Against The Current On Leaving Record Labels & Forging Their Independent Path: 'That Is Such A Predatory System'

19 September 2023 | 5:00 pm | Mary Varvaris
Originally Appeared In

“That is such an awful system that preys upon artists, especially artists that don't have another choice because they don't have the funds to create their music or videos or tour.”

Against The Current

Against The Current (Credit: Beth Saravo)

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It’s been six long years since New York pop-punk outfit Against The Current performed a headline tour across Australia. When they last visited Down Under in October 2017, the band – vocalist Chrissy Costanza, guitarist Dan Gow and drummer Will Ferri – only performed in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

This time, you can see them in those three cities as well as Frankston, Adelaide and Perth. It’s an exciting time for Australian Against The Current fans, with the tour kicking off next Thursday, 28 September.

“The last time that we were there [in Australia] seems so much more recent than it actually was, like six years?” Ferri explains beside Gow on Zoom. From the studio, Costanza adds, “There’s definitely been a lot of new music that we haven't played live before in Australia, that's for sure.”

The band’s Nightmares & Daydreams tour will showcase Against The Current’s effortless inspirations of both video game culture and the rock scene with their brand of pop, rock, and indie sounds. 

Against The Current will play their newest songs, Wildfire and Blindfolded, released last year, and tracks from their 2021 EP and final release with Fueled By RamenFever, as well as all your favourites. 

Blindfolded even found the band score some fresh spins on Australia’s national youth broadcaster, triple j.

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Against The Current received “such a great response to Blindfolded, and, like you said, getting radio play in Australia and stuff is great,” Ferri notes. “It's kind of hard to not put all that into account when we're planning what the next song is, what the right move is.”

Since the release of Blindfolded – which signalled the band’s embrace of being independent again – Against The Current dropped the energetic, journals-inspired Good Guy.

On Good Guy, Costanza reveals that she finds songwriting “very similar” to journaling. “You just write it with a cadence, some kind of prose or rhyme scheme,” she laughs. That confidence also leaks into Against The Current’s return to being an independent group again.

Costanza explains, “It's very empowering. It allows a lot of… not just creative control; I mean, obviously, that's the sexier part of it, right? We make all the creative decisions, and a label can't be like, ‘This isn't the right song, etc.’ But there are little things to it, which is much less fun to hear or talk about but really important to an artist’s livelihood, things like deciding how [your] budget gets allocated. When you're on a label, there is a way to spend the money, right – however they see fit – and then you're expected to recoup it.”

In retrospect, she looks back on Against The Current’s experience with record labels – and other bands’ stories and calls it “such a predatory and awful system.”

“You’re going to spend someone else's money and expect them to make that money back but not give them any say whatsoever in how it's spent. Like, that's insane,” she adds. “Like, if you said that to me when you were telling me about labels, I'd be like, ‘No, I'm not signing that.’ But artists don't really realise that that is the way it works. And everyone's like, ‘That’s just how it is.’

“That is such an awful system that preys upon artists, especially artists that don't have another choice because they don't have the funds to create their music or videos or tour.”

She continues, “Just having that autonomy again, knowing that we're in control and we get to say what goes where and what we spend money on and what we don't, seems like it should be so fundamental and not something that you appreciate so much because it should just be guaranteed, but because we didn't have it for so long, it's been so wonderful to have.”

Costanza is “sure” that record labels have an artist’s best interest at heart, but ultimately, they don’t care about an artist as much as the artists themselves care about their career.

Offering her one piece of advice to anyone embarking on a career in the music industry, she says, “No one has your best interest in mind as much as you do. Besides you and your mum, when you're in the music industry, no one, no matter how much they want to have your best interest in mind – because they can be very well-intentioned, no matter how much they want to – they physically cannot have your best interest in mind as much as you do. Because they are just not you.”

Costanza says the band is “definitely exploring” their songwriting as a newly independent band. “We've been writing a ton. We’re just trying to zero in on what's going to be the new… not new, but the next generation of sound from us.” She laughs that the band are “Trying to figure out” what the next era of Against The Current will sound like, while Ferri explains that, more often than not, the visual and musical elements often come together in a parallel fashion.

“That's just how things fell into place when we did the Fever EP, and it worked out, rather than being like, ‘Oh, there's a concept or a really strong vibe from the start,’” Ferri says. “It feels chaotic sometimes, but you know…”

Early in their career, Against The Current found viral fame and fandom, to date having gained over 465 million YouTube channel views, more than four million Spotify monthly listeners, and have toured alongside All Time Low and Good Charlotte, as well as appeared on main stages at Warped and Reading & Leeds festival. Since their formation and growth happened mainly on YouTube, a lot has changed in the internet and social media world with the emergence of TikTok, but the band don’t seem all that concerned about all the online developments.

“Our fans are the fans that are still looking for albums and records, so we don't as much have to worry about,” Costanza shares. But, she counters, “I don't think any of us would have predicted TikTok doing to the music industry what it's done. I think it'll just keep evolving, though, right?

“I think in the interim – at least, for a little while, we're gonna see the death of the song where everything is about viral moments and sounds on TikTok, and the whole song isn't as important. That being said, though, that is mostly in the pop scene. I don't know if that's affecting alternative music or rock music the same way. So, I think we're not necessarily immune to it, but I think it definitely makes it a little bit easier.”

She continues, “I think it's important to realise as a fan that that's what helps artists keep organic music alive – you need to create the demand for it. If no one's buying the records, there's going to be less production of them.”

Ferri’s outlook surrounding TikTok isn’t as optimistic: “It’ll probably keep going until it breaks and people want the real thing again [laughs].”

But with the virality of TikTok comes new media-savvy artists ready to take the mantle as musicians willing to mix it up with rock music and social media, like Machine Gun Kelly or Olivia Rodrigo.

“I was thinking about this the other day – I’d be uninterested in music over the past couple of years if that didn’t happen,” Ferri says. To him, music was becoming “very stale”, and “things weren’t going anywhere”, so it was exciting to see someone like Machine Gun Kelly shake up the status quo.

Costanza concurs: “I think bringing new light to this scene is really important. Some people got grumpy about it and were like, ‘Oh, that's not a real pop-punk artist’ or whatever. It's like, oh, fuck off. You know, we’re breathing brand new life and revitalising a scene that needed it. Like, really, really needed it. So, I think it's great.

“It’s crazy when people gatekeep it [music],” she continues, “They're like, ‘I don't want anybody to know about the scene’, but then they're like, ‘Why is the scene dying?’ Like, because no one knows about it. If you want it to be your secret, it's going to be the best-kept secret ever because it won't exist anymore.

“No one's going to show up to the shows, buy the songs, or do anything, so I like it. I think there's always nuance to music – just because Machine Gun Kelly does it one way and Olivia Rodrigo does a more pop version, etc., doesn't mean that the artists you love won't do it the way you love it. It's very diverse; it doesn't have to all be one note. We don't have to fit in the same box.”

Against The Current’s Nightmares & Daydreams tour begins next Thursday, 28 September. You can find the tour dates below and tickets here.
















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