Punk rockers Against Me! catch a new wave
More than a few eyebrows were raised in the music industry when confrontational rebel rockers Against Me! launched their most recent record, New Wave. Snatching the torch of rebellion back from the failing hands of the emo generation, the ever-ambitious eternal cowboys launched a full-fledged punk-roots-revival that embraced the genre’s most literate and intense qualities. Spin magazine called it the best album of 2007, and indie-popper Ben Lee was inspired to do a tribute cover of the entire recording
Since forming in Naples, Florida in 1997, the band has kept its focus on growing as musicians while maintaining an awareness of global issues. According to the group’s bassist, Andrew Seward, Against Me! is constantly reassessing their situation and the way they go about the business of being a band.
“When it comes right down to it, we’re more about surviving than being anti-everything,” Seward says as he relaxes in his backyard in Gainesville, Florida. “People make a lot of assumptions about us. They expect us to be difficult and inflexible, but nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve always been a band that believes in evolving. It’s not that we don’t know what to do; it’s more of a reluctance to be pigeonholed. We’re just trying to figure out what’s best.”
Appealing to the ears of a musically oversaturated public is one thing, but maintaining their status as artists is another. Striving to strike a balance between conscience and commercialism has become an all-consuming obsession for the fiery quartet, which has gone through seven record labels in the course of a decade. Their 2004 documentary DVD, We’re Never Going Home, followed the band as they toured the U.S. while courting million-dollar contract offers from the likes of Universal Records. They never signed.
When they did finally settle on Sire Records in 2005, Seward, along with lead vocalist and guitarist Tom Gabel, guitarist-singer James Bowman and drummer Warren Oakes, stated that their decision was largely influenced by the opportunity it provided them to collaborate with producer Butch Vig, who had worked on Nirvana’s Nevermind.
The band also has a reputation for refusing to take any shit, choosing to roll with the punches when circumstances change unexpectedly. When their third album, Searching for a Former Clarity, leaked to the Internet in advance of its release, the band didn’t whine. They plowed ahead and borrowed the song titles that their fans had bestowed upon the stolen tunes. The incident did help the band realize that people’s attitudes towards music are changing, though.
“Music has become disposable.” Seward reports. “No one buys CDs anymore. They’re irrelevant. Personally, I consider myself a collector — I would rather buy an actual vinyl record than download one of my favourite artist’s works. For instance, our friends in the band Torche just released an album called Meanderthal, and it has the coolest artwork. I really appreciate that; I view art and comics as part of the complete package.
“Of course, technology can’t duplicate the experience of seeing a band live,” he continues. “It is by far the most fun you’ll ever have. Our live show is our strongest asset. Once that goes, we’re fucked.”
by Christine Leonard
Originally Published September 11, 2008 in FastForward Magazine.