Rebel Noise: The name Anti-Flag conjures up different images to different people, on the one hand it could simply mean being against the U.S. Flag and the government it symbolizes. It could also be a statement about the symbolic flag of capitalism. Can you tell us the history behind the band’s name?
#2: I think whenever it started the message and idea of the name Anti-Flag was far less euphoric than what it is right now. At first, being young kids we weren’t able to see outside our direct scene in Pittsburgh. At the time of Anti-Flag’s inception it was very kosher and not uncommon to see bands hanging American flags behind them as they played, stopping and saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” during shows, and really basing the whole scene on Nationalism. Which is something the bands that inspired us to be punk rockers…it was something that those bands didn’t agree with. So, it sort of sent up little tips in us to say…this flag stands for the status quo and what we believe punk rock is, is the opposite of that. That’s where Anti-Flag came from.
Now, getting away from Pittsburgh and where we started, it’s so much bigger than that. It’s anti every flag in the world and recognizing you and I as human beings and citizens of the world. Not citizens of a flag. We find it outrageous that you can walk into a Wal-Mart and buy a “USA #1” T-shirt because that just throws the rest of the world below you. That does not make any sense to us. To sum up the meaning of Anti-Flag in one word…it’s equality.
Rebel Noise: How has being from Pittsburgh – a predominantly blue collar city – influenced Anti-Flag?
#2: How much we work and how much we tour a year is all based on what was engrained into us as kids. Seeing our uncles and fathers getting up at the crack of dawn to go to work…my mom being a single parent worked three jobs a day and that’s 100% of the work ethic instilled in us coming from Pittsburgh. It’s one of the reasons why we don’t expect anything to be handed to us. A lot of bands that start out in cities where big breaks happen sort of have a different idea about being in a band than we do.
Rebel Noise: Musically, “For Blood and Empire” seems to be AF’s strongest work to date. Was the writing process the same as in past albums?
#2: We wrote and wrote and didn’t hold anything back when writing. Which I think was the difference between the other records where we self-censored and didn’t allow certain songs to take full shape because we were afraid of the end result of it…
Rebel Noise: Are you saying in the past you’ve self-censored yourselves ideologically as well as musically?
#2: Ideologically, we throw everything on the table that comes from us and don’t give a fuck about who’s gonna see it or read it. We think that when people are confronted with ideas - whether in a positive or negative light – they are able to make a decision based on the information. That’s our biggest problem and that’s sort of a theme of this record, the fact that it’s so difficult for someone living in any of these buildings around here [L.A.] to actually know what’s happening in the world.
We worked for months on the record. From writing to its release was over two years.
Rebel Noise: You’ve been quoted saying the song “The Project for a New American Century” is a “timeless song.” Do you feel the music is timeless or more so the message, or both?
#2: It was something that we really tried for when narrowing down the songs that would be on the record: to write a song that would last longer than the band. I think there a couple of songs on the record that achieve that goal – that song being one of them, both musically and ideologically. I think the song “This is the End” will last longer than Anti-Flag does. It’s an important song for us to write. Not to be so blinded by current events, but to write a song that someone could apply and use hopefully years from now.
Rebel Noise: You guys have done a great job with the new album’s insert, providing not just the lyrics but a series of comments about each song and info about different organizations. How active are you guys outside of AF in supporting these groups?
#2: They’re all here on the road with us…as many as we could bring. In our day to day lives we try to attend as many protests and activism events as possible. I think for us activism is a full time gig. But, I feel because we’re in a band that tours and this is our way of living, we’re not as full-time activists as some other folks. That doesn’t offend us. We realize it’s not a competition or a race or something. However you can get involved in trying to make this world a better one – by voting, or where you spend your dollar or what you wake up and do. There are so many different levels of it [activism] to put a cap on what someone should or shouldn’t do.
Rebel Noise: To quote a song, “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do. So I leave it up to you…” It’s obvious A-F does not take this apathetic stance. But do you feel the AF message is more about making people aware of issues, or is the AF message expressing a sense of urgency that things need to change, change now, and this is what we need to do?
#2: It depends on the song or idea. But the overall idea of Anti-Flag is to put something in someone’s hand and hope that it grows or snowballs from there. When you look up the word “revolutionary” in the dictionary none of us want to see our faces there, we just want to see someone’s face there.
Rebel Noise: Currently, it seems the biggest news surrounding A-F is your signing with RCA, and it seems folks in the punk community are divided into two camps: The “oh now they’ve sold out – screw ‘em” camp and the “more power to ‘em” camp. There seems to be no middle ground to this view especially since you guys are viewed as champions of the DIY ethic.
It seemed like the band was doing fine with Fat Wreck Chords and your own label, as far as exposure, was the move to RCA motivated by wanting even more exposure, more money? Could you shed some light on why you guys made the move?
#2: I’ll say two things. First thing, to anyone who is a critic of the decision we feel the record stands on its own and it will show them that Anti-Flag is still the same band. And RCA has nothing to do with the decisions we make – sonically and ideologically. Second part of that is, yes I was able to eat based on the Fat Wreck Chords deal, yes I had an apartment, yes I was able to go to and from show to show based on our touring schedule. However, Fat Wreck Chords does not have the resources and distribution of RCA Records. I have no qualms with taking their [RCA] money and spending it on our ideals. That is the biggest thing about this move. In Los Angeles where records are very accessible and the town is very aware of who Anti Flag is, I think that it’s not as big of a deal. There are other places in the world where we have a really hard time getting our songs to people. And I say “the world” because this is a world wide deal with RCA. On Fat Wreck Chords, our record was an import everywhere else and it’s substantially more money. Now our records are made in the countries where they are sold which is a big deal to us.
We’re still as DIY as we ever were and the only difference is instead of using Fat Mike’s money to pay for how we’re DIY, we’re using BMG’s. It’s not an issue of us getting a fast car or whatever we’re gonna get with our money. We were O.K., but the real issue comes in spreading Anti-Flag. Do I think it’s gonna work? I have no fucking idea. If we sell one more record than we sold when we were on Fat, it was worth it. If we sell one less, it’s still perfectly fine.
There’s no right or wrong way in our eyes to do any of this. Our involvement in the capitalist system, whether or not we’re on Fat or RCA doesn’t really change. We still make CDs, we still sell CDs, they’re still in chain stores. However, hopefully some of the benefits will change because with RCA now their taking out ads, more ads than Fat ever took out.
We’re putting Military Free Zone, the non-profit that we started, on every advertisement. We’re taking up that space and places that we’ve never been exposed to before to push our agenda. We are out on this tour right now with a Depleted Uranium Munitions study Act petition. There’s so many different things or causes that we’re championing and it’s difficult to find people to sponsor those things. If RCA thinks they’re going to make a buck on signing the band, so be it. But we’re not gonna make it easier for them. We’re not gonna change what we do. We’re not going to head towards any different directions than we’ve ever headed and we’re gonna stay steadfast on our agenda. If it comes to us, so be it. If not, we could be talking in 8 months about the record we’re making for Fat (laughs).
Rebel Noise: What’s the deal with you guys all being 19 on A-F’s Web site, that can’t be true?
#2: It’s just good to see yourself as young and see yourself as active. Ageism is such a plague of the punk scene. When people say, “Oh, they sold out, there’s gonna be 13 year olds at their shows now!” All I can say is, great! Let’s introduce them at 7 to the ideas of equality. How about, let’s talk about not eating McDonald’s. I think that Ageism is a plague. Old people say young people don’t know what’s happening. Middle aged people will say, “This is my scene, you’re too young to be here.” Bullshit. It’s for everyone. The music and ideas are for everyone. That’s the goal behind always being 19.
Anti-Flag will be headlining The Vans Warped Tour all summer. Click here for more info.