Anti-Flag are an American punk rock band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. The band is well known for politically charged lyrics and activism, focusing on anti-war activism, anti-imperialism, class struggle, human rights, and various sociopolitical sentiments. The line-up includes singer/guitarist Justin Sane and drummer Pat Thetic, who founded the band; later members are guitarist Chris Head, and singer/bassist Chris Barker (#2) who replaced Jamie "Cock" Towns, who had replaced original bassist Andy Flag in 1997 following his departure one year prior. Anti-Flag is known also for their advocacy of progressive political action groups such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Most recently, the band has declared solidarity with the global Occupy Together movement.
Early years (1988/1992–1996)
Anti-Flag was formed in 1988 by singer/guitarist Justin Sane and drummer Pat Thetic. During the band's early years, various guitarists and bassists moved in and out of the band, including Justin's sister, Lucy Fester formerly of Chicago band Toothpaste. The band failed to solidify, and it fell apart after playing just one show. In 1992, Justin and Pat reformed the band, now with Andy Flag on bass. A 17-song demo album called 17 Songs was released the same year.
First three albums (1996–1999)
In 1996, the band released their first album, Die For the Government, on New Red Archives. Andy Flag left the band in the summer of 1996 because of personal disputes between himself and Justin. For a brief time after Andy's departure in 1996, Sean Whelan of Pittsburgh band the Bad Genes filled in on bass. It was during this time that Sean was also playing in another band (57 Defective) with guitarist Chris Head, whom he introduced to the band.
In early 1997, Pittsburgh guitarist Chris Head began filling in on bass. In late 1997, Jamie Cock took over as the new bassist, moving Chris Head over to second guitar, which he preferred. The current line-up finalized in 1999 when Chris Barker, also known as Chris No. 2, replaced Jamie Cock on bass.
In 1998, the band released their second full-length release, Their System Doesn't Work For You. The album contained all nine Anti-Flag songs from the 1996 Anti-Flag/d.b.s. split album North America Sucks, as well as 10 new unreleased songs. The band decided to release the album independently, and Their System Doesn't Work For You became the debut release for the band's own A-F Records.
In 1999, Anti-Flag released the album A New Kind of Army on Go-Kart Records/A-F Records. The album addressed topics such as abortion, political corruption, racism, fascism, troubled youth, police brutality, and unity within the American youth. The cover art page unfolded into a poster featuring the phrase "Too smart to fight. Too smart to kill. Join now. A new kind of army." In addition to this, the band had a disclaimer at the bottom of its album cover saying,"Anti-Flag does not mean Anti-American. Anti-Flag means anti-war. Anti-Flag means unity."
Fat Wreck Chords (2000–2004)
In 2000, Anti-Flag was invited to participate in Vans Warped Tour. During this time, the members of Anti-Flag met NOFX's Fat Mike, owner of the Fat Wreck Chords record label. This meeting spawned a friendship that would lead to Anti-Flag's release of two albums on the label.
In 2001, Anti-Flag teamed with punk music producer Mass Giorgini to record the album Underground Network, released on Fat Wreck Chords. The release of the album is arguably the band's breakout from the hardcore underground to a more mainstream spotlight. The album continued to address the issues of fascism (specifically neo-Nazis infiltrating the "hardcore scene") and the United States' foreign policy. The album was the first to contain the now-commonplace booklet filled with essays from historians and political commentators, most notably Professor Howard Zinn. In February 2002, Anti-Flag released the album Mobilize on A-F Records. The album featured eight new studio tracks as well as eight live tracks of songs from other albums. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, Anti-Flag spoke out against the push for war with the album's title track "911 for peace". During this time, many music stores pulled Anti-Flag's records from shelves, as their music was labelled as "anti-American." In 2003, Anti-Flag released the album The Terror State on Fat Wreck Chords. The album primarily focused on criticizing the Bush Administration's handling of the War on Terrorism. Again, the album contained a booklet full of essays from the band as well as other political commentators. The album contains a song whose lyrics were originally written by Woody Guthrie entitled "Post-War Breakout." The track's music was arranged by the members of Anti-Flag, as Guthrie had never committed the arrangements to paper.
On October 8, 2004, U.S. Representative Jim McDermott gave a speech in the House of Representatives, praising Anti-Flag for their work in encouraging young people to register and vote.
In 2005, Anti-Flag signed a two-album record contract with major label RCA. In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Justin Sane explained the band's move to a major label:
We've been approached by the major labels over the past seven or eight years but we thought we were having an impact where we were. They were never willing to give us complete control. This time they were willing to give us complete control over what we record, the artwork, who we tour with. We won't be censored. If there was ever a time to take a chance to be heard on a mass scale then this is the time. I feel like we've been a voice in the wilderness for too long.
The first of these two albums, For Blood and Empire, was released on March 21, 2006. The album's main focus is the band's criticism of the mishandling of the War on Terrorism by the United States Government. The song 'This Is The End (For You My Friend)' from the album For Blood and Empire is featured in the video game Madden NFL 07 and on NHL 07, and strays from the theme of war and back towards troubled youth. They finished their huge "War Sucks, Let's Party" United States headlining tour in April and work on some side projects like African Well Fund and Start to Finish MS now.
Throughout Anti-Flag's career, many other bands have been added to the roster of the band's own label, A-F Records. These bands include The Code, Pipedown, Much the Same, The Vacancy, The Unseen, Modey Lemon, Thought Riot, Tabula Rasa, and more.
On November 25, Anti-Flag revealed on their homepage that their newest album was titled The Bright Lights of America. Produced by Tony Visconti (of David Bowie, T. Rex (band) and Morrissey fame), it was released on April 1, 2008. The single "The Bright Lights Of America" was released exclusively on iTunes on February 12, 2008. A video of the song was released some weeks later.
In 2008, on tour with Canadian band Billy Talent in Europe, Justin Sane and Chris#2 joined Billy Talent singer Ben Kowalewicz and guitarist Ian D'Sa, singing their new song "Turn Your Back" from their upcoming unreleased album. The two also play on the single version of the song.
In March 2009, Anti-Flag were forced to cancel a series of tour dates after Justin Sane broke his collar bone landing awkwardly whilst jumping off the stage at the UEA LCR in Norwich to stop a fan of another act throwing objects at the band.
Beginning on September 30, 2008, Chris#2 began to post on his blog, at nowarwithoutwarriors.blogspot.com , that the band had begun to work on their seventh studio album. On December 2, Anti-Flag began to record their record, starting with "The Economy is Suffering... Let It Die".
On March 31, 2009, Anti-Flag announced that their next CD, The People or the Gun, would be released on SideOneDummy on June 9, 2009. The band recorded the album in a home studio they built themselves. On Anti-Flag.com, the first track of the album "Sodom, Gomorrah, and Washington DC (Sheep in Shepherd's Clothing)" can be listened to. On May 1, 2009, the band performed a full set of The Clash covers at Hoodwink in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
In September 2009, Anti-Flag was slated to play a show during a G-20 protest that was taking place in their home town of Pittsburgh, but the promoter canceled the show due to severe parking restrictions and police presence in the immediate vicinity of the venue. However the band continued to personally take part in the protests.
In November 2009, Anti-Flag showed their support to the protesting students in Vienna. They gave a speech at the main building of the Vienna University that the students had taken over and also had one of the student representatives speak at their two shows in Vienna.
In January 2010, Anti-Flag completed a full US tour supported by Aiden and Cancer Bats with various bands filling another supporting slot and local bands opening as many of the shows as possible. The tour was sponsored by Amnesty International, Peta 2, Greenpeace and Innes Clothing (who supported a clothing drive for local homeless and youth shelters). The band followed the US tour, with an Australian tour, playing the Soundwave Festival dates in February 2010, with bands such as AFI, Paramore, Escape the Fate, A Day to Remember, HIM and more, as well as playing two headlining dates supported by Alexisonfire and Comeback Kid.
Throughout the summer of 2010, the band playing various festivals such as Ruisrock and Woodstock en Beauce, as well as playing the few last dates of the Vans Warped Tour in August. September 2010 saw the band headlining a Canadian tour with support from the Menzingers, which was followed by the European Vans Off the Wall Music Tour in October, with supporting acts The Swellers and Pulled Apart by Horses.
The band made their live comeback in March 2011, while headlining a South American tour with This Is a Standoff, and then supporting My Chemical Romance on two dates in the US in April. In May–June 2011, the band returned to Europe to play the Slam Dunk Festival dates, as well as supporting System of a Down on June 2 in Milan, Italy.
On June 21, 2011, frontman Justin Sane announced that Anti-Flag is working on material for a new album, which they hoped would be to released that fall, with working title of Magnum. Sane has also announced plans to record a new solo album in the coming future, as he's been working on some folk oriented solo material as well.
The band released the album, The General Strike on March 20, 2012. The General Strike was recorded and Produced by Anti-Flag at their home studio. The band will be going on The General Strike Record Release Tour with The Flatliners and the Have Nots. They have released a lyric video for the song "1915" which is about Joe Hill.
In June 2014 it was announced that Anti-Flag were to release a new album titled A Document Of Dissent: 1993-2013. The album, a compilation of their releases from 1993-2013, would be released on Fat Wreck Chords, the band's first release with the label since The Terror State in 2003. The album was released on July 21, 2014.
Spinefarm Records and American Spring (2015-present)
On January 16, 2015, the band announced they would release their ninth studio album titled American Spring, via Spinefarm Records. The album was released on May 26, 2015. Later in 2015 Anti-Flag released a compilation album called Cease Fires which contains two previously unreleased songs from their American Spring recording sessions and twelve songs taken from their 20 Years of Hell EP series. It was released on December 18, 2015. On August 14, 2017, in reaction to the events of the 2017 Unite the Right Rally, the band released a song titled "Racists" to the Spinefarm Records YouTube channel. On August 18, 2017 the band announced a new album titled American Fall would be released on Spinefarm Records on November 3, 2017 by premiering a song titled "American Attraction" from the upcoming album on the bands YouTube channel.
Name and criticism
Anti-Flag explained their name on the artwork for their 1999 release, A New Kind of Army, saying "Anti-Flag does not mean Anti-American. Anti-Flag means anti-war. Anti-Flag means the common people of the world are better off living in unity and peace. Anti-Flag means to stand against corporate greed that hurts millions while benefiting a handful of extremely rich. Anti-Flag means to fight against mindless nationalism. Anti-Flag means unity."
Anti-Flag's anti-capitalism stance drew criticism towards them when they signed to major label RCA Records. Due to their signing to RCA Records, Anti-Flag were called "sell-outs" and people claimed the band would lose their passion and voice. Anti-Flag defended themselves from the criticism by saying that signing to the record label was for bringing their message to more people. Anti-Flag didn't tone down any of their messages with their major label debut "For Blood and Empire".
Chris No. 2 and Chris Head are in a band called White Wives. They have released the Situationists EP on February 15, 2011 and released Happeners on June 28, 2011. The band and name was based off the Provo (movement) and The White Plans.
Wharf Rats, the new musical partnership between Chris No. 2 of Anti-Flag, Gallows frontman Wade MacNeil, The A.K.A.'s Chachi Darin and Minneapolis rapper P.O.S, was conceived on Warped Tour and recorded in the festival's traveling recording studio. Two songs emerged from those sessions -- "Oh No!" and "Capital Gains,". Both were pressed on a limited edition 7-inch single and released on May 31 via No Sleep Records.
ANTIFest is Anti-Flag's own hosted festival. It took place on May 3, 2012 at The Forum at the University of Hertfordshire. The festival was the first self-established festival hosted by the band, who seek to maintain it as an annual event. On top of headlining the festival, the band personally chose all of the bands who appeared, some of which included other punk bands such as The Bouncing Souls, The Menzingers, Red City Radio, The Computers, and The Skints. The event also had volunteers from organizations including Amnesty International, PETA, and Emmaus providing information and a forum for debate and discussion.
ANTIFest 2013 took place at Backstage Werk in Munich on July 14 with support from ZSK, Strike Anywhere, The Computers and Apologies, I Have None.
Anti-Flag have been involved with activism throughout their musical career. This has included starting the activism groups The Underground Action Alliance, Military Free Zone (a group to protest a clause in the No Child Left Behind Act, which gave military recruiters automatic access to students' personal details) and The Bright Lights.
They have been involved in performing at multiple protests, including two in support of Rage Against The Machine.
They performed outside the Republican National Convention in 2008. They were supposed to be the last band to play, but when officials found out that Rage Against The Machine were going to perform after them, they shut down the stage's power and Rage Against The Machine performed two songs using megaphones.
Most recently, the band played an acoustic set at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City on October 8, 2011.
They also regularly support political organizations which include:
- Democracy Now!, the latest headlines from which can be found on the band's homepage,.
- PETA, who were one of the sponsors of their 2010 'The Economy Sucks Let's Party' tour.
- Amnesty International, to which the band donated money from the sale of The People and the Gun, have supported for a long time and who were one of the sponsors of their 2010 'The Economy Sucks Let's Party Tour'.
- Greenpeace, with whom the band worked in order to persuade world leaders to attend the climate conference in Copenhagen and who were one of the sponsors of their 'The Economy Sucks Let's Party Tour'.
- Useless, with whom they sold screen-printed limited-edition T-shirts to raise money for The Kandorwahun project, while raising awareness and visibility for Useless.
The band also showed their disapproval of fracking in October 2013, supporting the Clean Water Mob.
The band's song "Die for Your Government" was sung by anti-war protesters who briefly blocked a road to prevent U.S. troops from deploying to Iraq in August 2010. They have appeared in the 2010 music documentary Sounds Like A Revolution, about new protest music in America.
The "Gun Star" is the symbol for the band Anti-Flag, designed by Anti-Flag guitarist Chris Head. It was first used on the cover of the album Mobilize. It was later used on merchandise. It is made up of a number of broken M16 rifles in the form of a star shape. Also, they used the O & X superposed symbols on Die for the Government LP frequently.
- Justin Sane - lead vocals, lead guitar (1988-1989, 1992–present)
- Chris#2 (Chris Barker) - bass guitar, backing and lead vocals (1999–present)
- Chris Head - bass guitar (1997), rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1997–present)
- Pat Thetic - drums, percussion (1988-1989, 1992–present)
- Lucy Fester - bass guitar (1988-1989)
- Andy Flag - bass guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals (1993-1996)
- Jamie "Cock" Towns - bass guitar (1997-1999)
- Brian Curran (1997)
- Sean Whealen (1998)
- Die for the Government (1996)
- Their System Doesn't Work For You (1998)
- A New Kind of Army (1999)
- Underground Network (2001)
- Mobilize (2002) [compilation]
- The Terror State (2003)
- For Blood and Empire (2006)
- The Bright Lights of America (2008)
- The People or the Gun (2009)
- The General Strike (2012)
- American Spring (2015)
- American Fall (2017)
- This is the End (For You My Friend)
- Broken Bones
- The Economy is Suffering... Let It Die
- The Press Corpse
- This is the New Sound
- The Bright Lights of America
- Close My Eyes/The Ghosts of Alexandria (Punks in Vegas Session)
- When All the Lights Go Out
- Brandenburg Gate
- All of the Poison, All of the Pain
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