Acceptance returns with first album in over a decade

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 at 7:10 PM
Acceptance returns with first album in over a decade by Kimberly Firestine
Photo: Jake Gravbrot

Over the past decade, the alternative music scene has grown and changed quite a bit. Bands that were once considered life-long staples have called it quits and the growing wave of new pop- punk bands seems to be never-ending.

In August 2006, Acceptance guitarist Christian McAlhaney announced the band’s break-up in a statement, beginning, “Acceptance that you all have known and loved is no more,” with no sense of reunion in the future.

“I think morale had hit rock bottom at that point and the end almost came as relief to the majority of the band,” said McAlhaney in an interview with The Spectator.

“Myself — and a few of the other members — moved to California shortly after the breakup to continue playing music. I definitely thought of Acceptance in the past tense, probably right up until we started discussing a reunion in 2015.”

While on a farewell tour for another project — the now-defunct Anberlin — McAlhaney received an offer to play the New Jersey festival Skate and Surf in 2015, calling for a reunion of Acceptance.

“Over the years, I had talked to some of the Acceptance dudes about possibly reuniting for a show, but it wasn’t a real possibility for me until after Anberlin ended. I started an email discussion trying to feel out if that was something anyone would even be interested in doing,” said McAlhaney.

“I would say there was some hesitation as there was a lot of reconciliation that needed to happen. You have to understand that some of us hadn’t even talked in over a decade. I’d say it was probably a month long process of emails and phone calls before we decided to confirm Skate and Surf festival. Things really escalated after that.”

With the rising trend of 10-year anniversary tours and album re-releases, Acceptance is set to release their first new album since “Phantoms” with “Colliding By Design” on Rise Records on Feb. 24.

“It’s interesting for me because some people would say that I’ve been a part of two of those staple bands that have called it quits, so I have first hand experience with the changing of the times and its impact on artists,” said McAlhaney.

“I think what was unique when Acceptance decided to get back together was that there really was no objective other than satisfying what we felt was an unexplainable increase in interest and demand for the band in the subsequent years after our breakup.”

He continued, “This has never been about money. In fact, we took all the profits from the concerts we were playing and initially self-funded recording ‘Colliding By Design.’ Our ultimate goal, from the onset, was to give back to those people who supported us while we were a band and those who kept supporting us in the years after our breakup. This has also enabled us to rediscover a passion for writing and playing that I feel was tainted in the years prior to our breakup. Success to us is measured in our fans’ happiness, whether it is in the concerts we play or the music we create.”

“Colliding By Design” is far from a “Phantoms” sequel, and shows how each member has grown musically over the past decade. The album serves as a fresh start for everyone, fans included.

“I think we all would hope that the listeners of this album would hear genuineness in what we have created. The impact that ‘Phantoms’ seems to have had was not lost on us, but we didn’t set out to recreate that, resting on laurels and put out ‘Phantoms 2.0.’ Our goal was to create something new that resonated with people the same way that ‘Phantoms’ had,” explained McAlhaney.

“I know, for me personally, that this has been the hardest recording process that I have ever been a part of. Proximity played a role — I live in Florida, the rest of the band lives in Seattle, and our Producer, Aaron Sprinkle, lives in Nashville.”

McAlhaney noted that while trying to figure out what they wanted the new album to sound like was difficult and time consuming, working around everyone’s already busy schedules was another obstacle the band had to work around.

“We’re all older now, most married, some with kids, and all with careers,” he said. “This whole reunification has been a process of navigating all these different factors to hopefully create something greater than ourselves that will still be relevant to people years from now.”

After Skate and Surf, Acceptance played a couple of shows in Texas, hopped on as an opener at one of Taking Back Sunday’s holiday shows in New Jersey this past December and will be going on a short venture of album release shows in the U.S. As for a full U.S. tour, McAlheney said, “we’re trying our hardest to balance the lives that were built in the years we were separated while also now trying to be a band again. I will say that we’ll always do the best we can, as much and as often as we can.”

“Colliding By Design” is almost a completely different sound and type of record from “Phantoms.” With no specific influences, according to McAlhaney, technological advances helped with album production in ways that would have been impossible when “Phantoms” was made.

“We didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. Our goal has always been to write smart pop music, and by pop I mean more [in] structure than I do style. That being said, we definitely tried some different things arrangement wise that we hadn’t on ‘Phantoms,’” said McAlhaney.

“I used to record on an 8-track. I now basically have a recording studio in my house. Anyone with a computer either has or can download a digital audio workstation and then the possibilities are endless. Every member of this band was now able to write using instrumentation that just wasn’t available to us when we were writing ‘Phantoms.’ This allowed us to be very intentional with every aspect, every track of every song. Another major difference is that most of the entire album was written via email/Dropbox.”

McAlhaney further explained the two-year process the band went through while writing “Colliding By Design.”

“Someone would write a demo and send it around. People would then give their input or record their separate parts to the demo. We would then either get together in Seattle or Nashville to further complete the song, or the demo would be sent directly to our producer, Aaron Sprinkle, and he would complete it to his best ability or assign people to record the parts that still needed recording,” said McAlhaney.

“Our inability to just enter a studio for weeks at a time — due simply to life circumstances — forced us to operate this way, which inevitably led to an almost 2-year writing/recording process. In the end, I’m totally proud of what we accomplished and blown away with what we created.”

McAlhaney jokes the best part of creating “Colliding By Design” was finishing the album. “But honestly, for me, it’s been a blessing to have these dudes back in my life and to be able to create music again with some of the most talented people that I know,” he said. His favorite track, “73,” was one McAlhaney held onto following the “post- ‘Phantoms’ writing process in which Acceptance broke up.”

“I had been writing and re-writing that song for years and decided to show it to the dudes during one of our studio sessions in Seattle. We all got in the live room together and just started jamming. It really just came together. Fast- forward six months and that song isn’t even in the running for final album tracks,” said McAlhaney. “Garrett and I had talked on a few occasions about how much we loved the vibe of that song. I decided to tweak a few things in the arrangement and hounded Jason to try a rewrite. We all bounced different ideas off of each other, Sprinkle worked his magic and it slowly took its final form. It’s a cool example to me of how sometimes it can take years to turn a tiny concept into a complete and coherent idea.”

Kimberly Firestine is the arts editor for The Spectator. Spectator Music can be reached at musics.spectator@gmail.com. 

Additional Photos:

Photo: Jake Gravbrot
 

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