posted August 27, 2008Tweet
In matching black vests featuring their band logo on the back and with more than a little ink between the quintet, The A.K.A.s look like a beatnik-hipster motorcycle gang when they take the stage in Camden, NJ, during Warped Tour. But when energetic frontman Mike Ski opens his mouth, often asking for a “right on!,” you’d think he was a member of the MC5 or at a Black Panther rally. But it’s not 1968 and the only minority in sight is a slightly dazed Black woman in a makeshift mosh pit, bumping and grinding with some unsuspecting teens -- much to the horror (and amusement) of those watching.
Only at festivals do line-ups like this happen, placing the politically-tinged dance party, a sort of US rendition of The (International) Noise Conspiracy, with what Ski calls “the Skittle bands,” (He later says with a laugh, “That'll be the headline: ‘Mike Ski rages against neon shirts at Warped Tour.’”) the young and poppy indie and emo bands that hawk brightly colored t-shirts. It was only moments before the A.K.A.s took the stage that a who look barely old enough to drive, were asking a large crowd of young fans to hold up their hands in the shape of a heart. “If Paris Hilton were here, she’d think that was hot,” says one member. It makes you wonder what goes through their heads when they hear The A.K.A.s chanting “Fight! Fuck! Dance! Destroy!”
After the band’s set and away from the swarms of concert-goers, Ski is eager to discuss his band and he’s seemingly in a good mood.
“Well one of my God-given gifts -- although I don’t believe in God,” he adds with a laugh, “is that I can make a shitty question good by answering it.”
To say that The A.K.A.s are from the City of Brotherly Love might be pushing it. The band, like many, has moved to New York’s officially unofficial “sixth borough” in search of cheaper rent. While he swears his love for the city, Ski admits that while the band moved to Philadelphia in June of last year, recording and touring have kept them busy and that they’ve only spent about four months here.
“As I was walking around, [I was] telling people, ‘Oh come see The A.K.A.s. We’re from Philly.’ Then it kind of made me feel like,” he says with a laugh, “‘Oh you guys are just like the okey-dokey local band that sucks, that somehow won the battle of the bands or whatever.’“
The A.K.A.s are here promoting their record “Everybody Make Some Noise!” which Metropolis Records released in March, 2008. It’s their first release with the label, typically known for their industrial, goth and synth bands (VNV Nation, KMFDM, PIG), and Ski seems cautious when their former label, Fueled By Ramen, is mentioned.
“Uh oh. Here it comes,” says Ski on first mention of Fueled By Ramen. “We knew for a long time that we weren’t going to do [the] record on Fueled By Ramen. It was kind of a happy parting of ways, no hard feelings at all.”
It was the manager of Metropolis band Mindless Self Indulgence, who The A.K.A.s toured with, that is responsible, in part, for the band’s deal with the record label. Ski says the manager knew Metropolis was looking to sign some “energetic punk rock and roll bands” and suggested them. But an initially rough reaction to the band’s music almost lost Metropolis’ interest.
“The guy [at Metropolis] said he listened to this record the first time, wasn’t all that stoked on it but then he found himself coming back to it and couldn’t stop listening to it.”
After a phone call from Metropolis expressing their interest, Ski said he offered to send some demos that the band was then working on. “He was like, ‘You don’t even need to do that. I know I like the band and I’ll love what you do. I want to do it.’ We were like, ‘That’s weird...That’s awesome.’“
He adds with a laugh, “Record labels they kinda don’t matter. You put out a sweet record that you dig, that matters. But we’re happy. We’re happy that somebody will give us a menial about of money to make a record.”
What does matter to The A.K.A.s, however, is making music fans aware and getting the discussion started on politics and other issues. But it’s the possibility of alienating fans that Ski, who credits his hardcore background as his introduction to politics, believes stops bands, as well as actors, from speaking out more.
“Now that there’s such a small amount of bands that talk about that stuff, it’s more important than ever to talk about it because there’s tons of bands talking about being heartbroken and fucking and all that vapid bullshit. I think that what we’re doing is a reaction to what’s going on in the world. That’s what art and music is about -- that chain of events.”
But it’s a fine line between being politically outspoken and being preachy. It’s something that Ski is well aware of and takes into consideration. Instead the band uses their blog and online presence to “create these little punching matches to let kids kind of hash it out.”
“I don’t even think of myself as a political person, really,” Ski adds quickly. “It’s just that I think of myself as someone who’s concerned or whatever. So I don’t read tons of books and know tons of statistics and I think that that stuff is really boring and it turns people off to learning about things -- so that’s the place that I come from and I think that makes it easier for people to connect to it.”
It’s helping to educate and encourage lifestyle changes to individuals that Ski seems the most proud of.
“We did shows with Hawthorne Heights and kids at those shows were like ‘I’ve never seen a band like you guys before. You fucking blew my mind.’ And then six months later those kids are keeping in touch; you look at their MySpace page and they listen to Anti-Flag or are vegetarian, stuff like that where it’s like you’re actually seeing change happening on personal levels...that’s fucking priceless, you know? That’s the reason that I play in a band. So we’re here. We’re doing it.”