WORDS: AMY ALBINSON
It has been almost two decades since the release of an album that managed to, quite by accident, spark an entire generation of emo-tinged, twinkling-guitar, trumpet-laced, indie rock. With its off-kilter time signatures and heart-on-sleeve lyricism, American Football’s 1999 debut has been revered as near-sacred by fans of the genre. Shortly after its release, with only a handful of live shows to their name, the band disintegrated, leaving American Football as an afterthought of their college years.
“There was a lot of hesitancy around reuniting”
“There was a lot of hesitancy around reuniting,” admits drummer and trumpeter Steve Lamos as he reflects on the band’s fifteen-year silence following their break-up. “We thought we’ll just do it two or three times and that’ll be that”. But after their handful of reunion shows sold out within minutes they began to realise the full extent of the cult-like fanbase that record had created. “It was a huge surprise” Steve beams, “it’s strange to watch that [record] evolve with no input from us whatsoever, I mean we did everything wrong”. During this period vocalist Mike Kinsella was working on his own solo project, Owen. “I was playing continuously the whole time to the same size crowd without knowing that a lot more people were into American Football,” he explains, “it was a surprise that sort of changed our lives”.
Within fan’s adoration of the band is the recurring title of ‘emo’, which they’ve not always connected with. “I guess we’re sort of reaping the benefit of the emo revival which is cool,” Mike laughs before hesitating, “musically I’ve always said I guess the lyrics are pretty heart-on-sleeve sort of heavy and that’s just how I think music is. I grew up listening to The Cure, Tora Amos so I wasn’t into like hip hop or anything”. Steve agrees as he continues “I think I was more actively antagonistic to it. Now whatever people want to associate with us is fine with me. I’ve been seeing some things recently about how pop music is a little more upset and a little bit more down in the face of certain events in the States and in events internationally and so it makes sense that people might be drawn to music that’s a little bit more open about trying to deal with negative feelings”.
“it makes sense that people might be drawn to music that’s a little bit more open about trying to deal with negative feelings.”
Their second album arrived to a mixed reception. “We did the second one and I think we made a lot of compromises,” Mike admits. “I think everybody sort of compromised so much that maybe nobody was completely happy with it and then it was almost like an inspirational ‘let’s get in there and try to do it again and do it better next time. We can do a better job’”. Now with their third record due end of March the band are optimistic. “The first couple records are fall-ish records,” Steve explains, “and this is a winter record. It’s a middle aged record. This is a record where you’re the main character but people in general look at their lives and take stock and say ‘alright, well, here we are at middle age and this is what’s kind of working… this is kind of how we live day to day”.
The subject of being middle aged is recurrent in the conversation, spoken mostly in humour but yet, in the years between their debut and their newest offering, it’s clear the band have grown up. “I’ve heard Mike talk about his kids as being his best friends,” Steve laughs, now an English professor at the University of Colorado, “I like my kids, they’re pretty cool”. In reforming as a band they have found their own difficulties in the pressure being put on spouses and grandparents who help out now they all have children of their own. “I remember calling home and complaining to my wife about something,” Steve continues, “and she’s like, you know what, the baby just threw up all over the floor, I
“this is kind of how we live day to day”
haven’t slept for two days, you can either have fun or you can shut up and come home but don’t call me and complain about how you’re having a bad time playing music and drinking with your friends and she was totally right. That’s exactly the case so we might as well enjoy it while we’re doing it because it’s kind of a charmed way to be right now so we’re lucky to have it.”
Whilst they’re appreciative of what the band has offered them it’s clear where their hearts lie. “I would not want to do the band thing full time” Mike chimes, “we’re coming at it as kind of old dudes now… after maybe a week or so [of touring] I’m like ‘oh my god, I need to go home and be a Dad again for a while, like reset’”.
LP3 is out 22nd March via BIG SCARY MONSTERS. You can preorder it HERE.