Hot Show Alert: Anti-Flag at HOB Sunday! (Interview in post!)
This next conversation couldn’t come at a better time. Easily one of the most iconic punk bands, Anti-Flag is celebrating their 20th anniversary of their debut record “DieFor Your Government” and to celebrate, they’re currently on tour with fellow long time favorites Reel Big Fish. Who also just happening to be celebrating a 20th anniversary. While this tour hits Boston Sunday night, I caught up with Justin Sane from the band to talk everything about this tour, their writing process over the years and of course new material.
The band is well known for writing their material based on what is going on in the government at that time. In our interview, Justin talked about how they had written a wealth of material about issues that go with Hilary Clinton but of course because of the odd turn of events, new material may be a minute as they adjust to a Trump presidency instead. While they may not be for everyone, they have maintained a huge following over the years and I for one am looking forward to seeing it all live! See you Sunday!
You’re on a huge tour with Reel Big Fish right now. Both celebrating a 20th anniversary. Maybe how has the tour been going so far for you guys?
It’s been a blast. It’s been such a cool tour. There is so much excitement every night. It’s interesting because we’re such different bands but there’s actually a really surprising crossover in the audience. Every night, it’s just been super positive and really fun.
And I wanted to ask, you say how there’s been kind of this surprising crossover who are fans of you both. For this set and maybe people who don’t know too much about Anti-Flag even though you guys have been together for so long, is it purely the record like highlights of the record, “Die for Your Government”? How are you going about these sets?
Yeah the record is just too long for us to do the whole thing. So we’re doing highlights off of it. It’s pretty cool because every night after we play, I go out into the audience and talk to people. We’ve really definitely gotten a really good feel for what are people’s favorite songs off the record. We’ve mostly been focusing on those because we have been a band for a really long time. We have other records with songs that are far more popular then the deep cuts on “Die for your Government” so we’re picking and choosing.
Perfect and maybe if people haven’t seen you before, what can they expect? If they haven’t seen an Anti-Flag live show?
Well, we are quite a serious band but we actually started our band because we wanted to have fun. I started going to punk shows when I was a kid because they were fun. So I think the most important thing about our live show is that it should be a good time. I think it’s important for it to be inclusive and that was what drew me into punk rock. It was because there was a scene where people at the show were cool, they accepted you. They included you. So that’s something that we always tried to do. Have these shows where everyone should have the equal opportunity to have a good time. So those are things that are really important to us. Also just to kind of create a space for people to realize that there is a lot of ugliness in the world right now but you’re not alone. There’s other people around you who have the same type of concerns as you and care about the same kind of things as you. Those are the kind of core messages that we try to bring to our set.
Then, a lot of your music is obviously politically driven in a good way. Maybe looking back at this debut record twenty years ago, something that you maybe would have avoided from your career or maybe something you would tell yourself at the beginning of this journey?
I always believed that this band, Anti-Flag, was the right band for me. It’s the reason I wanted to start this band. I wanted to start it because I believed in the idea of it so much and I really believed that we would be doing it till I dropped dead. So being here twenty years later, it is hard to believe that it’s twenty years later but I’m not surprised that I’m still doing it.
Perfect and while the last record of new material came out in 2015, it was your ninth studio album. What do you feel are the biggest changes in the writing process and if there is a constant?
Well I think that when you play for twenty years, you just get a lot better and if you don’t, you should probably just give up. I think we’re just better musicians, we’re better singers, we’re better songwriters. And we’re better performers. I just think that there are things that you learn in this trade as you go along and we’ve been able to incorporate those things like how to structure a set. How to make it ore dynamic. With songwriting, in a lot of ways I feel like the process is going like it always has been. Which is that you hear about something, you learn about something and you want to record it. You pick up a guitar and a pen and just start kicking ideas out and just see what comes out. I feel like for the most part, that’s how our songwriting has always been. I do think that we as a band write more collectively once an idea comes in. I think in the old days it was pretty much someone would write a song, bring it in to the guys and it’s a song. Nowadays, we really work altogether and there are quite often days where we’re working on a new record and someone hears about something that really resonates with them and they just come in and are like “Hey, heard about this refugee situation”. And we just kind of go from there. So there’s definitely a collective writing process that happens now that didn’t happen when we started the band.
Then you’re releasing this live volume on January 20th which I’m sure has been something that’s been in the works for you for a while. It also just happens like you say on the website as well to be Inauguration Day. Maybe how long was that project in the planning for the band?
Well it’s coincidental that we had the record ready around Inauguration Day. We did change the date to be on Inauguration Day because of the circumstances but those live recordings were recorded over two years. Both recordings were done in LA at the same venue, the Troubadour. So we really just had those recordings around and just one day we were like oh it would be cool to make a couple live volumes out of those recordings because they recorded really well. So this will be the first volume we put out. We’re picking a selection of songs from each record over each volume.
Is that kind of the plan for releasing material this year or are you also currently working on new original material?
Well yeah I mean we’ll definitely be working on new material. We kind of already were. We really thought it was going to be Hillary Clinton as president.
I think most people did.
Yeah I mean we were really focusing on issues that we thought would come up in regards to her being elected president. Like what we did with Barack Obama. With Barack Obama, we really kind of went after the issues of immigration and industrial conflict. His continuation of the George Bush doctrine of preemptive war and we really kind of felt like we were going to have to continue on a lot of those issues when it came to Hillary Clinton but that’s not what happened. With Donald Trump, we realized that wow there’s a whole new set of issues. It’s pretty frustrating. I feel like we’re stepping so far backwards. I never thought that I was going to have to write a song about immigrant proliferation. I just felt like that was something that we had moved past. I feel like with Trump now, we’re going to have to write songs that address issues that people kind of stressed in the 1980’s. So we’re changing our focus to Trump.
While you’re on this tour for quite a bit longer, I know you started it at the beginning of the month. Kind of jumped right back into touring (started this run on January 4th), it’s great! Good start. What’s coming up for Anti-Flag within these next months to a year? Touring wise, new music, what’s the plan?
Yeah well you know we definitely have been working hard. We were in Australia and Southeast Asia at the end of the year. We had a really short holiday break and got right back on the road to do this tour with Reel Big Fish. I don’t know if you’ve looked at the tour routing but there’s almost no days off. It’s twelve days straight to start. It’s pretty intense. From there, we have a break after this tour. The first significant break we’ve had in a while. We have a couple months off where we’ll play a couple of shows but we will be working in the studio and we’ll be writing songs. Then we’re going to go to Europe in April then we’ll come back from Europe with a surprise in the summer then that will bring us up to the fall. I expect that we’ll be on tour. Where we’ll be, I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll be out there!
Playing as main support for Reel Big Fish, Anti-Flag will be joined by Ballyhoo! And Direct Hit! Doors are at 6 pm with tickets starting at $25.00!