For 27 years, Anti-Flag have gone beyond being just a band. They’ve drawn attention to themselves by delivering specific political messages in a bold way. From highlighting former President George W. Bush’s controversies in 2004 with a compilation disc, Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1 and 2, to denouncing the Trump administration on 20/20 Vision earlier this year, the band have always centered their message around political activism.
Now, Anti-Flag have pieced their past achievements with their future goals. The band are teaming up with Alternative Press to exclusively announce the release of their documentary, Beyond Barricades The Story Of Anti-Flag, Oct. 3 via MDDN’s video platform Veeps.
Known for zoning in on human rights and left-winged causes, the documentary will feature visuals of various political rallies. This furthers Anti-Flag’s fight for their message to be heard as they’re in support of political action groups such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International. The band quite recently announced their stance in solidarity with Occupy Together.
Scenes from Beyond Barricades The Story Of Anti-Flag includes visuals of political symbols, from President Donald Trump heads to American flags. Frontman Justin Sane and bassist Chris #2 spoke about the documentary below.
To get to know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve been…
— Anti-Flag (@anti_flag) September 14, 2020
Since the formation of Anti-Flag, how would you describe the way politics has changed?
JUSTIN SANE: Historically, under both Republican and Democratic governments, there have been a few with great wealth and power in society and politics, but since the band have started, there has been an unprecedented concentration of wealth and power, not to mention a weakening of voting rights. The concept of the 99% vs. the 1% has come into popular consciousness. This great concentration has fewer and fewer people gaining unfathomable amounts of wealth, while the rest of us are left to fight over the scraps. It has just become too big not to see and feel.
When the band began, there was a pretense that corporate America and politicians were separate entities. Politicians went to certain lengths to at least maintain the appearance that they had some autonomy from their corporate donors. Today all of those pretenses are gone. The corporations are literally in Congress, the Senate and The White House. There is no pretending. The interests of the American people are always put second and corporate profits put first. You can extrapolate this to issues of foreign policy, race or whatever it may be.
What remains true from the time the band started is that almost all of the time, politicians only act in the best interests of the people when the people rise up and make them. The only time we see gains in women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, wealth inequality and so on is when the people come together en masse and demand it.
How has this amplified your will to spread the band’s message and connect with fans on social issues?
SANE: The change in politics hasn’t really affected my desire to amplify the band’s message because I have always felt incredibly passionate about connecting with others on issues that are critical to the welfare of people and the planet. What has changed for me is my approach to connecting with our audience. There was a time when I felt that the only way to get someone’s attention or to make someone care was to sonically punch them in the face. Over time, I have come to realize there are many avenues to connecting with someone who may be willing to hear what you have to say. A song like “Die For The Government” is a great “fuck you” song to politicians who use people as cannon fodder for profit. And it might be exactly what someone needs to hear at 18 if they’re thinking about joining the military as a career option or out of patriotic duty.
So there will always be room for this type of punk song in Anti-Flag’s repertoire. But I also feel, now more than ever, when so many feel alone and disconnected by vacuous social media, mindless consumerism, etc., writing songs that let people know they’re not alone in life is really important. Letting people who feel hopeless know that there is a community of others in the world who care about them is important. Songs like “Unbreakable” or “Brandenburg Gate” reach out to people in a way that Anti-Flag didn’t at the start, but I know from experience [that] they can be just as effective in bringing people into our community.
Beyond Barricades The Story Of Anti-Flag puts pressure on the band’s active participation in human rights movements. What do you hope your fans take away from the documentary?
SANE: I want people to see a few things. For starters, this truth: We were four average kids from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who were passionate about something, and that passion led us to do something that was important to us. Regardless of the outcome, it was important to us, so we did it. End of story. Luckily for me, I think the outcome has been very positive, and I’m proud of what we accomplished. That said, anyone can do what we did. It does take a deep level of passion and commitment. And maybe you won’t accomplish everything you set out to accomplish. We certainly didn’t. But I do believe that if you do something because you care about it and love it, you’ll find yourself land at the end in a place where you feel good about your accomplishments and where you are in life.
Second, I want people who care about making the world a better place to know that they are not alone. Maybe your idea of making the world a better place is simply to be kind to others. If so, you’re our people, and we need to connect. Maybe your goals are loftier… You want to end all war on the planet or fight to end the climate crisis… Ultimately, if you care about more than just yourself and you’re feeling alone in this world, you’re not alone. We are your friends and allies. You just haven’t found us until now.
Lastly, even though this is a documentary about Anti-Flag, we are so much more than the four members of the band. One of the best things to come out of Anti-Flag is all of the friendships that people have formed as part of our community. Someone comes to a show and meets someone cool in the front row. Now they have been friends for 10 years. This happens all the time. There are people who met at our shows and now have chat groups to stay in touch. They travel together. They look out for each other. More than anything else, when I got into punk, that is what I wanted to find. So when I see that happen between people because of Anti-Flag, more than anything else, that is what sends me to bed happy at the end of the day.
The new documentary showcases your political activism. How does Beyond Barricades The Story Of Anti-Flag highlight the current state of our government?
CHRIS #2: I think the film itself provides great examples of how our lives and our history isn’t written by celebrities, politicians or celebrity politicians… It’s because of people. Change has always come from the bottom up, not the top down. But we have to use every tool within our means to challenge the status quo, to fight racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, bigotry of any and all kind. That includes the harm reduction that voting can provide.
The band have been around and wrote songs about the dangerous policies of the last five U.S. presidential regimes. It’s a myth that you’re intrinsically tied to your vote and not allowed to criticize or hold the person for whom you’ve voted for’s feet to the fire. We should forever be vigilant in the quest for economic, racial, social and environmental justice… Politicians, presidents, prime ministers [and] popes should all be held accountable, and we should never let them forget it.
MDDN, you’re releasing a documentary with Anti-Flag, who’s an influential and politically driven band. How is this content crucial, especially in the world’s current social and political climate?
MDDN: Anti-Flag have been on the front lines in the fight against injustice and inequality for three decades now. Their message is as important and relevant as it’s ever been. We all remain hopeful for a world free from these atrocities. A day when Anti-Flag could write a record just for fun. But that day has not come, and Anti-Flag have continued to fight on.
Be sure to catch Beyond Barricades The Story Of Anti-Flag, out Oct. 3, on MDDN’s video platform Veeps. You can get tickets to the event here.
It felt almost impossible to tell a story that has been unfolding for almost 27 years…
Beyond Barricades: The Story of Anti-Flag premieres worldwide on October 3rd, 2020 presented by @AltPress!
— Anti-Flag (@anti_flag) September 14, 2020