Tom Gable is antsy. His band, Against Me!, just played the 11:30 a.m. set to open the Nashville leg of this year's Vans Warped Tour. It's the earliest show they've ever played, and he's been ready to hit the road ever since.
As the day's shenanigans wind down to a whisper, he and the rest of the bands on the tour start thinking about the evening's upcoming caravan to Jacksonville, Fla. It's a routine Against Me! have plunged themselves into with the same fervor they put into their rootsy punk-rock-taking on every show as if it's their last.
"I'm having a surprisingly good time," says Gable, whose band is making its first appearance on the Warped Tour. "I never know which direction we're really heading."
Joining NOFX, AFI and a host of other all-capitalized and semi-capitalized bands, Against Me! are taking their swings for a half-hour every day on the tour, playing for feverish punk fans and trust-fund babies alike. The cryptic yet acceptable reason for the exclamation point in the band's name is "because we really mean it," Gable says.
Gable, along with bassist Andrew Seward, drummer Warren Oakes and guitarist James Bowman, are cruising the country for the first time ever in an actual tour bus, compliments of the band's new label, Sire Records. After 2002's phenomenally underrated full-length debut on No Idea Records, Reinventing Axl Rose, the band was scooped up by San Francisco-based Fat Wreck Chords, which released 2003's equally strong As the Eternal Cowboy.
Last September, they released their third and strongest album on Fat Wreck, Searching for a Former Clarity. The record solidifies the band's status as modern punk craftsmen. Blending folksy strums and socially charged anthems akin to Billy Bragg and Woodie Guthrie and injecting them with enthusiasm worthy of The Minutemen and The Misfits, Searching is a refreshingly honest, unique voice in a maddeningly repetitive genre.
"When I was 14 and 15, I absolutely loved NOFX and I loved Rancid and I loved Crass and I loved all the great punk bands," Gable says. "I still like those bands. I've just [gone] way beyond that, expanded my view and listened to a lot of different music. But I've always kind of tried to take the approach of wanting to make music that doesn't sound like anybody else. I don't really want to emulate anybody. Now, I'm sure subconsciously and in whatever way, influences definitely leak in and work their way into your songwriting. It's just unavoidable. That's just the way it's gonna work."
What started for Gable as a solo act in the band's hometown of Gainesville, Fla., and eventually grew into a foursome, Against Me! had been courted by countless major labels over the years. When the deal with Sire came up at the end of 2005, the band decided to give in and see where the road would take them.
"Coming from the punk scene and everything, you're taught to vehemently hate things like [major labels]...." Gable says. "On the one hand, I want to see what happens and I want to take a chance and just roll the dice and say "fuck it' and take a shot. And on the other hand, [it was] like, "No, don't ever do anything like this.'"
Long story short: they did it, punk purists be damned. Gable and the rest of the band plan on going balls out for as long as they can. So, for now, as long as they have some guitars and a few amps behind them, they're happy.
"I feel 100-percent confident in knowing that this is what I want to do and that I want to play in a band and I want to make records and I want to go on tour and I want to do this with my life," Gable says. "And I want to do that for as many people that will listen or as few people that will listen."
Against Me! play at Coors Amphitheatre on July 6 as part of the Vans Warped Tour. Gates open at noon. 619-220-8497.