Anberlin guitarist Joseph Milligan talks faith, music

After their concert with Switchfoot in Los Angeles on Oct. 11, Anberlin guitarist Joseph Milligan answered a few questions about faith and music for The Chimes.



Kyle Hazen, Writer

Performing at the Wiltern, Los Angeles’ big time, high-rise theater, Switchfoot and Anberlin took the stage Tuesday night for a once in a lifetime event. Coincidentally, both bands have played at Biola; Switchfoot for Biola’s 100-year birthday bash and Anberlin in 2010. The tour began in September and has since made its way from North Carolina to New York, and now to California, prompted by the release of Switchfoot’s newest album, Vice Verses.

Anberlin opened, Switchfoot closed concert at the Wiltern

Anberlin opened the show integrating into the lineup their most popular hard-rock electric songs, including “Paper Thin Hymn”, “The Unwinding Cable Car”, and “Feel Good Drag.” Fans welcomed the performances of the band’s older sophomoric works, “Never Take Friendship Personal” and “Godspeed.” To the audience’s delight, acoustic variations of the band’s work along with songs from recent albums were performed.

Switchfoot closed the show with a set list that combined past hits, showcasing their classic sound, while introducing new songs from the Vice Verses album. The crowd followed by singing along with Jon Foreman and swaying to the clever rock-driven songs for which Switchfoot is known. Jon amused fans further by venturing into the audience during the performance of the bands new single “Restless.”

Overall, the show was carried out successfully with no major mishaps from either band. The excited crowd behaved themselves well in the dark, jam-packed theater. And both bands amped up their performance with extensive rhythm-sensitive lighting effects. According to Joseph Milligan of Anberlin, fans can expect a new Anberlin album in 2012 as the band begins recording at the end of the year.

“We’ve known each other for a long time,” said Joseph, regarding Switchfoot and the development of the tour. “We always thought it would be something fun to do … finally it just came together.”

Interview with Anberlin guitarist Joseph Milligan

The Chimes conducted a short interview with Joseph from Anberlin to discuss his Christian faith as a musician.

Anberlin is labeled Christian music. Do you agree with being labeled as Christian music?
J: It’s the same to me as calling yourself a Christian mechanic or a Christian cashier ya know it’s just music … this is our profession, this is our job, and we love it and we’re incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to do it, but the way you show people that you’re a Christian is through your actions, one on one with people, stuff like that. I don’t understand the label Christian music … not into it.

What role does your faith play in the production of the music?
J: It comes through in your personal relationships and when you meet and speak with people. As for lyrics, your life translates through the lyrics.

How did you become a musician?
J: I think I was probably around eight or nine and my two older sisters listened to lots of rock, hair metal at the time and I always had music around me. I started taking guitar lessons around ten or eleven years old and just from there I was constantly playing guitar, constantly hearing music in my head and wanting to write. Stephen, Deon and I were together in a band 16 years ago, SaGoh, and we played for about six years. Nathan played with us for the last year we were a band, and then we decided to switch things up, change our name, change our music and just have more fun with it because we were playing incredibly complex speed-punk-rock kinda stuff … it was crazy, ya know, it was border line metal and it gets old and you just want to play rock music that’s fun.

What advice could you give those pursuing music at Biola?
J: Just stick with it. It took us a long time to get where we are and we’re still not finished. There’s still other mountains to climb, other goals to meet, and you gotta just keep moving toward that and don’t let the bumps in the road get you down and make you quit.

So Anberlin played some small venues in its early days?
J: Man … We played an orphanage once for about nine kids that were no older than 10, it was … weird. It was cool ya know, but weird. We played shows before where the only people watching us was the opening band and their friends … One of those shows the opening band left because Pedro the Lion was playing across the street so it was literally about four people in front of us. So there’s rough stuff and you gotta get past that.

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