Anti-Flag Punk Rock Bowling

ANTI-FLAG

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Anti-Flag is a political punk band, which is obvious from their name
alone. But over the course of 12 albums across more than 25 years
together, they’ve rarely set their sights on singular individuals in
songs. Unlike their punk predecessors in the 80s, who made targets of
Reagan and his cronies, Anti-Flag has always opted not to date their
work with current references, instead focusing on fighting ongoing
oppression and dismantling deeply rooted systems of injustice. But on
their new album, 20/20 Vision, the band is drawing a big, fat line in
the sand.

“We have actively chosen to not attack Presidents directly, either
with album art or songs about certain times in history, because we
recognize that the issues we’re dealing with are cyclical,” says
bassist Chris #2. “But this record in particular, we kind of said,
well fuck that, we need to be on the record in opposition to the
policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.”

“This record is a warning to people holding neofascist ideas or people
who are enabling these types of positions, whether you’re outright
racist or you’re enabling racism or sexism or homophobia or
transphobia,” adds guitarist Justin Sane. “You need to make a choice
at this point. What we’ve seen with this White House is that there’s
no grey area anymore.”

Produced by From First to Last’s Matt Good, 20/20 Vision (Spinefarm
Records, January 17, 2020) kicks off with a soundbite of Donald Trump
speaking at a rally. And while just about anything the man has said
over the last few years would make for a fitting sample on a punk
record, Anti-Flag were deliberate in their choice. “In the good old
days, this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very
rough,” Trump is heard saying over the opening track, “Hate Conquers
All.” “And when they protested once, they would not do it again so
easily.”

“What I found compelling about that particular Trump sample is that
it’s the quintessential move that he pulls, which is: Say the thing
into the world early, so that when it happens later, people are
already accustomed to it,” says #2, who believes that dissenters like
journalists, protestors, and punk bands are not far down on the list
of those who will eventually be rounded up and detained. “We’ve always
cautioned that if you’re not standing up for the most marginalized and
the most oppressed then you’re not truly free.”

“Hate Conquers All” seeks to dissect the lexicon we use around racism
to hold ourselves more accountable. “The song is a kneejerk reaction
to the idea of Love Trumps Hate and this idea that love can beat back
hatred,” notes #2. “That equates racism with hatred. That’s a false
equivalence of what the language should be. If you’re racist, you’re
racist. You don’t just hate people. It should be considered a much
more vile term.”

Later on the album, “Christian Nationalist” calls out those hiding
behind religious zealotry to mask their neofacism, and the chorus
makes it clear that these people will be held accountable: “We all
know who you are!”

“When you listen to David Duke talk, you’re listening to Donald Trump
talk,” Sane says of the track. “These people hide behind the veneer of
suits or speaking well and the various ways in which they hide their
bigotry, but the reality is that they’re just as bad as the fascists
in the 1930s or the segregationists in America.

“I’m not saying doxxing is OK, but I think it is important to let a
community know that their neighbor is a racist who was chanting, ‘Jews
will not replace us!’ There has to be accountability.”

On 20/20 Vision’s title track, the band takes a deliberately poppy
approach to grappling with a tough pill they’ve had to swallow
recently: Seeing elements of the framework that punk bands like
Anti-Flag have established over the last couple of decades as it is
coopted and used as talking points by the alt-right.

“The roadmap that we created in the 90s, of alternative media and
forms of communicating, was a left-wing strategy to bring truth to
power,” says drummer Pat Thetic. “The right wing has very effectively
taken all those skills we learned in the 80s and 90s and turned them
against the left. That’s been a challenging thing for us, to see the
strategies that we grew up with being used against us in such an
effective way.”

And while the newscycle moves faster than ever before, 20/20 Vision
aims to take a step back and stare down the most pressing problems of
our time: kids in cages, the fentanyl crisis, rolling back EPA
restrictions. It’s a record that at once feels both timely and forward
thinking. 20/20 Vision is a work that Anti-Flag hopes will serve as an
immediate form of communication with those who are politically engaged
as well as a document of our modern times for a future generation.

As #2 puts it: “We hope that when someone trips over this record in
the sand of the post apocalypse, they’ll know that there were people
who once stood in opposition to all of this.”