Against Me! have been slowly building for years. From the largely acoustic roots of singer/guitarist Tom Gabel to the burgeoning rock band about to drop a shining new album on Sire Records, the Florida foursome has proved to be one of best live bands currently touring—and largely indefinable despite critics’ desires to put them in a box.
Gabel discusses the new album, New Wave, produced by Butch Vig, and the band’s hopes for the future.
Have you guys been playing much of the new record on tour?
Yeah we’ve been playing four or five songs a night.
Is there any one song that’s been getting the best response?
There’s a few songs that have seen the light of day more so than others so far. Like ‘White People For Peace’ is available on iTunes and we made a seven-inch for it, and there’s some live footage around of ‘Up The Cuts.’ There’s a couple other songs on the Internet with live footage so I think people are more familiar with those. Obviously there’s going to be more of a response to those.
Are you playing ‘Borne On the FM Waves’ without Tegan there to sing with you?
We play it fairly often. James just fills in for her part.
How does he sound?
James has a beautiful voice.
How did you get Tegan to be on the record?
Over the summer when we were on Warped Tour she was at one of the Canadian dates and she was a guest interviewer for Much Music. She interviewed me and Warren and kind of jokingly was like, ‘Hey if you need anyone to do backing vocals on the record, let me know.’
The idea stuck with me and I wrote the song tailored to her voice, thinking about the way it worked. We made a demoed version and I typed out the lyrics and said, ‘Hey I wrote this song specifically thinking about you. It would be awesome if you were into being on the record.’ She liked the song and a couple weeks later flew out to L.A. and laid down the vocal tracks. The rest is history.
I want to see you guys perform the song together.
I’ve been trying to work it out, so first we’ll get them to tour with us and then once we have the tour confirmed I’ll be like, ‘So now do you want to come onstage every night and sing that song with us?’ I think it would be amazing to tour with their band regardless. I don’t like to tour with bands that are the predictable choice. I like to think outside the box and draw out different types of people. You get people who might not otherwise have given your band a chance.
Does that mean you’ve attracted a lot of Mastodon fans after the last tour?
I don’t know. Or we turned a lot of our fans into Mastodon fans.
Do you ever feel any pressure to have mind-blowing live shows since everyone talks about your live show all the time?
Yeah, but I think a lot of that doesn’t necessarily come from other people’s pressure. It more comes from the band perspective. Definitely on the Mastodon tour playing after Cursive and before Mastodon it was like, ‘We better not fucking suck tonight. We better get out there and kick ass because we’re sandwiched in between two amazing bands.’ So that pressure is always there. I always go into a show with that attitude of, ‘We’re going to be the best band of this show tonight.’ You look at it like a boxing match—you’re going out there to kill.
Is there anything you consciously do while playing to make the show that good?
Have a good time. I think that if you’re having a good time that translates to other people having a good time.