The Pittsburgh-based band formed as an angry cry against the Nationalist Movement that heavily influenced the punk rock scene in the late '80s and early '90s. The band's vocalist and bassist, Chris No. 2, explained to Punk News:
"It felt like the walls of punk rock were now allowing the status quo to come in, and that's where the name Anti-Flag came from. What will agitate and piss these people, make them question their nationalism, or kick the shit out of us. So, I think the messages that we do today are the same as that. We've just sort of found a higher road to sort of engage people."
Ten politically-charged albums later (including the latest General Strike), Anti-Flag cannot just be defined by what it stands against, but also by what it stands for. The band supports such organizations as Democracy Now!, PETA, Amnesty International and Greenpeace.
Pat Thetic, the group's drummer and a founding member, spoke to us about songwriting and - surprise - politics.
Pat Thetic: Yeah. Hi, I'm Pat, I play drums in a band called Anti-Flag. And songwriting has been an evolution for us as we've gotten to be older as a band. A lot of the songwriting originally was done by Justin [Sane], the singer. He would come in with a lot of the song together, and then it would filter through me. I would play drums to it, and it would come out the other side sort of modified based on the way that I play. That has been how a lot of the songs that we've written over the years have been.
But as we've gotten older, now a lot of times we just come in with very fragmented ideas, and all four of us will sit and modify them, the ideas, into something that is completely different than what they came in as.
Songfacts: You've evolved to be more democratic.
Pat: Definitely more democratic over the years. And it's interesting, because as we get older, people have much more diverse influences than we did when we were young. We all were sort of in the same boat listening to a similar style of music all the time. But now as we've grown up we're all listening to different things and being exposed to different ideas individually, as well. So that has definitely impacted our songwriting to a great deal.
Songfacts: What do you think is a song that you're most proud of, and why?
Songfacts: Do you take a political stance? Do you align yourself with any political party?
Pat: I do not align myself with a political party, but as Steve Earle said, I make an embarrassingly large amount of money for a borderline socialist.
Songfacts: (Laughs) I love Steve Earle.
Pat: Oh, he's great. Talented man.
Songfacts: So what were some of the bands that inspired you to form the group?
Pat: Well, we were inspired by bands like The Clash and Social Distortion and the Avengers and the late '70s, early '80s style of punk rock. Those are the bands that spoke to us. We took that and added the influences of the East Coast political and straight edge movements and sort of brought all that together.
Songfacts: Are you excited about the upcoming election, or are you afraid of it?
Pat: I'm always excited. As I've gotten older, I've realized that you're always going to elect a shitty person. But the only benefit to electing a shitty person is that every four years you get the chance of getting rid of that person. Because the only thing that really protects us is the fact that they can't continue to amass power for themselves if we kick them out after 8 years.
Songfacts: I think we take for granted the whole checks and balances.
Pat: For sure.
Songfacts: Particularly if you're looking at what's going on in a lot of the Middle Eastern countries where they don't even have that freedom.
Pat: Well, yes. And I agree. And people are like, Well, don't you love democracy? And I'm like, Well, I think democracy, there's a lot of benefit to it. But really the only thing that it guarantees us is that in 8 years, no matter how much of a douche bag this guy is, we can get a new one. So democracy doesn't make us automatically get a better candidate or a better president. It just means that they can't be there for 30 years like in a lot of other places in the world.
Songfacts: What does the name of the band signify?
Pat: When we were young, in the late '80s, early '90s, there was a movement in punk rock that was very nationalist and a lot of God Bless America. And it's interesting, because it seems to be coming back here in 2012. A lot more nationalism. We've always felt that punk rock was a statement against the status quo. So the name came out of this statement: it starts out as an American flag, but you realize that we all are wearing flags to some degree, whether it's your gender, your nationality, or your religion. So a breaking down of those barriers is what the name is really talking about.
August 1, 2012. Get more at anti-flag.com.
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