ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Ask AFI which is worse:
the sellout or the "goth punk"?
By Megan O'Toole
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
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...
"...is 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
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.