Artist Of The Week - Anchor & Braille

It's been about three years since we've gotten an album from Anchor & Braille, the indie side project of Anberlin's Stephen Christian, but this week, on July 31st, the band's sophomore album will be released. The Quiet Life is a collection of haunting melodies and catchy percussion, certainly a maturation of sound since 2009's Felt. The Quiet Life is available now in stores and online through Tooth & Nail Records.


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Christian Rock Rocks recently talked with Tim Skipper of House of Heroes about their new album and touring.

Christian Rock Rocks (Brooks Ginnan): Could you say your name and what you do in House of Heroes?
Tim Skipper (House of Heroes): I am Tim Skipper and I play guitar and sing in House of Heroes. I also do most of the driving. ;)

CRR: I've always wondered, how did HoH get started and what is the meaning behind your name?
Tim: House of Heroes was birthed from another band that we had back in high school called No Tagbacks. That was more of a pop-punk thing and it was fairly disastrous, so we decided to move on to a little something different both musically and otherwise. We had all this new music and no name so we gave ourselves a deadline to choose a name. When that day came, we had a vote and House of Heroes won over The First Time and The Black Fantastic. It didn't mean anything at the time, but we've been made aware of the verse in Nehemiah 3 that refers to "the House of the Heroes." My understanding is that the House of the Heroes was where David had his best soldiers buried. I think that's pretty darn cool.

CRR: So after your album The End Is Not The End that was surely received as a classic, how do you think your new album Suburba compares?
Tim: It's a strange position that we're in right now because we've spent the last 12 years making music together trying to get people to pay attention and we just couldn't get a whole lot of people to notice us. So it was really easy to just go about making the music that we wanted to make and not have any pressure of having to deal with people's expectations. So it's weird now to hear people use superlatives such as "classic" and the like to describe The End Is Not The End. We definitely felt some pressure to make Suburba REALLY good, but most of it was self-imposed. When we all got in a room together to write the album it became really easy to just connect with each other and do what we've always done; make the music we wanted to make and felt passionate about. I think the general feel of Suburba is entirely different from The End Is Not The End and that was intentional. We wanted the album to have a very youthful, American vibe to it, so that's the approach we took. We kept our favorite things from The End (such as vocal harmonies and big riffs), but we applied them to a different canvas, so I feel like Suburba is a different beast all together. It's like comparing two brothers. They are the same, but they are entirely different.

CRR: So Suburba is set to release August 3rd. Could you explain how the recording for that went?
Tim: The recording was all of the following: fun, fast, strange, relaxed, stressful, easy, a great learning and growing experience, cold, depressing and exciting. We all went in very well rehearsed wanting to do everything in one or two takes to keep the youthful energy of the songs in tact. We also had limited time to record the album because we were heading out on tour very soon. Colin (Rigsby, drums) and AJ (Babcock, bass) flew through the drum and bass parts in two and a half days which is INSANE!! And then I did the guitars in just a few days, and the vocals came together really well also. The stressful part was dealing with member stuff. Jared (Rigsby, guitar/vocals) was trying to figure out how to balance being in a band with having a new marriage and Colin was about to have his second kid. After the drum parts were done, Colin quit the band to be with his family, so in addition to trying to finish recording the album in time to go on tour, we had to find a new drummer to do the tour with us! Fortunately it all came together, and we actually finished all of the background vocal stuff on the off days of the tour. I have really fond memories of that time despite it being so stressful and strange. Working with Mark Townsend again was great too. He was very relaxed and focused and we all did a lot of growing musically and spiritually during that time.

CRR: What are some of the stories behind the lyrics?
Tim: The album started out being a linear story about the summertime when you are young. A coming of age story if you will. There was a well-intentioned kid who fell in love, then got mixed up with a kid who was a bad influence and made some poor choices that led to a little involuntary manslaughter and the two of them running from the law. In addition to this, the protagonist had an uncle who was a father figure to him, but also a cop. So the uncle was put in a tough place of being a father figure to this well-intentioned kid and upholding the law. At the end of the day though, it became too hard to tie it all together in the time we had. And we had a lot of great songs that we weren't going to be able to use because they didn't fit the story. "Relentless" is the first song on the record and it's the song that introduced the main character and the girl (Sandy - a tribute to Bruce Springsteen) that he falls in love with. "Independence Day For A Petty Thief" is the song where he makes his first bad decision to rob a house with his friend while the 4th of July fireworks are going on. That song was actually written a few days after we went to the fireworks one year and we dumbfounded to find that so many people left their houses open while they were up the road at the park to watch the fireworks. "Disappear" was originally about the main character and his friend being on the run after hitting a man with their car and killing him. Someday, I'd like to finish the story, then release an EP of the songs that complete the story and let people put them together with the songs from Suburba like a puzzle.

CRR: What was the process of writing this album?
Tim: We knew we wanted to write this album about stuff we knew and had been through after writing an album about wars we weren't even alive for, so we started off like we always do just writing tons of parts. A verse here, a chorus there, a sweet riff, etc. Then we started finishing the ideas we liked and the lyrical stuff that AJ was writing started to tell this story. So we started writing for the story and got about six or seven songs in, but couldn't figure out how to end it. It was also becoming a much bigger project than anticipated because we would feel like we had a cluster of songs that made sense together, but then we'd need another song or two to tie that cluster together properly and the record was going to end up being 17 or 18 songs. So, we decided to just go with the theme approach instead of the conceptual story approach and that opened us up to using all of these songs we discarded along the way. It turned out we had about 30 nearly-complete songs that we could use, so we picked the best ones and that ended up being the record.

CRR: What messages do you hope fans get out of Suburba?
Tim: For me, this is an album about dreaming big and chasing those dreams, but then reconciling the inevitable disappointment of things not turning out exactly how you planned. And then accepting that it's okay. I had planned on being a rich rock star by this point in my life. I had planned on being married and owning a house and maybe having some kids, but my life is WAY different than what I thought it would be when I was 18. And that is okay with me. I have learned a lot along the way. Mostly that nothing is permanent here on Earth, and for the most part, things will not go the way you plan for them to go. The realization for us in this band is that God is one of the very few, if not the only really, consistent things in this life. And living a life of service and filled with love, living like Jesus Christ, with an eternal perspective as much as we can, is the most productive way to live and find happiness. I really hope people can find themselves in these songs and come to realize that it's ok when things don't go your way. That John Lennon lyric is really true. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

CRR: What audiences are the new album geared towards?
Tim: Anyone who will listen to it. Ha! Seriously though, that is true. One of my favorite things about our band is that we have a big classic rock influence. So while kids of all ages love the music, their parents will often times come to shows with them and love our music just the same (and sometimes even more). So hopefully the album is geared towards people that just love good music.

CRR: What are your plans for touring this summer and fall?
Tim: We are doing a short little CD release tour with a band from Grand Rapids called "The Brave Youth". Then we're playing Purple Door Festival and heading to the Netherlands to play Flevo Festival. After that we're doing a few more festivals and some spot shows with our neighbor and friend John Reuben. Then, this fall we're going out with The Almost for a few weeks followed by a west coast run in Oct./Nov. with The Classic Crime and Abandon Kansas. It's going to be a fun few months!

CRR: Anything else you'd like to say to your fans?
Tim: Thank you guys so much for supporting our music? We'll keep making it in one way or another so long as you keep buying it and coming out to the shows. We've had a lot of set backs through the years, and hopefully it's made us more appreciative of the fans that we have now. We'll do our best to never take you guys for granted! Thanks for doing this interview! Much love and God bless you.

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