Against Me! Tap Roots-Rock Influences on New Album

Originally published in Guitar World, July 2010

Tom Gabel tells how the punk rockers drew influence from roots rockers for White Crosses.

Tom Gabel, frontman for punk rockers Against Me!, wants nothing to do with nostalgia. “Nostalgia is about longing for the good old days,” he says. “When I write a song about the past, I’m letting go of it. The subject’s closed—it’s dead to me.”

On White Crosses, the latest release from the Gainesville, Florida–based group, Gabel kills off a sizable chunk of his personal history by writing one of his most reflective albums to date. The title track explores life in his hometown, where a church would plant crosses representing abortions on its front lawn. The song “We’re Breaking Up” is about changes within the band,
including losing their drummer of eight years, while “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” re-examines some of Gabel’s youthful—and current—rabble-rousing ideals that have made him a hero to so many punk rock fans.

Surprisingly, Gabel—who shares guitar duties with James Bowman—says much of the album’s sentiment was inspired by such classic rock artists as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. “They’re all people who reached a point in their careers where they stopped trying to project forward and instead started accepting who they were,” he explains.

Musically, there’s very little here that recalls the stripped-down, acoustic punk of Against Me!’s earliest independent releases. Instead, White Crosses builds on the foundation the band laid down in 2007 with its first major-label release, New Wave. To do so, the group brought back that album’s producer, Butch Vig, to help beef up the studio sound and, as Gabel says, capture more of Against Me!’s live energy. “We made a conscious decision to surrender 100 percent to Butch’s direction and to embrace what he saw in us sonically—a big fucking record that sounds huge.”

Although that’s given the music a sound more like mainstream rock than punk, Gabel says his anarchistic attitudes haven’t changed at all. “I’ll admit that, over the years, the original fire that I had as a teenager got stomped and pissed on by a lot of self-centered, negative people,” he says. “But I feel like it’s come back to me. It’s just more controlled. I’m not shooting from the hip anymore.”

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