Punk Poverty

Anarchy and flying French fries collide in the world of Against Me!

"'Cause baby I'm an anarchist/You're a spineless lib-er-al/We marched together for the eight-hour day/And held hands in the streets of Seattle/But when it came time to throw bricks through that Starbucks window/You left me all alone."

The Reinventing Axl Rose Tour lasted a solid year and pushed the band to a new level. No longer would it tour in crap vans and starve. Against Gabel's wishes and ethos, they began printing T-shirts. "Me personally, I don't like being a fucking billboard," he gripes. "It's so saturated -- everyone is wearing T-shirts. But it helps you eat." Their growing following also began to outgrow their usual house-party and DIY live environments. Gabel recalls: "In April, we were playing a house in Cleveland, and there were 200 people there. We were playing in the living room, and someone ran up from the basement and told us, 'Everyone needs to get out of the house! The floor beams are cracking!' We've gotten a lot of flack for it [hiring a booking agent and playing clubs], but obviously, you want to have the show where everyone can see it. You almost start to feel like you're the hired band for the person's party and no one is gonna flier for it. If I'm spending my time playing across the country, I don't want it to be some sort of exclusive thing where only the cool kids come. Fuck that!"

After 20,000 "cool kids" bought Reinventing Axl Rose, Gabel pissed them off by signing to pop-punk behemoth Fat Wreck Chords this spring. Anonymous cries of "sell out" filled message boards across the web, which flummoxes Gabel. "I grew up listening to bands on Fat. I went to see NOFX when I was 15. Propaghandi, Dillinger Four -- there's a ton of bands on there that everyone in the band is into."

The boys from Against Me! and  their friend Henny Penny
The boys from Against Me! and their friend Henny Penny

While certainly punk's basement dwellers will get over Against Me!'s label switch, what remains to be seen is if they'll want what's on their new record, As the Eternal Cowboy. Gone are the big brawling choruses and hilarious anthems. In their place is a relatively straightforward collection of rock songs that Gabel describes as a "concept record about love and war where all the songs and all the lyrics flow." Is Eternal Cowboythe punk-rock answer to Pink Floyd's The Wall? Only the cool kids know for sure. But Gabel doesn't care one way or the other. "I don't give a shit what anyone thinks," he affirms. "If everyone else quit the band, I would not care. I would start over again. I dropped out. I have a criminal record. I have limited myself in my life. But this is what I want to do. I'm having a blast."

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