After a host of releases on various underground record labels, Against Me! has seemingly become part of the very mainstream machine it often rails against in its socially conscious and politically charged songs. The Gainesville, Fla., band signed with Sire Records, a Warner Brothers imprint to release 2007’s “New Wave,” has raised its profile by performing on the Conan O’Brien and David Letterman shows and its single “Stop!” has become a radio and MTV staple.
“New Wave” has indeed brought Against Me! — originally a solo acoustic act consisting of singer Tom Gabel before he joined with Andrew Seward (bass), Warren Oakes (drums) and James Bowman (guitar) — into a new world. Spin named it album of the year, and Rolling Stone named Against Me! “Best Punk Band” in May, raising questions such as: If Rolling Stone names you “Best Punk Band,” are you even a punk band anymore?
We caught up with Gabel via e-mail in advance of Against Me!’s Sunday, July 27 Warped Tour appearance at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain, and we touched on the changes the band has gone through and Against Me!’s folky roots.
Weekender: Do you think Against Me!’s fanbase has changed over the past few years? How?
Gabel: Yes, it’s definitely changed. It’s grown, there’s a wider variety of people who come out. It’s not so much an exclusively “punk” crowd.
Weekender: What is it like balancing a DIY ethic and grassroots fanbase with being a major-label band and being on MTV?
Gabel: There is no balancing required.
Weekender: What similarities do punk and folk share? For example — would you consider Bob Dylan punk, in a way?
Gabel: Well, I guess at their root, punk and folk are both people’s music, street music, working-class music. Would I consider Dylan punk? In some ways, I’d consider punk a little bit like Dylan.
Weekender: What’s next for Against Me! after Warped? More touring? Recording?
In September we’re doing a Canadian headlining tour with Japanther and Saint Alvia Cartel. In October we’re doing a headlining U.S. tour with Ted Leo And The Pharmacists and Future Of The Left. In November I’m doing a couple dates by myself on The Revival Tour with Chuck Ragan, Ben Nichols and Tim Barry. Then in December we’re possibly heading to France for a handful of shows. So yeah, after Warped Tour is over we’re still going to be out on the road for the rest of the year. Hopefully we’ll start recording a new album early next year.
Weekender: What are you listening to these days?
Gabel: I have a real healthy appetite for new music. I got really into bands like Hot Chip, Ghostland Observatory, The Knife and MGMT recently. I heard a couple of the new No Age songs as well. All good stuff.
Weekender: What’s the best concert you saw in the past year?
Gabel: Bruce Springsteen and The E Street band in Washington D.C. It was amazing.
Weekender: Best new album you’ve heard in the past year?
Gabel: Hot Chip — “Made In The Dark”