The last time I spoke to Chris #2 of Anti-Flag, the band was working on a brand new record—a record that would have to be amazing and substantial to follow up the acclaimed The People Or The Gun (2009). Everything was still in its developmental stages; the guys logged many, many hours in the home studio they built to record this album in, and many more were to follow. “We’re almost finished,” he told me back in October of last year. “It’s hard to say when it’ll see the light of day, but we’re hoping for sooner rather than later. We thought about rushing a fall release, but there’s no point. The band has a history, we don’t need to rush something. There’s no reason for us to release a record, just for the sake of releasing a record. We have to make sure it’s ready, make sure the ideas behind the songs come across.”
And the message has certainly been received; The General Strike was just released in March and is arguably Anti-Flag’s most aggressive, hard-hitting material yet. It’s biting and eye-opening, and it really hits home for fans both new and old in these troubling and uncertain times. On top of residual record release happenings, and a hectic international tour schedule as well as still participating in the activism work the band is known for, Chris #2 still made some time to talk to The Aquarian Weekly via email from the UK, to fill us in on what the band’s been up to since the last time we spoke.
The last time we spoke, which was back in October of last year, you guys were busily working on new material for the follow-up to The People Or The Gun; you just released The General Strike on March 20. How has it done in comparison?
I would say in comparison to our last couple of albums, it’s been received far more favorably. We made a conscious decision to not just release new music because of scheduling, or because people said it was time to. We wrote and recorded The General Strike over a two-year period, in the midst of Occupy Wall Street, the Arab spring, and human rights movement in Europe. This is a really exciting time to be paying attention. These things fueled a release that sounds more like Anti-Flag than anything we’ve done in the past few years.
Is it true that this record is some of your most aggressive work to date? How would you define it yourselves?
I would define it as Anti-Flag, focused. We wrote efficient songs, ha. They’re shorter. They have an agenda, and we don’t mince words or chords getting to that agenda.
What were some of the things you drew on for inspiration, be it musically, globally, locally, or otherwise?
Like I said, obviously the global movement to shift focus from greed to humanity has been at the forefront of our political tongue. Musically, we were listening to the records that got us into punk rock—The Clash’s self-titled, Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables.
Do you feel like everything came together more organically, recording and producing it in your home studio? Or was it more of a challenge?
Way more organic. We were able to write songs, come back to them, move on from them—all without the confines of studio budgets. Money too often drives the creative process; it was nice to get away from that. The challenge then becomes, “How do we finish an album that we built out of having no constraints on it being completed?” But we found a place where it felt real, and called it then.
What current events or issues (both globally and locally) do you find to be the most alarming? What do you hope will change in the next four years or so?
NDAA indefinite detention needs to be done away with. It’s in direct opposition to the Constitution. Healthcare—real healthcare needs to happen in America. Shut down Guantanamo Bay. Obama needs to deliver on early promises quickly if he is re-elected.
You guys are currently in England; are the UK crowds just as angry and motivated and demanding of change as the American crowds?
Absolutely. We’re all just fucked up kids. That’s how we found punk rock. In the U.S., UK, Germany, Russia…we just want a place to be ourselves, and punk rock has given us that.
As a band, you guys have always been very globally aware, and it’s really admirable. You’ve helped people and organizations around the world. I’m curious as to whether you take part in any kinds of activism in England (or Europe, for that matter) while you’re visiting?
We try to, but we’re most often kept abreast of overseas policy from people we meet at shows, people who talk to us about issues important to them in their local area. But, for example, in the UK on this run, we are working with a local homeless shelter called Emmaus. They’re a cross-UK organization, and they love tabling and searching for new volunteers at Anti-Flag shows.
You’ll be coming back to the states just long enough to play the Bamboozle Festival, which is back in Asbury Park this year, and then you’re heading to beautiful Australia. How stoked are you guys?
So very! So many great bands. It’s gonna be a rager.
Touring in your native country is stressful enough; how do you guys cope with touring internationally?
We try our best to find internet to communicate with people back home. It’s not easy. But it’s worth a shot!
Last but certainly not least, what can we hope to expect from you guys next?
Bamboozle, Australia, Warped Tour, then back to Europe in July/August. We’re a busy gaggle up until December, so I guess we’ll find out then! Live free or die Mayan, I suppose! Oi!
Anti-Flag will be playing day two of The Bamboozle Festival on May 19 in Asbury Park. Their new album, The General Strike, is available now. For more information, go to anti-flag.com.