"The pen is in our hands to dictate that future. Another world is possible." Anti-Flag talk their new album 20/20 Vision
Over the course of their career, which is rocking around to its 30th anniversary, Pittsburgh punks Anti-Flag have prided themselves on delivering visceral, direct punk rock. Always political, always angry and always incisive.
Their latest LP, the appropriately titled 20/20 Vision, is no different. With the album now out in hmv stores, we spoke to bassist/co-frontman Chris No. 2 about how they made this fiery new album...
When did you start working on the songs for 20/20 Vision?
"I started writing around November 2018. Demoed around 35 songs before sitting with the guys to narrow it down. Justin (Sane, guitarist/singer) had a batch of songs. We wrote and worked on a few all 4 of us. There was a good bit of life change surrounding this process. Justin’s mom passed away from cancer. Chris Head's (bassist) wife was pregnant. Pat (Thetic, drummer) and his wife just had a baby. So I locked myself in the room and wrote."
How did you want this album to move on from what you did on American Fall?
"I feel like with songs like 'American Attraction', 'The Criminals', 'Trouble Follows Me', 'I Came. I Saw. I Believed.', a door was opened for us to be stylistically more diverse on our albums. On 20/20 Vision; I think we walked through that door."
You made the album with Matt Good, what did he give you as a producer?
"Matt Good. He was incredible. Great ear for sounds, but the most valuable thing he showed us was in the pronunciation and attention to detail within our vocals. He wanted to make sure people could understand the agenda and message of each song. It was really new and refreshing for us."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Can you talk us through some of the themes you’re exploring?
"The world is on fire right now. False populists are gaining immense power all over the world; propped up by globalization and corporate greed that has led to people seeing their neighbours, immigrants and refugees all as their enemy. Those in power are pushing the right xenophobic buttons to create this divide. The album is about the future and what we hope it looks like. The pen is in our hands to dictate that future. Another world is possible."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"There were two in particular that we worked on tirelessly. 'The Disease' and 'Un-American'. Both were deconstructed and reconstructed lyrically and musically several times."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Hate Conquers All' was the first song written for the album, it was clear to us it would be the first track."
When did you decide on 20/20 Vision for the album title? Were any other titles in contention?
"No other titles were discussed. This is the first album where we had a title, artwork and direction completely sorted out before hitting the record button. As I said, there was immense work out in from the beginning. There’s a specific focus to the issues the world is facing right now in the immediacy."
What are your plans to take the album out live? You’ve got 12 records now, how do you decide what goes in your live set?
"We're on the road all of 2020 and this headline tour is a 22 song set. Something from every record. But we want the show to be hopeful and optimistic. There is a real focus on songs about lifting each other up."
How are your festival plans shaping up? Is it looking like a busy summer?
"It will be a very busy summer in Europe and the UK. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!"