September 5, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 5  

Front Page >> Arts & Entertainment > Ask AFI which is worse


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Ask AFI which is worse: the sellout or the "goth punk"?

By Megan O'Toole
Gazette Staff

Now that AFI has signed with Dreamworks and hit listeners with a much more radio-friendly album, there's one question that's in the back of everyone's mind: has the band sold out?

"Sellout sounds like such an adolescent term," responds bassist Hunter. "Nobody who actually has any idea of what goes on in the music business world would use that term. When you're real young, you throw those things around because for some reason, maybe you don't like the way your favorite band sounds on the new record or whatever.

"The way I interpret a term like selling out is that there's a band with a certain sound, but then they hear that grunge is in or pop-punk is in and they decide they'd better go for that... they make an artistic compromise to make money."

So Hunter's answer to the sellout debate is clearly a resounding "no" - according to him, AFI has evolved naturally over the years, but never with the sole goal of making money.

That being said, if you're looking for a term that actually will get under the band's skin, just throw the phrase "goth punk" around and watch them rise to the bait. "Any sort of label that doesn't attempt to describe us just ends up limiting us," Hunter says. "I don't even know what goth punk is. It has nothing to do with the music. If I wore a cowboy hat on stage tonight, is that going to make us some sort of goth cowboys?

"I think there are just journalists out there who are too lazy to do quality journalism... I've read all these articles about us that donÕt even attempt to describe the music at all. They just want to talk about makeup, hair or black clothing."

Yikes, I hope I donÕt fit into that category. But I digress...

"The only way I can really describe [our sound] to a complete musical layperson, like my dentist or something, is to say that our singer can sing fairly high, we have fairly extreme dynamics to our songs and we can be very intense and very melancholy at times. And the only band I can think of that really fits that description..."

Classic rock fans, hold onto your hats...

" Led Zeppelin."

Well, that was unexpected. AFI and Led Zeppelin? Could he possibly be serious?

"Of course, they don't sound anything like us... but on paper it could sound very similar. It's very rhythmic stuff, you know. [Some parts] are quieter and more melancholy, yet there are these very three-dimensional, intense, very aggressive parts where the singer sings really high. Although we donÕt sound anything like Led Zeppelin, you know..."

He lets that dangle. So do I.

To get away from that lit cannon, I bring up another touchy subject: the depressing nature of vocalist Davey HavokÕs lyrics.

"I think if anything, our music comes from a dark, sort of depressed place, but at that moment where you see the light of hope in the distance," Hunter explains. "Anyone that thinks it's horribly depressing, well, maybe they're not really in touch with their own emotions; maybe theyÕre in denial."

Sample lyrics from "This Time Imperfect": "I'd try to smile, but I'm too weak/ I'd share with you, could I only speak/ Just how much this hurts me/ Just how much this hurts me..."

Ah, there it is: the light of hope.



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