After a decade of relative anonymity, California rock outfit A.F.I. (A Fire Inside) finally broke through this year with Sing the Sorrow, their first record for DreamWorks and sixth overall. Blending a hardcore sound with first-rate studio production, the band has made a record that appeals to both punk enthusiasts and the mainstream record-buying public.

Todd Weiser
Courtesy of DreamWorks

A.F.I. bassist Hunter (yeah, it’s just Hunter) attributes some of the increased attention that band has received to the resurgence of rock in general. “Any sort of public focus is going to help rock bands. Definitely it helps when there are more bands in the focus. People are opening up to new types of music,” he said.

Although the rock renaissance has helped the band gain popularity, Hunter admitted that finding mainstream success was never at the forefront: “Coming from where we’re coming from we haven’t really noticed what the mainstream focus was.”

Hunter thinks his band’s interest in polished production – which incorporates a wide range of instruments including piano, bells and strings to compliment lead singer Davey Havok’s soaring vocals – sets them apart from other hard rock acts: “Not a lot of bands pay attention to that. We’re trying to add a new dimension to our sound.” Elements of punk, hard rock and goth combine with catchy hooks to form a style that isn’t easily pigeonholed.

A.F.I.’s attitude in the studio represents a vast departure from the it’s-fine-as-long-as-it’s-loud approach taken by their hard rock and punk forefathers. The group takes a rather businesslike mindset when writing and recording. “When it comes down to songwriting we generally know where we are trying to go. As a band we know it’s important to do what’s best with the songs,” Hunter said.

According to Hunter, the band draws on a wide variety of material from the world of rock and beyond. Personally, Hunter finds inspiration in “all sorts of different places. I love Elvis Costello and Prince. I listen to a lot of Motown, jazz.”

For their live shows, A.F.I. try to bring the massive, layered sound of their most recent record to the stage: “We’re trying to create the studio sound live as well and take the audience to a new level. It’s working pretty well, Hunter said.”

Currently on tour to support Sing the Sorrow, A.F.I. will play at a sold-out Clutch Cargo’s on Sunday night with openers the Explosion and Blood Brothers.

What’s next for the band? “I think we’ll do exactly the same thing as we’ve always done. I imagine after this tour cycle in a year or two, we’ll really focus on writing.” You can’t argue with results.

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