AFI Discuss Playing Riot Fest, Satisfying Old Fans + Making New Album ‘Burials’
Eighteen years after the release of their debut and more than a decade since they broke out of the Bay Area punk scene, AFI are back with their ninth full-length collection, ‘Burials.’ But don’t let the title mislead you: The band is alive and well. They’re simply enjoying the perks of success, one being the freedom to wait four years between albums.
Based on their recent reception at Riot Fest, though, it seems absence has made fans’ hearts grow fonder, as has the the renewed interest in early-00’s emo-punk. ‘Burials’ drops tomorrow (Oct. 22) via Republic Records, and before the release, Diffuser.fm talked to guitarist Jade Puget about fans wanting to hear the old songs and AFI’s place on the festival circuit.
It’s been four years since the last AFI album. What have you been doing in the interim?
After putting out the last album in 2009, we toured on it for about a year and then took about a year off and started writing in 2011. We were working, but you’re not in the public eye when you are writing or recording, and people kind of think you aren’t there.
Did you spend more time in the creation or writing process than usual, or is this typical of the process?
As far as the writing, it was similar, but in the studio, we were way quicker, which was nice. The process for recording was really dynamic, and we just banged it out instead of sitting in the studio.
What are your thoughts on the world you’re releasing the album into? With that much time between albums, the climate has changed, they play different things on the radio and tastes are different.
It’s a pretty crazy world in a lot of ways. We weren’t trying to write in order to fit into some slot of what is going on now. That wouldn’t be very true to ourselves or a very artistic way to express yourself. So we just write what we write, and hopefully it fits somewhere in this strange musical landscape that exists today.
Well, AFI has a history of shifting sounds, and that has segregated your fan base into liking certain periods of your career more than others. Some like the Bay Area punk sound you started with, while others prefer the more emo and pop directions you wound up up going. When you guys play, is it all types of fans showing up, or has one era of fan latched on more than others?
We didn’t really know what to expect, since we hadn’t stepped on stage in three years, but we’ve played eight shows so far, and they have all been amazing. There is a cross-section of fan. People want to hear the old stuff, which we do play — we play songs from every record — but people don’t really know the old stuff as much. I think the people that want to hear the old stuff are the loudest and are clamoring most online and complaining about not hearing the old stuff, but when you actually play an old song live, people don’t really know it.
You have to figure that some of that stuff is 20 years old, too. The fan that was 20 when those songs came out is 40 now and might be less likely to even be at a show.
There are some 40-year-olds that make it out. You’ll notice it when you play a more obscure track and you’ll see a few people’s eyes light up.
You guys played Riot Fest. That must have been a cool experience with the lineup they put together?
Yeah it was cool. We played two of them, and we hadn’t played a festival in a long time, but they were actually really great. Getting to play with the Replacements was obviously amazing, sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Iggy Pop played on the Denver one, and Rocket from the Crypt played, and Quicksand. Definitely some cool bands.
When you guys were at your biggest, you could play Warped Tour or radio festivals, but it wasn’t like today, with a festival in every city. The music world now seems more accepting of having eclectic lineups at festivals, where a radio band can be next to a punk band and next to an indie band and a rap artist. Do you feel like there is more of an opportunity to reach new fans?
Yeah, totally. The American scene has just sort of caught up to how Europe has been for a long time. Europe has been doing these festivals for a long time, but it’s only really taken off here in the last five or 10 years. Now, you can have something like Riot Fest, which at its core might be a punk festival but was still very eclectic. You had Public Enemy there. So, we will be playing festivals for this album that didn’t even exist for our last album, and it is exciting to be able to play them. Warped Tour is cool, but it is the same bands often, though it is fun to play and watch them.
Having been off the road for so long, what’s the thing you miss most about it, and what do you dread?
We’ve been doing this for so long that yeah, there are good things and hardships of the road, like leaving your family behind, which is really more of an inconvenience than a hardship. I wouldn’t really complain about that. I get to be out there around people wanting to hear me play my music. So, it’s all upside.