INTERVIEW: GEORGIA RAWSON | WORDS: ROB KENT
At some point in 2010, teenagers and young adults began to feel the emotional heartache that in is the whole package of coming of age and when you have some skills on a guitar and your best friend is a certain 1999 self-titled record that is the holy grail of emo, there is only one thing to do, start a band. This whole new wave that was the emo revival has one band, in particular, to thank for this movement, American Football.
American Football can’t be credited for influencing the wave of emo bands from 2005-2008 who essentially changed the reputation of the genre and took it the masses and mainstream, other emo heroes The GetUp Kids accidentally did that, but what American Football can be rewarded for is making the genre great again in 2010. Bands such as band Modern Baseball, Foxing, Snowing, and Prawn probably would be nonexistent without the bands’ debut LP. “People took what I was trying to do but just do it better, I’m proud to see this happening” Kinsella speaks with satisfaction on the bands’ influence on new artists. American Football is more than just an essential plot in the development emo, they are a band that has such powerful and timeless songs and carved a path for creativity that had never even been considered.
“Your self-worth was not about online presence and reactions people give you on the internet.”
However the emo revival bands had beginnings very similar to their idols, vocalist of American Football Mike Kinsella casts his thoughts back to the early days of the band twenty years ago. “Lyrically that record was a statement of where I was in life, it was a high school boys journal” by turning these simple honest thoughts into poetry, Kinsella had created an entire movement on an A4 piece of paper from his bedroom.
They also, although huge Punk enthusiasts, took a very unique approach to songwriting which set them apart even further. Combining math rock and Jazz as the setting for the lush guitars, tremendous drumming and sensitive lyrics to take place this gave the recipe that listeners then and now have fallen in love with.
The three emo pioneers that made this record had already been practicing their craft prior to this first album taking elements from across the board and all their experience to produce the debut record “ Cap n Jazz was my first band, it was a screamo band with a lot of energy, so coming from that to playing with our drummer Steve Lamo who was influenced by Jazz meant we wanted to explore new things in every sense possible” Kinsella explains passionately when diving into his memory bank of building sounds on the bands first record.
The musicianship on their first album was also influenced by looking no further than the midwest scene they were involved in. Kinsella humbly expresses his memories of the strong midwest scene in the late nineties and developing their signature sound “We were influenced by other local bands, we knew we didn’t want to be a rock band and we were just learning and experimenting with Jazz and different time signatures, but our local scene was our biggest influence, we are a product of our environment in that sense”.
“Our local scene was our biggest influence, we are a product of our environment in that sense.”
The raw beginnings of starting a band in the late nineties gave an element that meant the band were not trying to fit in and were simply just writing music for their own desire and not to impress anyone but themselves, something that has been distorted in modern creativity. “I feel lucky going through younger stages of my life without social media, let alone starting a band and writing songs. Your self-worth was not about online presence and reactions people give you on the internet. Before social media the expectations of being in a band were completely different” emphasizes Kinsella as he promptly speaks about creating music in a world that will never exist again. So maybe American Footballs cult record had to happen when it did, everything was in line for it to be created, but when presented to the world, the record we all know and admire today wasn’t very successful with the band soon breaking up after its release. Ironically in around 2009, after Kinsellas’ previous comments about the digital age, the internet that gave it new light and the classic status it finally deserves.
“ We didn’t know there was an interest or an audience for our band, Steve Holmes barely even picked up a guitar for 10 years” showing that the members were as shocked at the late reaction to their music as much as fans were to hear such talented content for the first time a decade after its birth.
“we didn’t know there was an interest or an audience for our band.”
Kinsella comments on life after the band “When we broke up we had no intention of playing again, I continued to play music but I had kids, got married and was always playing music a lot less, nobody in this band was planning on coming back to the music we wrote, we had no idea it would get popular” the shrug of the shoulder attitude from the band towards their own debut isn’t the same opinion as the generation that discovered it years later. The immense guitar work and inviting melody on every track is something every record needs, Kinsella explains that taking risks and combining genres is something they set out to achieve even though there was no audience to impress “it helped there was no pressure on any of the songs, we wanted to challenge ourselves when writing”.
American Footballs LP1 will always be what it needs to be, its slightly loose production, its writing process and its hibernation for a decade are all characteristics that give these nine songs everything to carve themselves into music history. What they did in 1999 will be forever worshiped and admired, it just shows that when creative minds come together with nothing but self-satisfaction as the goal, the result is nothing less of a perfect timeless record, cementing itself within the history of the emo genre.