Anti-Flag, one of punk’s longest running bands alongside the likes of Pennywise and NOFX, will return to Australia next month. Supporting fellow punk mates, Pennywise, it marks the band’s third time visiting our shores in as little as five years, this time for their new record, ‘American Spring’. We recently had the chance to speak with Anti-Flag’s rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, Justin Sane and no, that’s not his real surname.
Hey Justin, Alex from KYS here, how are you going?
Hey Alex, I’m doing well, how are you brother?
Not too bad man, thanks. It’s a nice calm evening over here in Australia. What’s it like in your part of the world right now?
It’s not too bad over here dude. I just rolled out of bed not too long ago, so pretty punk rock to roll out of bed and do some interviews (laughs).
Sweet man, we’ll get into it. As this upcoming tour commemorates Pennywise’s ‘About Time’, did that album have any impact on you as a young punk rocker?
I always thought Pennywise were a cool band. Good lyrics, good riffs, and they’ve been an influence on us for sure. I’ve seen them a number of times over the years. They’re old friends and I love to tour with them, so I’m really looking forward to it.
Good to hear dude. Do you have a favourite Pennywise song, doesn’t have to be off ‘About Time’, and it can’t be ‘Bro Hymn’?
Bro Hymn is obviously the most fun as everyone can sing that one. Fuck Authority is a great track, but you know what, it would have to Society. I love that song live, and I think it’s better live than it is on the studio recording.
Also, I really do love watching Pennywise’s set. I’ll watch their set every night and I can’t say that for every band that we’ve toured with. I think some bands that tour quite a lot don’t watch the other sets mostly because they’ve seen so many shows and sets, and it can get old. But I actually really enjoy watching them perform.
Yeah, it really is man, it’s a great song live. It has so much energy in it.
Oh, exactly man. With the sound of ‘American Spring’, there’s a stronger emphasis on melody and choruses, and it’s not a go-go sort of album. What do you guys attribute that too? Just wanting to write differently and try other sounds and ideas?
Some songs are definitely straight punk songs, but as you grow as a band, you certainly have other influences that simply weren’t there to begin with. You’re going to want to branch out and be more dynamic, and I think that really takes place on American Spring. I don’t want to make the same record over and over again, so every time we make a record, there’s a push to make ourselves be more creative. We were definitely trying to make the record very dynamic, and it does slow down, but not in a way that’s not aggressive, know what I mean?
Totally dude. I feel like a lot of these songs are likened to a song or album like ‘The Bright Lights Of America’.
To be totally honest with you, I don’t really think it sounds like that album or song. I also don’t think that there are many songs on that album that are as good as the songs on this album (laughs). I think this is a much better record for us.
The production is also different. Bright Lights Of America was heavily produced, where this is just straightforward rock record. But I definitely get where that’s coming from, like there are some songs on American Spring where you wouldn’t think that was Anti-Flag when you heard it right away.
Well said man. As you’ll be in Australia soon, and with a song ‘The Debate Is Over, how do you feel on our own government dismissing clean energy and the clear-cut facts of global warming?
I think that’s really terrifying. We’re at a place now with our planet where it can’t take much more right now, whether it be global warming, the destruction of our oceans and water tables. This planet is not going to continue to sustain life the way it is much longer unless we make significant changes. Not in just our CO2 emissions but in the amount of pollution we dump overall. The science is there, and this planet is being turned into a toxic dump, and as stewards of the Earth, we have the power to save or destroy the planet.
If we make it into the future, if, then I think future generations will be completely horrified and they’ll look back and say, ‘How were they so selfish?’
History is always the final judge in that regard. It’s very disheartening to see such backwards thinking in terms of our environment. Sticking with the grim topics, what are your thoughts on the Asylum Seeker debate we have?
Oh, I am aware that Australian immigration is pretty difficult right now. It’s really hypocritical when you look at what happened with native people of Australia too, as I’m sure you know. It’s really distressing when you see that people are searching for help and don’t get that help, then I think that’s morally bankrupt. It comes down to a big part of what we talk about on the record, which is wealth distribution. The money’s there, and it’s a matter of do the people have the money and if they’re willing to share. If they’re not [willing to share] then some changes have to be made to force them to share.
Warren Buffett, he’s one of the richest men in the world, and he’s talked about class warfare. In one of his statements, he said that “There is a class war, and it’s my class, the rich class, that’s winning”. People don’t think that the billionaire class isn’t waging war on the poor; then they’re out of touch with reality. The reality is that that class is creating these refugees. They’re the reason that wars happen and that people have [to] flee their homes. They’re the reason that Africa is being decimated for minerals and resources, or in the Middle-East for oil. You can trace back these issues with immigration for wars for wealth for a small group of people. It’s these people that are against taking on immigrants and people in need.
It’s the same thing here in the States. My father left Ireland to come to America because there was no work, but he didn’t want to come to America. People don’t want to go to Australia, you know, they don’t want to leave their homes. But it comes down to issues of economy and equality.
Well said dude, and there’s a lot of pressure on our government to change the policies to extend the help and resources for these people. Which is just sad to see, of course. So do you and Anti-Flag have any preference for backing a candidate for the U.S. presidency?
Bernie Sanders is a mainstream candidate who cares about the right things. He’s been a leader for civil rights and for the poor, so he’s someone who I can relate to and who makes sense to me. He’s spoken openly about class warfare and talking about better wealth distribution in this country. So he is somebody that’s really exciting, and he’s second in the polls now to Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. He’s pulling thousands of people now, and he’s making a lot of noise and his message resonates with a lot of people. He seems to understand that things our really out of kilter right now. I think right now is a very exciting time to be alive, as we have stronger civil rights and marriage equality, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
Yes, I feel the exact same way man, still a lot of progress to be made. Also before we go Justin, I am currently in the last half of my university studies, and for my upcoming thesis I’m looking into how political music and songs can raise awareness or even change perceptions of a listener. Part of it has a listening survey for my research and I’m using the Anti-Flag song, ‘The Sky Is Falling’ for its anti-war, anti drone strike message, and it’s really helped out so far, so your music is actually helping me get good marks in uni (laughs).
(Laughs) that’s awesome man, that’s great. That means a lot to me, man. It’s really interesting, when we did the ten-year anniversary shows for The Terror State, it was amazing to see the amount of people who came and talked to us. Some of those people were influenced by that album ten years prior to make them become an environmental lawyer who fights companies polluting the planet, or a civil rights worker or a social worker. It was really impactful to see that a song or a band in general that makes people choose a career or a lifestyle that could make a positive impact on the planet. So I think you’re on to something there, man.
That’s so cool and thank you again for writing the music that you do. Figured I’d say that, as I may never get a chance to say that again.
No, that’s cool dude. Thank you so much for telling me that.
Well, with that, I wish you nothing but the best for the upcoming tour Justin. Have a good day dude.
Hey, no worries brother, take care and good luck at university. I really enjoyed this and I hope we cross paths soon man.
‘American Spring’ is out now. Catch the band on tour with Pennywise this September/October. Tickets via Destroy All Lines.