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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Against Me

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

One of the leading bands in the US punk pop scene has been Against Me. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Tom Gabel and hailing from Florida, they have released several albums and EPs, and have toured and played endlessly around the world. They were back in Australia recently to play a few shows and promote their latest album “New Wave”. With a supporter and producer like Butch Vig guiding this record, it's fair to say to Against Me will start to reap even greater benefits and continue on their successful way. I had the opoortunity to speak to bass guitarist Andrew Seward whilst the band were in Melbourne.

Tell us about the recent Australian tour?

We've had great fun on this tour, the highlight being the gig at the Forum in Moore Park, Sydney. The under-18s had to stay on a different level in the multi-level venue and one kid jumped from the high level to the ground level to be with the adults. It was scary stuff. We also played a hot and sweaty gig at the Arthouse in Melbourne, an under-18s show one afternoon.

You've received a great response in Australia…

Yes, it is the band’s third time in Australia. We are the luckiest guys to be able to come to Australia. To us, it’s like visiting paradise. The people are nice; shows have always been great; the people generally aren’t punishing towards you. They want to have a good time and that’s what we want. We played to a full Corner Hotel in Melbourne and it’s a great feeling. People like to see an energetic performance and we give it to them. I’ve noticed that the people in Western Australia and Tasmania really appreciate it. Every time we’ve toured Australia, we always include Hobart because it’s a nice place. I’ve probably met more Australians who haven’t been to Hobart than have.

Did you like the big festival atmosphere of the Come Together Festival?

The Come Together Festival was fun. Festivals can be a hit or miss affair. It can be the best time or the worst. It’s always strange because there’s no sound check. They had a huge stage in the Big Top room and they split the stage where one band would tune up and get ready while the other stage had a band playing.

You are now signed to a major label (Sire Records). Will things still remain relatively similar in terms of your creative control?

We’ve still got complete creative control with Sire Records. That was the number one thing going into any deal. They didn’t want us to change. This album is an extension of what we’ve been doing. So far it’s still a honeymoon.

The signing to Sire obviously helped lead you towards teaming up with Butch Vig. Was he a natural fit for what the band needed at this time?

Butch became our friend very quickly. It was the simplest process in the world. We didn’t think he’d do our record but the A&R guys got in touch with him and Butch came to see us play in Milwaukee. Within five minutes we were having beers together and hanging out. We had Thanksgiving at his house. We’d never been that close to anyone who’s recorded us. Butch is a real gentleman and a scholar. He could have a huge ego because of what he’s done in the past, but it’s the total opposite.

Is that just a part of the process in moving to the next level?

In a way, some people think it’s selling out, but we want to do everything imaginable as a band. This was a good opportunity. We’d be fools not to take it. We’re loving every minute of it so far.

There are good marketing opportunities…

The record speaks for itself. I totally back this record. It’s way more direct then the last record. It’s shorter and it’s more “in your face”. There aren’t any fillers.

Will you maintain your hectic touring scedule?

We’re on tour pretty much ten months of the year. It’s not that we take two months off. We take seven days off here and there for every two months, and so on.

As Tom writes all the songs how does the band work in the various arrangements?

This record was written by Tom on the road. He’d just bring it to sound check and we’d work on it. It’s very organic and it grew song by song. Butch would give us his opinions on each song and we’d come up with a final list. We can always use the other songs for a compilation or as B-sides. They could feature on a later DVD. Some of my favourite songs have appeared as B-sides. The Clash and Nirvana always produced good ones.

Will the singles/album be released on vinyl?

The use of 7” vinyl is prominent again and even this album will be available on thick and sturdy vinyl. Our tour manager is a vinyl freak. Vinyl is the anti-iPod – a raw sound.

How is the balance between the touring and recording/writing going to occur? I remember Tom (Gabel) saying that he didn't want to lose the currency of the moment…

We always like playing songs as new as they’re written. We’ll play them live before we record them so you can tell if people are into them.

How is the music and political climate in the USA at the moment? What issues are driving you at present?

The political climate is still crazy. It was interesting to see a billboard at Adelaide Airport where it had a picture of George Bush on a laptop, totally making fun, saying even Bush can find a house on a computer, or something like that. There are some very direct songs on the album.

How do you view the development of the band so far?

There’s nothing better than being able to travel around the world and play music and hanging out. I try to pay attention and enjoy what’s happening. I hope there’s nothing but good days ahead.

What are your upcoming touring plans?

We start a headline tour of the USA and Canada and hopefully we’ll come back to Australia in the near future.

The album “New Wave” is out now through Sire/Warner Music.

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