By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
"I'm not a politician," Gabel remarks, "and I'm not trying to push some kind of political agenda. It definitely gets a little old, because I'm not trying to make any kind of claims that I'm the perfect person or that I have anything really figured out, you know? I'm just as lost and wandering as everyone else is out there in the world.
"We're real people who have grown and aged, as well, and we'd like to grow and age with an audience," he adds. "It'd be ridiculous if we were still pretending that we were the people we were when we were seventeen years old. I would just really like to be judged on the music as opposed to our legacy being this eternal battle of 'Are they sellouts or are they not sellouts?'"
The subject of selling out was partially addressed in the 2004 tour documentary We're Never Going Home. In it, Against Me! debates the ethics of signing to a major versus staying true to certain DIY ideals. The movie contrasts clips of the band being courted by stuffy record execs with talking-head commentaries about capricious fan bases and pointed remarks about what it truly means to be a sellout. By the end, the group's punk-rock morals win out and they decide to stick with Fat, declining all other label offers. Ironically, about a year after the film's release, the band announced that it had inked a deal with Sire Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Music (its major-label debut is due out in July). Not surprisingly, this flip-flop made Against Me! an easy target for criticism.
On the back of the DVD is a statement from Gabel that now seems prophetic: "This isn't meant to be a representation of who we are as people. Just who we were right then."
"It's weird, kind of," he notes, "when you're getting older in the punk scene, because you realize just how many people don't stick around and how many people move on and disappear. You realize that you're fending for yourself in a lot of ways. And that's kind of a frightening thing."
Against Me! makes no qualms about the oft-disputed decisions it has had to make as a group over the years. In some ways, under certain debate, every label change could be regarded as a superlative gesture of anarchist ideals; each one has been a way to remain a self-governed, self-sustained band.
"No one's talking about Learjets and high-rise condos here," Gabel points out. "We're talking about paying rent. I'm a fucking high-school dropout. I've got X amount of alternatives about what to do. I can work food service. I can work some shitty retail job."
"But this," he concludes, "this is what makes me happy."