Lead singer Stephen Christian
first met bassist Deon Rexroat while they were both attending Winter Haven High School on Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, they formed a Punk band called SaGoh 24/7 and were joined by drummer Sean Hutson and guitarist Joseph Milligan. After releasing two albums, Hutson left the band to start a family, and was replaced by stickman Nathan Young.
Anberlin started off as a side project formed by Christian, Milligan and Rexroat with the intention of developing a more rock orientated direction. Their five-song demo got them signed with the Seattle-based Christian indie label, Tooth & Nail and barely a year after their formation, they released their debut album, Blueprints for the Black Market.
The band's name comes from a misheard Radiohead lyric. Stephen Christian recalled to Spin
magazine that when he at the University of Central Florida in 2002 he was "infatuated" with Radiohead's Kid A
album. About 2 minutes 31 seconds into the song "Everything In Its Right Place
," it sounded to him as if "Thom Yorke was singing the word 'Anberlin.' I kept hearing it: 'Anberlin,' 'Anberlin.'"
Christian searched online for any reference to Radiohead/ Thom Yorke and 'Anberlin,' but failed to find anything. Eventually the singer realized that he must have been mishearing something and that the word 'Anberlin' was a figment of his imagination. "It has no meaning. I just liked the sound of it," Christian concluded "and thought it was original. I thought it would be a good band name."
Stephen Christian graduated from University of Central Florida and the Florida State University College of Law with a bachelor's degree in Psychology.
The producer of Anberlin's first three albums was Seattle native Aaron Sprinkle. Stephen Christian told us
that the band have "always felt like he was the sixth member of Anberlin simply because he did the first three records." And for the first two records, "we literally lived at his house in the basement with him." The band reunited with Sprinkle for their sixth album, Vital
Anberlin signed to Universal Republic on August 16, 2007, and their major-label debut, entitled New Surrender
was released on September 30, 2008. "The whole album is conceptualized around the theme of a new surrender in the sense that everyone in their lives has something they know they have to give up," Stephen Christian explained to SmartPunk
. "There's something that's holding each of us back from who we could become, so I think each song kind of tackles that theme of surrendering parts of life whether it's a person or a vice."
The first single from New Surrender
, "Feel Good Drag
" reached #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart in its 29th week on the survey. The slow climb to the summit held the record at the time for the longest trek to the peak position on that chart.
It was also named 2009's "Rock Song of the Year" by radio industry trade magazine FMQB
Anberlin have long been active in humanitarian efforts. Christian co-founded Faceless International, a non-profit organization focused on fighting human trafficking and modern day slavery, along with his two friends, Seth Cain and Sarah Freeman. The band themselves have travelled to India, to educate the masses there about the danger of human trafficking.
Anberlin has also had a long association with the non-profit interfaith organization To Write Love on Her Arms, which works with people struggling with depression, self injury, addiction or thoughts of suicide.
Anberlin are consistently characterized as a Christian band and some of the band's song lyrics do contain Christian references. However, Stephen Christian refuses to label himself and his bandmates that way. "[My faith] affects every single aspect of my life," he said, "but I'm not a preacher, I'm an entertainer."
Asked why he is a follower of Jesus Christ, Stephen Christian replied with a quote from Scripture: "and this is pure religion to love the widows and the orphans and keep oneself unspoiled from the world," before adding, "no other religion compares to the LOVE, grace, mercy, and hope that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ emanates."
Stephen Christian's love of literature informs much of his lyrics. Asked what books have shaped his thinking, the Anberlin frontman listed:
What's So Amazing About Grace by Phillip Yancey
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen
Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Desiring God by John Piper
Knowing God by J.I. Packer.
Stephen Christian has been diagnosed with ADHD a condition, which he embraces, "where others attempt to medicate or use a psychologist to rid themselves of this 'disorder.'" He adds that he "actually enjoy the fact that my mind can 'multi-task'." (Source of last three quotes Anberlin Interviews
Anberlin performed a series of headlining shows across Australia in May 2019, and a 22-stop United States tour a couple of months later. It was the band's first tour in five years, but not a permanent comeback. Stephen Christian announced a career change in a statement on August 26, 2019, saying he had taken a Pastoral role at Grace Family Church in Tampa, Miami.