Month: July 2021

AFI: Keeping The Flame Alight (an interview with Jade Puget)

PHOTO CREDIT: JACOB BOLL

Good morning! I went to bed at 2am last night and woke up at 6am, but for some strange reason, I feel incredibly well-slept. Coming from someone who can sleep (and has slept) 18 hours straight and still feel tired, that’s pretty fucking phenomenal – especially considering I am so far behind with AG #144 and I really could use every second I’ve got. 

But ANYWAY, last month I had a really nice chat with Jade Puget of AFI. I found him incredibly insightful and very bubbly, easy to riff off of and carry the interview along. I’d shopped the story around for a few weeks before their latest record Bodies came out, but I sadly couldn’t get an outlet to bite on it. The record has been out for a hot minute now (it streeted on June 11th), so I figure it might just work best to throw this piece up here and let it shine on its own merit. 

Cheers!


AFI: KEEPING THE FLAME ALIGHT

When they formed in the hazy Californian winter of ’91, AFI were nothing if not enthusiastic. None of the four wide-eyed ragamuffins knew how to play an instrument (no, literally – they didn’t even own any), but that hardly stopped them from thrashing away to their hearts’ content, in time making their full-length breakout with 1995’s Answer That And Stay Fashionable. Co-produced with Rancid members Tim Armstrong and Brett Reed, the record was, by and large, your stock-standard hardcore punk affair: loose, gnashing guitars, scatter-paced drum fills, and scratchy yelled vocals dripping with venomous teen angst. 

Looking back on the record in 2021, it’s… Well, it’s something. It’s hard to believe Answer That And Stay Fashionable was bashed out by the same AFI that made Bodies – the band’s kinetic and kaleidoscopic 11th LP, due June 11th on Rise Records. On the new record are glimmers of the crunchy, mosh-ready mania that AFI cut their teeth on, but there’s also a tinge of the seedy, soul-gripping emo they dipped their feet into on 2003’s Sing The Sorrow, and a solid dose of the effervescent new-wave vibes they’ve explored in recent years. There are also tracks that sound unlike anything else AFI have ever done before; it’s a triumph of the band’s storied past, but also a defiant charge ahead in their eternal pursuit of innovation – it feels purpose-built to celebrate AFI’s 30th anniversary.

Except according to guitarist Jade Puget, the impending milestone never even grazed his mind until last month. As far as he’s concerned, every AFI record is the debut effort from a new incarnation of the band. Reinvention is crucial, he stresses, lest they lapse into a soul-sucking cycle of half-assed insipidity. As Puget ruminates to [insert outlet name here], Bodies is a snapshot of AFI in the present day, and there’s no telling where they’ll go – let alone who they’ll be – from here.

One of the really exciting things about being an AFI fan is that you never know what’s going to come next. You’ve gone from hardcore to goth-rock, to pop-punk, to indie-rock… You’ve been everywhere, man. How much of that creative process is just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks? Do you see a value in experimentation?
I do! As a songwriter – and y’know, as a musician and an artist in general – I think stagnation really is the death of creativity. If we were to just remake our most popular albums, or try to replicate the formula that sold us the most records, I don’t think we would still be a band. Because sure, you might make more money or sell more records, but it’s just so soul-crushing. Even if you fail or people don’t like it, to strike out in a new direction is still more artistically rewarding. 

Has there ever been a time where you’ve done something and then stepped back and gone, “Okay, shit, we might have taken it a bit too far here”?
I mean yeah, all the time [laughs]. I actually brought this up to Davey the other day and he doesn’t even remember it, but when we were writing for this record, we somehow ended up with a reggae song. Y’know, obviously AFI is not known for its reggae – and it certainly wasn’t what we set out to do – but that’s just the way the song happened. And at the end of it, we were just kind of looking at each other like, “…How did this happen!?” But it was a good song! I actually ended up finished it after the fact, and I really like it! I don’t think it’ll ever see the light of day, but y’know, it’s fun to explore those paths less travelled when the opportunity comes up.

So where did the inspiration for this album’s thematic palate come from?
There wasn’t any particular thing where it was like I went through some traumatic experience, or had a bad breakup, or anything like that. It’s more just that at this point, I’ve been writing songs for a long time, so I just take everything in. It could be the weather, or a movie I just watched, or a book I’m reading… Y’know, you just kind of internalise everything that’s happening in your life, and then it somehow comes out in the music.

The stylistic ebb and flow on this record is truly something else. You’ve got tracks like Dulceria” and Tied To A Tree”, which are really deep and atmospheric, but then you’ve got tracks like Begging For Trouble” and Looking Tragic” which are really bright and energetic – and the way they all gel together is magical. Is the dynamic of mood something you were very conscious about?
I’m glad it happens that way, but when we sit down to write, we really have no plan for what we’re going to write. At the end of that process, it’s just like, “Okay, what are the ten best songs we have here?” But with a song like “Tied To A Tree”, you can’t write too many of those in a row or you’ll just be incredibly depressed. So you have to write something like “Begging For Trouble” to sort of cleanse your palate.

Is that diversity a testament to your creative chemistry as a band?
Yeah, even though I write all the music, I don’t try to take over it with all these crazy guitar theatrics. In fact if you listen to our records throughout the years, you can actually hear that I’ve become less and less interested in making my guitar any sort of focal point. To me, the guitars have just become another tool in my arsenal of songwriting techniques, and it just needs to be in its place and have its time. You don’t need to have these giant stacks of guitars constantly assaulting you. If you let the guitar have one cool moment in a song, that will be more impactful than having it hit you over the head for the entire song. So now I can create space for Hunter [Burgan, bass] to have his moment, for the vocals to have their moment… For everyone to have their moment. 

Is that something you’ve found has come more naturally to you with time? 
Yeah. I think as I’ve become a little more adept at songwriting, I’ve realised that making a good song isn’t about having everything sounding huge all the time. I think on this record especially, you can see that those spaces in the music can be just as impactful and as powerful as 13 layers of guitars.

Do you ever trawl through the catalogue and reflect on AFI’s evolution, or is your focus always set on the next chapter of the journey?
I’m always just trying to move forward – and I think Davey feels the same way. Y’know, sometimes I’ll sit down with my guitar and I’ll try to be like, “Okay, I’m gonna write a fast song!” Or, “I’m gonna write a song that sounds like something from The Art Of Drowning!” But when you try to force something like that, it never tends to work. It feels inauthentic. It feels uncreative. Now if that was to happen naturally – if I was to write some fast old-school punk song because that’s what I had stuck in my head – I would be all for it. And sometimes we do write that kind of stuff, and it’s okay, because it came to us naturally. But I’m not really one to reflect on our past; I’m certainly not one to throw on an old AFI record and rock out to my own music.

Do you have any plans to celebrate AFI’s 30th anniversary this year?
Yeah, we’re trying to figure that out at the moment. We’ve gotta do something cool, right? It is a big milestone – I don’t think very many bands get to 30 years – so we’re trying to think up something cool for the fans, a way that we can celebrate the whole history of the band and all the records we’ve put out. 

How strong would you say the band is right now? Could you see AFI kicking on for another 30 years?
I mean, I hope to die well before that [laughs]. But if it does happen, I won’t be complaining. I think as long as we’re able to make music that excites us, we’ll keep it going. That’s really the key to everything. If at some point there’s nothing left in the tank and we start retreading old stuff or it’s just not fun anymore, that will be when we call it a day.

I like that vibe. Sometimes you’ve just gotta go with the flow.
Yeah! I mean, that’s how we started. When we were kids, we never had any master plan – we were never looking forward to the ten-year anniversary or thinking about a five-album plan, or going, “What are we going to do after this record?” It’s always just been about taking it one day at a time.

Is that harder to do when you’ve got label contracts and expectations to meet?
No, because strangely enough, I really feel like all four of us still operate on the same wavelength; we still have the same approach [to AFI] that we did when we were a DIY punk band. We’re not going to do anything because we owe it to a label, or because we need to make money. It’s never going to be about that. Whenever we go to make a record, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Is this real for us? Is this authentic? Are we having fun?’

Well if the energy isn’t there for an AFI record, you’ve all got side projects to channel your creativity into.
Yeah, exactly. Blaqk Audio is my main side project, and that’s always a fun escape. In fact, Davey and I are writing a new Blaqk Audio record right now, so we’re hoping to record that soon!

NME news roundup: July 21st-24th, 2021

OH SHIT HEY! Man it feels like the past week has just shot right the fuck by. It’s been hectic.

Literally no more than two hours after I posted the last roundup, I wound up back in hospital – this time getting stitches and a tetanus shot because I’d stepped on a shard of broken glass that just tore through my foot. Fun times, right? I truly cannot catch a break.

But it’s been a good week! It’s been a BUSY week. We send Australian Guitar #144 off to print next Friday, and munching through a full platter of assorted health crises over the past two months has led to this issue being an especially stressful one. And there’s been SO much going on in the world of new music, my shifts at NME have been go, go, go. But I’m loving it! I wrote nine pieces yesterday! The chaos is truly exciting and I hope it never ends. Karen, if by some random stroke of embarrassing luck you’ve stumbled upon this (I’m sorry), please roster me on literally every day in August. AG always goes on a lil’ semi-hiatus for the month after an issue sends, so I’ve got the time!

My highlights for this week were the new tracks by Gretta Ray and Those Who Dream – cop them both after the jump! (And if you would be so kind, please consider clicking on an ad or two! I am currently quite on the poor side and every click is a cent I can put towards a sweet, sweet sausage McMuffin).

In non-news music news, I have been absolutely rinsing the new Turnstile album this week. I got a stream of it on Wednesday so I could review for AG144, and I must have racked up at least 100 plays so far. So far it’s my third 10/10 score for this year, following Girl In Red’s If I Could Make It Go Quiet and The Small Calamities’ Moments Of Impact. We’ve decided that AG’s album reviews won’t be syndicated to the Guitar World site moving forward, so I’ll pop my review of GLOW ON here when it’s ready.

I’ve also been listening to the new Courtney Barnett album a lot – and not necessarily because I want to? Sometimes and Tell Me were my #1 albums for 2015 and 2018, respectively, but I’m having a lot of conflicted thoughts on Things Take Time. I’m revising a lot of songs in different contexts and headspaces, trying to figure out how to make them click. But for the most part, it’s falling very flat. I’m going to review it for AG, but I also want to review it for NME – I have a lot of thoughts on this record that I can’t quite cram into 120 words.

Otherwise, I’ve been super out of touch on new album releases. There’s probably a good 200 albums I need to put on my backlog at this point. I severely doubt the new Kanye LP will end up on it; not because I don’t want to listen to it – even for all his migraine-inducing headassery over the years, I cannot deny the man makes some top quality shit – but because let’s face it: the album is never coming out.

WEDNESDAY, 21/07/21

Britney Spears’ new lawyer says he is “moving aggressively” to remove singer’s father as conservator

Martin Kahan, acclaimed KISS, Rush and Bon Jovi music video director, has died at 74

Listen to Clowns’ new tongue-in-cheek love song, ‘Sarah’

Hayley Mary makes the most of isolation in new video for ‘Sullen Kink’

Katz and Fractures team up for atmospheric new single ‘Forward’

Listen to Those Who Dream’s psychotropic new single ‘Bubblegum’

THURSDAY, 22/07/21

95 per cent of Australian punters would be “impacted” if live events don’t return in 2021, says LEIF study

Half of the Federal Government’s $200million RISE funding remains unspent

I Prevail announce Australian tour dates for 2022

Semantics share pummelling new single ‘Sleep At Night’

FRIDAY, 23/07/21

Coldplay shoot for the stars with their cinematic new track ‘Coloratura’

Listen to H3000’s cosmic new single ‘Flames’

Stevan amps up the vibes on emotive new single ‘Hope It’s Not’

Listen to Gretta Ray’s enthralling new double A-side, ‘Duology Three’

The Living End lead the inaugural Live At The Park festival lineup

Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers yell their hearts out on fiery new single ‘AHHHH!’

Eliza & The Delusionals drop silky single ‘Save Me’, announce rescheduled Queensland shows

Hear Gretta Ray put a soul-stirring spin on a Gang Of Youths gem for Like A Version

SATURDAY, 24/07/21

Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama are turning their ‘Renegades’ podcast into a book

Atlanta officially declares July 22 to be Kanye West Day

Vince Staples celebrates the here and now in his NPR Tiny Desk (Home) concert

Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker record songs in Simlish for new Sims 4 expansion pack

Amyl And The Sniffers, Spacey Jane and Jaguar Jonze lead 2021 Wave Rock Weekender lineup

NME news roundup: June 29th – July 17th, 2021

Okay, so just like the last one, this NME news roundup is coming way later than it was meant to. But I have a solid excuse: I was in the ICU with a life-threatening blood complication when this one was supposed to go live. So it didn’t, obviously, and I’m bundling two roundups together again.

As a wise man named Slowthai once said: “Deal wiv it.”

(Also, in case you were wondering, I am fine now! I’ll probably write a little ramble about how I almost died for this blog later today, ’cause I have AG admin work to do and I’m gonna need something to procrastinate that with).

TUESDAY, 29/06/21

Babymetal announce ‘10 Babymetal Budokan’ live album, director’s cut livestream

Mogwai announce North American tour dates for 2022

Jamie Lynn Spears speaks out in support for Britney: “I’m so proud of her for using her voice”

WEDNESDAY, 30/06/21

Watch Tyler, The Creator perform at a kid’s birthday in the new video for ‘Corso’

Demi Lovato set to host talk show: “No topics are off limits”

Watch Olivia Rodrigo’s new concert film ‘Sour Prom’

Dominic Breen postpones debut album release, cancels shows following leg injury

Teenage Joans share cinematic video for ‘Wine’, postpone EP launch tour

Watch Apate’s music video for their new single, ‘Liar’s Tongue’

THURSDAY, 01/07/21

Rap icon Biz Markie is still alive, manager says, after rumours of his death on social media

Chasing Ghosts announce ‘Homelands Colonies’ tour

Listen to Flowerkid’s emotive new single ‘It’s Happening Again’, featuring KUČKA

The Kite String Tangle and Woodes share new Tornado Club single, ‘Intuition’

SATURDAY, 03/07/21

Curb Records sues Tennessee governor over transphobic bathroom bill

Scott Weiland and Robert Trujillo’s sons have formed a new band called Blu Weekend

Listen to a snippet of The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s new collab, ‘Stay’

TUESDAY, 13/07/21

Suicidal Tendencies bassist Ra Diaz to fill in for Fieldy on Korn’s summer tour

Vince Staples keeps running in the new video for ‘Are You With That?’

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard share Hayao Miyazaki-inspired animated video for ‘Interior People’

Listen to Shannen James’ dancefloor-ready new breakup anthem, ‘Separate Ways’

Twelve Foot Ninja share details of new album, novel, comic and tour dates

WEDNESDAY, 14/07/21

The Kid LAROI confirms July release and partial tracklist for ‘Fuck Love 3’

Dani Filth responds to Ed Sheeran saying he “would not be opposed to creating” a death metal album

ACLU and other rights groups back Britney Spears’ request to choose her own lawyer in conservatorship case

Dave Mustaine says David Ellefson will not rejoin Megadeth, teases bassist’s “mystery” replacement

Vivid Sydney 2021 rescheduled due to surge of local COVID-19 cases

THURSDAY, 15/07/21

Jeff LaBar, guitarist of glam metal band Cinderella, has died aged 58

Watch Olivia Rodrigo appear at the White House to promote COVID-19 vaccines

Holy Holy team with CLEWS for buoyant single ‘The Aftergone’, announce album tour

Brisbane Festival announces full 2021 programme for September with Client Liaison, Alice Skye and more

Watch the chaotic new video for RedHook’s latest single, ’Kamikaze’

Hear Vance Joy perform an enchanting acoustic version of ‘Missing Piece’

Newcastle musician Daniel Hanson jailed for 28 years on 14 charges of rape

FRIDAY, 16/07/21

Listen to Gang Of Youths’ surprise new EP, ‘Total Serene’

Foxing drop the dynamic title track for ‘Draw Down The Moon’ alongside André De Shields-starring video

Mark Hoppus shares more details of cancer diagnosis: “I’m stage 4”

Trippie Redd links up with Lil Uzi Vert for poppy new single ‘Holy Smokes’

Watch Billie Eilish perform a striking live version of ‘NDA’ in-studio

Hear Haim’s summery tune for the ‘Last Letter Of Your Love’ soundtrack, ‘Cherry Flavored Stomach Ache’

Miiesha continues the story of ‘Damaged’ in bouncy new single, ‘Made For Silence’

SATURDAY, 17/07/21

Biz Markie, pioneering ‘Just A Friend’ rapper, has died aged 57

American Football’s founding drummer and trumpeter Steve Lamos leaves band

Conan Gray almost burns down a café in the new video for ‘People Watching’

Three new Metallica jigsaw puzzles set for release in September