Politics have a long history of being infused into music and art. Usually it’s stepped around carefully in more of a poetic form as to hit your subconscious mind. But the American Anymen are throwing it out there with all the force they can muster, feeling that most people are going about their days without giving much thought to the ills of the world. “It was written with the idea that messages being subtly delivered in poetic lyrics was simply not enough in a Trump America. So the songs are blunt and literal”, says Bret Sullivan of the American Anymen.
While previous releases explore such issues as the downside of globalization, social injustice, police brutality, corruption and inequity, The new American Anymen ‘Flag Burner’ EP, due out September 15, is their response to what has become known as ‘Trump’s America.’
The American Anymen is an outspoken punk / alternative collective based out of Brooklyn, NY. Unique to them is the band’s strong politics and ethical importance that is brought forth through their music. With singer/songwriter and guitarist Brett Sullivan as its core, American Anymen’s current lineup also includes Joey Patches (drums and vocals), Scott Fragala (bass and keyboards), and Jen Turner (guitar and vocals). Chris Urban from New Jersey punk band Crazy and the Brains also contributes to ‘President 2’.
TM is pleased to have had the opportunity to talk with Brett Sullivan about the band’s strong political and ethical views, ideas behind their latest release ‘Flag Burner’, insights into their creative inspirations..plus more..
TM – Unique to American Anymen is the band’s strong politics and ethical importance. Can you explain this idea?
BS – The political views expressed in the songs is from a revolutionary communist outlook. a world based in dialectical materialism, internationalism, and a scientific understanding of the worlds problems. But the band is a collective and not all of the participants are full on revolutionary communist, and the entire history of the band, which is almost 20 years now, did not express this political outlook the whole time. there were years when the band was progressive, but did not have fully revolutionary ideas formed. there were years, especially in the beginning, where the ideas were not even close to correct, but this gradually formed the band into what it is now, essentially a propaganda tool for communist ideology.
TM – Your latest release ‘Flag Burner’ is your response to what has become known as Trump’s America. What is the message that you are trying to convey here?
BS – The last 4 albums were almost entirely political. but I with a few exceptions I was still using poetry to express my feelings on politics. the messages I was saying were nuanced and slightly obscured in the poetic delivery. Political friends would listen and not get the basic meaning of what I was saying. On the other hand, the songs had many references to rhetoric from political theories and the reliance on this to describe something was making my art/music friends not know exactly what I was saying. so I had an audience of two different types of people who I wanted to reach and I was starting to get the feeling that they only kinda knew what I was trying to say. so I made it very simple on this album. if I wanted to say something about the political elites I would say if very simple. If I wanted to say what I though about Trump, I would say it very simple now. and people really like that so far, especially live. but it does get scary playing these songs outside of New York City.
TM – What are some of the other issues that you’ve touched on with your past releases?
BS – I’ve made 12 or so albums, maybe more with this band so I’ve written about allot of stuff. I grew up in the east coast and I can’t help but notice the major effect this had on me and my art. hip hop is a major influence on me because of where I grew up, skateboarding as well. this culture is in all the music even if I don’t say it in the lyrics. I’ve written about myself once or twice, but mostly about issues I look at and then I try to express them poetically and creatively. adding even a little creativity sets you apart from most of the shit that is called culture nowadays.
TM – Your song lyrics are pretty blunt and literal. Do you feel like this approach as helped get your message out?
BS – Yes, I do. but I don’t feel like I say communist enough. I wish I could have a big hammer and sickly logo on my guitar sometimes because allot of times people will say they love the lyrics and then go into some shpeel about Bernie Sanders or some anarchist ideology. I recognize these two things as progressive in relation to rampant capital imperialists or outright fascists, but I don’t want people to thing I’m promoting social democracy or some utopian idea. I believe in communism and all that it promotes, a vanguard party of leadership, dictatorship of the proletariat and all that good stuff.
TM – Who or what are some of your creative inspirations?
BS – I love literature. Hemmingway was a huge influence on me. Burroughs I still go back and re read every few years. I love all the great Russian writers from Gogol to Dostoyevsky, Sylvia Plathe’s bell jar is one of the best visions of NYC that I’ve ever read. I did not know the version of the city that she lived in but I see it quite well after readying her book. the writing is almost perfect in that book. it actually hurts to read because it is well crafted.
TM – How would you explain your sound to a new audience?
BS – The band came out of the anti folk scene that started in the lower east side of NYC. so we are anti folk. I was always on the more punk side of this scene and this new album is definitely raw. I hate when I see a band a bunch and love their sound and they go to listen to their band camp and it sounds majorly produced and foreign to someone that actually watches them play live. this happens way too much. it almost feels like your hearing the songs you know played by a major rock band like stone temple pilots or something. bands become super produced and singer/songwriters voices suddenly are drenched in reverb and have perfect voices. I hate that shit; I hate not hearing human mistakes in music. that is lame, making your band sound generic and using the shit music that is mass produced as the template for how your DIY band should sound is lame. we at least try to avoid this and we sound on tape somewhat like we do live.
TM – Do you have any plans for live shows in the near future that you’d like to announce?
BS – We have the 3 song EP “Flag Burner” coming out in mid September and a bunch of shows in France and NYC. dates and all that goods stuff in online and we are always playing live and updating that info.