All My Friends Hate Me don’t shy away from thorny topics. On their 2019 debut, the brutally volatile Metal Butterflies, the pop/punk band uprooted themes of gun control, near-sexual assault, the LA machine, and exorbitant college debt. Their rebellious artistic habits serve them well, even if the band’s name makes them seem unpopular. When it comes to their new single “Blood,” the four-piece playfully recount frontman Bobby Banister’s teenage recklessness and his tendencies to blow off steam by joyriding in his mother’s car.
It’s a high-voltage bridge-builder from their previous work, yet continues pushing their stylistic boundaries further near the cliff’s edge. “I was alive, going down for the summer/With my eyes open wide/God knows I tried/I can’t get back the feeling of the very first time/I was that guy, switching lanes, mother fucker/Middle finger to the sky,” Banister spouts. The song initially runs somber and plaintive, but as he finds freedom on the highway, midnight air caressing his skin, it soon catapults into souped-up velocity.
As a kid, Banister “felt pretty trapped the whole time by insomnia,” he recalls, “and was restless from some pretty extreme ADHD. Being awake more hours than most people can be an advantage, and now I’m able to spend those hours on creative projects. But back then, being a 14-year-old with ADHD and insomnia and nowhere to aim it led to some interesting stories.”
One of his many stories involved snagging his mom’s keys, tip-toeing through the house, and hopping inside the family car for a midnight spin “just to have somewhere to scream out ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie,” he says. “When I was that age, growing up in a small town, being a musician meant you’d probably get laughed at, so that was like a safe space for me. It was just hard to keep a straight face when my mom would turn on the Volvo to drive me to school in the mornings and have no idea why the light on the gas gauge was blinking or why there was mud, grass or a drop of blood on the floorboard of the driver’s seat.”
Other kids soon gave him the affectionate nickname “Bob Zombie,” a moniker he found “pretty sweet,” all things considered. “Writing ‘Blood’ was going back to the driver’s seat of a soccer-mom Volvo and that late-night feeling of freedom ─ those times when it’s brave over brains. ‘It’s the blood that makes us who we are’ is not saying it’s in your genes, but that after the mistakes, the hardships, the scrapes and scars, what you take away from those experiences is what makes you who you are.”
All My Friends Hate Me prides itself on its lyrical whips. With “Blood,” they layered deeper instrumentation on that vocal foundation than ever before. “It was fun to experiment a little and see where it led. It wasn’t a difficult process, but it took a bit more time to create than other songs did,” Banister says.
Alongside the single release, the band is issuing a bright new hoodie emblazoned with the slogan “All My Friends Hate Systemic Oppression,” with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting B.E.A.M. (Black Emotional & Mental Health). Like many white artists, Banister and his band mates Beau McCarthy, Xander Burmer, and Justin Kroger have done plenty of soul-searching this year, from learning about the societal injustices that led to the the tragic murder of George Floyd to listening to the ongoing rallying cry for justice for Breonna Taylor. “Our privilege is definitely something we’ve had to confront. Being brought up to trust the police and not having to be warned how to act around them because of fear is one huge privilege, out of many,” Banister says. “We hope to see and to be a part of real change in the ways of racism, sexism and discrimination, in general, and we’re not shy to talk about what we believe is right.”
“The way that this generation has taken it upon themselves to light up this movement, bring it to the forefront of conversation, and let everyone know we will not put up with this, is inspiring to see, especially in person at the protests,” he continues. “At the same time, the fact that humans are still being discriminated against in 2020 and that so many police are murdering, yet seeing very little punishment, is unacceptable.”
Therein lies the reason for creating the new hoodie, as not only a symbol but a way to move the needle, even in the smallest way. “We recognize our own white, male privilege, and this is one way that we can do our part to help remove the many barriers surrounding communities who have been discriminated against. It’s one of the ways we’re taking action, rather than just talking on social media.”
In taking such actionable steps, they’ve also seen things change in their everyday lives. “In terms of the conversations we’re having and anyone we’re choosing to work with, we’re being more intentional in certain ways, like knowing when to speak and when to listen during conversations and in making sure everyone AMFHM works with is socially conscious,” Banister offers. “We hope, as society starts to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, that we start to see even more positive change take place. If we don’t, you can bet that we’ll be back out in the streets of DTLA again.”