Those who perceive punk rockers to be little more than a bunch of hopped-up sub-humans with boundless energy to burn perhaps take for granted how difficult it is to put on live shows night after night. And let’s face it, for most punks, shows are their livelihood and lifeblood, so taking off a few years (or months for that matter) to recuperate isn’t an option.
Just ask Against Me!’s Tom Gabel. As vocalist and guitarist, he carries double the workload, and even at sea level he admits the band can get winded when they return to the stage after a week or two of rest.
“We’ve only be home for 12 days, and we kicked things off last night with a show in West Palm Beach,” Gabel said. “Three songs into it, we felt like we had never played before.”
Fortunately for Denver fans of the Gainesville, Fla., punk quartet, Against Me! has played a few shows since that first day back last week, meaning they’ll be in fine form when they hit The Bluebird Theater on Saturday night with Lucero, Grabass Charlestons and Love Me Destroyer.
On the road to promote its latest release “As the Eternal Cowboy”, Against Me! is certainly one of the better things to happen to punk in the new millennium. The group’s “dirty south” grit and commitment to a pure sound that’s free of Hollywood filler has won over a number of fans and helped the band build a solid foundation. The aforementioned “slave to the road” strategy has done just as much to keep the legions growing, even if it isn’t the path of least resistance.
Against Me!’s current Colorado jaunt also includes an appearance at The Starlight in Ft. Collins, a town that Tom thinks they’ve played before. He (almost) recalled this and other topics in a recent conversation with Kaffeine Buzz.
Kaffeine Buzz: So you’ll also be playing the Rocky Mountains’ best-kept punk secret. Have you played in Ft. Collins before?
Tom Gabel: Ummm (pauses), I think so (laughs). The road is tough man, drinking night after night, so things start to blur a bit. Actually, I think we did a record release party there.
KB: Let’s talk about “As the Eternal Cowboy” for a bit. How does it compare with the other releases in your catalog?
TG: It was a true group effort when it came to the music. I feel really happy with it, more so than anything we’ve done. I feel it’s more cohesive than anything we’ve done. Some people say they don’t like it as much as our previous stuff.
In the past, our stuff tended to be more acoustic, but this record has a lot of electric stuff going on. I always wanted to record all analog and we got to do that, so that was awesome. The releases in the past tended to be comprised of a lot of pre-written songs. So this is first time this lineup recorded all the songs together, which was really nice.
KB: Regarding songwriting, some bands can be extremely anal and calculated while others prefer to go with a more spontaneous approach to leave that raw feel. What’s your approach?
TG: Recording is something that really interests me. I’m still learning about this stuff. I definitely like the idea of analog; I tend to shy away from digital. I want to be as spontaneous and real as possible, and analog helps us do that. With analog, we can give a true representation of our live show, whereas others do the opposite and try to reproduce their recorded sound in a live setting.
KB: Tell me about growing up in Florida. I noticed some of the songs seem to draw on your experience there. What’s it like in Gainesville and what role does it play in your music?
TG: I grew up in Naples (Fla.). It’s very unique, and there’s no place else like it on earth. The punk scene is close and tight-nit, so everyone knows everybody. It had a lot of things going for it.
Gainesville is awesome, especially the music scene. It’s not even just punk bands — Tom Petty is from Gainesville. But it’s very supportive for new bands. There are record labels that give bands the opportunity to record their stuff for cheap, which is good.
KB: You guys have received a good amount of critical praise from your peers, thanks in part to your fresh, honest approach. Based on this, what do you feel much of the music industry is doing wrong and compare that against what you feel you guys are doing right?
TG: I don’t give it too much thought to be honest. We’ve had a lot of people who think the new album sucks. So, I think listening to either the good or the bad is mistake. You know, I’m in a band because I want to be. So I don’t pay too much attention to that. We’re obviously not the only good band in the world. There are a bunch of bands that truly kick ass.
KB: So what’s next for you guys?
TG: Our current western tour will last a month, then we get a week off and then tour the east coast. Then we’re going to Europe for seven weeks. After that, we’ll probably take a month to start writing new songs. Playing the same songs night after night gets old you know, so we’re anxious.
KB: Are you pleased with where things are for you today?
Tom: Yeah, totally. We’re not that new of a band. I’ve been doing this for the past six years, so it’s something that has been gradual. With each new album and tour things get better a little bit at a time. So, I’m pleased to see things grow organically.
Click here to win tickets to see Against Me!, Lucero, Grabass Charlestons on Saturday, February 28 at The BlueBird in Denver. The tour also goes to Ft. Collins at the Starlight on Sunday.