AFI get bloody

WHILE AFI’S 10TH AL­BUM, AFI (THE BLOOD AL­BUM), IS THE LAT­EST STAGE IN A 25-YEAR EVO­LU­TION, DAVEY HAVOK TELLS JAMES HICKIE IT’S GOV­ERNED BY THE SAME PRIN­CI­PLES THAT HAVE FLOWED THROUGH THE BAND’S VEINS SINCE DAY ONE…

Kerrang! (UK) - - Contents -

Punk bands con­tinue to write in the cre­ative blood shed by AFI. Some took in­spi­ra­tion from their im­age (My Chem­i­cal Ro­mance), oth­ers their lyri­cal pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the dark and gothic (Al­ka­line Trio) – and then there are those sam­pling a lit­tle of both (Creeper). ask Davey Havok which of their qual­i­ties he thinks this new gen­er­a­tion is try­ing to em­u­late, how­ever, and he’ll start by telling you his band haven’t been ‘punk’ for the ma­jor­ity of their 25-year ca­reer.

“When I think of punk, I think of the Germs and Black Flag, and we don’t sound like that,” the 41-yearold sug­gests, while pin­point­ing fourth al­bum Black Sails In The Sun­set as the mo­ment AFI’S blood­let­ting over­flowed the “small box” of the genre’s sound.

Con­sid­er­ing Davey finds it hard to de­fine AFI’S early out­put – “I’m not even sure what it was” – you can imag­ine how per­plex­ing it was for those dis­cov­er­ing them in San Fran­cisco’s East Bay area in the early ’90s. Even then the band was ex­hibit­ing a char­ac­ter­is­tic that still cour­ses through their black veins to this day: a pas­sion for go­ing against the grain.

Back then the ‘scene’ was made up of two main camps: the “melodic, fuzzed-out” sound of Crimp shrine and Jaw­breaker, and the in­tense, artis­tic hard­core – “un­fairly termed ‘emo’”– com­ing from San Diego, cour­tesy of Heroin, an­gel Hair and John Henry west.

AFI chose nei­ther; hav­ing been raised on a strict diet of “artists that cre­ated for them­selves and didn’t care what other peo­ple thought”, they opted for some­thing ap­proach­ing “fast, DC, Cal­i­for­nia-in­flu­enced hard­core”.

“[The scene] did in­flu­ence us in a way, in that we were uni­fied in our sep­a­ra­tion from it,” chuck­les Davey. “stay­ing true to your be­liefs was such a facet of the com­mu­nity that we grew up in that we cer­tainly weren’t go­ing to al­low that same com­mu­nity to push us in a di­rec­tion that wasn’t what we be­lieved in.” “We did what­ever the fuck we wanted – with vigour!” That stub­born­ness even­tu­ally paid off. while tours in sup­port of their first al­bums, 1995’s An­swer That And Stay Fash­ion­able and the fol­low­ing year’s very Proud Of Ya, of­ten found the band play­ing to just their merch guy, by third al­bum Shut your Mouth And Open your Eyes they were play­ing to up­wards of 300 peo­ple a night.

“We had no idea what had hap­pened, but to us we’d made it,” re­calls Davey.

There was an equally size­able “jump” in 2003 with the re­lease of ma­jor-la­bel de­but, Sing The Sor­row, and its fol­low-up, 2006’s De­cem­ber underground. Davey’s hope that “peo­ple would even­tu­ally grav­i­tate to­wards us” had slowly but surely come true, and laid the tem­plate for the even loftier am­bi­tions show­cased by their lat­est.

Davey spent a year writ­ing the 60 or so songs in the run­ning for AFI’S self-ti­tled 10th al­bum, which takes the moniker of The Blood Al­bum. This per­fec­tion­ist’s streak is re­flected in the foren­sic at­ten­tion he treats lines of ques­tion­ing.ask him to lift the veil on ex­actly what the 14 songs that made the cut are about, and out pops an­other of the band’s ca­reer­long traits: a sense of ro­man­ti­cism and mys­tery.

He’ll tell you that three of the tracks in­volve blood, hence the al­bum’s sub­ti­tle, and that af­ter the bleak­ness of pre­de­ces­sor Buri­als, “this record has a real sense of won­der in be­ing present in a dec­i­mated en­vi­ron­ment and awak­ing to an un­savoury po­si­tion and ex­is­tence.”

He’ll give sim­i­larly suc­cinct ex­pla­na­tions of new tracks Pink Eyes (“It speaks of an over­whelm­ing at­trac­tion to, and a mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of, beauty”) and Feed From The Floor (“I wasn’t eat­ing food from the floor, but it was some­thing that wasn’t good for me,” the straight-edge ve­gan teases). Probe him about the lyrics to Above The Bridge (‘It’s too much to take’; ‘i saw you step upon that bridge’) and their re­la­tion­ship to sui­cide, and the flow of the con­ver­sa­tion stems some­what.

“To use a trite metaphor, it’s about invit­ing a wolf into your house and the wolf is go­ing to eat you,” he says in a con­sid­ered tone. “and I’ll stop there.”

While its true mean­ing may never be fully re­vealed, Davey sug­gest it’s one of the tracks re­flect­ing the “more pro­nounced” nods to long-time heroes The Cure. this pas­sion for post-punk is one of sev­eral key sim­i­lar­i­ties with their soon-to-be tour­mates in Deftones. Both arty Cal­i­for­nia bands have spent their ca­reers be­ing lazily lumped into gen­res they’re too mu­si­cally so­phis­ti­cated for, while be­ing led by an oblique lyri­cist; they make ob­vi­ous spir­i­tual, if not mu­si­cal, bed­fel­lows.

“I’m thrilled to be play­ing with Deftones. we’ve been fans of them for years. Speak­ing to Chino [Moreno, Deftones’ vo­cal­ist] over the years, we’ve con­nected over hav­ing very sim­i­lar mu­si­cal in­flu­ences.”

Both bands also take chances that work within the con­text of their re­spec­tive sounds, be­cause they ar­rive wear­ing a trade­mark sonic sheen. Davey iden­ti­fies The Blood Al­bum’s clos­ing track, the Wind That Car­ries Me Away, as a key ex­am­ple.

“It does rep­re­sent a side of us that peo­ple don’t of­ten hear,” he says ex­cit­edly, prais­ing band­mate Jade Puget both for his riff-writ­ing and his work as pro­ducer this time around. “the el­e­va­tion of those songs from demos to fi­nal record is all him. He gets in there and lay­ers it all and adds de­tails, which al­lows a song like The Wind… to sit seam­lessly on the new record.”

And so know­ing your band in­side and out in or­der to ex­pand the bound­aries of what you’re ca­pa­ble of ap­pears to be the last of the key in­gre­di­ents of what makes AFI the band they are to­day. Given that Davey re­cently told K! he was un­aware of their in­flu­ence, we won­der what lessons he hopes other bands have learned from them?

“The most im­por­tant thing is be­ing true to your­self, and only make and re­lease mu­sic that you love,” he im­parts. “don’t cre­ate some­thing for some­one else – cre­ate it for your­self, and hope that peo­ple en­joy it.”

That sounds pretty punk to us.

THE BLOOD AL­BUM IS OUT NOW VIA CONCORD MU­SIC.AFITOURTHE UK WITH DEFTONES IN MAY – SEETHE GIG GUIDE

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