Published in The Music (WA, NSW, QLD, VIC) | 20.11.13 | Issue # 15
STILL BURNING STRONG
Between panic attacks, AFI frontman Davey Havok penned the band’s darkest work to date. The eccentric vocalist runs Daniel Cribb through the writing process for their ninth record, performing on Broadway and writing his first novel.
From his ever-evolving, always-interesting appearance to unique and unmistakable vocals, AFI frontman Davey Havok excretes charisma. But when the vocalist answers the phone in his Portland hotel room, he sounds like the life has been sucked out of him. “I’m very sick and I’m on tour,” Havok explains. “It’s pretty brutal, there’s not much you can do about it,” he continues in a soft tone.
It’s Halloween, and the one song old-school punk and hardcore kids generally associate with the day is Misfits’ Halloween. Back in 1999, when they were still very much a part of and influencing the hardcore scene, AFI released a cover of the song. Since their hardcore debut, Answer That And Stay Fashionable, came out in 1993, they’ve evolved into an alternative rock band and severed their ties somewhat with that community. Their new record, Burials, is one step further away.
“It’s like comparing your current self to your pre-school self. I’m very happy with Burials and it has nothing to do with the first couple of records, which I’m proud of, because if we’d not grown it would have been embarrassing. I’m proud of what I’m doing now.”
Their sound has evolved but the darkness flowing throughout Havok’s lyrics has always remained constant.Burials is no exception and sees some of his darkest work to date. “Every record that we create is an honest reflection of what’s going on at that period of time and that’s very much the case with Burials… I was going through a lot of emotional chaos when we were writing the record and I feel that chaos really came through on the record.
“Themes of panic and anxiety and betrayal that you hear running through the record came from personal experience. When we were writing the record there was really nothing else to write about because it was so present and so permanent in my life at the time.”
When queried on specifics of the turmoil fuelling the record, Havok shies away. “I think the record is so very, very transparent that anyone can read the lyrics and see what I was going through. To define it any more would discolour people’s interpretation of what’s going on and I really do not want to take away from a different interpretation someone may have of the record.”
It’s AFI’s drawn-out writing process that explains why each album is so different, with Burials focusing on bigger choruses and melodies, which is reminiscent of 2003’s Sing The Sorrow, making it a more engaging listen than 2009’s Crash Love. “We typically spend a lot of time working on the songs so we’re totally happy with them when we enter the studio. I’m very proud of the band. We spent about a year and a half, writing for months. It just takes that long for us to get together a group of songs that we’re happy with. After releasing record after record, it’s a bit more difficult for us to be satisfied with what we’re creating. We’ve covered so much ground over the years that our standards are getting higher and higher.”
There were four years between Crash Love and Burials, and during that time Havok utilised every second. Whether or not it was to try and keep his mind away from the darkness surrounding him, he broadened his skillset, which sees a more theatrical essence to the band’s ninth record. You almost need a piece of paper and pen in front of you to sketch out a timeline of Havok’s travels to understand how he’s spent the past few years. He fronted Green Day’s American Idiot on Broadway in 2011, wrote fictional novel, Pop Kids, and released and toured a new album with his side project, Blaqk Audio. “The Blaqk Audio record that we released and toured on was right before AFI began writing. I was Pop Kids while we were recording Crash Love and I finished it shortly after I finished performing in American Idiot.
“I just very much enjoy the arts; I enjoy singing, I really enjoy writing and I’m working on my second novel now. Performing on Broadway was one of the best experiences of my life, if not the best experience of my life. I love acting, and it’s something that I would love to do again. Everything that I do, it’s not that I need to be doing something at all times – I enjoy taking a break – but not at the expense of missing out on doing something that I love.”