On Saturday May 14th, the Pittsburgh punk-rockers in Anti-Flag closed our their “Make Canada Great Again” tour in our fair city of Toronto. Before the night’s show at the legendary Velvet Underground, the band played a very intimate show at Kops Records and right before their acoustic set I sat down with Justin Sane and Pat Thetic to hear how about the Canadian tour, the political climate surrounding the United States election year, their thoughts on certain candidates and what motivates them to continue rocking out loud. Check out our insightful conversation with the pair below.
Confront: On their Canadian tour, the response from Canadian fans throughout the nation and their benefit shows for For McMurray fire reliefs, the Canadian punk scene coming together for fellow fans
Anti-Flag: The people of Canada are always very nice, it’s a stereotype but very real. We were looking forward to playing that show and because we were supposed to play that show, it was a couple days before the show and the promoter said “the show is cancelled because the venue burned down and my house burned down”. Then we did the Edmonton show, and the day we were supposed to be in Fort McMurray they said “hey, do you want to do a benefit?”. The good people of Edmonton made that happen and we were just lucky enough to be a part of it.
It was a testament to the fact that is so amazing about punk rock, it is that a lot of us have learned our organizing skills as a result of punk rock and DIY. We saw that on display in the event, these are kids, now a little older who grew up in the punk rock scene, learned organizing by putting on basement punk rock shows, starting bands, forming their own collectives and putting those skills to use. We were lucky to watch it all put together.
It was really cool because a lot of people from Fort McMurray were down in Edmonton to be with relatives, to get away from the fires, they all came out to the shows and to the benefit shows, and to the show before. It was just awesome to talk to people, one of the things that was funny to us was one of the kids came up to us wearing weird, not traditionally punk rock clothes and he goes “yeah, these are the only clothes my friend had to give me, usually I have my own rock clothes”. It really drove home that they left their homes, everything behind.
Confront: Sarcastically, behind the tours name of “Make Canada Great Again” and the very real candidates leading the race from the Donald to Senator Sanders.
Anti-Flag: Justin: “Well Donald Trump is making America great again and we’re taking his gospel and bringing it to Canada to make Canada great again”. Pat: It’s amazing that a reality TV star is going to be the president of the U.S and it’s horrifying. I will say the conservatives and the right-wing media in the U.S have been selling fear to the population for a number of years, they’ve been using that as an underground thing to stabilize so they can keep power. When you sell fear to a population, they become fearful and when you’re fearful you make bad decisions.
Justin: We like Bernie, as much as we can like and endorse a politician. I think that Bernie Sanders stands for many of the things we stand by. I think what’s interesting of Bernie Sanders is that we believe his candidacy is possible as a result of the Occupy Wall Street movements, we saw it as another step towards a progressive future. There are discussions that came from the Occupy Wall Street movement such as the 1% versus the 99%, which is something essentially in America is not a discussion that was happening.
It just highlights every statement is important to make, if you believe in something you should say it, if you care about something you should support it.
Confront: The band discussing why they are openly spoken about political issues
Anti-Flag: Number One: we have always been people that have empathetic sides, we’ve been willing to open ourselves up to how others are feeling and put ourselves in the positions of other people, see that other people are suffering and for us to personally say “it shouldn’t be that way”, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Second: the fact that we’ve seen people make a statement, we’ve seen it throughout our lives, history, that it actually can make an impact. I don’t necessarily think it’s a song by itself or a band by itself that changes the world.
Confront: The response from fans now that “American Spring” has been out and the message the band hope to express in their music
Anti-Flag: Pat: I do know that people who are interested in those ideas, look for other people interested in those ideas, Justin: and hopefully our music is a bridge to find each other. Justin: For me personally, it’s about caring more than about yourself and that’s what I hope people take away and to believe every individual can make a change in the world. It may be very small but I believe, every kind of positive action adds up and makes a difference, just the idea that you can make a difference in someone’s day. You never know what kind of trajectory that sets them on or something bigger like you volunteer for Amnesty International or whether you just decide to become vegetarian or vegan, that you care about other living creatures other than yourself. Being vegetarian or vegan is one of the best options if you’re an environmentalist, raising animals for meat is very labour intensive and damaging to the planet. Ultimately, for me that’s what I hope people take away from what we do.
Confront: What keeps you motivated to playing the music that you do?
Anti-Flag: People who are deciding to take initiative and do things their own way; who have an idea and believe in it. Being on tour and meeting these kind of people is the best motivator, there’s so many people doing incredible things. When you’re in a band you get to meet incredible people. We’re in a lucky position and interact with creative and active people in every city.
“American Spring” available now, purchase the record on iTunes here