AFI has been on an upward trajectory since its inception in 1991. Starting out as a hardcore punk band out of the Bay Area, building its cred at 924 Gilman Street, AFI has evolved from its earlier punk approach to now incorporating occasional dance music, metal-tinged raucous, and goth sensibilities. The black-clad quartet hit a nerve in 2003 with the Hot Topic youth, who felt at home in the dark recesses of Sing the Sorrow -- Rolling Stone called the band "the Damned for the new metal generation." Their next album, 2006's Decemberunderground, hit No. 1 on Billboard, bumping the Dixie Chicks from the top.
Lead singer Davey Havok spoke with New Times yesterday about AFI's latest album Crash Love, which came out in September. AFI will perform at Revolution tomorrow. Doors open at 7 p.m.
New Times: Was there pressure after Decemberunderground to meet the same level of success with Crash Love?
Davey Havok: Not really we experience a ton of pressure when we make any record, but it's an internal pressure. We always want to move forward artistically in what we do and create a record we find interesting and exciting and that shows growth from what we've done in the past. And having been really happy with Decemberunderground, that was pressure was pretty strong for us on during the making of Crash Love. As far as any sort of look at what was or wasn't expected of us commercially, we've never been concerned with that.
NT: You have an unreleased EP and released a lot of B-sides with this album. How much material do you usually go into an album with and how much do you cut?
DH: On Crash Love we wrote about 60 songs, but a lot of those songs don't ever make it past the moment when Jade and I are sitting in front of each other and creating the bare bones of the song.
But we probably worked out about 30 during Crash Love as a group. And depending on how much time we want to spend recording, we take a certain amount that we're going to take and try to make into completely finished songs in the studio. What we'll try to record as completely finished, we don't really know what they are before we go into the studio, structurally. But on Crash Love I think we recorded 16 songs. In the past, we recorded more, 17 or 18. But we don't record everything we write, and we don't work out everything we write, because there wouldn't be enough time.
NT: I read that you believe there is a "market lack of desire" for creativity in the entertainment industry. Do you think you may just be getting old, like what predecessors thought of your generation? Or is it endemic to American culture? And is there something specific that stifles interest in art?
DH: I think what it is is the perpetuation of celebrity or art that is put forth as being of value, where it is actually substance-free and hollow. These vapid "artists" are elevated perpetually and continuously and the public responds to them in such a way that the media continues to offer up and create and nurture more circumstances and situations that are similarly bereft of value and substance. And because that demand is there, that is what is given. And then it continues to downward spiral because that is what generations demand and appreciate. And then they look to it for inspiration. But the inspiration is to be in the place that that person or that unit is, and the way that that unit or person has gotten there is not through creating something or doing something of value but typically something that is frowned upon or laughed at or is a cry for help in a very personal situation.
[People] mimic those actions as opposed to looking to someone who's doing something, like a great author or filmmakers. It's a drive for fame that overshadowed the drive to create something positive. And I think, "yes," it's a generational thing, but I think we're a few generations in and it continues to perpetuate itself.
NT: Speaking of inspiration, what was your inspiration (or lack of inspiration) for the album?
DH: I took inspiration from the culture that's surrounding us and watching the art/cultural fall. And seeing it and being faced with so many situations that really detailed that whole fall of the paradigm. I just felt it very poignant so that kind of went into a lot the themes and perspectives that are seen within Crash Love. No forms of art per se inspired me in that lyrical direction. What I'm discussing on the album is a lack of inspiration in art not that there isn't a ton of great stuff out there, because there is. But it tends to be overlooked and suppressed.
NT: AFI is almost 20 years old. That's a major milestone. Does the industry ever get old, or are you still learning?
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DH: Things have been changing very rapidly ever since we started the band. The reason I still do it is the reason that I did it in the first place: it's about the love of creating music and it's out of a passion that I have for what we do. And 18 years in we've recorded Crash Love which is by far my most proud AFI moment. And so that really helps it continue to inspire me to do what we do in light of really anything else that's going on surrounding the band. The music is most important to me, and I never loved an AFI record more.
NT: Why is Crash Love your favorite?
I think it really comes down to the song. I feel that the songcraft on this record is far superior to anything that we've done before. And I think if you look at the songs and take them apart -- of course me being the singer, the melodies that I've written for the record and the lyrics are very important to me. I feel they're very strong and I feel that my voice is the strongest it's ever been, both in a literal sense and a metaphorical sense as far as the words go.
I think the organic qualities that the songs have as well as their detail and structure and the way we put them together really allows them to move in a way that an entire record of ours hasn't before. When I think about, once you asked me that question I looked at the record, I realized I could sing [this record] from front to back. I could sing [it] in pieces. But I could sit down if someone had a guitar and played these songs, and they would still maintain the power that they have on the record, which I can't say for really any other record that we've created. That the songs can really stand alone in and of themselves in that way.