After arranging an email interview via Warner Bros. with Against Me!, I was later fortunate enough able to change course and sit down with Andrew Seward—their bass player. A self proclaimed “East Coast Eagle” and WestCoast Weasel took our seats in the upper balcony of Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver on March 2, 2010 to talk about upcoming material, Punk Rock Bowling and more.
Weasel: The Olympics just wrapped up and had emotions running high in town. We had protestors who were rather organized—though slightly destructive.
Andrew: I read that, yeah.
Weasel: At the same time we had upcoming rock bands playing the free Olympic pavilion circuit, showing their support. In regards to the protest, do you currently feel there is a time and place for such a revolt?
Andrew: Yeah, I’d say so. People pick their own battles, you know what I mean? I don’t know enough about why they were protesting the Olympics. I don’t want to come across like a dipshit, so… Everything has its time and place. I think if people feel strongly about something; I think they should do it non-violently. But then sometimes I don’t know. I don’t know if I was going down a Ghandi road there. Sometimes I guess it’s justified. It’s weird. I guess it comes down to where nothing in this world is black and white—it’s grey, you know?
Weasel: Yeah, I get what you’re saying—absolutely. There are grey areas—especially when it comes to things like that. Moreover, when it comes to musicians—do you believe that they have a responsibility to either associate or disassociate themselves from certain gigs and does Against Me!?
Andrew: Once again I’d say it’s a case-by-case basis. I definitely think musicians have a responsibility to associate or disassociate themselves from Nazis (for example) or hate mongers—definitely that. But hopefully all humans would do that (not just bands/musicians). I definitely think music has a huge power and a huge impact on people and it has on me profoundly. But also in the same instance—I don’t think it’s like a duty of musicians to be like “I’m gonna change the world with these barre chords and these lyrics!” If it ends up
going that way and something positive happens then that’s great but I honestly don’t know about people sitting down and writing a song and being like “I’m so awesome—this is going to change the world.” I also love informative music but I hate preachy music; there is a difference. I don’t like people getting on stage telling you what to think or believe…preaching, but I do like bands who get up there and are whip smart and informative. There is a difference—that’s what I’m trying to get at.
Weasel: Yeah, I would agree. Would you say some of those sentiments would be adressed in the new song “I Was A Teenage Anarchist?”
Andrew: Well, hearing Tom—our lyricist—explain it (would be one thing) but I guess it goes back to what I said before; everything’s not black and white—it’s grey and it’s kind of an anti-authoritarian stance. A lot of people, when they’re telling you (or us) “you shouldn’t think that / you should do this” and all of that; they either a) don’t know what they’re talking about or b) trying to be the king or queen of the scene, in a way or c) a mixture of both. I would say the song is pretty much about that. You’re supposed to have this personal freedom and then some people are telling you that “no, you can’t do this or you can’t do that.” But all of these (responses) are open to interpretation.
Weasel: Of course. Can you elaborate on what White Crosses refers to?
Andrew: White Crosses actually refers to this church lawn in St. Augustine, Florida. It used to be the oldest city in America but now they’ve found another city. It’s where Ponts de Leon went and found the fountain of youth in there. It’s probably 70 miles from Gainesville on the Atlantic coast. Tom was living there, right in the neigbourhood where this church had 4000 white crosses on it that were symbolizing every abortion that happens in America a day. Everywhere. This is huge lawn we’re talking about with 4000 crosses and pictures of babies. It’s just a disgusting eye sore.
Andrew: And if you read the lyrics it’s very visual imagery of going through that town. If you ever go there, listen to the song and you could visualize it.
Weasel: So, obviously a completely different vibe with the imagery chosen for the album cover (of the same title) then? (Andrew agrees) No association to the subject matter whatsoever?
Andrew: Well… I don’t know actually. It was done by our friend Steak Mountain whose worked with us forever—a really good artist. His name’s Chris Morris (laughing). He always wants to be called Steak Mountain but it’s not hard to figure out his real name. I think him and Tom just like working together. They put up with each other in a good way.
Weasel: It’s great to see you take a break from your arena run with Alexisonfire and Billy Talent.
Andrew: It hasn’t even started yet. It starts tomorrow. We don’t even know how it’s going to be yet.
Weasel: Okay…fair enough. (chagrined concering the mistake) I’ve seen the band in both types of settings.
Andrew: You look familiar by the way. Have we met?
Weasel: No. You also look familiar but then again I’ve seen your music videos.
Andrew: Or we’re both just being really polite. Anyways…
Weasel: What’s your take or preference on either setting?
Andrew: This isn’t a political answer: I completely love both because our band is very lucky in the fact that we can play—we played in Seattle yesterday and the show before that was in Berlin, Germany at the Ramones museum and we played a free acoustic show and the place was probably…I mean, you could probably fit about 60 people in it and it was tight. We’ve always had the luck of playing super small places. I mean this place (Rickshaw Theatre, capacity of 1000) is huge and then going on tour with Foo Fighters and playing arenas like that. And for musicians, for us and for the people it’s fucking great because it’s such a roller coaster of different things and we’re never stagant. I think that’s the thing with our band. We’re never stagnant. We’re always doing something different and making it better. Variety—as my mother would say—is the spice of life.
Weasel: While New Wave offered a fresh production value and style; the use of acoustic guitars (previously an Against Me! staple) was not heard as much. Can we expect some of this flavor to return on White Crosses?
Andrew: Yeah, there’s definitely some acoustic guitars. There’s this super slow song called “Ache With Me.” Super slow. It’s great—I love it. It’s one of my favorite songs. And there’s acoustics even on the electric songs because acoustics have this great percussive quality of the strum to it and it just fills out the song. So (laughing) I’m so bad about how I answer questions in such a roundabout way and tell like three different things before I get to the question. (laughing) The answer is yes.
Weasel: Well, I appreciate the elaboration.
Andrew: It’d be a pretty boring interview if I just said “no”, “yes”
Weasel: “yep”, “check it out”
Andrew: “of course”, “I don’t know”
Weasel: “sure”—that type of thing (both agreeing and laughing) Against Me! spent years on indie labels before releasing New Wave with Sire. However, last year The Original Cowboy was released on Fat Wreck Chords, showcasing the band’s raw, demo form. (acknowledged and agreed) I imagine it must be nice to maintain an amicable relationship with past business partners…
Andrew: Absolutely. I mean, we’re friends with No Idea (Records). I went to Var’s (Thelin, label co-founder) and Gen’s kid’s birthday party three and a half weeks ago and they live five blocks from me. Stuff like that. And, I haven’t seen Mike (of Fat Wreck Chords) in a while but it’s not from a lack of trying. I just haven’t been in San Francisco. I mean, everything’s cool.
Weasel: Yeah, it seems to me like you have the best of both worlds in that sense.
Andrew: Yeah, we try not to be dicks (laughing)
Weasel: Any thoughts on the merits of either scenario—small or larger label?
Andrew: With a major label we have more resources. Ya know, we flew over to Germany and London and there were people there from Warner Bros. who setup interviews and stuff and made it fun and worth while for us to go there. They setup those acoustic shows. It’s resources. You never really hear bands say that and actually—they might come up with some bullshit answer like “Ya know.. there’s no difference.” No, there’s a huge a fucking difference. It’s a major label. The big difference is there’s just more people at your disposal, there to help you. I still don’t see anything wrong with that. I never did.
Weasel: Neither do I. I understand you’ll be joining some of that previous crew this summer for the Punk Rock Bowling tournament in Vegas?
Andrew: Yeah, that just got confirmed a while ago.
Weasel: Fans are now allowed to attend for the first time?
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I didn’t actually know that until a couple of days ago. Because, we played punk rock bowling… not played it—we bowled it maybe—shit—seven years ago? I saw it…what is it a two day or a three festival?
Weasel: I’m not sure. I was about to ask you.
Andrew: Well yeah, it’s like a real festival which is cool.
Weasel: And the bands are playing both bowling and music, right?
Weasel: And fans can play bowling or they can spectate the entire thing?
Andrew: You know what? I don’t know but it would be cool if there was a fan tournament—or rather—a non-band tournament and a band tournament and they went head to head for the title. Punk rock bowling’s a little fucked up because they have this handicap system where if you’re actually good you’re probably not going to win. If you’re handicapped and played the year before—they give you this crazy handicap and you can’t fuckin’…(win). That’s just my beef with the actual bowling scorage.
Weasel: (laughing) Speaking of goofing around within your circle of musician friends. I recall Fletcher (from Pennywise) hosting a satellite radio show (Andrew laughs) where he claimed that while partying one night, one or more members of Against Me! were advising him (and the likes of Pennywise, NOFX, Bad Religion, etc) to step down and make way for the newer wave of punk rock bands. He alleged that he then bagged one of you guys—setting you in line. Care to comment or clear that one up?
Andrew: He said what exactly? I think I know what he’s talking about.
Weasel: He alleged that AM was basically telling him that the “dinosaur” punk rock bands should basically step down and make way for the current or newer era of punk bands.
Andrew: (laughing) Right. I will completely disagree with that statement. I don’t think anyone ever said that. I think what the real story is that we were all hanging out at Eric Melvin’s (of NOFX) house in Los Angeles.
Weasel: Yes, that was it.
Andrew: Everyone was drunk and probably on multiple things. This was a long time ago.
Weasel: He was mentioning all of the above.
Andrew: Yeah, and he got into a fight with James—our guitar player and punched him. It was friendly but not friendly. I mean.. we’ve seen Fletcher and Randy and all the other Pennywise guys. I’m sure it wasn’t…
Weasel: Yeah, I’m sure it was all in good fun; I was just curious.
Andrew: Yeah, it was all good fun but my take on the matter is: I was pretty fucked up, so maybe James did say something like that but I don’t think he did. (laughing) It’s funny he said that. I’ve never heard that—that’s good.
Weasel: In regards to new music: anything currently on heavy rotation in your world?
Andrew: I love the new Baroness record. It’s called the blue record. Have you ever heard of them?
Weasel: Heard of but haven’t heard the record.
Andrew: Great kind of—not even metal and I don’t even like the word prog either. How about—just check ‘em out? They’re from Savanna, Georgia and I listen to that record way too much actually. We (also) just bought this CD in the UK—this old band called Dr. Feelgood. Not the Motley Crue record but they’re called Dr. Feelgood. They have this guitar player and he’s name’s Wilco Johnson—I believe—and look it up on the Internet or somethin’ and look how this guy plays guitar. He plays with his hands but (the way) he plays rhythm and lead. I know this isn’t Guitar Player magazine but Dr. Feelgood and the player’s Wilco Johnson. An old 70’s blues rock—almost so gruff that it’s like punk before there was anything remotely punk rock.
Weasel: Best of luck the release of the new album, as well as the rest of the tour.
Andrew: Thank you sir.
Weasel: We look forward to seeing you again soon.
“I Was A Teenage Anarchist” live
“Punk Rock Bowling 2009″ video