomas entitled
“Happy Birthday,” apropos. It’s a record about both being in the dark and recognizing that
there’s a way back into the light, says Stephen.
“Hopefully these are songs people are absolutely able to relate to, whether it’s love, whether
it’s friendship, whether it’s family,” Stephen explains. “There are moments where it’s going to
hurt and there are moments where there’s going to be pain involved, but at the end of the day
it’s the people we surround ourselves with that’s going to matter the most. There will be
setbacks in life and problems and pain, but it’s through perseverance that life is worth living
and can be amazing. Most of our music can be summed up as bringing you to a dark moment
then showing you that at the end of the day there’s hope, there’s light and there’s a way out.”
Dark Is The Way. Light Is A Place is the product of five thoughtful musicians who have
something significant to express. Stephen is also a published author (The Orphaned
Anything’s came out in 2008) who is currently working on his second novel. He also cocreated
a charity called Faceless International, a non-profit that helps defend the plights of
people in unfortunate situations around the world. Nathan is a photographer and model, and
began an art collective called Golden Youth with Underoath’s Tim McTague and artist Justin
Nelson. Christian does avid charity work, using Anberlin as a venue to encourage people to
make a difference both locally and around the world. Collectively, Anberlin is composed of
contemplative, genuine musicians who have made a record that defines both themselves and
“For us, this is the best record that we can ever accomplish,” Stephen concludes. “We were
absolutely in our element on this record. I hope that everything we were able to convey on
this album is inspiring to our fans. We want to bring them on this journey with us and I hope
when they hear our new record they feel as empowered and confident as we did while making
Here's the situation. In Nashville, there's an old, decrepit plantation house where three bedraggled but refined, white gentlemen drop beats, craft wordplay, design artwork, and arrange orchestral maneuvers in the dark. The structure is called Joy Mansion, and the men who dwell there staring each other down and exercising their creative rivalry for all it's worth collaborate under the moniker of Paper Route. Having toured relentlessly with the likes of Passion Pit and mewithoutyou, won hearts and minds with their debut album Absence (2009), paid musical tribute to Lou Reed to the man's imperturbable face at South by Southwest, and insinuated themselves into pop culture consciousness when their song, "The Music," appeared in the film (500) Days of Summer, Paper Route have now seen fit to go for broke on the possibility that epic earnestness, lyrical depth, and poetic heft can all coincide within one ridiculously catchy song collection primarily preoccupied with—wait for it–tragedy, disappointment, and loss. Behold The Peace of Wild Things.
"Everyone can relate to hurt," observes J.T. Daly, Paper Route's chief lyricist, singer, and artwork conjurer. For Daly and bandmate Chad Howat, The Peace of Wild Things banks on the hope that popular art can be made to arise out of horrible situations. Whereas the timing of the album's production schedule coincided with a dire cancer diagnosis within Howat's immediate family, the lyrics Daly brought to the table largely document the dissolution of his marriage. As Daly sees it, the risk of raw candor and vulnerability is the whole point, "If I'm not terrified by what I'm doing, I'd prefer to move back to Ohio and work on my art. I'm drawn to the fact that it makes me feel uncomfortable."
With songs like "Letting You Let Go" and "Glass Heart Hymn" he's determined to show his hand at every turn. Irony and cool detachment be damned.
The same goes for in-house, music-making competition and the angst Daly felt as he stood on the staircase listening to everything Howat was working on. "I'm going to have to come up with something better than that," he'd note with dread as he leaned into their collective commitment to try to out-interesting each other. In this sense, Daly and Howat are joined together in a pact of escalating catchiness, a refusal to "throw in the towel on this whole idea of instant melody." Daly explains, "I have so much respect for artists who continue to infiltrate pop culture" with "ideas executed so brilliantly that they've kind of Trojan-horsed malls across America." The trajectory he has in mind is evident with The Peace of Wild Things' lead single, "Better Life," which is carefully calibrated to colonize the public imagination in under five minutes.
Given such standards, it's no surprise that names like Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel are spoken with awe and reverence around Joy Mansion. Howat notes the way Peter Gabriel's So is comprised of one undeniably infectious track after another even as it's clearly a creative labor in which he's "trying to please himself" at every turn in "a perfect juxtaposition of pop culture and artistic endeavor." With mixing and recording responsibilities falling in Howat's lap ("The computer is my first instrument"), the work of sorting through two to three albums' worth of material and narrowing it all down to something worthy eventually became a question of serving the band's obsession with block-rocking beats: "Everyone in the band loves beats, and the beats we gravitate toward are hip-hop-esque beats." For Howat, the love affair began at 14 when a Yamaha V-50 was vouchsafed upon him ("My dad bought it for me as an 8th grade graduation present.") an artifact Paper Route won't get caught touring without. Incidentally, it's the move from studio to live performance that wouldn't be possible without the energies of drummer Gavin McDonald (Howat: "We wouldn't be a band without Gavin.") who landed with Paper Route through his work with fellow Joy Mansion occupant Canon Blue (AKA Daniel James).
While The Peace of Wild Things lyrically chronicles specific experiences of soul- crushing disillusionment and a fractured sense of faith and wonder down to the minute particulars, its creators presume—very much in the traditions of Romantic poetry and 80's New Wave (Tears for Fears, A-ha)–that creatively fixating on the local, the achingly personal even, is probably the surest path to the universal. And it is here that the concluding track, "Calm My Soul," offers a determined hopefulness well-earned by the preceding sad songs which have said so much. In this way, Paper Route shoots for a continuum with Daly's go-to writers, Wendell Berry and Douglas Coupland, whose presence as an influence is as a-typical and unexpected as the band's guiding presumption that pop songs, making them and hearing them, might occasionally render pained life more livable.
All Get Out
"Loud and personal," is one of the ways that lead singer/guitarist Nathan Hussey describes ALL GET OUT. Generally when a band is self-described as loud, imagery of guitars propelling distortion and mood over the audience is the resonance to dwell on and personal is not often the conjoined description. Loud has always been the cryptic way to say a band likes to hide behind blankets of fuzz and hard... to decipher symbolisms that keep the players of the song at restraining order distance from the audience. With ALL GET OUT nothing is hidden; everything is personal; and loud.
All of life's ups, downs, triumphs, ditches, and valleys are in ALL GET OUT's self titled EP. Songs like, "Come My Way", are filled with hopeful guitars and melodies then swoon and swim in a way that are not to be forgotten. And then a song like "Wasting All My Breath" holds nothing back while dealing with death and assigning blame. These quick changes from hoping for the serene to dealing with sucker punches that come wrapped as gifts is what life is about, and that is what ALL GET OUT is about—the mess of life. Being personal is never a clean paint by numbers affair. It's about the chase, the fall, and getting back up without checking on your own cuts.