THE LONG AWAITED AMERICAN FOOTBALL REUNION SHOWS NO SIGN OF SLOWING DOWN.
WORDS: TOM CONNICK.
A year into an American Football reunion tour that was meant to last two October nights at New York’s Webster Hall, emo icon Mike Kinsella is reflecting on the runaway success of the band’s return. “I kinda thought it’d be those couple of shows and we’d walk away,” he explains, “but it turns out we’re having a lot of fun together, hanging out. So we keep doing it.”
It’s an interestingly off-the-cuff approach for a band whose original incarnation seemed destined to avoid the elephant in the room of their unfinished business, but once the wheels started turning, Kinsella and co. found it hard to stop.
“It seems to be the right time to do it,” he admits. “A lot of bands who are doing super cool things now, if you trace their lineage, you’re gonna work your way back to American Football. So their young fans who are enthusiastic and into stuff, they weren’t there. Five years ago, I don’t think these people who have been there. So we sort of brought it back at the right time. It was the right time for us personally, too.”
Personal is pretty much American Football’s middle name, with the intimacy of their self-titled EP and LP finding favour with generations of lonely teens in the years of the band’s absence. “I mean that’s what’s funny too,” he shrugs when asked how it’s felt to revisit material nearing twenty years old. “We first said we’d do it and I was like ‘man, how are we gonna get up and play these quiet, slow, sad songs to lots of people?’ But it turns out everywhere we go there’s a bunch of sad people like us!” he laughs. “So they’re all stoked, they’re all quiet and they all wanna hear it, and we’re having so much fun playing.”
“I thought I’d be getting up there and really cringing at a lot of old lyrics. It turns out it’s cool! I’m so far removed from them that I don’t have to act like I’m cooler than that now. Maybe for a while, maybe I thought I was cooler than that – I felt like I had to prove I was cooler than 20-year-old me! And now that I’m almost forty it doesn’t matter – y’know, who cares? So now that’s part of why it’s more fun too; everything I was stressed about turned out to be in my own head. So as long as I’m just going with it, it’s super fun.”
The next steps of the band point to Reading & Leeds – the UK focal point of a reunion that’s seen many members of American Football visit places they’ve never been before – these stages, too, are new ground for the four-piece. “It’s sort of a new thing, obviously, for us – we’ve done a couple [of festivals] and I feel like there’s been a crowd of people for us and that sort of makes it easier. But this one in particular, we’re all like, ‘I dunno if anyone’s gonna be there to see us!’ So it might be a little weird. I think we have something that’s different and it’s unique to offer, so if you’re just there all day watching 12 bands I think we’ll stand out in a way that’s at least different,” Mike offers diplomatically.
That’s not to say, though, that the band have nothing in common with those they’re sharing the line-up with. As well as influencing a number of the bands on the line-up directly, American Football are also sharing reunion experiences with the likes of Refused and Alexisonfire. “Festivals are funny,” he explains. “It’s just a funny backstage, cause obviously there’s like 150 bands. Obviously all these bands getting back together are old dudes, and we’re all kinda jaded. Not in a bad way, but in a sort of way like it’s not like everybody’s walking around trying to schmooze and sell their band or talk about their band – it’s just a bunch of old people excited about free beer and catering and stuff.”
“It’s definitely… I don’t want to call it a ‘trend’ because I’m part of it and it has a bad connotation, but [playing festivals] makes sense for these bands. They’re older, they’re doing other things with their life, and to be honest it doesn’t really make sense to get back together and play a bunch of tiny unsuccessful shows,” he laughs. “So if you’re able to play festivals then it totally makes sense.
“Reading & Leeds in my head, I’m like ‘oh my God, it’s the same stage Def Leppard and Iron Maiden or whoever [have played]” he continues, before offering up possibly the surest indictor of his years of musical experience. “In my head, y’know, these were big bands and I’m sure they were getting laid and doing coke all the time – but for my experience, with the crew I’m running in, it’s just like ‘oh cool, it’s a vacation and we get to play music to a bunch of people’.”