Lead singer Tom Gabel previews what to expect on next year’s White Crosses record, what it was like releasing his first solo material, and how he never set out to be a political band.
You have a handful of shows coming up in California in a couple of weeks. Are these the first shows you’ve done in a while?
Yeah. We’ve pretty much been in the studio since July, I guess, really. We played one show in Phoenix back in September, or something like that, but other than that we’ve been taking a break from doing shows.
So this will be the first time you’ll be playing a lot of this new material live then?
Some of it, yeah.
Do have a release date lined up for this new record yet?
Not an exact date, but we’re hoping either late February or early March.
What can we expect from this album?
Well, it’s 12 songs. We recorded them in Burbank over the summer. I don’t know. We’ve been working on this record for like a year now. We’ve really thrown everything we have into it, so I hope people like it.
What is the significance of naming the album White Crosses after the song of the same name?
I thought it was a title that was open enough to interpretation that everyone could get their own thing from it. It’s not necessarily dictating what the album is about or anything. The song itself is about a specific thing, but as an album title it lends itself well to being open to interpretation.
Are there any themes that go through the album, or anything like that?
I’m not sure to be honest. I think that’s up to the listener to decide. It’s hard for me to have a perspective on it, since I’m pretty personally involved with it.
Did you write in the same manner that you have in the past, or did you switch things up on this one?
We weren’t on tour. I guess that was one difference. With the last record, we were on tour for probably two years straight and wrote that record while touring. Then we came home from the road, took a month off from the road and immediately after that went into the studio.
With this record, we finished touring for New Wave and took a break, kind of caught our breaths for a second, and then started writing and working on the record. We decided when to go into the studio based on when the songs were ready. It was a little more relaxed of a process, I guess.
Did you have more time to work on this one than in the past?
As far as writing goes, yeah, but we were in the studio probably about the same amount of time.
One of the things Against Me! is known for are your political lyrics. Does this record continue in that vein?
I don’t know. Again, I think that’s up for people to decide. I feel like to a certain extent the title of being a political band was something that other people gave us and not something that we necessarily asked for. I’m fine with it. I understand it, but I’m just writing songs.
I have opinions on things, and I’m expressing those opinions. If other people think they’re political, then that’s fine, but I’m not setting out with the goal of we’re going to write political songs and we’re going to be a political band. I’m just speaking my mind.
Do you ever find it challenging to be able to speak your mind and just say what you want to say?
Not necessarily on a mass level, not being worried about what an audience thinks, but sometimes you worry about what your friends will think. I’m married, so sometimes I’ll worry about what my wife will think, or stuff like that with certain things you say.
I read recently that you were expecting your first child.
Yeah, me and my wife had a daughter about a month ago.
How does it feel to be a first-time dad?
It’s pretty crazy. I feel like I’ve done a couple back flips and been turned all around. I don’t even know which way the right direction is.
That’s rad. Congratulations.
So as far as style wise, how would you say this stacks up against your previous work?
I think in a lot of ways it’s a more aggressive record. With our last record, I think a lot of people thought that was a very rock record compared to earlier work. I think this record is even more so a really aggressive rock ’n’ roll record, for lack of a better term. Call it a punk record, or whatever you want. I’ve heard other people say it’s very masculine. I don’t know if I like that, but that’s what I’ve heard other people say.
Early last year you had that opening spot for the Foo Fighters. Did that experience have any influence on going after a bigger rock sound?
I don’t know, maybe subconsciously. I’m definitely a fan of the Foo Fighters. More so of an influence to us was the way they operate as a band. The way they do stuff is definitely something that I think we all want to achieve and strive towards.
Do you have a first single picked out?
No, we don’t. We still have yet to mix the record, so we’re starting that right now. We’re in mixing, but it’s kind of a long, drawn out process.
Do you have a personal highlight off the record?
I don’t know. That’s like asking me what your favorite kid is.
You worked with Butch Vig for the second time. What was that experience like and did you do anything differently that you didn’t do on New Wave?
As far as the experience goes, it was again a totally incredible experience. We all love working with Butch and we’re honored to work with him. As long as he wants to work with us, we’ll keep making records with him.
As far as this experience compared to the last one, maybe a lot more attention was gone into the beforehand process of working out melodies and stuff like that. There was a lot more of the preproduction process before actually going into the studio.
On this record you also had a new drummer, George Rebelo. What did he bring to the table and how did that work out?
He’s an incredible drummer. He is a real versatile drummer. He can pick up on different styles at the drop of a hat, so having that ability to try songs in different backdrops of drumming was awesome. He hits so hard and is such a solid drummer. I think it really shows through on the record.
White Crosses will be your second major label release. Are you still happy with how everything is going on that side of things?
Yeah, no complaints.
Last year you also released your first solo EP. Is that something we will see more of somewhere down the line?
I definitely would like to. It’s a great outlet for extra creativity and songs. I feel like sometimes it’s great to spend a lot of time working on a record and spend six to seven months on it. But sometimes it’s really nice to write a couple songs in a month, and record them, and do something with them and put them out. I feel like I have maybe a little more of an ability to do that just under my own name than the band name.
I understand that the early days of Against Me! started out with just you and an acoustic. Is that something you still tap into and play around with?
Well, I mean, that’s how every song begins.
Is there any acoustic stuff on this record?
Not necessarily, no.
So this year is drawing to a close pretty quickly here. Is there anything that’s stood out to you in 2009 as far as music, films or books?
Wow, I’m not really sure off the top of my head. I haven’t really been reading many recent books, I’ve just been going through some older books. I constantly watch movies and keep a log usually of all the movies I watch. I’ve watched at least a hundred plus movies in the past couple months but I’m not sure what my top favorite movie of the year would be, or anything like that, or what my favorite record would be. I have a pretty big appetite for music as well.
As this year is coming to a close, this decade is also coming to a close. Do you have any thoughts on what this next decade will have in store for Against Me!?
I don’t know, but overall I hope it’s a better decade than the last.
How do you think Obama’s been doing so far?
I don’t know. I try and remain optimistic. I know right now the big fuss is all over the troop surge in Afghanistan. I don’t know. Again, I try and remain optimistic. I never thought that him being elected would be an end-all solution for everything.
Originally appeared on Mammoth Press