Anti-Flag: “Music and art can change people, and those people can change the f*cking world”

As Anti-Flag prepare to unleash their 13th album Lies They Tell Our Children, bassist Chris #2 Barker reflects on its inspirations – and how the political punks are still striving to make the world a better place…

Anti-Flag: “Music and art can change people, and those people can change the f*cking world”
Chris #2 Barker
Josh Massie

“As a band we went into making our new record with a lot of self-imposed pressure. 2023 is 30 years of Anti-Flag, a mile marker we do not take lightly. We’ve committed our lives to this – honestly, we don’t know how to do anything else. We love this band, we love the shows we play and the songs we share more than ever. But we also collectively know that the four members of this band would be doing all in their power and all within their creative outlet, to agitate and disturb a status quo of violence, fear and exploitative capitalism whether there was an audience for it or not.

“All that being said, with the daunting task of entering our 30th anniversary with our 13th album we wanted to try to challenge ourselves. Move beyond the familiar, push beyond comfort zones, but also rely heavily on our musical influences and pay homage to the songs and art that inspired us to start the band in the first place.

“The world we live in is a fucked-up place. A global corporate wasteland culture that demands poverty, inequity and a ruling class wealth divide that grows wider and more terrifying by the minute. These things all lead to unorganized work forces, a lack of empathy, an increase in our apathy as people struggle to live day-to-day, a breeding ground for misinformation and manipulation from the powerful. We are beamed with imagery of these injustices and inequality daily. Our album Lies They Tell Our Children started with a simple question: ‘How did we get here?’ As we started writing the record, we kept pulling on that thread. We hoped with this process we could find ourselves closer to the solutions of these problems if we found ourselves closer to understanding their origins.

“There have been a lot of instances where Anti-Flag records, imagery or songs have felt almost prophetic; we’ve had a ton of people reference songs like Fuck Police Brutality – written in 1996 – when discussing American police violence in Ferguson, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and beyond. Or in the wake of right-wing neo-fascists in Charlottesville, people bring up our song Racists, which was written in 2016. This has happened countless times, with countless songs, and the truth is there isn’t very much ‘predicting’ of what’s to come at all; it’s that this shit has never left. And furthermore, it’s often cyclical. You can set your watch to politicians scapegoating immigrants and refugees, to an economic system based on arms sales, the drums of a war machine that produces more environmental devastation than entire societies of people, a racist American policing system that murders 3.2 people a day, and a country with the highest incarceration rate globally.

“So we leaned heavily on what got us here to ask this question… musically it was The Clash and their courage to heed modern sounds and not just create what people expected or wanted them to. Then it was our community, the bands we’ve shared love and art with – that’s why there’s so many guests on the album. For the artwork and essays it was shit like Winston Smith, Franz Masereel and countless others. We collaborated with Pittsburgh artist Doug Dean to make sure that when you sat with the album and lyrics, there was something visual that made sense: 11 individual pieces of art, one for each song, that unfolds to create the record cover. A thread that hopefully for some people ties all of these ideas together.

“The answers may be more difficult to find than a three-minute long punk song can give, but for the last 30 years we have seen with our own eyes that music and art can change people; and those people can change the fucking world.”

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