An Essay about My Introduction to Punk Music and the band AFI by James Bonner

AFI: The Hardcore Punk Band That Defined My Musical Journey

A Fire Inside is a “hardcore” punk band that developed in and through the ’90s that signed with Nitro Records, and then with DreamWorks Records in the early 2000s after the success of their albums, Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning. In the early 2000s, I was transitioning from listening to alternative rock to indie folk, throughout the transition I was introduced to music cross genres. It was an illuminating time, it was exciting, and it was life-changing.

In my sophomore year of high school, I had a crush on a blonde-haired, green-eyed semi-popular girl who happened to be one of seventeen students selected for a several-week-long environmental science trip hosted by our high school. I was also one of the seventeen students selected. I didn’t go because of Lindsay, but I didn’t resent the time we spent together because of this trip either. One of the things I learned about Lindsay was that her favorite band was this obscure hardcore punk band called AFI. I’d never heard of them. But I liked Lindsay, so they were my new favorite band.

I listened to the most recently released album Black Sails in the Sunset so much that I couldn’t stop listening. Despite Lindsay’s influence AFI genuinely became one of my favorite bands. To this day, I think Black Sails in the Sunset is one of the greatest albums ever written and produced. There is a lot of music from that time that I’ve forgotten about. Lindsay hasn’t even been a part of my life in decades, however, AFI is present on every current playlist. I remember feeling genuinely distraught when Davey Havok announced that he had a cyst, and it was uncertain if he would ever sing again.

Black Sails in the Sunset is a great album and again still one of my favorites, by the time I discovered them they had recently released The Art of Drowning, which although very different also made a lasting impact on me, and of course, I ventured into the earlier releases, Answer That and Stay Fashionable, Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes, and others. I even started going on Warped Tour because of them and would soon discover more Punk and Ska bands and music that I was previously unfamiliar with.

Following the release of The Art of Drowning, AFI signed with DreamWorks effectively selling out, while their subsequent release had some interesting music, I haven’t listened to anything the band recorded since signing with DreamWorks. I wasn’t particularly offended when AFI sold out, that wasn’t why I stopped listening to them; the music changed, and they weren’t AFI anymore. I didn’t care much for their new music. That hasn’t stopped me from continuing to appreciate what AFI created, and what their albums Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning meant to me. Perhaps someday I’ll explore the music they made in the years since.

AFI’s music was a pivotal part of my musical journey, shaping my tastes and introducing me to new genres. Despite the band’s evolution and change in sound, their early albums remain a significant part of my musical identity. Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning are more than just albums—they are a nostalgic reminder of an important time in my life, a testament to the power of music to shape our experience and emotions. Even though my musical tastes have evolved since high school, AFI’s music remains a cherished part of my past, present, and future.

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