Against Me!

author TL date 10/10/07

The dudes in Against Me! have been making a bit of a spectacle of late, by changing to a major label and thus creating a discussion in their fanbase over if they could still be associated with their punk rock roots. So when the guys presented themselves on the long list of interesting names that seems to haunt Vega's schedule these days, we at Rockfreaks could of course not resist to grab a hold of them and ask them about their thoughts on that topic as well as others. Getting to the venue right before the show started I sat down with Tom, Andrew and Warren and here's what we talked about:

RF.net: Hi guys, let's ease into this interview by you telling me how things are going in Against Me! right now?
Tom: So far so good, we played our last show in Hamburg and yeah, so far it's all going okay.

RF.net: Okay, next questions is; How did your bandname come to be? Who's "against you" and what's with the exclamation mark?
Tom: Well I made then band when I was 17 years old, and the entire world was against me.. The guys laugh

RF.net: Oh my, that isn't emo AT ALL!

Tom: Haha, no, and the reason for the exclamation mark iiiiis that, we REALLY mean it!

RF.net: Your new album "New Wave" is quite different from "Searching For A Former Clarity" which in turn is different from your two first records. How do you feel the change yourselves as an artist?
Tom: I feel like we've gotten better. You know as players and at songwriting and that's what you'd hope when you play 200+ shows a year..

Andrew: Yeah, that forces you to learn how to play your instrument..

Tom: Haha, yeah, you definetely get better at playing your instrument by the day..

RF.net: If you had to mention a few things, what would you say have had an influence on shaping your music throughout the years? Bands? People? Experiences?
Tom: Oh I don't really know, I'm never any good with the band question.. Obviously there's been a lot of experiences over the 10 years I've been doing this and everything has had an influence on it one way or another, directly or subconsciously. It's just that.. I enjoy doing this and that's why I do it.

Andrew: Yeah it's just like the last question, everything just kind of evolves, it's not like we really notice the differences that much..

Tom: I think that, musically, what influences us the most is probably the record we made before the one that we try to make, like, most of our records are kind of reactions to the record that came before them.

RF.net: Okay so, many recent reviews across the internet have claimed that you guys can't really be called any kind of punk anymore since you've been signed to a major label. Do you think the whole aspect of punk-ideology diminishes when you're dealing with one of the arch-nemesis's of the genre?
Tom: No, it's fine, I don't care..

RF.net: So you don't think punk has any special value to you?

Tom: No, I have no interest in even talking about stuff like that.

RF.net: So you're not really a genre person?

Tom: No, I just don't care

Andrew: It's an age old argument and it doesn't even need to be argued anymore.

RF.net: You guys played at the Roskilde Festival this year. How did you perceive your own show and the overall festival experience?
Tom: I thought Roskilde was awesome! It's one of the best festivals we've played for the last couple of years - or ever even. Usually festivals aren't that great because you're playing outside and not on your own equipment, you don't get a soundcheck and it's in bright daylight and you're just not in your natural element but that was a really great fest..

Andrew: It's still the only festival that's run by volunteers in Denmark right?

RF.net: Yeah mostly..

Andrew: Yeah that's really cool.. And apparently we also played the only day it didn't rain so we were lucky on that one too.

RF.net: These days it's becoming different to listen to the radio without hearing an Against Me! song popping out regularly, and it didn't really use to be like that in the past. What does that mean to you guys as a band?
Tom: Erhh.. I think that's pretty cool ..guys laugh again..

Warren: Yeah radio is one of the last free formats that exists you know.. It's one of the only ways that people can get to hear stuff they weren't necessarily trying to hear and that's cool. I think it's cool that someone could accidently hear us for free.

Tom: Yeah since our new album came out specifically, many people have written in to our myspace account and our email saying stuff like; "I heard your song on the radio and it made me buy your record, and you guys are really awesome!". And to have people write in that would've never heard you otherwise really can't be a bad thing. If you don't want to listen to the radio just turn it off.

RF.net: Does it present any new opportunities to you as a band?

Tom: I think it really just comes down to new fans. It doesn't necessarily mean new opportunities although we played a couple radio shows in the states..

Andrew: We did get to share a stage with Cypress Hill, which was kind of funny..

RF.net: You've previously been signed to indie labels, most notably Fat Wreck Chords, and now you're signed to Sire Records, which is a Warner Brothers subsidiary label. What are the key differences between being on a major label and being on an indie label?
Tom: More distribution. More people working behind your record. It's nice when you're a band that tours the world from Australia to Iceland to Japan and here in Denmark to have some people at the label work to put out your record. With "Fat" in particular I know that it was really hard for people here in Europe to get our records in stores and there was just really poor distribution and I think that's the major difference. The rest doesn't really matter. A label is a label and they all have the same function. They have bands, they record records and they sell them to people. It's the same process, it's just a different amount of people.

RF.net: That's very interesting to hear, because the next question actually regards all the horror stories that surround major labels, with them pressuring their bands to change style or something like that. Based on your experiences so far, do you think there's any truth to those stories?

Tom: No I think that you can have an equally bad experience on an indie label as you can on a major one. It's all about the decisions you make, the contracts you sign and the people you have working for you. We have friends, not to state names, who are signed into horrible contracts with indie labels and are in nightmare situations that they can't get out of. We just try to be smart about the contracts we sign and the agreements we make and so far that's just working out for us.

RF.net: I wanna ask you guys what you feel are the most encouraging and discouraging things about being in a band?
Andrew: Getting to travel and do this really.. I think we've all wanted to since we were kids and to be able to is just amazing..

Warren: ... Discouraging?

Andrew: Yeah you guys go for discouraging, I'll just sit around being the positive one

Tom: I think that the negative aspects of being in a band are too miniscule to talk about. There's no point in moaning over whatever little things pop up because they're really just trivial you know.

RF.net: For a more casual question; What are you guys listening to these days?
Tom: Two days ago I bought the new Babyshambles record "Delivery"..

Andrew: Yeah I'm going to go with my standard answer and say Les Savy Fav's "Let's Make Friends".. It's been my standby record for about a month now..

Tom: What else have we gotten recently? Erhmm.. I got that The National record, "Boxer" and it's really good.

Warren: I just got the new Sage Francis album, and we're actually going on tour with him soon..

RF.net: Next question is the notorious download question; As in we like to ask the bands about downloading because the bands should be the ones to be heard in our opinion, so how do you guys feel about kids doing that?
Tom: I don't know really. I recognize it's a very complex issue.. I don't like mp3's. I think they cheapen music. Not only the sound quality but they cheapen the way people view music. They get to view it more as a disposable commodity. I don't like them even if people are buying them legally either, so it has nothing to do with that. I think it's unfortunate if people don't want to support musicians.. Music isn't a necessity. It's not food and it's not shelter.. It's nothing like that. I think that one of the unfortunate things too about illegal downloading is that people are more than willing to shell out to buy the ipod or the computer but then you don't want to spend the few bucks on the musicians and that's an unfortunate thing because then you're just supporting the huge companies..

Warren: Yeah, the APPLE KINGDOM!!!

Tom: But you know, it'll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years because what's the alternative? If cd sales continue the way they're going they're going to sell less and less and then eventually record labels are going to say "fuck it - we're not going to make cd's anymore" and then what happens? Because how are people going to download stuff if there's no way to get it on their computer?

RF.net: How does the future look for you guys, short term AND long term?
Andrew: Tour. That's short term AND long term.

Warren: Yeah after this tour we go straight to the States to play a couple of shows and a festival and then we start another tour so that's what we're gonna be doing for a long time right now.

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