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Against Me!’s Tom Gabel talks about life without a label

by Ryan Snyder

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Against Me! find themselves without a label and couldn’t care less. (photo courtesy of Autumn de Wilde)

By the middle of the last decade, Against Me! had earned a rabid following in the punk community for their staunch DIY ethics and ability to seamlessly imbue their music with urgency, intensity and sincerity. By 2005, however, they began to experience the Catch 22 of wanting to advance beyond cult success. They signed with Warner music subsidiary Sire Music and began to see their original core of fans splinter over the decision. They were called sellouts, and experienced years of berating, both online in person. For every detractor that the Gainsville, Fla. punk band accrued after signing with Sire Records in 2005, their two releases on the Warner Music subsidiary — New Wave and White Crosses — earned them fans 10 times over. Now, finding his band without a label after suddenly being dropped at the end of 2010, singer and guitarist Tom Gabel couldn’t care less.

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Y!W: You recently turned 30, correct? Did such a milestone compel you to look at where you are relative to your music?

TG: That’s just what it was, a milestone. It’s just stupid head trip stuff, but I’m also one of those people who obsess over things like that, like getting old or the apocalypse.

Y!W: If signing with Sire triggered some negativity in the more conservative corners of your fan, did splitting with the label feel like a fresh start in that regard?

TG: Splitting with the label is always going to feel like a fresh start. It’s the end of an era in a lot of ways. We’re moving on to another thing just like when we left No Idea records and moved to Fat Wreck Chords. It’s like okay, now this is happening. Then we left Fat Wreck Chords and went to Sire Records. We’re like okay, now this is happening. Whatever label you’re working with doesn’t really have anything to do with the life, the day-to-day of the band.

Y!W: You didn’t feel as if there were a broader support network available, or did that not matter?

TG: It seemed like there was more resources deployable for sure. As you tour more internationally, it’s always nice when there’s a label that’s going to the country and feeling like you have more to work with. That’s all really daunting and intimidating at the same time too, because you feel like you’re going to get lost in the shuffle the bigger a record label gets. As long as you don’t depend on a record label all that stuff is just a side note. I think it’s unfortunate how people put such emphasis on what record label a band is on. Especially in this day and age when labels are less and less relevant. Most of the people I know who are critical of bands for being on such and such label are people who don’t even buy records anymore. So what’s the f**king point you know?

Y!W: You said recently that you didn’t like the way some things were handled. Was it at all a relief to be done with them?

TG: I said something a couple of weeks ago about some mistakes made on Sire’s end, but I didn’t mean for that to be a hypercritical damnation. I think that it’s fair that if you’re in a working relationship or any kind of relationship to recognize that there are certain faults along the way and that not be a slam or an insult or anything like that. There are no perfect relationships in life you know? Why would it be any different with record labels? I’ve been criticized during most situations I’ve ever been in.

Y!W: After having to cancel the last tour after leaving Sire, are you looking at this run of shows differently?

TG: For me I’m looking forward to going on tour because we’ve been home for a couple of months, but I’m not looking anything else into it.

Y!W: Does it feel like you’re going back to playing for the same scene you started out with?

TG: I really try and stay away from that whole mentality, that whole ‘back to your roots’ bulls**t. I just want to keep thinking forward and trying new things and thinking progressively. I’m not interested in pandering to anything. If I had the chance to sign to a major label tomorrow I’d do it.

Against Me! will perform at the Cat’s Cradle this Tuesday.

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