AFI has lived through far more than most bands will ever dare to attempt in one music lifetime. Not only has the foursome held onto – and developed – their fans base as they transformed their sound from hardcore punk to rock, but they’ve had the same line-up for 10 strong years. This is no mean feat for any group. Jordana Borensztajn reports.
Tipped as one of the headliners for next year’s highly-anticipated Soundwave festival, the timing couldn’t have worked better because AFI recently hit the scene with yet another racy delivery, Crash Love.
Vocalist Davey Havok says the key to their success and longevity has been sharing the same vision with his bandmates. “Everyone in the band right now has the same focus and the same desire, which is to make music we love. And that is our priority and, really, what keeps us together for so long,” he says, from a motel room in Buffalo, New York.
“We’ve been together for 10 or 11 years. People always compare being in a band to a marriage and it’s a very fair analogy. We know each other very well and we know how to communicate with each other and we know how not to communicate with each other.”
Havok says they love what they do and keep the energy up by pushing themselves artistically. “That’s really what drives us – growing and being able to create music that we enjoy and that we’re passionate about. This album caused a reaction in me that I never really felt on any other AFI albums before,” he explains.
“For instance, with this album, I just want to play the whole thing. I just want to play it from front to back – come on stage and walk off – and I’ve never really had that before. I really think the continuity and the power of this record as a whole piece is just stronger than we’ve ever accomplished in the past. Vocally, and lyrically and melodically I’ve never been more proud of an AFI record. I really think by far it’s our best work.”
While AFI’s well-known for making serious hardcore footprints in the industry, with every studio album, they’ve moved further away from their roots, and closer to a polished rock sound. Crash Love is another perfect example of their change in direction.
“We started playing when we were 15 years old, and we wanted to play hard fast aggressive music and that’s all we wanted to play,” Havok says. “And as we grew as people we found it was something we wanted to depart from. There were other things we found interesting and there were other types of music that we liked creating. I still appreciate hardcore music, and I’m very glad there are bands out there playing hardcore – it’s fantastic – but I have no interest in playing it.”
After 18 years in the biz, one of the most valuable lessons Havok’s learnt has been to go with his gut. “We’ve always done what we do and people either appreciate it or they don’t. It just so happens more and more people appreciate what comes to us naturally, and that’s fantastic. It’s something I never expected and never counted on. I expected to be playing basement and tiny clubs for all of my life and everything beyond that has just been a pleasant surprise,” the very down-to-earth lead singer says.
“I’m so excited. I really couldn’t wait to get this record out. It was finished for about two or three months before people even heard it. I was just waiting for people to be able to listen to it and now it’s finally out and I’m really relieved and happy to be playing shows and getting to see peoples’ reactions to it.”
Playing alongside Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More, Isis, Placebo, Alexisonfire, and Sunny Day Real Estate, Havok says he can’t wait to catch some of the other artists on this year’s bill – and to play once more for crazy Aussie crowds.
“I’m so excited to come – both times we’ve been there have been wonderful. The shows were really energetic and the crowds were really fantastic and it was a lot of fun; not to mention it’s a beautiful country and everyone is really nice,” he explains. “It sounds contrived and trite but we just go out there and give it everything we’ve got and hopefully we feel the music, and hopefully the audience will enjoy it and we’ll have that exchange of energy that really makes our show what it is.”