There are few things still qualifying as 'authentic' in punk music today. Spending a day pacing outdoors in the summer sun on a racetrack while dust fills any orifice left unprotected, interspersed with indiscriminate flailing in a sweaty crowd is, to some, an experience definitive of punk. Warped Tour, however, has come to take an adulterated form. With corporate sponsorships and merchandise for sale at every turn, Kevin Lyman's punk rock festival now stands in defiance of the original ideals it was formed around--a seeming inevitability within our market driven society.
Despite the general decrease in anarchistic politically grounded punk, there is still a group of mainstays on the scene. Anti-Flag's 12 year history speaks for itself.
"Punk, to me, is about people who are fed up with the world around them," explains drummer Pat Thetic. "Americans are in a very scary place right now. Bush is getting us all killed. It's not the Bush twins going over to Iraq, it's people like me and my friends being given death sentences by a group of eight or nine conservatives."
While fretting about war and the conceived spread of conservatism throughout the political atmosphere occupies most of Anti-Flag's lyrical content, Thetic remains optimistic about the position of the punk attitude in today's music. While the world becomes more right-wing politically, Thetic detects counter movements within the mainstream.
"I think that the mainstream has shifted a few degrees left of center as far as music goes," he explains.
However, with such a shift comes controversy as 'poseurs' make their way onto the scene. Despite this influx of new artists whose political motivations are questionable, Thetic doesn't think a left shift in the media is negative.
"I don't see it as a bad thing," he stresses. "To me, it means that my ideals are influencing the mainstream. I'd like to see it shift even more."
In their attempt to alter conservative mind sets, Anti-Flag has recently signed with major label with RCA. The move has garnered a good deal of negative response from fans who are crying sell-out. In their deal with RCA, Anti-Flag anticipates being able to break through the punk community and onto wider audiences.
"As punks, being in that community was sweet, but as activists, it was bad," Thetic elucidates. "Fat Wreck [Chords] just didn't have the infrastructure we needed."
Though a band making moves to increase their activist agenda may seem strange, the members of Anti-Flag began their career as activists at an early age. Guitarist and vocalist Justin Sane was nourished in the fertile soils of liberal ideology, helping to build Anti-Flag's politics. Things were different for Thetic who was raised in a conservative home. As he became more liberally minded ideological debates around the dinner table became more and more explosive.
"Justin's parents were an inspiration to us as far as ideology goes," says Thetic. "When I was about 10 years old I got mad at my dad and called him a communist fascist. "Instead of just yelling at me, he sat me down and explained to me that communism and fascism were two very different things, and that there was actually a war about it."