Music » Music Stories & Interviews

American Football breathe new life into their teenage anthems

Growing up in public



When you're a teenager – making art, making music, making love – the real world feels a million miles away. Marriage, jobs, kids, benefits, 401(k) plan – all of it feels like a future for someone else, not for the artist you currently are. I'm sure these adult problems probably never crossed the mind of Mike Kinsella, or any of his bandmates in American Football, back in the late '90s when they were writing their first record.

They were kids, writing about young love, writing with a whole lot of heart, pulling inspiration from bands like Shudder to Think, messing around with tunings and time signatures and subsequently influencing a future generation that would come to relate to a then-unheard-of genre called "emo."

Their music was young, it was naive, and it was meant to be such because that's what they were. "It wasn't meant to be heard by a bunch of people. It was just sort of an art project," Kinsella tells Orlando Weekly, on a balmy Midwest summer afternoon after swimming with his kids. But that album was heard by a bunch of people, and even though the band stopped playing out almost immediately after recording their first album in 1999, and split up soon after, a weird thing happened in the 15 years that followed. American Football gained an international cult following. So when, in 2014, they decided to reunite and play a handful of shows they were surprised to not only find themselves playing to sold-out rooms but playing to a crowd too young to have even been around when their first record hit.

"At first it felt ... funny. It felt like I was faking it, kind of. Like I was in a cover band," Kinsella confesses. "[The songs] almost have taken on a new meaning, like I'm reinterpreting them while I'm singing. It's a way to keep it interesting to me. Still, there are lines that you can tell I'm kind of cringing or laughing while I'm singing 'em. And then there's some I interpret in a new way and that I can barely get through without crying."

Imagine digging out your old journals from high school, finding the most naked and vulnerable entries, and then singing them to a room full of strangers, decades later. "That's exactly what it is. ... If this thing had started as us trying to push it on people or sell it to people, then maybe I'd be more embarrassed by it, but it happened organically ... we were surprised that people were even interested. ... At this point, I think that everyone is coming to it from a nostalgic standpoint."

And at this point in the band's lives, they're just searching for a "creative release" after the kids go to bed: "It's an artistic part-time job." Because, as Kinsella tells OW, "Everything that sounds so stereotypical when it happens to other people, when you get older, is totally fucking true."

And though there's no telling what the future will hold for the unpredictable life cycle of American Football, Kinsella does reveal that the band has been writing new music. "When we were working on the second record we were like, 'Oh my God, people are gonna lose their minds if they liked the first record, 'cause this is so much better than that!' And now we're working on new music and we're like, 'Holy cow if they liked that second record, they're gonna fucking love this new record!'"

Nearly 20 years after their inception, American Football will make their Orlando debut on a mini-tour that hits a couple of cities in California and a couple of cities in Florida – and that's it. Even more special for Orlando, local emo heroes You Blew It! plan on coming out of their own hiatus to play as support on these three Florida dates.

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