Southern California punk icons Bad Religion recently released the new track “My Sanity” as a precursor to a 2019 still-untitled album. The band’s Brett Gurewitz and Greg Graffin could not contain their enthusiasm about the follow-up to 2013’s True North when Billboard spoke to the duo backstage at KROQ’s Absolut Almost Acoustic Xmas on Saturday.
“I am so happy with the new record that I will say — and I don’t want to overhype it — but I do think it feels like a milestone record and I think it’s partially because the current times are so fraught that they really inspired us to write and give voice to what’s happening,” Gurewitz said.
Most artists feel their latest work is their best, but to put in context how happy Gurewitz is with the new record, he doesn’t believe every Bad Religion record is at this level.
“We’ve been around long enough where we have a few records that feel like milestones. And we have other records that feel like interstitial records, which, as an artist, you’re working out your craft and you’re working through things,” he says. “[1994’s] Stranger Than Fiction was a milestone, I feel like [1993’s] Recipe For Hate was too, even though those two were in a row. I feel like [2003’s] The Process of Belief was one.”
Graffin is equally happy with the record, release date to come, for different reasons: He sees it as part of the progression of Bad Religion, who he feels are still getting better after nearly four decades of making music.
“I know for a fact my voice and my singing has only gotten better through the years. I feel especially proud of this band because everyone plays so much better than they did 20 years ago. We’ve improved in many departments and I think songwriting is another example of that,” Graffin says.
They both cite “My Sanity” as an example of the socio-political songwriting of the new record.
“[It’s] really a song about what it feels like to live in a world gone mad. Whatever side of the political spectrum you are on today it seems the world is so divided that they regard the other side as being completely out of their mind. And that’s what the song is taking about,” Gurewitz says.
According to Graffin these are themes and issues Bad Religion have been writing about since the band’s origins. “We’ve been writing about these issues that are, now, sadly coming to light,” he says. “All I can say is these are themes that we’ve written about, very familiar themes. Sadly we have to address them in a much more severe situation. But, it’s very natural for us.”
Gurewitz believes that’s the role of punk music. “The best of punk rock has always been a social justice movement. And our lyrics have reflected that,” he says.
It was particularly special for Bad Religion to get to showcase “My Sanity” at Almost Acoustic Xmas.
“People say things come full-circle. Bad Religion’s first exchange with KROQ was driving out to Pasadena, going upstairs to their old studio, when that’s where they were, and giving them a cassette tape of our first EP at midnight. ‘Rodney on the ROQ’ played it and we ran out to the car and listened to our song on the radio. Almost 40 years later to be playing Acoustic Xmas and to have three or four true KROQ hits to play is a good feeling,” Gurewitz recalls.
For Graffin, the fact that the band is playing these types of events years later is unfathomable. “I could never have dreamed of [this] as a kid. But I just never thought that we were ever gonna reach that next level. And I think that’s probably part of the secret of our success,” he says. “We put out music ’cause it’s a part of our day-to-day experience and we don’t really have those goals in mind. We never fizzled away cause I think we still believe there’s headroom.”