Davey Havok being held up by the Nashville crowd
After more than a decade since the band first came together, 2003 was their well deserved watershed moment with Sing the Sorrow, their major label debut and a platinum album whose “Leaving Song Pt. II” music video (Marc Webb) won them an MTV2 award, not to mention a Grammy nomination for Best Box Set/Limited Edition. Sold out shows and three years later, Decemberunderground, now double platinum, opened at #1 on the Billboard’s Top 200. From that came their instantly recognizable summer hit, “Miss Murder,” which bagged them the MTV award for Best Rock Video, presented by Lou Reed no less. I vividly remember AFI’s last date that tour in October of ’07, as they headlined with The Cure at Download Festival in a homecoming show in Mountain View, CA. It was a dream come true for both fan and band. 2009 brought Crash Love, more changes for the AFI sound, and a tour with their Gilman friends, Green Day. Twenty-two years of poetic lyrics and beautiful music have been a lattice of emotions and a steady, incendiary rise up. Burials, the ninth and latest album released in late October ‘13, has been long-awaited. It is heavy in emotion and honesty, yet different from any of the albums before it, making it a part of AFI’s own continuity.
I was in Nashville, Tennessee where the temperature was 21 °F. It was much warmer on the tour bus. Smith Puget, AFI’s tour manager kindly greeted me and I walked down the aisle to interview them in their small lounge, where I could see Havok’s face peeking out and smiling. I wondered if he was smiling because I looked out of place in Nashville, and so perhaps not who he was expecting. I couldn’t help but smile back. The walk down the bus aisle felt prolonged and yet each anxious step was bringing me closer to them too soon. This was a band I had waited almost eight years to meet, and now my dream of interviewing them was going to be realized in approximately 15 seconds.
We were all Northern Californians in Nashville, which added to the surreality. Somehow, our paths had crossed so that we had eventually been led to this same place at the same time. Havok’s dark hair was slicked back into a headband and was wearing a black zip-up jacket with an asymmetrical collar. He did casual the edgy way. With high cheekbones and a cut glass jaw line, he was handsome in a feline-esque way congruent to the natural grace and charisma he disseminated onstage. Puget was in one of the Joy Division shirts that he was perpetually fond of. The bleach in his famous mullet hawk was gone, but his razor cut was still cool. Hands folded on his lap and looking relaxed and observant, Puget’s placid nature was apparent and helped me relax because those 14 year-old crushes were coming back really fast.
“Hello,” was the first thing I said, returned with (multiple) “Hello” back. I had looked for flowers earlier, but instead had come across something better: vegan cupcakes, knowing their affinity for the treats. We were already off on good footing, judging by their happy, “Oh wow, thank yous!” Vegan cupcakes are always a good way to start an interview.