There’s something wonderfully endearing about the softly spoken, almost shy Adam Carson.
The drummer for long-standing punk rockers AFI has racked up more than 25 years with the band, and along with singer Davey Havok, is one of two remaining original members. However, despite the fame and success that has come with churning out a multitude of award-winning albums, Carson remains remarkably, well, human. Rumination is his companion at the moment he speaks with the BRAG, just a regular guy with a regular perspective on life.
“I’m at my folks’ house,” he begins. “I’m looking out at the garage we played in when I was 16. I’m feeling a little nostalgic – I figured I’d go in there and make some noise, let the neighbours know I’m visiting.”
Carson’s love for his craft comes as naturally to him as breathing. He was made to play music, never having envisioned he’d be doing anything else for a living, and he certainly doesn’t remember achieving much before AFI formed in 1991.
“Before we joined the band, that was always something I dreamed of doing,” he says. “We’ve all been attracted to music since we were very little. When we first started in that garage we were terrible, but we just didn’t know it. It would be years before we had anything that could be considered success. To put on our first show, it really felt like something we’d continue for the rest of our lives.”
Indeed, after so many years of rehearsing and creation, what drives Carson to move ever forward is only that he loves what he does. “It’s something we love doing, and since day one it’s been something I’ve really worked hard to continue,” he says. “What’s most important as a band is that we’ve always kept things fresh for ourselves, to evolve between records, and as long as it’s still exciting, we’ll keep going.”
Carson is so single-minded about AFI and drumming, it’s a surprise he doesn’t ever have days where he wakes up and wonders, “Is this for real?”
“It’s simultaneously extremely surreal to be doing it after all these years but it’s also completely normal,” he says. “It’s been our single-minded focus for 25 years through all stages of the band. And any time I step outside myself and think about it, I realise it’s incredibly rare and I’m extraordinary lucky to be doing it.
“Honestly, when we first started, we thought it would be the biggest achievement to even play one show – to even string a couple of shows together and call it a tour would be great. We released a couple of seven-inch records on our own and thought if we could ever get someone to release our record, that would be seriously surreal – surreal and amazing.”
These days, AFI have a grand reputation for theatrics, both in their music and the videos they put out. They always cause a stir, rumbling up interest among their loyal fan base (which goes by the name The Despair Faction) and influencing subsequent shock rock groups like Black Veil Brides and Panic! At The Disco. Their flair for drama has always kept people on the edge, and ahead of the release of their tenth studio album, AFI went so far as to black out their social media platforms, just to see if anyone was still paying attention.
“The same way there’s an art to trading the music, there’s an art to putting the packaging together in a way that’s consistent with the vibe of the music in a cohesive mood,” says Carson. “I also think there’s a way to use all this new media to make it part of that cohesion in a way – so if anyone is watching our social media and paying attention, they would wonder what was coming next.”
The tactic worked, and AFI have now released a record that draws heavily on vintage New Romantic influences, with sounds of The Cure and Joy Division. “I think if you ask me, it’s something new,” Cohen adds. “I think any time someone in a band makes music, they are drawing on the foundation of the bands that influenced them.
“We come from a childhood of listening to post-punk and punk rock and bands like that. They’ll come out, but when a song has a Cure vibe, I don’t think it’s mimicking – it’s a natural part of the band’s sound. It’s not a conscious thing to make it sound like them.
“There’s really never any sort of fore discussion with the band – we might take the first and last songs that are written and put them down, and then you find the vibe of the album. When we’re working on the sequence and what we want on there, do we want slower, darker ones, the faster, heavier ones? Only then it becomes a conscious decision.”
The self-titled album AFI is out now through Caroline.