Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #131Subscribe to our print edition here!

In true AFI fashion, The Missing Man is loud, lucid and flips the script on everything we thought we knew about the Californian quartet. Guitarist Jade Puget fills us in on how the alt-rock mainstays made their new EP an album-sized event. Words by Matt Doria.

Thanks in part to an unwavering eagerness to reinvent themselves with each release, AFI have pummelled through the decades and maintained their status as legends in an ever-twisting rock landscape. Whether emos, goths, hardcore kids or pop-rockers, the band have worn every new mask like it was perfectly molded for them.

Such is what makes The Missing Man so polarising: it feels like a throwback to the AFIs of Christmas past, though spun through such a web of creative furor that it feels utterly fresh, too. In five short bursts of crumbly guitars and soul-caressing wails, the Californian crew deliver an album’s worth of dynamics, a full setlist of singalongs and enough searing Les Paul riffs to justify spinning the disc on repeat for a week straight.

It’s also AFI’s first EP release since 2001’s The Days Of The Phoenix, and according to guitarist Jade Puget, that was always going to be the case. A proper follow-up to 2017’s self-titled album is in the works, but since the band are notorious for taking their time between drinks (a fact they’ve entirely embraced), they decided this time to at least throw us a bone.

What sparked the idea to do The Missing Man as an EP?
We take a long time between records, which we don’t like and I’m sure our fans don’t like, so we thought, “Rather than take another three years to make another album, let’s just get together put something out.” So we sat down and wrote an EP!

Was there ever a moment where you considered fleshing it out to a full album?
We discussed that, but we ultimately thought, “Let’s do this as it’s own little thing, and then we’ll immediately start working on a full-length album.” We’ve been writing pretty much non-stop for the last sixth months, and we’re working on a full-length right now, so we’re hoping to have another record out sometime this year.

Do you think the sound of The Missing Man is indicative of where AFI will go on LP11?
There are some nods to our punk roots on The Missing Man, and there’s some nods to ‘80s pop, which we love. But there’s also a lot of new stuff on there, and I hope that’s where we’ll sort of start out from. I know that we’ve already got at least ten new songs done, and there’s some stuff that sounds like this EP. But there’s also some stuff that we’ve never done before, and some new areas we’re trotting through.

So where are you excited to take AFI from here, stylistically?
We just want to do stuff that excites us, and makes us feel like we’re not just treading the same old water. Because we’ve been doing this for a long time, and if it ever feels like we’re not doing anything that is interesting to us, I think we should stop. So first and foremost, we just want to make music that makes us think, “Okay, this is exciting! I want to keep doing this. I want to play this live. I want to record this.” That’s good enough for me.

I’m getting a bit of a throwback vibe from this EP – like a bit of Sing The Sorrow AFI, maybe. Is that something you wanted to tap into with this record?
I mean, we’re definitely not into going back to what we’ve done in the past. But because we are who we are and we came from where we came from – which is punk and hardcore and all these things that we were influenced by on Sing The Sorrow and the other records – those things are still in our DNA. So even though we don’t mean to do that, it just kind of comes through sometimes. And sometimes it baffles us – we’re like, “Woah! That’s what you think that sounds like?” To us it doesn’t sound like that at all. But y’know, I understand why a lot of people interpret it like that.

What guitars were you playing on when you were recording this EP?
I’ve played Les Pauls for my whole life, so that’s a lot of what I played. I actually went to the Gibson showroom here in LA a couple of weeks ago, and they hooked me up with a new Les Paul Standard, which is beautiful. They have these new finishes which are all totally stunning, and I just fell in love with one, so they were nice enough to give me one.

But I’ve also been playing a couple of Yamaha Revstar guitars. I met this young guy from Yamaha through Billy Corgan, and he’s super nice and really cool – he let me try out some of their guitars and they sounded really cool, so I played one of them on the whole EP. And then I have this Taylor acoustic guitar that I love, so I played that a little bit as well.

What is it about the Les Paul that makes your heart swoon so feverishly?
When I first started playing the guitar, my dad gave me his Les Paul. I didn’t know anything about guitars, so that really shaped my playing because it was the first guitar I ever had, and it was the only guitar I had for a long time. So y’know, to me, that was just what a guitar was – that classic Les Paul sound and style. Luckily he didn’t give me some piece of shit and I thought that was what guitars were about. He gave me a great guitar, and I’ve just never looked back. I play other kinds of guitars from other brands, but I’ll always come back to the Les Pauls.

The Missing Man is out now via Warner
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