Political punk icons, ANTI-FLAG, recently announced their upcoming album, 20/20 Vision, due out January 17th from Spinefarm Records, and today the band have teamed with Billboard to premiere another new single “Unbreakable” and its accompanying music video.
For over two decades Anti–Flag have been at the forefront of socially conscious punk rock, tirelessly releasing music, touring, organizing, and introducing generations of fans to progressivism through fiery protest songs. With 20/20 Vision the Pittsburgh, PA based band prove that they have plenty of vitriol left, aiming to face the challenges of our chaotic socio-political time head on. The band pull no punches lyrically, immediately drawing a line in the sand against the fascistic hate mongering of the Trump administration and making it clear that 20/20 Vision is an album intended to explicitly address the here and now. “Unbreakable” is Anti-Flag at their best—defiant, hopeful, and undeniably catchy—and for its music video the band collaborated with The Critics Company, a collective of young filmmakers from Nigeria who’ve been gaining international acclaim with their impressive DIY short films.
Bassist/vocalist, Chris #2, elaborated on the team-up saying:
“I saw this on Twitter and I thought there was nothing more in the spirit of punk rock, of DIY ethics, than what these kids were doing. As their story began to spread and people from Anti-Flag to JJ Abrams were celebrating these kids, I thought ask them if they’d want to make a music video. They said yes, immediately, even in the chaos of them going from 100 followers to over 10,000 in a day. This to me is what technology, the internet, all of the things that have been exploited to gain the powerful more power, were supposed to do. Bring us together, give us creative outlets, erase borders, economic divisions, and racial barriers. The video is their story. In the face of being told that kids from Africa don’t make movies, that you need professional equipment, and through your family having immense pressure to find the daily things needed to survive. Follow your passion. Creation is an action, not a reaction. It’s also coincidentally the over arching theme of the song, written by 4 people on the other side of the world, with insanely different lifestyles and backgrounds than The Critics Company, but share the same solidarity.”
The Critics Company added:
“The music video basically explains our journey and story so far. We went through a lot just trying to create. We made the whole story short film style and basically just interpreted how being focused, consistent, strong-willed, and determined can help you reach your goal.”
Anti-Flag will finishing the year with an intimate show in Chicago on December 20th and then touring worldwide all throughout 2020. The band’s busy schedule includes lengthy runs in the UK, Europe, and North American, see full itinerary below.
12/19 Erie, PA @ Basement Transmissions
12/20 Chicago, IL @ Reggies
12/21 Detroit, MI @Black Christmas
01/08 Lisboa, PT @ RCA Club
01/09 Madrid, ES @ Caracol
01/10 Vitoria, ES @ Kubik
01/11 Zaragoza, ES @ Sala López
01/12 Barcelona, ES @ Estraperlo
01/14 Milano, IT @ HT Factory
01/16 Zurich, CH @ Dynamo #
01/17 Graz, AT @ PPC #
01/18 Vienna, AT @ Flex #
01/19 Prague, CZ @ Roxy #
01/21 Berlin, DE @ SO36 $
01/22 Munich, DE @ Backstage Werk $
01/23 Nuremberg, DE @ Löwensaal $
01/24 Chemnitz, DE @ Talschock $
01/26 Warsaw, PL @ Proxima $
01/28 Hamburg, DE @ Fabrik $
01/29 Köln, DE @ Essigfabrik $
01/30 Haarlem, NL @ Patronaat $
02/01 Bucharest, RO @ Quantic Club
02/02 Brighton, UK @ Chalk !
02/04 London, UK @ O2 Academy Islington !
02/05 Manchester, UK @ Club Academy !
02/06 Birmingham, UK @ The Mill !
02/07 Glasgow, UK @ The Garage !
02/08 Leeds, UK @ The Key Club !
02/09 Cardiff, UK @ The Globe !
03/11 Ottawa, ON @The 27 Club *
03/12 Montreal, QC @ L’Astral *
03/13 Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground *
03/15 Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
03/17 Asbury Park, NJ @ House of Independents *
03/18 Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom *
03/19 Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry *
03/20 College Park, MD @ MilkBoy ArtHouse *
03/22 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade @ Purgatory *
03/24 Nashville, TN @ Exit/In *
03/26 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop *
03/27 Buffalo, NY @ Rec Room *
03/28 Pittsburgh, PA @ Roxian Theatre *
05/02 Charlotte, NC @ Epicenter Fest 2020
05/03 Columbus, OH @ A&R Bar ^
05/05 Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground ^
05/06 Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme ^
05/08 St. Paul, MN @ Amsterdam Bar and Hall ^
05/10 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theatre ^
05/12 Dallas, TX @ Dada ^
05/13 Austin, TX @ Barracuda ^
05/14 El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace ^
05/20 Oakland, CA @ New Parish ^
05/21 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Atrium at The Catalyst ^
05/22-25 Las Vegas, NV @ Punks In Vegas
05/27 Sacramento, CA @ Holy Diver ^
05/28 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre ^
05/29 Vancouver, BC @ Wise Hall ^
05/30 Seattle, WA – The Crocodile ^
# w/ ZSK
$ w/ The Creepshow
! w/ The Creepshow and Maid of Ace
* w/ Grade 2 and Doll Skin
^ w/ Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Grumpster
Anti-Flag is a political punk band, which is obvious from their name alone. But over the course of 12 albums across more than 25 years together, they’ve rarely set their sights on singular individuals in songs. Unlike their punk predecessors in the 80s, who made targets of Reagan and his cronies, Anti-Flag has always opted not to date their work with current references, instead focusing on fighting ongoing oppression and dismantling deeply rooted systems of injustice. But on their new album, 20/20 Vision, the band is drawing a big, fat line in the sand.
“We have actively chosen to not attack Presidents directly, either with album art or songs about certain times in history, because we recognize that the issues we’re dealing with are cyclical,” says bassist Chris #2. “But this record in particular, we kind of said, well fuck that, we need to be on the record in opposition to the policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.”
“This record is a warning to people holding neofascist ideas or people who are enabling these types of positions, whether you’re outright racist or you’re enabling racism or sexism or homophobia or transphobia,” adds guitarist Justin Sane. “You need to make a choice at this point. What we’ve seen with this White House is that there’s no grey area anymore.”
Produced by From First to Last’s Matt Good, 20/20 Vision (Spinefarm Records, January 17, 2020) kicks off with a soundbite of Donald Trump speaking at a rally. And while just about anything the man has said over the last few years would make for a fitting sample on a punk record, Anti-Flag were deliberate in their choice. “In the good old days, this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough,” Trump is heard saying over the opening track, “Hate Conquers All.” “And when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily.”
“What I found compelling about that particular Trump sample is that it’s the quintessential move that he pulls, which is: Say the thing into the world early, so that when it happens later, people are already accustomed to it,” says #2, who believes that dissenters like journalists, protestors, and punk bands are not far down on the list of those who will eventually be rounded up and detained. “We’ve always cautioned that if you’re not standing up for the most marginalized and the most oppressed then you’re not truly free.”
“Hate Conquers All” seeks to dissect the lexicon we use around racism to hold ourselves more accountable. “The song is a kneejerk reaction to the idea of Love Trumps Hate and this idea that love can beat back hatred,” notes #2. “That equates racism with hatred. That’s a false equivalence of what the language should be. If you’re racist, you’re racist. You don’t just hate people. It should be considered a much more vile term.”
Later on the album, “Christian Nationalist” calls out those hiding behind religious zealotry to mask their neofacism, and the chorus makes it clear that these people will be held accountable: “We all know who you are!”
“When you listen to David Duke talk, you’re listening to Donald Trump talk,” Sane says of the track. “These people hide behind the veneer of suits or speaking well and the various ways in which they hide their bigotry, but the reality is that they’re just as bad as the fascists in the 1930s or the segregationists in America.
“I’m not saying doxxing is OK, but I think it is important to let a community know that their neighbor is a racist who was chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us!’ There has to be accountability.”
On 20/20 Vision’s title track, the band takes a deliberately poppy approach to grappling with a tough pill they’ve had to swallow recently: Seeing elements of the framework that punk bands like Anti-Flag have established over the last couple of decades as it is coopted and used as talking points by the alt-right.
“The roadmap that we created in the 90s, of alternative media and forms of communicating, was a left-wing strategy to bring truth to power,” says drummer Pat Thetic. “The right wing has very effectively taken all those skills we learned in the 80s and 90s and turned them against the left. That’s been a challenging thing for us, to see the strategies that we grew up with being used against us in such an effective way.”
And while the newscycle moves faster than ever before, 20/20 Vision aims to take a step back and stare down the most pressing problems of our time: kids in cages, the fentanyl crisis, rolling back EPA restrictions. It’s a record that at once feels both timely and forward thinking. 20/20 Vision is a work that Anti-Flag hopes will serve as an immediate form of communication with those who are politically engaged as well as a document of our modern times for a future generation.
As #2 puts it:
“We hope that when someone trips over this record in the sand of the post apocalypse, they’ll know that there were people who once stood in opposition to all of this.”