AFI has been a band for two decades, releasing eight albums since its 1995 punk-rock debut, “Answer That and Stay Fashionable.” But the act’s latest single, “17 Crimes,” off the upcoming “Burials” (Oct. 22, Republic), sets a few new milestones: Its placement in the film “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is AFI’s first film synch. “Burials” is the group’s first album for Republic Records, which signed AFI earlier this year. The “Mortal Instruments” soundtrack is also out on Republic and includes an LA Riots remix of the single. The original plays over the movie’s end credits.
“The goal is to have the song heard by as many people as possible,” says David Benveniste, founder/president of Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group. “There was a lot of excitement surrounding ‘Mortal Instruments,’ which gave us an opportunity to play the song for myriad people and help amplify the buzz that’s going on right now at radio.” “17 Crimes” rises No. 32-27 on Billboard’s Alternative chart this week.
“We’re always looking for media platforms to expose music to fans,” adds Republic executive VP of A&R Rob Stevenson, who signed AFI to the label. “The song fit the vibe of the book and the movie. The band are fans of LA Riots and thought it would be cool to give fans an alternate take on the track. The movie company loved the idea. It really was that simple.”
AFI — singer Davey Havok, guitarist Jade Puget, bassist Hunter Burgan and drummer Adam Carson — didn’t approach the album looking to write singles, however. When it came time to pen the follow-up to 2009’s “Crash Love,” which bowed at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 with 150,000 sold to date (according to Nielsen SoundScan), the musicians were merely interested in capturing where they were at the moment. Writing took place over a year, beginning in the fall of 2011, and Republic signed AFI based on a demo version of “Burials.” The former Interscope act met with various labels but had a history with Stevenson, who had tried to sign Havok and Puget’s side project, Blaqk Audio, to Astralwerks in 2010. AFI entered the studio to record “Burials” with producer Gil Norton a week after signing with Republic. (Havok says that Blaqk Audio will return to the studio once the “Burials” cycle wraps.)
“It was a really brief period of creation in relation to our records of the most recent past,” Havok says, noting that the album was recorded in only six weeks at Los Angeles’ East West Studio. “[Gil] is a great guy and he’s very positive. Because we were so pressed for time it was a very intensive process of tracking.”
The group rolled out a series of six teaser videos directed by Surround beginning in April, eventually leading to the unveiling of album track “I Hope You Suffer” on July 23. “17 Crimes” was released as the disc’s debut single in early August, with a music video following on Aug. 16.
“With the lack of online presence and activity between ‘Burials’ and the last album, we saw a golden opportunity to reintroduce the band with the kind of mystery and suspense their fans have grown accustomed to,” Benveniste says. “Their fervent fan base would engage any sort of compelling content we released. The early marketing was a slow burn designed to build layers leading up to the bigger initiatives — like song releases and videos — and subsequently the new album.”
AFI will tour North America, beginning Sept. 12 and wrapping Nov. 11, using the live shows as a platform to built interest for the album. The band has also been confirmed for Australia’s Soundwave tour in early 2014. The present focus remains “17 Crimes,” which debuted at No. 37 on the Alternative chart. TV appearances remain in the works, as do additional synch placements, though the label says nothing more specific can be shared at the moment.
“The band has made an outstanding album that I believe will connect with current fans as well as create new ones,” Republic VP of marketing Billy Zarro says. “The activity as well as data from our social media platforms gives us confidence that we are reaching a very broad base.”
“We’re lucky to have such a core fan base who are looking and waiting for new AFI music. But if you’re not, there’s so much going on out there that it would be easily missed,” Havok says. “The hope is that we do reach some new people.”