Interview: Andrew – Against Me!

Against Me! are a band who have survived a pretty tough year or two. The band cut ties with their major record label, found themselves cancelling tours across the globe and ended up unsure of where to go. Fast forward to the present and they have their own record label (Total Treble Music), their own studio and are back on the road. Prior to their Glasgow show in support of the wonderful Frank Turner, bassist Andrew took a little time to chat about the triumphs of Against Me!

“It’s good,” he begins, talking about their hectic touring schedule. “We were in mainland Europe for about two and a half weeks with this band from Plymouth called Crazy Arm. We were touring around, and we’ve been over on the island for about a week and a half. We did a couple of headline shows and then we met up with Frank Turner and this is the fourth show.”

“They’re a super nice crew, he’s a super nice guy, nice band, everything,” he adds, referring to this specific tour with Frank Turner. “We met Frank like five years ago randomly in a bar in Texas and we just had a quick hello, that’s it. Him and his band were on tour in the States a couple of months ago and they played Gainesville, Florida, where I live and we hung out then. He came over, met my dog and then we went back to the show. It’s great, it’s super fun and easy. It’s really nice and relaxed.”

Frank has made no secret of the fact he is a big fan of the band; do they enjoy touring with someone that they know appreciates their music? “Oh, absolutely. One of the reasons we’re doing it is because of the fans. He’s such a nice guy. He openly expressed that. He was like ‘I really want you guys to do this’, so he kind of courted us in a way! We were very accepting of it, so. It all worked out.”

“Probably somewhere to be punched in the face by something like a bulldozer…” he laughs, touching on the ‘Against Me! live experience’.  “We’re not very good with the banter on stage; we don’t really talk on stage. The most Tom’s ever said on stage, besides stopping a fight with security or something like that, has been under 30 seconds. It’s not that we’re not grateful and everything to be playing wherever we’re playing, it’s just… I don’t know, maybe it’s a little bit of Ramones inspiration – “Fuck it, just go!” No time in between songs, just one, two, three, four. It’s kind of like a sport, we just try to knock it out.”

In contrast to this relatively normal venue size, the band found themselves on a segment of Blink 182’s Honda Civic Run, playing huge arenas across Canada. “It was a weird technicality because it was in Canada. So it wasn’t the Honda Civic Tour. It was that tour but not exactly…” he elaborates. “It was like five or six shows in Western Canada in arenas and it was Blink 182, Rancid and us. It was amazing. This isn’t any kind of knock on Blink 182, but we’re all such huge Rancid fans that touring with them was the highlight. They’re like our childhood heroes; it was fun. Do you know what wiffleball is?” We’ve heard of it but aren’t sure… “It’s a plastic ball with holes in it and a little plastic bat. It’s basically like a little kid’s baseball. So we would have wiffleball games: Against Me! vs. Rancid every day in these hockey arenas. Tim Armstrong would make up the rules as he went.”

Moving on from touring, the band have made it clear that they aim to have at least one release per year for the next decade or so. One of this year’s releases – ‘Total Clarity’ – was a collection of demos and unreleased songs. “It’s been a very crazy year and a half, two years with switching record labels and all kinds of stuff. We re-released ‘White Crosses’ with ‘Black Crosses’, so the original ‘White Crosses’ LP that was on Warner Brothers was ten songs and now White/Black Crosses is a total of 28 songs. We also put out a seven inch in May. So, that counts as the records for this year. Now we’ve just got to get cracking on with next year’s.”

“Yeah, hopefully [we’ll produce more new material]. Our singer Tom was very wise and built a studio right outside of the town where he lives in Florida. He found an old post office and rented it out. It’s not like a massive post office… I don’t know how you measure here but it’s like 800 square feet or something like that. He built a kick ass studio and has already recorded one band there, so now Against Me! has our own record label, our own studio… If we don’t put out stuff every year, it’s our own fault.”

As previously mentioned, the band parted ways with Sire Records about a year ago. How has the transition from a major label to their present state been? “Well it’s been very enlightening, but it hasn’t been… I’m trying to do this without shit talking…” he laughs. “Basically, when we signed to Sire Records, which is owned by Warner Brothers, it was Winter 2006. We went and recorded ‘New Wave’ and put it out; they did a great job on it, everything. Then we recorded ‘White Crosses’ and before it was going to be released, pretty much everyone who worked with us either quit or was fired. Basically, everyone was out and we were like ‘Okay…’ The record leaked 100 days before it came out and it was just a whole mess of things – it was just not that good a time. When the new regime came in at Warner Brothers, it basically came down to ‘do you guys even want to be here anymore?’ We didn’t want to and they let us go. They gave us the record back too, which was nice of them. Now it’s ours, so.”

Speaking of changes in music, the topic of CDs going out of production rears its head. With it being speculated that some labels could be pursuing the move to a wholly digital format as soon as next year, it leaves a lot of questions regarding physical ownership of music. “I don’t understand how any big, big record companies can employ that many people and still do this,” he notes. “The crazy thing about major labels is that you’ll pay the president of the company, he’ll make millions of dollars but for what? They just go ‘Okay, that’s good.’ I think I’ve ended up bordering a little shit talking… I still go for proper music. If it comes out, then I try to buy music on vinyl with the MP3 code. That’s my best of both worlds scenario.”

“Also, with the digital option you lose the artwork, which a lot of people are not giving a shit about anymore. The ‘White Crosses Black Crosses’ release on vinyl, it’s 3 LPs with a 32 page book, so it’s huge. And, the CD is the same thing. It’s ten pounds, two CDs and a huge book in the middle. It’s a huge product that you can actually use. I agree we’d be losing an art but we are moving in a very new direction. The world’s changing very fast. I don’t really like it all.”

“I think in the end, [2011 is] amazing. I’m proud of all of us for keeping our heads above water and not letting the pressures of many outside forces, some of which I can’t even legally talk about, not take us under. We’ve weathered the storm, so hopefully 2012 is just a bang up year.”

Turning to 2012, he continues, “Just hopefully recording and putting stuff out. We don’t have anything on the books for touring right now, but we tour so fucking much. We cancelled Europe last year because of a bunch of stuff that was going on; we cancelled Australia, Japan and Europe. It was a dark time but if we would have gone through with those shows, I don’t think I’d be sitting here right now talking to you – it would have been the final nail in the coffin. Sometimes life gets in the way of touring. You’ve just got to hit the reset button and come back.”

“Well, it’s like anything in life: you have to just think about it, like you can always think the grass is greener. Like, if I wasn’t in a band I could be at home. Okay, yeah, if I wasn’t in a band I’d be at home working in a restaurant, cooking in a kitchen and smelling like French fries. That isn’t bad, I’m not saying it’s bad at all, but I’m in a band, I love the people in the band, I love the music we play. I am a fan of our own music and I get to travel the world and play it. I also get free beer and stuff..!”

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. News Round-Up: 7th December. «
  2. Photos: Against Me! – 25th November 2011. «

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.