Two years ago, Against Me! were celebrating the release of SPIN’s favorite album of 2007, the excellent New Wave. Last year, they were on the verge of breaking up.
Now, with that bullet dodged — although awesomely-bearded drummer Warren Oakes is gone — Against Me! have just finished recording White Crosses for a spring 2010 release. Singer/guitarist Tom Gabel talked to SPIN.com about the new album and how close it came to never existing.
SPIN: You’ve been very open on your blog about the band’s troubles, even wondering whether it was a mistake not to break up after a show in Providence in 2007. What was going on then, and what’s changed?
Tom Gabel: Well, obviously, we made another record, and that’s the ultimate good in the end. Warren did leave the band, which had a lot to do with us running ourselves into the ground — we toured for two years straight, we’d exhausted ourselves. We cancelled a tour of France planned for December , then went our separate ways for a few months, and when we got back together to practice and start talking about what we wanted to do next, some people wanted to scale back and make the band more of a hobby. We worked like that for a few months, then went on tour in April, and it became clear Warren wanted to stay home [in Gainesville, Florida] and open a Mexican restaurant. It’s good that we talked about it and it’s good that we came to these conclusions.
Are the reviews in? Are his burritos solid?
I think it’s good. Everyone I’ve heard from likes it.
How is it working out with George [Rebelo, the band’s new drummer, formerly of Hot Water Music]?
It’s been an awesome experience — as long as he wants to play with us, we’ll play with him. He’s just an incredible drummer and an incredible musician all-around, which has opened up a lot of doors for us and, I think, made us a better band.
So, is the record finished?
We know the 12 songs that will be on the album, but not the sequence yet. The ones with finalized titles are: “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” “White Crosses,” “Suffocation,” “We’re Breaking Up,” “Spanish Moss,” “Bitter Divisions,” “Rapid Decompression,” and “Because of the Shame.”
You tend to write about what’s going on with the band and with your life — that certainly seems like it could be the case here.
Not really. Obviously, with a song title like “Bitter Divisions,” you could read into it, like, “Oh, that band lost their drummer, I get it,” but at the same time, we’re living in a country that’s bitterly divided politically, and that’s what the song’s about.
“I Was a Teenage Anarchist” jumps out, too.
That was very much my identity when I was younger. And I think over the years, I’ve struggled to adapt to that. I don’t necessarily need that be the person I am anymore or have it determine my politics or everything about me, but at the same time, it’s something that a lot of people won’t let you let go of. They have a harder time moving on than you do.
Butch Vig, who produced New Wave, helmed the new one as well. What makes him exciting to work?
It’s hard to explain, he just gets it. We have similar tastes and similar aesthetics and it’s a comfortable thing. The suggestions he makes and the directions he pushes me in as a writer have always been for the better.
You’re having your first kid any second now. Are you ready?
I feel like it hasn’t quite hit me yet. But we have a crib, we have an Orbit stroller system — that was a gift from Butch. That thing is amazing, it’s a rad stroller. The way it attaches and detaches is so easy, it’s real high-tech.
Do you guys have any shows planned before the album comes out?
We’re still trying to figure out the release date, so we’re planning stuff around that. We’re hoping for early March, maybe some Florida shows just before then as warm-ups.
You had a duet with Tegan Quin on the last record. Any collaborations this time around?
No, just the four of us. We thought about getting Sara. You know, every time we see them now, there’s a little awkwardness with her. We should have just found some other twins for this record. Maybe the Olsens.