Q&A: Against Me!'s Tom Gabel Talks Leaving Sire Records and Playing at the Buzz Bake Sale Today

Q&A: Against Me!'s Tom Gabel Talks Leaving Sire Records and Playing at the Buzz Bake Sale Today
Photo by Autumn de Wilde

This week has had us doing a lot of commuting down to the 305. For those of us caught in the Art Basel whirlwind down south in Miami, you can only enjoy so many sleepless nights fueled by incessant art viewings, late-night concerts, and after parties before it all starts to take a toll on your psyche. Our remedy? Stay closer to home and catch the Buzz Bake Sale today instead.

Today marks the 15th anniversary show, and with a strangely combined lineup of nostalgic bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Switchfoot, and a ton of local South Florida favorites, it's hard to turn it down with a $30 price tag.

We caught up with Gainesville-based punk rockers Against Me!, and spoke with frontman Tom Gabel about their recent decision to leave Sire Records, canceling their recent tour, and why getting Against Me! for Christmas is better than overdosing on Basel.

New Times: What's it going to be like for you guys to play three shows in your home state? It's not technically Gainsville, but it's still pretty close. Are you guys excited?

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Tom Gabel: Yeah. It'll be cool. It's like festival shows, so they don't really feel like they're your own shows. Still obviously playing a show is just fun, but it's a half hour set, you're on and then you're gone. It's kind of a tease in some ways.

Yeah, I'd think it's a bit of a tease for the fans.

[Laughs]. Yeah. What are 'ya gonna do?

Are these the first shows you guys are playing since you canceled your tour?

Yeah, they are.

Did you guys decide to play them because you canceled the tour? Is it your way of trying to make it up to the fans?

No, we actually had them scheduled before we canceled the dates we had to cancel. There's obviously like a lot of complicated reasons and stuff like that behind why we had to cancel the dates. But one of the exasperating factors was the fact that they were overseas shows. It's a lot easier for us to go out and play three shows that are all a couple hours drive away from home then to fly halfway around the world to play some shows, you know?

What made you guys decide to do back-to-back holiday shows? We noticed they're pretty much all holiday themed somehow.

That's kind of the radio stations that are putting them on. That's their deal. This is the time of year when they all do those types of shows, so it's just what it is [laughs].

So it was just simply a coincidence, then? You guys didn't band together and say "let's do a holiday tour"?

Christmastime with Against Me! [Laughs]. No. That's just when all those radio shows do stuff like that. Like I said, we'd had them planned so in theory it was supposed to be like a handful of shows at the end of a tour, not just like in the middle of nowhere or anything.

And you guys are also going to start touring with Dropkick Murphys next year, right? Are you guys going to reschedule the canceled shows while on tour with the Dropkick Murphys? Or is it just a separate tour?

Well before the Dropkick Murphys tour we're going out for maybe like three weeks or something like that. After that we're trying to reschedule some of the dates we had to cancel. So hopefully before too long into the next year we'll make up everything we had to cancel.

So you're going to be busy.

Yeah. But it's good to be busy. [Laughs].

So then it's good that you guys only have half-hour sets because you get to relax and see other bands perform.

Yeah, for sure. What's always amazing too is if you take a couple of weeks off from touring, no matter how much you try to stay on shape while you're on the road, you always get back on stage and it just hurts. [Laughs]. Like you get out of it so quick, and there's really nothing you can do to fully prepare for it, you know?

Yeah, probably also from all of the junk food and stuff you have to eat while on the road.

[Laughs]. I eat very healthy, I'll have you know. [Laughs].

A lot of bands always mention like food from truck stops in the middle of the night and how it's hard to jump back on stage after binge eating at three in the morning.

[Laughs]. How old are these kids? are they like 17 years old? [Laughs]. I kind of learned a long time ago that you have to avoid the junk food and stuff like that. It not only makes you unhealthy, but makes you kind of feel shitty all around.

So do you guys have like a little ritual that you do before your festival shows?

Well we have something that we call "prep time." It's an hour before the set, we all get together and kind of just be in the same area -- whether it's backstage or on the bus or whatever. You know, everyone just has some drinks, listens to some music, and gets in the mood for a punk show. I mean it can be tough sometimes as far as you spend all day long sitting around waiting for the show to happen. And it's not like everyone spends that time together. People go and do their separate things. So you spend all day apart from each other, so it's good to just be in the same place before playing a show to kind of get in the same mindset or the same vibe and just kind of get ramped up for it.

That sounds like fun compared to vocal exercises and being alone before a show.

Well we'll put on Danzig sometimes and I'll sing along to Danzig. That's a good vocal warmup [laughs].

Not sure if you saw the lineup recently, but the Buzz Bake Sale actually has a bunch of other Florida bands playing, too.

Yeah I looked at it actually not too long ago. Mighty Mighty Bosstones are one of the headliners, right? And that band Anberlin is playing, right? What other Florida bands?

A bunch of local bands from Miami, Broward, and Palm Beach. Last time I counted it was almost a dozen.

Yeah, that's crazy. Last time I looked at the lineup there were a lot of bands I didn't recognize. But that's one of the cool things about playing a festival show. You can walk around and take a look at what's going on and maybe you can stumble into something you've never heard before and become a fan.

I noticed that you announced that Jay Weinberg will be replacing George Rebello in the new year. Does that mean George will play all the Radio shows with you guys still?

No. George is actually now in Australia. As far as the new year goes, we're not really sure what's going on. It's kind of on a case-by-case basis that we're working with right now. We're just playing it by ear as we go.

So then Jay is going to be joining you guys for all of the Florida shows?

Yes he is. Uh-huh.

So what made you guys decide to leave Sire after five years?

Umm... well our contract was up, so that has a lot to do with it. I just kind of felt like the relationship had really run its course. The label itself, which is Sire, is undergoing a massive restructuring. They're unfortunately firing a lot of people. A lot of people are losing their jobs right now and just kind of reorganizing everything. It just kind of felt like the team of people that we worked with while we were there ... unfortunately a lot of those people lost their jobs and so it didn't really feel like we were on the same page anymore.

That sucks. Have you guys already decided on a new label?

No. I mean this is all really fresh. We're just kind of figuring it all out right now. We're not really in a terrible rush or anything. We've already started working on new songs and stuff like that but we figure as things start to come together more with that, we'll figure out labels that we're gonna work with.

How ready are the new songs? Are you going to play any of them at the Buzz Bake Sale today?

Probably not, unfortunately. We only get a half-hour set, so we'll probably just stick to what people want to hear at our shows [laughs].

Buzz Bake Sale 15, with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Chevelle, a Day to Remember, Against Me!, Anberlin, Pepper, Hawthorne Heights, Sick Puppies, Switchfoot, Paper Tongues, a Silent Film, American Bang, New Politics, and two major buzz bands to be announced. Saturday, December 4, at 10:00 a.m. at Cruzan Amphitheatre. $30 via Live Nation. For more info, visit livenation.com.

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