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Anti-Flag, hailing from Pittsburgh, has been cranking out anti-establishment, left-wing-themed songs over well more than two decades. Before the band’s Coachella performance on Friday, April 18, drummer Pat Thetic sat down with the Independent to talk about the band’s history and political ethos.
Thetic said that while the band has matured, the ethics and mission remain the same.
“We’re still angry,” he said. “We’re just more aware of what we’re angry about now. When we were younger, we were just sort of angry about everything. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve traveled a lot; we’ve seen a lot of the world; and we know where the anger is going to achieve goals, and where the anger is just going to burn us up.”
The band’s connection to Pittsburgh has definitely inspired the band.
“We did come from Pittsburgh, which has a very strong labor history and a very strong leftist political action,” he said. “So we felt as though all punk rock should have a political message behind it. We felt if the music didn’t have a political vent to it, there was no point to it.”
One issue Pat Thetic holds close to his heart is animal-rights activism.
“I’ve been vegan for about 15 years,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that if you treat animals poorly, you’re going to treat people poorly. Also, for the band, the message has always been about letting people do what they think is best for themselves—staying out of their sexuality, staying out of what border they live across, staying out of what flag they fly over their head, and letting people be who they are, and cutting out the bullshit that’s on top of all of that.”
He then placed those statements in a Coachella Valley context.
“We’re close to the Mexican border here. On one side of the border, you’re considered one thing. If you’re born on the other side, you’re considered a completely different thing. That’s just such bullshit to me that luck of birth creates your whole existence. In 2014, that makes no sense at all.”
So how does a punk rock band such as Anti-Flag view the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, with $375 tickets, and high-priced food and water?
“That’s always been an issue,” he said. “What we’ve learned over the years is Coachella is going to go off, no matter what. If you don’t have a voice of dissent, then that’s a missed opportunity. No matter where you are, no matter what the environment is, there should always be a voice of dissent. It doesn’t always have to be Anti-Flag; it can be somebody else.
“Over the past two weeks, it’s been our chance to be that voice of dissent. Does it mean it’s going to change Coachella forever? No. If you have a kid that comes out, and he’s like, ‘Fuck! This is bullshit! I don’t want to pay $4 for water!’ I believe that equality is deeper than the Coachella experience. Then that kid comes to see Anti-Flag play; that kid is inspired to make the steps he needs to make things better in his life and hopefully others.”
Pat Thetic also couldn’t deny the fun he’s had during these two Coachella weekends.
“The set last week was great. We played the last set of the night, so that was awesome—it was nice, and the kids were great. I just watched Kate Nash perform, and we played with Kate Nash about five or six years ago in Australia. For me, I just like to walk around and see what’s going on. Sometimes, what I see is bullshit, but sometimes I see something interesting.
“No matter how high the price tag of the festival is, there’s always a group of fucked-up, weird kids, and those are the kids who make sense to me.”