Above The Bridge: An Interview With AFI

Above The Bridge: An Interview With AFI

—by , January 25, 2017

01-25 AQ Cover - AFI 2 (Photo by Jiro Schneider)

One of the most unique qualities to resonate with AFI’s longevity is the band’s tight-knit relationship that spans over two decades. Proven to be a staple outlet within the California punk and hardcore community through vibrant efforts like Black Sails In The Sunset and The Art Of Drowning, the band’s mainstream crossover helped them soar to higher status. Experiencing major success and larger audiences from championed hits ranging from “Miss Murder” to “The Leaving Song Pt. II” and “Love Like Winter,” AFI is still a relevant act to this day. Even in their later years, they are not afraid to push further boundaries, and to excel onward as progressive songwriters.

Ringing in the New Year to an eventful tune, AFI are scheduled to unveil The Blood Album this month. Not only does this effort mark the band’s first full-length since 2013’s Burials, these California-based punk icons will also be celebrating the milestone of officially having 10 studio releases under their belt. While The Blood Album is a record that introduces devoted listeners to a refreshing entity that represents the band’s progression and maturity over the years, singles like “White Offerings,” “Snow Cats” and “Dark Snow” are many favorable elements that also evoke a nostalgic sensation that is reminiscent to Sing The Sorrow in some comparisons.

AFI are currently on the road, unveiling their highly anticipated material, with opening support from the likes of Chain Gang Of 1974, Souvenirs and Nothing on select dates. About a month before The Blood Album’s official release, I had the pleasure to speak with guitarist Jade Puget to discuss the writing and recording process of The Blood Album, their upcoming headlining tour, and the longevity of AFI.

Pretty soon, you are set to release your 10th album, AFI [also referred to as The Blood Album]. How does it feel to start out 2017 by putting out this studio effort, and to officially reach a new milestone for the group?

Yeah, I mean, 10 records is a lot, and this band is about to celebrate 25 years in existence, so you get to this point with a lot of milestones. Also, it’s been three years since our last record [Burials], and we really don’t do that often. Every time we release one, at least for us, it’s a pretty big event.

The Blood Album will be your first effort since releasing Burials back in 2013. Since a lot of time has passed since then, how do you think this record represents where the band is at here and now?

Both of those are [musically and personally]. We change as people, we change what we’re into, and we change what we’re influenced by. So, each record is a different testament to where we’re at in our careers. This one, it’s not that similar to the last record because the last record touched upon a darker time, especially for our singer [Davey Havok]. It was very indicative of that and what he was going through.

This one is… I think a little more diverse musically and it’s lyrically different. I’m really happy with it, you know? At this point, having been doing this for a while, sometimes you wonder if you’ll always find inspiration for it, or if you haven’t been disappointed in being able to find that inspiration to create a whole new body of work.

Considering the longevity of AFI, it’s obvious how much you’ve grown together and have progressed since your first record onward. With that being said, did you run into any walls or face any challenges when making The Blood Album?

It was very steady, and very organic. That might be a product of having done this for 10 times now, knowing how to do it, and knowing each other so well. You know, Davey and I… we write very well together, and we never have any strife in our songwriting process. It takes a while for us to do it, but it was very rewarding, and very easy and fun and creative. Going into the studio, you know… with me being the producer this time, that could have prevented some difficulties, but actually, I think this record was one of the easiest to make in the studio.

Oh wow! It really goes to show—after doing this for all of these years, putting together a record becomes extremely natural overtime. Especially considering how close you collectively are with one another.

Yeah. I think you have to know your bandmates, and I just read this thing that [bassist] Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols said where, “Every band has any dramas.” You know… like, things within the band, and interpersonal dynamics. But at this point, being together for so long, we know how to navigate each other, and we’re all friends. So, that’s a big part of being able to do stuff in a band or to do anything—to go on tour, to make music. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re really good at it, so it really makes the creative side of it a little bit easier. A lot of bands go into the studio, and it’s just fighting and drama, and it’s not fun.

Right! So far, we’ve seen the release of singles like “Dark Snow” and “Snow Cats,” along with the music video premiere of “White Offerings.” Since unveiling these tracks, what’s the reception been like so far for this new material? In what way do these tracks provide an appropriate representation of The Blood Album?

It’s been awesome. We’ve only played two relatively short sets live since we got back together to hit the road. So, the response has been great. We’re excited to go out and just see how it is.

It’s always a little different every time we go out on the road after years off. We’re not one of those bands who plays a show and makes a record. When we finish a record cycle, that’s the last you’ll hear of us until the next one. It’s been over three years since we’ve been on tour, and we’re all very curious and excited to go out there and play this new material to people.

With the release of “White Offerings” as a single, I’ve heard some critics make slight comparisons to Sing The Sorrow. Are there certain elements of The Blood Album that you feel might have some reminisce of your previous work?

As a band, we’ve always tried to never look back, and never try to do a return-to-form, which I kind of think is a creative death. But with that being said, we are the same four guys that have been doing this together for 20 years almost, and the same four guys that played on Sing The Sorrow. There are going to be these elements that are just going to be in tradition of AFI, so if you hear them to us, we’re not trying to do a return-to-form of Sing The Sorrow.  But it might be like, “Oh, that’s something recognizable to me,” because a lot of things that I was inspired by off Sing The Sorrow, I am still inspired by to this day. I think it’s a good thing. It shows that there are good elements of Sing The Sorrow that creep into this, or DecemberUnderground or Black Sails or any of that. To me, it’s just the continuity of being a songwriter for this band.

Immediately after the record’s official release, you’re going to be hitting the road alongside supporting acts like Chain Gang Of 1974, Souvenirs and Nothing (on select dates). For you personally, how do you think these new songs will translate in a concert setting? Do you anticipate incorporating an equal amount of material from your catalog throughout the tour as well?

I think they’re going to fit very well. Like I said, we played a couple of shows playing “White Offerings” and playing “Snow Cats”—they fit very well with some of the older songs that we were playing. I’m excited to try some of this stuff out, you know? When you play new material, there’s always songs where you’re recording them, and you’re like, “Oh, this is going to be great live. People are going to love this.” Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way, and it doesn’t really go off live. But the one that you thought you’d never play live because it wouldn’t really go over, that’s the one that people seem to respond to. So, it’s always fun to discover how that’s going to be when you hit the road.

I’m the one who makes the setlist, so it’s a very tricky proposition because you want to do something that your bandmates are happy with, and you also want to do something that the crowd is happy with. I have to navigate all of these things and try to integrate 10 albums and two EPs, and all of these B-sides, and try to make a cohesive set that makes sense, so that’s not easy. I was actually sitting with Davey while we were recording some Blaqk Audio stuff, and we were discussing what we might play on this upcoming tour in January for AFI. We were trying to figure out what we would want to play.

I can imagine that would be quite a challenge to create such a cohesive set since you have so many records to pull songs from. Even more so since you have a large group of fans that would want to hear certain songs on this tour specifically.
Well, you know what’s interesting to us, the older songs are like the first three or four records. When we play that stuff live, a lot of times, people don’t know it. We’re like, “Oh, people are going to love that we play this song Very Proud Of Ya.” But I think it’s been so long since it, and people are just going to look at you blankly. To a lot of people, the older songs is Sing The Sorrow, and DecemberUnderground. When you think about it… I mean, Sing The Sorrow came out 13 years ago, so that is technically an “old record.”

Yeah, time flies. I remember first discovering AFI through songs like “The Boy Who Destroyed The World” and also through albums like The Art Of Drowning and Black Sails In The Sunset. It’s interesting to hear that your early records may receive that kind of response in comparison to later work.

Yeah, I think it’s because those records came out so long ago. There are always going to be people that know all of it, but to me, DecemberUnderground is like, a new record sort of in my mind. But that came out a decade ago, and to a lot of people that’s like a classic AFI record from back in the day.

Once your latest support tour draws to a close, what else should we look forward to hear from AFI in 2017? Are there any set plans in the works for the New Year ahead?

We’re going over to the UK. We haven’t been there in a while, and we’re playing with the Deftones over there, and we’re playing Download Festival. Then, we’re starting to plan together some more stuff for later in the year. Like, hopefully another tour in the summer, or another headlining run. We’re just excited to get out there and play after so long of taking some rest off.

 

This winter, AFI will make their return to the Tri-State to celebrate the release of their 10th studio album, The Blood Album, where they will be playing at Terminal 5 in Manhattan on Feb. 3, and at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on Feb. 6. The Blood Album is available now through Concord Music Group. For more information, go to afireinside.net.


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