“I wish I could paint,” AFI frontman Davey Havok says with a slight laugh.
For anyone who hasn’t been following Havok’s career, the multitalented vocalist is not only one of the most celebrated voices in alternative music but also a Broadway actor, novelist, clothing designer, humanitarian and winner of peta2’s World's Sexiest Vegetarian contest. But after all of that and the release of AFI’s self-titled 10th album — also known as The Blood Album — he’s still longing to pick up another art form.
“I have this really good friend who’s just a brilliant painter,” Havok continues. “I’ll sit in his studio and watch him paint sometimes, and it just amazes me how he can turn a blank canvas into a beautiful piece of art.”
To AFI's devoted fans, Havok’s desire to continue his artistic journey through many different outlets comes as little surprise — nor does the fact that their latest release doesn't neatly fit into any one genre. Since dropping Answer That and Stay Fashionable in 1995, the quartet has successfully blended just about every subgenre of punk and post-hardcore into an ever-evolving, unique sound. With The Blood Album, Havok and crew have returned with a delightfully complicated yet accessible dark rock album that only a veteran group like AFI could create.
“Blood feels like the aftermath of [2013’s] Burials,” Havok says. “It’s a less bleak record, but still dark in a more curious way. It’s as if it’s recognizing the uncanny, twisted, resurrected, still breathing, strange and unfamiliar version of what went down on Burials.”
In addition to continuing AFI’s steady evolution from humorous hardcore punks to conscientious, anthemic rock stars, The Blood Album is also the band’s first record officially produced by guitarist Jade Puget. The multi-instrumentalist has always helped with production — both for AFI and for his electronic project with Havok, Blaqk Audio — but things were still a little different in the studio with him at the helm.
“This was the first time he took on the role in its entirety, which is a vast amount of work,” Havok says. “Jade produced the vocals on this record, and that was a great experience for me because he knows my voice so well, and knows intricacies of my voice that he’s familiar with and other people aren’t. It was so appreciated and can really be heard on the record. Jade really is AFI, so who better to make a record than the band itself?”
Though many aspects of the self-titled release are a bit different from anything AFI has done before, some things never change. For Havok, listening to classic AFI records such as 1997's Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes and 1999's Black Sails in the Sunset is like getting a glimpse at his younger self. While the lyrics may not exactly be autobiographical, every record tells the story of where the singer is in his life at any given time.
“When you look back on those records, they were indicative of who I was then,” Havok says. “They’re clear windows into the person who was writing those records and what mattered to him. It’s still very similar now in that it’s still a very luxurious means of expressing myself. It’s been that way the entire time. The content sometimes varies, but the intention is often very much the same and many of the themes hold throughout the decades.”
Along with the new record comes a national tour, kicking off on the album’s release date (Jan. 20) with a sold-out show at the Troubadour. Tickets were reserved for members of AFI's Despair Faction fan club and sold out almost immediately. It’ll be the same fan frenzy with which the group began their Burials tour a few years ago, and Havok still can’t believe the amount of diverse and diehard fan support he gets.
“When I awoke to the notice that the fan club show at the Troubadour had sold out in minutes, it impacted me just as it has every time,” Havok says. “I’m so grateful. When I saw it this time, I thought it was really pretty fantastic and — I don’t like using this word, because I think people use this word too flagrantly — but it’s amazing. It’s amazing that I’ve been able to release 10 records with this band and that to this day there are that many people who care that much about what I’ve been doing since I was very, very young.”