Seattle-bred rock band Acceptance started out in the late ’90s the way a lot of young bands do: playing local shows and touring hard for little money as kids living at their parents’ house, valuing music over money. Contemporaries of The Juliana Theory, Finch, Further Seems Forever, and Anberlin, Acceptance formed in the calm before the storm of Napster, Myspace and the torrent sites that would disrupt the music industry, for better or worse, and forever change the way that the medium operates.
It was during this innocent precipice that the band released its first EP, Lost For Words, on the humble Seattle indie Rocketstar Records. Its robust sales despite the band’s initial lack of a management team attracted attention from the industry’s biggest players before Columbia Records ultimately signed them, which led to the release of the Black Lines To Battlefields EP through The Militia Group, former home to the likes of Rufio, Copeland, The Rocket Summer and The Appleseed Cast.
The first and only studio album released by Acceptance in 2005 came mired with issues independent of the art. Phantoms, with its deft songwriting and critical appeal, leaked to the internet nine months, the recommended gestation period for a human child, before its release date. Damage control was pressuring the band to release “Different,” a ballad, as the first single off the album, which made for a very expensive music video released (for some perspective) on AOL that was, according to founding member Christian McAlhaney (guitar, backup vocals), “forgettable at best.”
The nail in the coffin, or coup de grâce, as McAlhaney’s put it, was that damage control also entailed Columbia putting spyware on its releases that year, which created a lawsuit that had label-wide repercussions, including the recall of the Acceptance record, which was then never re-released. In these uncharted circumstances, navigating and other related events put Acceptance into a malaise from which they did not recover. A year later, the band called it quits.
Today, Jason Vena (lead vocals), Kaylan Cloyd (guitar), Ryan Zwiefelhofer (bass), Garrett Lunceford (guitar, drums, keys), and Christian McAlhaney, who spent some time with Anberlin before their eventual disbandment in 2014, are making good on their promise to the fans, and to each other, to get back to doing what they do as a band. Several shows under their belt, a few shows scheduled with Taking Back Sunday, and a new, untitled album in the works keeps them busy as they discover again what it means to be Acceptance.
Times have changed, and music is available for consumption through apps, limited-edition vinyl represses, and back again, but when it comes to being a band, there’s only one way to do that: your way.
Christian McAlhaney took the time to let us in on what that is to them.
Where have I reached you today? Where does everyone call home nowadays?
Hello. You have reached me in St. Petersburg, FL. I moved to CA shortly after Acceptance broke up in the mid-2000s, and I moved from CA to the Sunshine State [Florida] a few years before Anberlin broke up. The rest of the dudes still reside in the Seattle area.
Whilst keeping us in suspense regarding the new album, Acceptance has been keeping busy wrapping up some huge shows in Texas and in your hometown of Seattle. Could you tell us a bit about those? How do the vibes differ? What have y’all gotten up to?
What originally started with us playing a few reunion shows last year has turned into a total reformation. We’ve done our best at trying to be a “band” while also being grown ass men with kids and careers. Our schedules really only allow us to do weekend warrior fly-out dates for the most part, so we’ve just been playing regionally. We really haven’t been a band for about a decade so it’s been interesting seeing the responses and turnouts in different parts of the country. Obviously, turnouts differ city to city, but overall we’ve been absolutely thrilled by the response. I think a lot of people discovered the band after we broke up, so some people have been waiting a long time to see us live.
2015-2016 saw quite a few reunion and anniversary tours from The Used, Underoath. That being said and come to pass, what was it like coming on for Yellowcard’s final shows? It’s kind of poignant, how you are saying “Hi” and Yellowcard was saying goodbye.
In the early 2000s, when we were first beginning to tour on a national level, Yellowcard were some of our biggest supporters and took us out on a couple U.S. tours. It felt very apropos that we play their final show in Seattle. We love those dudes and were completely honored to be there with them for that. They’ve had a great career and who knows what is down the road for them or if they’ll be doing the same thing we are in a couple years.
As a native to the state, it’s a point of pride that your “reunion show” announced in early 2015 took place at Asbury Park’s Skate And Surf Festival that same year. Any reason you those that festival? Did you make it a point to make your reunion show a festival show?
You know, from my perspective, it was the right show offer at the right time. I was on Anberlin’s farewell tour when our (Anberlin) manager and booking agent told me that they had received an offer for Acceptance to play Skate And Surf the following year. It was something that myself and a few of the other Acceptance guys had talked about for years, but for me, it wasn’t really a possibility until after Anberlin had ended. Having an actual show offer from a festival that we all respected really gave us something tangible to talk about. It was the catalyst, so props to John D’Esposito for that.
What have your other experiences been like playing in New Jersey, be it with Acceptance, Loose Talk, or Anberlin? [Side note: I see that Loose Talk is doing a gig with The Hip Abduction at Et Cultura Fest in St. Pete. Super Rad!]
I’ve been able to play NJ a lot between Acceptance and Anberlin. Loose Talk hasn’t left FL yet, but that should change soon. I can’t really say that I’ve had a bad time in New Jersey, which is more than I can say for a lot of cities.
Acceptance is joining Taking Back Sunday for their third annual Holiday Spectacular, and on the day of the Holiday Bazaar no less! It’s very quickly become a sort of holiday tradition for us over there. What went into setting this up?
They called, we answered.
But really, we’re extremely honored and excited that they asked us to play their Holiday Spectacular this year. I’m actually personally really close with the TBS band and crew. Anberlin toured with those fine gentlemen numerous times and Loose Talk just played a couple shows with them on their Tidal Wave tour. My experience is that it’s good to be around friends when you are traveling all the time. I can’t say that is the only reason, but I’d hope it’s one.
Acceptance also performs for the first time in Australia with Taking Back Sunday. Did you find that preparing for an overseas tour takes a different amount or degree of preparation than a domestic tour?
I wouldn’t say overseas touring takes any different amount of preparation than a domestic tour. I will say that getting all the way round and down to Australia is a hell of a lot of travel. The jet lag is pretty interesting as well considering that they’re 16 hours ahead of the East Coast, they’re living in the frickin’ future. I would also prepare yourself for the worst Mexican food on the planet.
The comeback single “Take You Away” released last year feels super atmospheric and sweeping. What went into writing this song?
This whole thing has kind of been a process of answering questions. The first one was, “Does anyone want to get back together and play some shows?” That went extremely well, some might say much better than expected, so we asked ourselves, “Do we want to play more shows?” The next logical step was, “Do we want to try and write a song?”
I was in Anberlin for four records. A lot of times, when you are writing records, you end up with a lot of left over material, as was usually the case for myself and Anberlin’s lead guitarist, Joey. I basically had a hard drive full of songs when Acceptance decided to reform and start making music again. “TYA” was a song that everybody was feeling so we recruited our friend/producer, Aaron Sprinkle, the godfather of Acceptance if you will, to help us hone in and record “TYA.”
While you were writing songs for the new album, where would you say “Take You Away” fell in the brainstorm? First? Last? Was it the first of many before you guys realized you had an album on your hands?
I think “TYA” was more of a challenge to see if we could still write music together and what that process would be like. We wanted to let people know we were back and doing more than just playing some shows for money. This really was a rekindling of passions that were utterly obliterated by the industry 10 years prior. After “TYA” went as well as it did was when we really decided that we wanted to try and record a full album.
You don’t need to know how the sausage is made, but making this album was definitely a struggle. Proximity made it difficult considering I live in FL, Sprinkle lives in Nashville, and the rest of the guys live in Seattle. The hardest part, to me, was really agreeing on what we wanted to sound like after 10 years. It’s been the toughest recording process that I’ve been a part of, but nothing good comes easy.
Your new album is 10 years in the making, and people (young people and “adults”) consume music and discover new music very different than they did since your last, and since your first. Did you approach this album’s release with that sort of consideration?
We’re approaching the whole concept of being in a band a little differently because of what you mentioned, the almost complete overhaul of the music industry, and because, due to our own life circumstances, we can’t really be a “touring band” in a traditional sense. We’re trying to focus on what we can do, and do those the best that we can.
We may not be able to go on tour all year, but we do have the ability to continually write music. We may be able to dedicate more time to engaging with fans via socials in new and interesting ways. We’re trying to build the bridges before they need crossing. Time will tell if they were engineered correctly.
As it may or may not refer to your music or music you are familiar with, what is your opinion of the so-called “emo-revival” movement effecting music? What do you think it means?
From what I’ve seen it means young fans going to see bands that sound exactly like the bands I used to see when I was young, but isn’t that the way it’s always worked?
You are really good at social media. What’s the key to an effective post?
Get as drunk as possible and say whatever is on your mind.
Acceptance performs Dec. 17 at Taking Back Sunday’s Third Annual Holiday Spectacular at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. For more information, visit acceptanceband.com.