Interview: Against Me!
Tue, 08 Jun 2010 09:08:41
Against Me! Videos
Against Me! Are a modern punk rock institution at this point in their career. They just released White Crosses, their second album for Warner Bros., and the keyboard ninjas who criticize the band's business decision to partner with a major label will be silenced yet again with this album, which holds true to the band's sound and ethos. Sure, they have a song called "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" on White Crosses, which is perceived as a reference to their early-era song "Baby I'm An Anarchist." Against Me! may have grown up, but they've not grown out of their mindset. Vocalist/guitarist Tom Gabel set the record straight with ARTISTdirect.com's Amy Sciarretto.
Is the fact that Against Me! are on a major label a tired topic at this point? Do the "kids" still talk shit on the Internet about it?
It's totally boring. It's beat to death. It is what it is. Inevitably, it's not that different from other bands. There will always be fans that like the older music and not like the new stuff. It is what it is. People like to cling to familiarity and that is something that happens with younger fans. For me, too, there are certain records or songs that are definitive to times in my life and songs immediately bring me back to that time and I have an emotional attachment to it. So I get that.
Are fans up in arms over "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," since it is self-referential, sort of, since it semi-references one of your classic songs and can be taken to mean that you no longer have those ideals?
That song in particular is misinterpreted. It is not meant to be a denouncement of anarchism. I had radical politics when I was 14-15 years old. I had a different experience with those scenes, and it's an account, a cautionary tale, about maintaining idealistic fire. That is a revolutionary moment and not working towards some weird idealistic utopia or something like that. It's like that cliché parents your parents tell you. You think you know everything and then as you get older, you realize, "I don't know shit" and are more realistic. The bottom line is that I have the majority of the same politics, but my approach to practicing them has changed.
How has that approach changed?
I guess in speaking in generalities, in my music. When I was younger, I defined by myself by what I stood against. I am against this, against that. I was not about the things I was for. I am much more interested in that now and not focusing on the things I don't like, but things that are positive and to effect change in that way. It's looking at life and being like, "Okay, I can make a positive contribution to the world." So many people make negative contributions and they criticize. For me, what I do, a musician, I play in a band, which is the least destructive thing you can do. I am not an arms dealer. I am not a drug dealer. I play music and people come away from it with connection or memory and that is a positive influence.
Do you think Against Me! fans are more active or informed about politics? Or does the band turn them on to political action and movements?
In a roundabout way, even something like us getting more popular as a band, and someone picks up White Crosses and has never heard of band before, and goes out to get older releases, or to listen to our records on Fat Wreck Chords or No Idea or Planet X and that turns them on to those labels and those scenes in general, good. They are fairly active scenes, so if something as simple as discovering us, they discover Harvest of Hope, migrant farm workers association, they are turned on in that way.
Can you talk about Harvest of Hope and the band's work with it?
We have done tons of benefit shows for them. It's a direct organization, that raises money and distributes the funds to migrant workers in need, whether it is help making their rent, putting tires on their cars or giving them the cash. It is not a convoluted distribution system. They even send us a report letter – "Here is where your money went." They are not an informercial or a fat white Christian missionary going to Africa.