J.Rod’s Music World

Justin Rodstrom

So Stephen, how is life on the road for a band like Anberlin?

Life on the road is pretty crazy; we like to stay busy going town to town. Going on tour with the bands we’ve been able to play with, you really have some great times. We were on tour with Hawthorne Heights a while back, and every day we would have pick-up basketball games with them – tons of fun.

One time while we were on the road, the craziest thing happened to us. Me and the guys were in the back, when all of a sudden the tour bus comes to a screeching halt. We figured we had hit something so we all rushed up front, only to find a turkey had come crashing through our windshield! It didn’t even die, it was just dazed…when it came to, it just waddled away. There was broken glass everywhere; that was definitely one of the most memorable things to happen while on the road.

What influences Anberlin to write the music you write?

Definitely Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jeff Buckley, The Smiths, Morrissey, Coltrane all play an impact. With Dylan, it wasn’t only about the music he made, but it was also his lifestyle that has had an impact on me especially. The way he used the stage as a platform to change the world was inspiring. He was considered the voice of a generation, and, even though he was reluctant, he did the best he could with that platform. Coltrane is inspiring because he wrote lyrics with his saxophone; I mean, he wrote a whole album based on his reaction to reading the Bible. That is really inspiring.

What about your contemporaries, what would you say to them?

I want to challenge them – challenge them to do something productive with the short time they have on the stage. With today’s industry, labels are all about the next thing – the newest product to pump up – and as soon as you stop selling you’re dropped. There will not be any more timeless acts like the Rolling Stones; the market is too fast and consumerist for someone to come along and make that kind of impact anymore. So I challenge bands to come out and do something while they’re here; don’t just live the party life.

When you look at people like Bono with AIDS or Chris Martin of Coldplay, they’re really using their music and the spotlight as a platform for change. Listen, if you’ve got 10 fans or you’ve got 10,000 fans, you’ve got a captive audience. They’re listening to your every word; do something with that. Get involved in your community, in the things around you. Ghandi once said, “Become the change you wish to see,” and I think we can all learn a lot from that.

And music especially has a huge impact on the world. I once heard a phrase, “You can change a people’s government, but the real power comes from the music of the people,” and it’s true. I mean, look at people like Bob Dylan, John Lennon – even the unsubstantial American Idol has 85 million viewers! That is a huge power, and I’m just starting to understand exactly how that works.

I’ll end by letting you say something to your fans:

I want to thank the fans for the tremendous support we’ve had; we have sell-out shows in almost every city now, and it’s great getting to meet people. As a band, Anberlin decided that we’re going to try to get out and meet the people. I want our fans to know that we’re not that glamorous rock band; we’re real people. I want to challenge them as well to get involved in the world around them and make a change.

Anberlin’s “Cities”

Anberlin’s latest album, “Cities,” is set for a Feb. 20 release in the United States. The album was written and recorded on the road during Anberlin’s last tour. The main concept behind “Cities” is maturation, man facing himself.

Stephen, the band’s lead singer and lyricist, told me that “the lyrics are my way of exploring the dark corners of my mind and my life, the big decisions, the failures and lessons I’ve learned along the way. I suppose it was influence by the work of Karl Hume. He wrote about overcoming the shadows in your life to fully explore creative potentials, and he was right. I faced my failures and shadows, and then this immense stream of creativity just came pouring out of me.”

Anberlin are heading to the Theatre of Living Arts on South Street in Philly on Feb. 24, just days after they celebrate the release of the new album.

Good Listening: “Inevitable,” “The Unwinding Cable Car”

Dir en Grey Concert Review

On Tuesday, I made it to Theatre of Living Arts to see Dir en Grey play with Bleed the Dream and Fair to Midland.

At around 6 p.m. South Street was lined with metalheads, punks and emo kids of all shapes and sizes just waiting to get in to see Japanese hardcore sensation Dir en Grey.

Bleed the Dream started the set, followed by Fair to Midland and after much anticipation, Dir en Grey.

For a band that does not speak a word of English, Dir en Grey kept its fans pumped the whole night through. There were 13-year-old white girls singing Japanese words that they didn’t understand, but it didn’t matter … it was the passion of the performance that had these kids so gripped. With shredding guitarists, a maniacal drummer and an odd, expressive lead singer, Dir en Grey stole the show.