We Walk The Line: An Interview with Agnostic Front

Still stronger than ever after igniting the torch for the New York hardcore scene for three decades, Agnostic Front return with the release of their 11th full-length studio album, The American Dream Died, this month.

Sticking true to their roots, The American Dream Died is a heavy-hitting effort that reconnects Agnostic Front fans both young and old, with an old-school sound that frontman Roger Merit said will “directly bring you back to 1981.” Lyrically addressing many issues that are lingering in the shadows of American society today, The American Dream Died is a record that is relevant to the times—covering a wide range of topics, from the economy to police brutality and war.

As the band geared up to hit the road for a small run of East Coast tour dates back in March, I had the opportunity to talk with Merit about the lyrical themes that come into play throughout The American Dream Died, as well as their upcoming record release shows at The Bowery Electric in Manhattan.

We’re not too far away from the official release of your forthcoming studio album, The American Dream Died. What are you looking forward to about putting out this record the most?

            Myself and the band are really excited about this record. It kind of feels really fresh for us in all aspects. What we did on this record going back to the crazy, super old-school style, we’re kind of bringing the same anger with it lyrically too. So we’re kind of excited to play these songs, you know? Not only are a lot of the songs angry and aggressive, there’s a lot of songs of unity and keeping together. It’s a solid, great record. I think there’s a little bit of everything for all of our fans throughout our career, but we’re really, truly excited to put out aggressive stuff again.

What was the main inspiration behind some of the themes that come into play on this record? What factors were considered with naming this record The American Dream Died?

            Pretty much, it truly is the hardest look at what is going on today in our society, you know? From the very beginning, the most important thing where the thought came into play is when the housing market crashed, and it just destroyed so many lives. So many people lost their homes, and that was followed by the economy crash. It was just a giant snowball effect, do you know what I mean?

Not only did a lot of people lose their homes, they lost their jobs and they lost their families. A lot of it was based on super-high corruption and greed on a level that you and I can never be a part of. And just little by little, everything that’s been going on that led up to it, it’s like an appropriate time for this record.

You know, not only am I just speaking about it, everything that I talk about actually, I’ve experienced it myself, so it sucked. It sucked for a lot of people; my friends lost their homes, I tried myself to refinance. Banks weren’t working with us even when the government so-called “gave money to the banks to work with the people,” but they rewarded it to the CEOs, and they don’t give a fuck about the people. They don’t care about you, and they don’t care about me. It’s plain and clear, and that’s what this record is talking about.

Agnostic Front is one of the most iconic and influential names in hardcore. With each new album cycle that you’ve had with any past release from the past decade, have people always addressed to you at all in past conversations any topics or questions regarding the consistency of your music or relevance in hardcore today?

            Well to be honest with you, the secret to our “longevity” or our “legacy” or whatever, a lot of it has to do with being genuine, and being honest. People want to be a part of something that is real, you know? I mean, do you want to be a part of something that is fake? … I don’t think so. And I think people can directly relate that to Agnostic Front, especially when they come out to our shows. They feel like it is genuine and that’s really it. That’s truly the secret, just being real and being forward with your friends, your family and your fans. Of course, there has been a couple of “dry spots” lyrically, or musically, but you pull through it.

We’re one of those bands that stay relevant because we tour. We’re pretty active, so we know what’s going out there. So that’s why it’s been pretty successful on that end for us.

Now, for younger and newer fans who may be getting into Agnostic Front for the first time in 2015, would you say that the messages that you convey of this record truly represents aggression and intensity of this the band as a whole?

            This record, if any, is a well representation of the band’s career, you know? It has like, a little bit of everything for all of our fans. The cool thing about this record is that it’s got a vibe where it brings you directly back to 1981-82. It’s got that early nostalgic sound at points too, so it’s cool. I feel like it’s bound to be a classic of its time—only time will tell, but I think the people are digging it.

It also happens to be that the times are perfect for it. It is very relevant to what is going on with the world today with all of the frustration that a lot of people have, so it just speaks the truth. So, I think a lot of people, especially people who are getting into us now, will enjoy a record like this.

With that in mind, maybe somebody who may be checking you out for the first time could even go back to your musical catalog and start from the very beginning.

            Absolutely. Anything you want to be a part of, I have always told people, “Research it, man.” Like, you want to know its origin, what’s behind it… so it’s cool to start with a band like Agnostic Front because we are one of those bands that were there in the beginning and started something that was very important, you know what I mean? So, starting with a band like Agnostic Front, and moving forward, it’s definitely like starting in the beginning of history of New York hardcore.

Yeah, definitely. There is nothing wrong with starting from scratch and getting into the basics. Kids nowadays shouldn’t feel intimidated or feel like they’re a poser just for getting into Agnostic Front or any older bands now in 2015.

            We welcome everybody into our shows, man. Not everybody was born cool, and you know what, the youth is what is going to keep it going on. In fact, one of our new songs, “Just Like Yesterday,” says it right there lyrically wise. You know, “We got the youth to keep it going on.” It will never fade away with the youth, and that’s how it goes.

You will be having your record release show at the end of month in celebration of The American Dream Died. Afterwards, should we expect to see a lot of extensive touring within the next couple of months in support of this record?

            Well, everything is being sorted out now. The record release shows, is now going to be two shows. They sold so well on the first night that we are going to add, in addition to, a matinee on that Saturday [April 25]. The most important thing about those record release shows is that we’re shooting a video for one of our new songs, “Old New York.” So, of course we wanted to do it in New York.

That’s going to happen—we’re getting ready to hit the road, we’re doing Florida this weekend coming up just like five days pre-record release. But once the record comes out, we’re already making plans in September to do a couple of stuff here and there. There is only so much we can do; we’re all family men. We have children, we have jobs, we have to maintain what we have, you know? We can’t just go out there for nine months out of the year like we used to. Those days are over, but we do have plans on trying to do as much as we can.

Cool. With that in mind, anything else you would like to add?

            I want to say thank you for the interview. Thank you to our friends, and family, and fans worldwide, so thank you for your support. Don’t forget, the new record is called The American Dream Died. We’ve been releasing little “webisodes” weekly, which has a behind the scenes of making the record. I have interviews with everybody who has been involved, including the band, my brother Freddy Cricien from Madball. It’s got interviews with Toby Morse of H2O, Lou Koller of Sick Of It All. So it’s cool, you get to see the band, meet the band and see how the record was developed. Check those out, and check out our new music video for “Police Violence.”


Agnostic Front will be celebrating the release of The American Dream Died at The Bowery Electric in Manhattan on April 24 and 25. The American Dream Died is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. For more information, go to agnosticfront.com.