Against Me! Biography

Review The Artist (29)

Against Me!-photo

A decade ago, Tom Gabel began his music career as a 17-year old solo acoustic act known as Against Me!, belting out songs of rebellion in Laundromats and any other venue that would have him.

Flash forward to today, and Gabel's agitation cycle is still cranked high, but not without a wild streak of optimism thrown in for good measure. For the past five years, the gravelly roar of the vocalist/guitar player has been part of a thunderous and thoughtful foursome featuring Andrew Seward (bass), Warren Oakes (drums) and James Bowman (guitar), still doing business under the Against Me! moniker. Churning out a distinctive blend of punk, rock, and even folk that is impossible to label, they have toured all 50 states and foreign lands from Iceland to Australia, forging an intense connection with their growing legions of fans.

Now, after three successful full-length records on indie labels-- Reinventing Axl Rose (No Idea, 2002); As the Eternal Cowboy (Fat Wreck Chords, 2003) and Searching For a Former Clarity (Fat Wreck Chords 2005), which reached #9 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart and featured the thumping "Don't Lose Touch"-- this Gainesville, Florida band is making its major-label debut on July 10, 2007 with New Wave (Sire Records). The title is tidal for a powerful reason.

"We felt like that was our mission statement, or our manifesto for the record," Gabel said. "Instead of sitting back and complaining about how there's no good music out there, you should be energized and take things over. Be the bands you want to hear. It meant 'wave' in a literal sense, coming and washing away mediocrity... Why let someone else have the loudest voice?" asks Gabel, and with his band's new record, he most surely has not.

The album opens with a colossal, angst-fueled one-two punch: "New Wave" and "Up the Cuts" are driving, irresistible tracks, seething with energy and alternately pleading and snarling for change. It's a theme that reverberates throughout the record, both on personal and artistic levels, coming up again most pointedly in "Piss and Vinegar," with Gabel caterwauling "Just say what you're thinking!" to the faceless pap-pushers of the mainstream.

For a D.I.Y. outfit like Against Me!, signing to a major label meant some changes in approach-- namely, that the band was going to enlist a full-time producer for the first time. They didn't mess around, teaming up with alt-rock heavyweight Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Garbage).

When the label was prepping a list of potential producers, Gabel and his mates were afraid the candidates would be hot-shots who "didn't even give a f*ck about our band," the singer says with a laugh. He confirms that a few mega-producers were indeed on the document, "but Butch was there, and I've been a fan of tons of his records, all across the board. I like the fact that the majority of his records are great-sounding sonically, but still sound like real bands. They don't sound like all the life has been drained out of them."

For his part, Vig was instantly drawn to the relative unknowns the first time he saw the band play live. "I was blown away by the way they played the intensity and the reaction from the crowd," Vig said. "The way the audience sings all the songs, I could see this passionate connection with their fans and the way the band communicates with them."

The veteran producer was excited to work with a band that's not shy about sharing their feeling on any subject. "One of things I found refreshing in their music, in Tom's lyrics, is that they give a shit, but they're never preachy or anything," Vig shares. "He's saying something that makes you think about what's going on. The songs lyrically are complicated and dense. They're not simple pop songs, but they rock."

The first single, "Thrash Unreal (Bah Bah)," is a perfect example. In the manner of early Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen songs, it empathetically chronicles the damaged life of a typical college-town burnout-- a 40-something female junkie who says she has no regrets-- to a defiantly upbeat chorus.

Bass player Seward, who joined Against Me! in 2002, says the new step forward for the band is "not a new adventure-- it's an extension of the adventure. It's something we wanted to do-- we own this move [to a major label]. But I'm not going to lie to you," Seward added. "I was scared shitless, like 'Oh shit we're going to make a complete rookie mistake, we're going to go to Hollywood to some big-time studio and record something that sounds like…" he trails off with a laugh. Instead, Seward is proud of their latest work, saying "Tom has written by far the best batch of songs he's ever crafted… Everything is necessary in these songs, everything is there for the greater good. There's no bullshit or filler in there."

To make sure he had absolute focus on writing the record, Gabel holed up in a Gainesville motel whenever the band wasn't touring. As with previous Against Me! records, the subject matter on New Wave is freewheeling, as befits the mind of a 27-year old American male at a crossroads in his life. Conceived by Gabel as "in many ways, a reaction" to the "self-centered, dark and moody" terrain of Searching For a Former Clarity, the new 10-track, 34-minute CD covers the topics of love, lust, war, personal integrity and substance abuse, with a unique blend of attitude that Vig describes as "intense, but with a positive undercurrent."

New fans drawn by the incendiary 2006 "Jimmy Kimmel Live" performance of Former Clarity's sizzling screed "From Her Lips To God's Ears (The Energizer)," with its plaintive chorus of "Condoleeza! What are we gonna do now?" will find more in store. The former "Army brat" (until his parents divorced when he was 12) has stepped up to the plate and cranked out two more raucous fist-pumpers about war and national identity.

"White People for Peace" celebrates the nobility/futility of protesting war, while "Americans Abroad" rails against corporate greed with the aid of Oakes' road-rage drums and Bowman's ominous guitar tremolos, before boomeranging with a cautionary that maybe we're all part of the problem—even the band.

"I don't feel like I'm a person who has any answers," says Gabel, who self-published a ‘zine called Misanthrope while in his teens. "But I often feel like I'm searching for identity in the world and trying to figure out where I fit in."

Wide-eyed and world-weary. Never naïve, but often idealistic, Against Me! is in many ways the punk-rock embodiment of Matthew Modine's character, "Private Joker," in the classic Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket. They're flashing peace signs in a seething mosh pit, and there's no place else they'd rather be.

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Against Me! I love | Reviewer: jose all or nothing | 1/6/10

To begin with i think Against Me! is one of the most influential bands of this decade and definately my favorite band of all time. I think every AM fan needs to listen to every album before "New Wave." Personally there are a few good songs off of "New Wave," but there's nothing special that touches your soul plain and simple. The hard and soul of this band is in their early albums as "Crime," "The Acoustic EP," and "Reinventing Axl Rose." The reason why is this was when they were at their purest set. For example, "Crime" had some of their best work with "Y'all Dont Wanna Step To Dis," "Burn," "Walking Is Still Honest," Impact," and "I Still Love You Julie." None the less as they go through each album they go do change their sound but not in a bad way. Change happens i just hope doesnt lose his edge that he had from these earlier albums when it sounded that he had so much anger and love for music like what he felt when he wrote "Reinventing Axl Rose" in the song he talks about just being at a show without any worries of how many people show up or how many shirts they can sell all he cared about was the music he played and that the fans loved and could sing their hearts out just like he was.
In conclussion I love Against Me! their lyrics have made me who i am today and I say if your an AM fan that you shou;d go back to there older stuff and just listen to NW once in a while

Against Me! | Reviewer: Mitch | 7/28/09

First off, this band is almost single handedly putting soul back into music. That combined with their massive amounts of energy, Against Me! has to be one of the greatest bands today. New Wave is definently a little different from their older albums, but every bands sound changes with the years. Personally, Searching For A Former Clarity is my favorite album (even though i don't own it. it's impossible to find in stores.) but i still love going back to Reinventing Axl Rose for that raw acoustic driven sound. Anyone who calls them sell-outs is a fucking loon because Piss and Vinegar proves they still have their passion.

Zing | Reviewer: Dave | 4/11/09

The first against me album I got was " searching...". I won't lie, I didn't fall in love right away but nevertheless I tried. Then I heard " baby, I'm an anarchist" and went crazy. I tried finding that album everywhere but couldn't. Eventually got new wave and was impressed. " white people for peace" is glorious, but then...I found it. "reinventing axel rose". If Jesus were a cd, it would be reinventing

Ok, they went to a new label. Relax. It's all about the music. If you don't likenit, don't listento it, but don't use the cliché " they sold out" bit. Once they are in a gillette commercial, then ok, fuck some shit up

"SOULED OUT!! IN HEAVEN" | Reviewer: Shore | 11/9/08

watch punks not dead! damnit that is a bad movie it shows that good is now and then is bad, music i mean. If People understood how punk should be played and categorized then they would know that Against Me! are not punk, they sold out! i might still have hope but if this next album sucks then i will be sad because ever since i was 15 i was listening to them i miss their old music I"M SO ANGRY AT THEM and for the idiots that believe they didn't sell out listen to their old music for 1 month straight and if you still like new wave then your a fucking fool!!

Love this band | Reviewer: mhwine | 8/29/08

Against Me! gives me hope for the music industry, when I thought all was lost. I haven't had a collection of songs punch me between the eyes and engage me in the music since the early 90s.

Not sure why the negative reviews on New Wave. I think it's a brilliant, thoughtful piece of writing. Since finding it, I've picked up everything else by the band that I could find.

In a stunning twist of irony, I was the one who introduced the band to my 19-year old son ... now I just hope he's not too embarrassed to let his mom come with him to a show next time they're playing nearby.

U don't have to dig far | Reviewer: BS | 7/28/08

Kudos to the band and Butch Vig for New Wave and introducing these guys to the "mainstream" and a whole new audience but . . .

It's so cliche to say that an indie-punk band has sold out when they get the major label, radio-play, etc., but New Wave, while good, is nowhere near the band's best effort, and they and their fans know it. Searching for a Former Clarity defines the heart and soul of Against Me! You'll never hear these songs on the radio, but collectively, they make one of the best albums in the last 5 (or 10) years. Just ask yourself this question. Whicch album would you want to see performed live? New Wave or SFAFC? The answer is clearly the latter. Let's hope that big-label headlining and top-notch production doesn't take the edge of the music that makes Against Me! who they are, which is one of the pre-eminant bands in the US music scene today. And if the rest of the country can't see (or hear) it, we'll keep them in Florida, thank you very much.

brilliant band | Reviewer: Anonymous | 3/29/08

being a fan of Against Me! from the beginning. I hope all newer fans get all the albums before bashing New Wave. If you listen you will get the special experience of seeing a group of people grow and learn and get exceptionally better with every album. Please listen to the band's entire body of work, they are truly a band for our generation.

Against Me! | Reviewer: Dan | 2/28/08

This band, no matter how terrible their new releases are will always have a special place in my heart because of amazing albums like "Reinventing Axl Rose", " forgiven by" and "As The Eternal Cowboy"....theyre songs used to strike a chord somewhere deep in me, but recently it seems like they don't care about their old fans.

Much like Rise Against, and AFI (though not as bad) they've lost what made them special to me. Listen to the lyrics for "Reiventing Axl Rose" how much they hated all the shit theyve become.

Now, I dont hate Against Me! for going to a major. There's no problem with that, take Anti-flag for example they didn't sell out one bit. They still play songs from their first album, where as Against Me! played 8 out of 10 songs from New Wave, which was LAME.

against me? | Reviewer: acrosstheseas | 12/6/07

against me! are and will always be one of my favourite bands. this is soley for the tape vivida vis. from down here in australia weve seen them 3 times. the recent tour for the new wave album was terrible. a local anarchist zine had an article written by a person from a band who toured with them throughout australia on their first tour. the article is titled NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING. its true, they played with a look in theirs eyes as if it was all just a charade. the label they singed to, Sire is an offshoot of RCA which is a division of sony and bertelsmann which was a nazi companuy during the war years.
the new album may have some good sounds but i like to listen to music with truth. much like their earlier albums before "searching.." which seemed to be an album about how much the band themselves wish it hadnt gone this far.

in conclusion, im so glad a friend of mine stole tom gabels tuning pedal off the stage on their second tour. my band is using it to make create some music with feeling and truth. thanks tom..haha

Desperate Beauty | Reviewer: SinkMarylandSink | 10/7/07

The reason I love this band, been listening to them since Reinventing Axle Rose, is the desperate beauty in all their lyrics. It's something you can understand, no matter what city you're from, it's the reason they're not radio friendly, or all that famous.

There's a grit in their music, anthems for dumpster diving almost. It's amazing. Part of me's glad that not many people have heard of it, it's still something kinda secret, so that when you say you like Against Me!, and someone else is says they do too, there's a subtle kinda understanding between two people right there. When it's broadcasted on every radio station, you kinda lose that.

A lot of people said they sold out, I did too. The more I listened to their new stuff though, the more I loved it. There songs have been a soundtrack to my life, so I've got memories attatched to each one, and with every new song they write, I'll wind up lovingly attatching a memory to it.

Against Me!, keep on rocking. If you like Against Me!, you all need to check out The Gaslight Anthem, they're fucking amazing as well, and in the same genre.

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