For nearly a decade now, Tom Gabel has made a career of pissing people off.
He played shows in Laundromats as a one-man acoustic act known as Against Me! before forming a full band (adding electric guitars = selling out!). He leapt from indie No Idea Records to equally indie Fat Wreck Chords (changing labels = selling out!), tinkered with Against Me!’s sound on 2003’s As the Eternal Cowboy (production = selling out!) and finally decided to sign with a major label in late 2005 (major label = selling out!). Whatever the situation, it seems he’s always derived some sort of glee from stirring up great anger in others.
Or maybe he just doesn’t care.
“There is no pleasing everybody,” he said. “I guarantee that our new record will get the same reaction that all our records get with our existing fans. Some will be like, ’It’s awesome,’ and others will be like, ’I absolutely hate it.’ But fast-forward a few years, and the ones who said they hated it are the ones who say they loved it all along and are asking us to play the songs at shows.”
That new record is New Wave, a hard-charging, fist-pumping exercise in gravel-voiced punk rock due July 10. It comes on the heels of the band’s 2005 effort, Searching for a Former Clarity, which bowed in the Billboard Top 200 and pushed Against Me! into the upper echelon of independent-label artists, up against a glass ceiling they had no choice but to smash through.
In December 2005, they signed with Sire, ending a five-year dance with major-label suitors and enraging a large portion of their punk fanbase. When news broke last year that they were working with producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage) on their new album, people got even more ticked.
“It’s such a predictable reaction, because it’s like, ’Here’s our major-label debut, it’s produced by a big-name guy, Butch Vig.’ Of course people are gonna say it’s overproduced,” Gabel sighed. “And the amazing thing is, this is the first time we received production. Our earlier records, they weren’t produced, per se. Cowboy was us going into a room and making a record. That’s it.”
And though Vig turned the knobs on Wave, Gabel said the album isn’t a departure from anything Against Me! have done in the past. “You forget about his résumé after five minutes. You’re like, ’This is my buddy Butch, and we’re making a f—ing record together.’ ”
New Wave is 33 minutes of the same empowered, energized, honest-to-goodness punk that the band’s fans — and its many detractors — have come to love (or, you know, despise).
“The record was written while on tour, pretty much in a year, and it’s a reflection of everything that happened during that time. When I listen to it, I can pinpoint every song, like, ’We were there when we wrote this one, we were there when we wrote that one,’ ” Gabel explained. “And it’s about all the growth, all the personal struggles, all the decisions we made in that year. It’s not personal — it’s something I wanted to share with everyone and something I want everyone to share with me.”
Which is why Against Me! decided to call the record New Wave in the first place. Detractors be damned. This album is an unabashed call to arms.
“We felt like that was our mission statement or our manifesto for the record,” he said. “Instead of sitting back and complaining about how there’s no good music out there, you should be energized and take things over. Be the bands you want to hear. It meant ’wave’ in a literal sense, coming and washing away mediocrity.”