The following phone interview is with Mike Moak, frontman of Albany punk band After the Fall. Unkind, one of their most aggressive releases yet, just came out today on Paper + Plastick Records. We discuss everything from the ins and outs of the new record to an Australian band that carries the same name.
Unkind is also the name of the first track of the album, which sometimes indicates that the artist intends to make a statement. How does this word in particular set the tone of the album as a whole?
The word "unkind" shows that it's kind of an angry record for the most part up until the end. We titled it for that reason. Also, the artwork is done by the same person who's done the same artwork for our last releases, the bassist Will's brother, Eric Savage. Our bassist had a painting hanging up in his house, we were trying to think of different ideas and saw that.
It also shows the band's first shift away from lampoonish album art (the three little pigs, etc) towards a more sophisticated style. Is this a reflection of the band's musical growth and likewise your recent signing to Paper and Plastick?
Well, when we saw the image on the painting at Will's house, we were like "Oh, this would make a cool LP!" It's solid black and white, and I didn't want to have opaque colors like the other two releases. The record is dark for the most part, and it's a pretty bold image where a syringe is about to be injected into someone's eye. So, we thought it would go over well. We've always gone for bright colors, but we wanted to do something else this time around.
The record was mastered by Stephen Egerton of Descendents fame. What sort of personal touches did he contribute stylistically?
He does so much. From reamping the guitars to sound bigger at his home studio to calling and emailing us about any little changes we needed to make. Also, the studio that we recorded at he did an excellent job as well. He mixes the drums really loud. We'd ask him for like a really specific snare sound, and he'd match it to a recording we'd want it to be similar to. Same with the guitars. I'd asked him at one point if he could take the lead part and pre-amp it to make it brighter and louder. You know, he does really great work. He started the Blasting Room and did a ton of classic records there. I believe in the early 2000s he started his home studio in Tulsa. As far as the final mix goes, we really like the balance between a raw and polished sound.
My initial reaction upon hearing your record was A Wilhelm Scream with a touch of Strike Anywhere and NOFX. What amount of influence would you say these bands have on your songwriting, and what aspects of it speak to After the Fall's signature sound?
Well, definitely NOFX. We all grew up loving that band and seeing them all the time. When I started playing music, basically guitar, shortly after learning a lot songs I got into NOFX, Rancid, and Bad Religion. I eventually started learning their songs and writing. We all met while we were in high school in 2000, and found out that NOFX, Good Riddance, Millencolin, and AFI would be playing the Warped Tour. Me, the drummer, and the guitar player met at that gate of the Warped Tour. So it's kind of significant and the kind of stuff we're into no matter what. NYHC has an influence on us as well. We have East Coast and West Coast influence and certainly Strike Anywhere is a band that we're big into. We get to play with A Wilhelm Scream all the time, they're great guys, a great band. But yeah, NOFX is how I started writing music. Punk In Drublic and White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean really got me into guitar and writing songs and stuff.
NOFX is known to have complex guitar parts from time to time. Going back to your new record, what is your band's most challenging song to perform live and why, whether attributed to intricate guitar parts or crowd reaction?
Hmmm. Probably track 2, which is called Tilburg. There's some noodly guitar stuff at the end, and the vocals are pretty straining. We haven't played them all live yet, but we've obviously practiced them all.
This is your first Australian tour coming up in April, correct? Would you guys happen to be familiar with your Aussie rock'n'roll doppleganger?
Our Australian tour was just postponed for June or July, but this will be our second time going. We've certainly heard about them [laughs]. But we do have mutual friends in bands. The people in the city joke about both bands inviting each other to the other's shows. But yeah, that would be cool to meet the other After the Fall, to do a split or something [laughs].
Maybe you can cover each others songs [laughs].
While you aren't exactly newcomers to the punk scene - this will be your fourth studio album - you are still new to many music listeners. How do you expect your new relationship with Paper and Plastick to increase your reach?
Well, parts of it is that we just hope that it reaches more people and that people who haven't heard of us otherwise before will hear it on a compilation or see it in an ad and maybe check it out that way. A lot of people when they pick up one record or release they'll check out others just for the sake of checking it out. P+P has good distribution with No Idea, it's a pretty well known label. A lot of the record stores carry their releases. Mightier Than Sword did our last full length, but they didn't have as much distribution. So P+P definitely benefits this record and hopefully exposes us to new fans.
Anything else you'd like to say about the new record, to prospective fans, and about future music that you'll be working on?
You know, we're just really excited to be on P+P. This year we plan on going to all these different countries, and we're going to Japan as well. We'll begin writing again in the spring or summer. Actually, we have been writing a bit for something that will either be on a split or a new LP. And maybe in the Fall, like before the Fest or after it we'll record. Or maybe we'll wait awhile longer depending. You've always got plans but they can change. But, yeah, we just hope to visit as many places as possible with this new record. And do a little more US touring than we've done in the past. So you know, we're really excited about the next six or seven months. It's going to be really cool!
Thanks for the talk, Mike, have a good afternoon.
Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it!
You can read my previous interview with HR of Bad Brains, here.