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TALK: Against Me!

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Last year, socially conscious folk-punk-rockers Against Me! released their major label debut, New Wave (Sire). Their efforts were applauded by various music critics (the album found its way on many year-end top-ten lists), while being simultaneously protested by many of the band’s early (live-and-die-by-punk-rock-ethos) followers. The band has not stopped touring since the album’s release, and will continue to stay out on the road (including playing this summer’s Warped Tour) until the end of the year. We caught up with them on their most recent gig–opening up for the Foo Fighters on their current U.S. Tour:

Jim Shearer: Last time I saw you guys, you were working on your major label debut. I know there are always expectations before a group releases an album–what were your expectations before you released New Wave and have they been met?

Tom Gabel: It’s kind of an awkward question, because it’s like asking someone, “You’re going to see the movie Atonement, what are your expectations of the movie?” You could answer that question, but I can’t answer what the expectations are for the record that I made–

Jim: C’mon, you didn’t have any expectations? After you finished recording, you’re weren’t like, “I hope it does this, and I hope it does that”? Even when I sit down and draw pictures I have expectations for them.

Tom: A lot of it is just assumed expectations. Stuff like–well–I assume that we’ll go on tour. That was a big chunk of the expectation, that we were going to release a record and there would probably be a lot more press than before–and that’s been true, and that we’d go on tour–and that’s been true. I expected some people to really like it, and some people to not like it–and that’s been true.

Warren Oakes: I think it’s kind of like asking if you have expectations for you child. Maybe they’ll be an honor student, maybe they’ll be great at art, maybe they’ll excel in athletics, you never know which way they’re gonna go.

Tom: But really, you just hope they’re happy.

Jim: With the recording industry, you’ve been on both sides of the coin–

Tom: Indie and major?

Jim: Yes, so what do you think is going right, and what do you think is going wrong with the recording industry?

Tom: I think that everything’s going fine. It’s right on track.

Jim: This is going to be a horrible interview–

Tom: But seriously, why wouldn’t it be?

Jim: A lot of labels are going under.

Tom: Major labels.

Jim: Which has sort of leveled the playing field for everyone.

Tom: I think the problem right now is that you have too many bands, and then you have labels that have existed in a way that is not financially feasible for them to carry on. That’s starting to catch up with them, and they’re having to restructure themselves. In a lot of ways I think, it’s like–the punks won, you know? The punks wanted it like, “Down with the mainstream,” right? Well now there is no mainstream, it’s all niche markets and every band is in its own little world and own little universe. The “superstar” is disappearing and the major labels are dying, so the punks won.

Tom: The mainstream doesn’t exist anymore–it’s just little different worlds of bands, and people will listen to a little bit of each. You don’t have to rely on those old industry methods for doing a band. You can record your own music and you don’t need to have a lot of money in the budget for that. You can put out your own music via the web and you don’t need to rely on someone else’s distribution methods. You can do your own publicity and press for a band fairly inexpensively. If no one will interview you, you can write a blog. Personally, I think it’s a future that should be embraced, instead of battled against.

Jim: Tom is back!

Jim: With all that being said, can you still make a living as a band?

Tom: Right now being in a band and making money relies heavily on touring. That’s how you support yourself and make a living. Unfortunately with the way things are right now–with people thinking that you shouldn’t have to pay for music online–you can only rely on making money by touring, which I think is unfortunate. I do think that music should not just be free.

Jim: Is the age of the guitar-shaped swimming pool over?

Warren: I think there will be a certain style of music that will survive, that can only exist with a huge bankroll. There will only be a couple of these superstar artists that will be funded–they’ll be super glamorous and will record in whatever the most high-tech way is, but I think they’re kind of becoming dinosaurs.

Jim: I’ve interviewed you before and you all seem like very nice people. Why is it that you evoke such a passionate response out of others? Some people love you, while others feel the need to protest you?

Tom: Warren’s really nice.

Jim: I think all of you are really nice.

Tom: I’m the asshole and people don’t like me. So that’s the yin and the yang of the group. James is on my side with the “not very nice”, because people don’t like him. Andrew’s on Warren’s side.

Jim: Alright, Warren and Andrew, since you’re the two “nice” members of the band, why do you think there is sometimes such a negative response to Against Me!?

Warren: I think it’s because Tom and James are assholes (laughs). No, I think that we as a band have made a lot of unpopular decisions along the way. It would have been easy to go a certain way–it would have made a lot of people happy in theory. [But] we’ve defied them on every turn. I think we’re interesting, therefore controversial. They’re fire and we’re ice.

Andrew Seward: Well, we (pointing to Warren) would be like warm water.

Jim: Even though you may side-step it, you guys are a political band. This being an election year, do you approach 2008 in any different kind of way? Do you have any special agenda?

Warren: I think this election is totally huge. If you don’t care at all about politics and you feel totally alienated by the whole thing, or if you think voting is a total sham, I think that just because there’s going to be Supreme Court appointees within this next term–go vote for a Democrat. Even if for no other reason but to keep the Supreme Court from getting totally lopsided. I think it’s everybody’s duty to go vote for a Democrat.

Tom: I totally agree. You can sit there and say that voting is a sham, but regardless, with or without your vote, the election is still going to happen and a candidate is still going to take office. You can sit there and say that voting doesn’t matter, but [the election] it’s still going to happen, so why not get involved with that and make an effort to make some kind of change?

Andrew: It’s not that big of an effort to register to vote.

Tom: In answer to your question, if there’s an agenda–this year for me–it’s getting educated on where the candidates stand and making an educated vote come November.

Jim: You’re currently on tour with Foo Fighters and Serj Tankian. Is this good on-the-job-training in doing rock music right? You’ve got the Foo Fighters who have been doing it for a while, and Serj (System of a Down) who has also been tossed into that socially-conscious rock category.

Andrew: Not to be vain, but I think we do it right already.

Tom: We’re taking notes, but our notebook is pretty full.

Jim: Ben Lee recently did an acoustic covers-tribute of New Wave. A couple years ago, he, Ben Kweller, and Ben Folds went out on the Bens Tour. Would you ever team up with Rise Against and Rage Against the Machine for the Against Tour? You could also throw Against All Authority on the bill.

Tom: We have toured with Rise Against before, in 2003, so I don’t know it will happen again–and I don’t know if Rage Against the Machine would do it.

Jim: We are also in an Olympic year, so if you were competing against these bands in the following Olympic events, who would win? Let’s start with baseball.

James Bowman: Us.

Jim: Who would get the silver?

Tom: Well, Rage Against the Machine will lose in every event, because they’re old men. We’re younger than Rise Against, so we’re obviously going to beat them. I think that will pretty much be the ranking in all of the events.

Jim: What about Greco-Roman wrestling?

Tom: Can we have Jordan, our tour manager, with us?

Jim: Sure.

Andrew: You know what? I’m going to take Rage Against the Machine. They’re old, but they’re pretty burly.

Tom: How much time do we get to prepare?

Jim: From now until the Summer Olympics.

Tom: It’s going to be us then. I can get huge. We got the Perfect Push-up. Have you been in Rise Against or Rage Against the Machine’s dressing room? Do they have the Perfect Push-up?

Jim: I have not seen the Perfect Push-Up in their dressing rooms.

Tom: These are the real ones too, they’re not the knock-offs from CVS.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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