::: THE FOCUS ON :: ::: AFI ::: CRASH LOVE ::
First of all, congratulations on the upcoming release of ‘Crash Love’. I had the privilege of listening to it a few weeks ago and review it and honestly haven’t been so excited about new AFI songs in a long time. How does it feel to be so close to the impending release?
It’s very exciting for me. I really can’t wait for it to come out, and thank you, I’m glad you like what you’ve heard. Um, I’ve really never been more proud of an AFI record, so I’m really, really excited to have it released and have it available for people to enjoy. I’m really looking forward to it.
Does it feel like the calm before the storm at the moment? Are you guys doing anything in particular for the build up? Or are you just taking it easy?
Um, the storm has already started (laughs). Ah, we’ve been doing a lot of physical set up that sort of happens before a record comes out, a lot of interviews and photo shoots and working on video treatments and right now I’m in Amsterdam, actually. We’re over here doing press and a few festival shows and as soon as we get back we’re probably going to shoot a video, although I don’t know what that is going to be and I’m sure we’ll continue with such madness until the record begins, well, comes out!
Fair enough. What was the writing process like? I noticed that the album has a central theme being that of celebrity culture, did you have the idea from the get go, or was that something that evolved during your time in the studio?
Um, the themes in the record were what were really pressing on me at the time, and I still very, ah, I think are currently poignant for me, and it wasn’t something that I really set out to do, but I really think that the themes of, um.. false personas, misconceptions, destructive relationships, entitlement, narcissism.. all of that that runs through the record is affecting culture very greatly and I think because of that, because of the effect of those situations in relationships and lack thereof, I think it effects art culture and as a result affects me, and what affects me I write about! (laughs)
Was it aimed at AFI fans in particular, the general public or was it just cathartic to write about?
Um, I mean really it’s a manner of catharsis for me, and also I mean there is a hope in writing about these things that it will bring some awareness about what’s going on and how people treat one another and how people are reacting to certain relationships and events and hopefully that awareness can bring change.
I noticed that Crash Love is more of a pure rock CD compared to something like Decemberunderground that had a little bit more of an electronic influence, do you think that having the Blaqk Audio record finally come out, did that have an effect on this change in direction?
I think it really did. It wasn’t something that I had expected, and you know when we were doing Blaqk Audio and people were asking us do you think, well, they expected the next AFI record to go one of two ways, either becoming more like Blaqk Audio or, well, less like Blaqk Audio and I was always saying you know that it won’t effect AFI at all, it doesn’t really have anything to do with it. In reality, after we had finished recording, releasing and then touring on Blaqk Audio after the Decemberunderground tour, when we sat down to being writing AFI, and we were sitting there, Jade and I were sitting in front of each other and he had a guitar and we were playing rock again. It was very refreshing and was inspirational just to be playing rock again, and in that respect I think yes; having our Blaqk Audio band for our passion for electronica ended up polarising our interests and I think with AFI, naturally pushed it in a more rock direction.
There was a fair amount of excitement generated on the AFI forums when the Begin Transmission contest was announced. Who came up with the idea? And how did the fans react?
The fans were just… really, really, really happy about the experience and especially the fans that we chose to come down and sing on the record. It was really nice for everyone to be able to share that together, and to meet those fans and sing with them, and to check out the studio and see where we work and hang out with us a little bit, um, it would have been great if we were able to do it world wide.. and actually our first submission was a GREAT submission from an Australian guy!
Yeah, he was the very first person to submit, and it was a fantastic submission. I remember myself and Kristen who is our day to day manager saying, “oh! I wished we could have picked him!” (laughs), so, yeah.. it was a really great event.
Was it hard to pick the videos? I actually saw this morning a video of the fans getting the chance to meet you for the first time, and it seemed like such an overwhelming experience for some of them.. I think I remember Jade saying that he was told to pick a couple of videos, and came back with 17!
It was very difficult. The whole time I was going I would hold submissions aside and put them in a folder and um, you know for the future when I knew I would have to decide.. and the folder was just packed! It was like you know.. probably close to 60 or 70.. and it was really hard because there were so many great submissions and so many touching submissions and very creative submissions that were you know, great contenders and so many seemingly wonderful people. It was a hard decision to make.. very difficult! For all of us.
I can imagine. Do you have a favourite song off Crash Love?
I don’t have a favourite song. It’s vary rare that I have a favourite song within a body of work, at least at the time when that body of work is current, we’ve just created in. I find that actually I’ll be hard pressed to find a single favourite song off of any of our records. I can pick favourite songs off past records, but right now I’m so close to the music that it’s really hard to say because there is so much that goes into each of the songs, and they’re so unique. I mean, some of the favourites off the top of my head.. “Veronica Sawyer Smokes”, “Beautiful Thieves”, “It Was Mine”.. um.. those are some of my favourites.
Well, with that said, are there any that you’re really looking forward to debuting in a live setting?
Oh, All of them… (laughs). I can’t wait to play all of them! I would really like to play “Veronica (Sawyer Smokes)” live and “It Was Mine”.. I’m looking forward to playing those.
Fair enough. Are there any plans to release a video for “Medicate” at this stage?
Ah, right now we have received a bunch of submissions from different video directors and treatments and also our own ideas, which we usually have, so, it’s going to be a matter of deciding of who we feel will be happy and able to collaborate with us. We’re going to have to decide that very quickly…
I can understand that! It looks like you have a very busy schedule coming up.
Yeah, we’re going to try and choose as soon as we get home.
Well, with so many shows coming up, do you know what kinds of set lists you’re going to pick? Are you going to play older songs? And I noticed that there was no introduction track on this album, are you going to stick with “Prelude (12/21)”, or are you going to mix it up a little bit?
I don’t imagine we’ll be playing “Prelude (12/21)”.. um, I think we tend to use intros for whichever album for that album so, I would imagine that we would be playing “Torch Song” for this record, but I can’t say for sure. We don’t really plan that far in advance as far as set lists go, so I don’t really know. It’s really a matter of, “Ok, we’re going on tour!”, you know? I imagine heavy with ‘Crash Love’. I certainly hope so, but, you know we always play one or two songs from the past. I mean, right now we’ve been playing a song from ah, like 1992 or 1991 in our set that so..
“Love Is A Many Splendored Thing”?
Yeah, I don’t think that was even on a record.. (laughs)
Last time that you were here, actually, a little bit before that you pulled out of the Big Day Out because you wanted to record a few extra tracks for Decemberunderground. Were there ever any plans to play the Big Day Out festival again? Or was it a little bit too tempting to play with bands like Faith No More and Janes Addiction?
(laughs) You know, to be honest I don’t really know much about Big Day Out because I’ve never done it, and I’ve never been there. I hear it’s a great thing and it’s something people said “Oh, you should do Big Day Out” , but you know when [our] management told us about this tour with Janes Addiction and Sunny Day Real Estate ..(laughs)
Yeah, it’s pretty epic! I’m very exited.
Yeah! So, I really couldn’t distinguish between the two festivals having never been to either any of them, so… Could you? What’s the difference?
Um, I think that Soundwave probably appeals more to the alternative scene, so I think it’s a perfect decision.
Ok! Well, great.
We’ll see how that pans out! And with that said, are you going to be able to play a proper headlining tour of Australia or are you just booked in for the festival shows at the moment?
I would love to come back and headline Australia. We love coming to Australia, and our headlining tours have been just fantastic there. So I imagine if Soundwave goes well, there might be a promoter or two who would want to bring us back for a tour of “Crash Love” and really that’s what it comes down to… whether or not the promoters want us (laughs)
Well, I think that “Medicate” started playing on Triple J recently, and I have no doubt that there is going to be an overwhelming response to the track and the new record or finding a promoter!
I hope so!
Just after Decemberunderground came out, there was talk about an EP being released. Is that still in the works? Or now that “Crash Love” is just about to explode are you going to put it off for a little bit longer?
Uh, that’s not going to happen. That EP was a very difficult thing that was occurring and there was a lot of political stuff that was preventing it from coming out, so it is not ever going to come out, but the songs that were going to be on the EP, the b-sides from “Sing The Sorrow” and “Decemberunderground” are going to be released on different formats of “Crash Love”. So those songs will become available very shortly in different special editions of “Crash Love” and or on b-sides. There’s a lot of unreleased material that isn’t actually a part of the “Crash Love” album that is going to be on different releases... I just can’t remember which is on which cause there’s so much of it.
I can imagine. Do you know how many versions of “Crash Love” are going to be released?
Um.. gosh. Ok. I know there’s going to be the “Crash Love” record as it’s supposed be, and then there’s going to be I believe a deluxe edition with some extra songs on it and some extra stuff in it, and there’s going to be a super deluxe edition that I don’t think unfortunately is going to be out till Christmas time. We wanted to have it out around the time of release, but there’s so much that’s going into it, it’s taking longer to actually get it constructed
Well it sounds like it’s coming out right in time for the Soundwave festival, then!
Yeah, actually! It’s coming out right around the time of Soundwave, so there’s that edition and there.. actually, there’s this really cool thing that we’re doing with iTunes where there’s going to be a special edition on iTunes that has all of this personal and unique information from each of us, I believe it’s going to be called “Cocktail”, and it’s the first time that they’ve done their own digital special editions, and we’re going to be part of that. So, there’s that special edition as well, so there’s four versions that I can think of right now!
Well, that sounds quite exciting. And, just finally, you mentioned before that you’ve never been more proud of an AFI record, what makes Crash Love the best CD of AFI’s career to date?
You know, I’m very bias when I say this with my very close connection to the record. Beyond it being lyrically, and musically and vocally something that I’m most proud of, I can say that when I sat down, and I got in my car, and I listened to this record in it’s entirety for the first time, stepping back from you know.. mixing and mastering and creating. I felt that this was a record that had a timeless feel to it that none of our other records have had, you know, whether or not it goes on to be a timeless record is hard to say, but I feel for me that this AFI release has the most potential to be so. I felt, “Oh my gosh!” This is a record that I couldn’t be listening to five years from now, ten years from now, or ten years ago and it would still stand out. I feel that the immediacy of the songs and the continuity of the record gives it that quality, um, for that reason as well, I feel most proud of the record. I feel that it really is something that will stand out for years to come, and that’s why.
I have to completely agree with you. I only heard it two weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I have no doubt that it’s going to be very successful for you, I cannot wait to see you guys play at Soundwave. Congratulations again, and I cannot wait for the CD to come out in Australia.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
“Crash Love” will feature twelve tracks.
1. Torch Song
2. Beautiful Thieves
3. End Transmission
4. Too Shy To Scream
5. Veronica Sawyer Smokes
6. OK, I Feel Better Now
8. I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here
10. Darling, I Want To Destroy You
11. Cold Hands
12. It Was Mine
TRACK BY TRACK
‘Torch Song’ starts off sounding quite eerie before launching into a rocking guitar and drum fueled beat. This transforms into a rather epic sounding piece that is mimicked during the chorus, which features a strong choral backing that is sure to be replicated by AFI fans in a live setting. This entire song oozes with class due to the grand picture that it paints.. It could have been pulled right out of ‘Sing The Sorrow’, and marked down as one of the more powerful tracks. Davey sounds absolutely fantastic. Gone is his somewhat questionable shriek from the past few years while he delivers a flawless vocal performance. The verses have a slight ‘metal’ quality to them. Jade’s guitar work is again, immaculate. He manages to create the perfect sound for the song, which is sure to surprise and delight AFI fans.
‘Beautiful Thieves’ is a slower song with a driving bass line that develops and builds up into a grand chorus with more backing vocals that fans will lap up. This song seems slightly more morbid with Davey questioning his mortality. He poses a number of questions that are sure to tweak the heartstrings of the listener. The simplicity of the verse leaves you feeling quite venerable, and possibly not expecting such a powerful middle section. AFI sure know how to write an emotional number. The song finishes in the same manner as the opening. Slow and beautiful.
‘End Transmission’ has a slight 80’s vibe to the introduction that is evident throughout the entire song. There is piano present through a large portion which is quite uncommon for AFI, but it doesn’t feel forced. It blends in quite nicely with the vibrant pace. There is nothing much that really stands out for me (compared to the previous two tracks). With that said, it’s already at a much higher standard then Decemberunderground.
The start of ‘Too Shy To Scream’ instantly reminded me of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”. It is very powerful with some nicely timed clapping in the background. Davey chimes in with strong and clean vocals that see the song develop into a pleasing melodic number. The second verse welcomes back the Manson-like guitar. The lyrics suggest that the song is written about an all consuming attraction for someone. A little while ago, Davey suggested that ‘Crash Love’ as a whole was going to take a look at celebrity culture, so there are many ways that you can interpret this song, either from the perspective of the celebrity, or the fan. This song is incredibly catchy, and one of my favourite tracks on the cd.
'Veronica Sawyer Smokes' (a reference to cult film “Heathers”?) is the least impressive song on the album in my opinion. It isn’t as strong and significant as the other tracks up to this point. At 2:44, it’s also the shortest song on the cd. It seems pleasant, but there isn’t anything that really grabs my attention enough for me to need to listen to it over and over.
‘Ok, I Feel Better Now’ is another epic number. It starts off with some simple slowish guitar strumming, and Davey pouring out his heart, singing, “I had felt elation before all sensation died”. Hunter and Adam take the song to a new level as it builds from something simple into a grand chorus. The song is quite a sad one, speaking about potential heartbreak which could be related to the overall theme of the album, but the lyrics suggest that there is something more hidden beneath the surface. I really enjoyed listening to this song over and over. It wasn’t one that stuck in my head, but there are little things that I keep picking up on that make me feel the need to keep on replaying it. The final part of the song has a slight “Missing Frame” vibe to it (in terms of the backing vocals and drums).
‘Medicate’ is a track that has been floating around on the internet for the past couple of weeks, albeit a very poor quality rip from the new guitar hero game. If you were impressed by the rip, then just wait until you hear the song in it’s entirety. This one opens with some very epic guitar that slaps you in the face when Adam and Hunter join, with Davey chiming in with his trademark “oh!”, much like at the start of ‘This Celluloid Dream’. This song is heavy. Not in the Machine Head sense, but it is sure to create a scene at any AFI gig coming up. The opening and first verse “chug” along and cause some rather involuntary head banging. The song slows down at the bridge, leaving Davey quite vulnerable and emotional, with a slight hint of some electronics in the background that are so subtle that it fits in without standing out too much. After jetting back into the chorus, Jade showcases his talents with a blazing guitar solo that makes the song that much more impressive.
AFI’s ‘Tweet to reveal’ adventure gave us a partial insight into “I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here”. A video clip on their official website features the five “Begin Transmission” contest winners practicing the backing vocals for the chorus with the band. The song starts with what I can only describe as a ‘dirty rock’ riff that really sets the tone for this moody number. The chorus etches itself in your mind with the chanting from the video, “Flash flash, car crash! We’re not fixtures, Quick now, quick! Take our pictures. “The album’s theme could suggest this is a song aimed at the paparazzi, and with one incident becoming rather obvious, the death of Princess Diana. The guitar really stands out on this track. It gives it a fantastic bluesy/rock vibe that AFI have never really toyed with before. I can really see most AFI fans latching onto this one and adoring it.
“Sacrilege” is a faster paced song that took a little while to grow on me. The drums and bass really drive this track. Davey delivers a very passionate sermon of sorts. Like with “Smile” off 2000’s “The Art Of Drowning”, there is something in society that really disappoints him, and he wants to make sure that people know about it even though his bleak outlook suggests that we should all ‘let our faith die’. The pace of the song is quite consistent throughout, only slowing down slightly at the bridge and just after a very impressive guitar solo from Jade. The track picks up again to finish on a strong note.
‘Darling, I Want To Destroy You’ is another slow starting number that builds into the chorus. The guitar slightly resembles parts of ‘Summer Shudder’ from the previous cd, but only for a moment. The verses wouldn’t be out of place on an MGMT record with a vibe very similar to a couple of songs off their debut record. This song is clearly written about someone close to Davey, which differs from previous AFI songs. Most of Davey's lyrics remain quite vague, leaving the listener the ability to develop their own interpretation, while this song is very specific. Compared to the other tracks, this one is quite simple, possibly a little bit similar to “Endlessly, She Said”. It’s not as strong, but it’s still rather impressive.
At first, the guitar in the introduction to “Cold Hands” felt like a ‘vamped up’ version of “Let It Be Broke”, but that’s as close as AFI get to their east bay hardcore days (if that even was the intention, which I highly doubt). This is another number with a strong guitar riff setting the tone. It has been mentioned in a few interviews that the band were very conscious about writing a guitar orientated record, and it really shows in tracks such as this one. It seems to stand our far more then in did in ‘Decemberunderground’. The guitar takes a slight step back in the first verse when Davey starts singing, but the second that an opening appears, it asserts it authority again. The second half of the first verse sees everything meshing together quite powerfully. AFI have a very impressive tendency to let their songs slowly build and build before reaching the climax, which never fails to disappoint. ‘Cold Hands’ is a perfect example of this. It’s yet another extremely impressive rock track.
“It Was Mine” is a slower and moody song with themes very simular to Nine Inch Nail’s ‘Survivalism, with Davey remarking, “Don’t speak, don’t say anything . They’ve been recording all we say for years now”. This seems to be another dig at the temporary and bizarre nature of celebrity culture. This was one of my least favourite songs on the cd to begin with, but like a few of the other tracks it really grows after listening to it a few times. It manages to build up a bit of power in the chorus, while still remaining quite sombre. The entire track is riddled with anxiety, as well as acceptance. Like Trent Reznor’s very bleak outlook for the future, Davey has managed to pen some rather disturbing views on how the public treat fame, and how fickle everything really is once the spotlight dims a little.
AFI fans often exclaim that they wished ‘Decemberunderground’ would have been ‘Sing The Sorrow part 2’. This is much closer to where they should have taken off in 2003. The tracks are powerful, emotional, passionate and most importantly guaranteed to get you excited about AFI again.
'CRASH LOVE' - AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 25TH
Words by Deborah Konopnicki
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