You didn't think last year's Arab Spring and Occupy movements would get by Anti-Flag, did you? Not surprisingly, those events form the basis of the politically conscious Pittsburgh punk rock group's first album in three years, "The General Strike."
"Everything that was going on last year was so inspiring," drummer and co-founder Pat Thetic tells Billboard.com. "That environment of revolution all over the world was something we wanted to talk about and was impacting us as we were writing. It hasn't happened in our lifetime where people all over the world people are standing up for their rights and willing to throw off the shackles of dictatorship and decide it's time to be in control of their own destiny."
He adds, however, that, "fighting for democracy and change is always sticky business. It doesn't always go as well as you'd like. Unfortunately in activism you don't win very often. But it's still exciting to see it happen, and there is nobility in the struggle. And over time I think those things have an impact; they may not have an impact today...but it percolates in people's minds and they start to ask questions, which is important."
Thetic notes that "The General Strike," due out March 20, isn't entirely about current events; a song such as "1915," for instance, references Joe Hill and labor movements of the early 20th century. But Thetic and his bandmates feel like that's all part of the same story.
"The kids who are in the street today have a direct lineage to people who were in the streets in the 60s for the anti-Vietnam movement and the women's rights and de-segregation movements and all of that," he explains. "There's a direct correlation to all that stuff -- and even further back. A lot of young people are not aware of Joe Hill or the Wobblies and what they did and how the reason we have a 40-hour work week is because of people willing to stand up and say working conditions need to improve. So those are things we like to address in songs as well. We may not have grown up with that, but we think they're very important to celebrate and want to transfer that knowledge to other people, too."
At just over 27 minutes, "The General Strike" also comes in as Anti-Flag's shortest album yet, which the drummer says "we actually were trying to achieve...We were trying to write very efficient songs, and they came out to be shorter because we didn't put as much fluff in them. Some of the songs came into the sessions significantly longer and we chopped 'em because we were making a conscious effort to write shorter songs. The next record we may be like, 'Every song we wrote on ('The General Strike') was too short' and maybe we'll write a little longer, but this is how we wanted to go this time.
"Plus, as an older guy, I want to play a short song, y'know?"
Anti-Flag begins a special nine-date U.S. tour on Tuesday night (March 6) to trumpet "The General Strike's" arrival, where fans will receive a download card giving them access to five of the album's 12 tracks. Thetic says the group will be on the road through December, with a European run starting in mid-April, a spot on the Bamboozle New Jersey Festival on May 19 and shows in Australia and South America. A North American tour is expected to begin in mid-June and will likely be announced later this month.