The average band will write between 25 and 40 songs before heading into the studio to make an album — of which around 15 will be recorded and 12 or so will make the final lineup.
AFI is not your average band.
Back in 2004, AFI — fresh from touring in support of 2003's Sing the Sorrow — began writing songs for their seventh studio offering, which is due in stores late this spring (see "AFI Go Into Woodshop Mode For Next LP").
"We ended up writing somewhere between 80 and 100 songs," frontman Davey Havok said. "Really!" he continued, when challenged about the sum. "I have lyric books full and full of complete songs. It was crazy. We just kept writing and writing and writing ... it's been a long process and it was a bit excessive."
In the end, AFI whittled those 80 to 100 cuts down to 22, and ended up recording just 14 when they hit the studio with producer Jerry Finn (Blink-182, Rancid). Twelve of those will end up on the record. And when fans of the act have a chance to hear the finished product, what they'll get is a "sophisticated, melodic" opus that'll please even old-school AFI followers.
"There are a few tracks that are really aggressive and have — dare I say — pretty heavy hardcore leanings," à la 1997's Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes, Havok said. "There are just a few — by no means is the record weighted in that direction. But there are definitely some hardcore moments on there."
Conversely, "there's stuff on here we've never ever done before," Havoc said. "And for us, that's the most exciting part. There are some songs that are more heavily loop-based. We tinkered with different time signatures, and even different rhythms we haven't worked with. There are moments within some of these tracks that sound like nothing we've really touched as a band, artistically, before."
And on this record, Havok stayed true to the approach he's always taken with his lyrics: He turned inward for inspiration, and laid himself bare, emotionally.
"This album's certainly an exposé of what was going on with me at the time of the writing of the record, and it was a really difficult time for me," he said. "There's a sense of detachment and hopelessness and weird surrealistic feelings of isolation. There are different perspectives on this record, too. Sometimes, I'll be singing in the first person but I won't actually be referring to myself, which is something I don't do too often. It's not too much different from what you'd expect from my lyrics."
And Havok gets a little help singing those lyrics from some friends: The album will feature backing vocals from Tiger Army's Nick 13, Dan Smith from Day of Contempt, Bleeding Through's Brandon Schieppati, Eighteen Visions' Keith Barney, and Ronan Harris from VNV Nation, among others.
Havok was mum on which tracks would appear on the next AFI album, but did talk about one song: "Endlessly, She Said."
"It happens to be one of my very favorite songs on the record, because it's one of the darkest songs on the album," he explained. "There were changes made to the song, vocally, elements that were taken out later in the sessions, which, really, I thought brought more focus to the lyrics and to the lead vocal track, which allows you to get into the song more. The way that it translates, you get a really tangible sense of emotion."