Earlier last month, I visited a close friend in Boston. As our Saturday night progressed, we caught wind of a show in Allston, a neighborhood known for its music venues and ever-expanding scene. When we arrived at the gig, we stumbled through a cellar like one from The Wizard of Oz and into a dimly lit basement where the final band had just started their set.
Not being from the area, I didn’t know what to expect from Animal Flag, but I felt excited to be back at a house reminiscent of ones I spent my weekends in while at college. After the first song, I realized that this foursome played better than any other band I had seen in a basement before. Animal Flag proved to have a fully realized sound, one that, if I hadn’t known any better, could have been straight from Bright Eyes’ discography.
Over the years, many members of the band have come and gone, but the current lineup brings serious talent to the project. Today, Animal Flag consists of lead singer and guitarist Matt Politoski, guitarist Sai Boddupalli, bassist Zach Weeks, and drummer Alex Pickert.
BTR chatted up Politoski about the evolution of Animal Flag and the thriving music community in Boston.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): How did Animal Flag come to form as a band?
Matt Politoski (MP): Animal Flag started as a solo project many years ago and has gone through probably four different full lineup changes. I count this current iteration of the band as the official beginning of us as a “real band” because it is the first time in the project where all four members involved are committed [to] working towards a sound together. I’m much happier now that it isn’t a solo effort.
BTR: What is the significance behind the band’s name?
MP: I made up the name when I was 14. I was driving around with my friend and I saw a tiny house with a bunch of flags in the garden and one of them had a puppy on it and I thought “Animal Flag. That would be a dumb band name.” I originally started using it because I was embarrassed of the music I was making and didn’t want people to know it was me. It stuck throughout the different phases of the project and now here we are. [Laughs]
BTR: Who are some of your musical influences?
MP: All the members in the band have a shit ton of different influences. If I had to pick the most important ones, I’d say Conor Oberst, David Bazan (Pedro The Lion), Sufjan Stevens, Emily Haines, Aaron Marsh (Copeland), Ben Gibbard, and Kanye West. This list is largely comprised of lyrically driven songwriters, but I also really like instrumental and impressionist-oriented music like Dntel, Tim Hecker, Sigur Ros, early M83, and Mogwai.
BTR: There seems to be a thriving music scene in Boston. How have you enjoyed playing in that talented community?
MP: Boston has been an amazing place for me to hone my creative energies and work with amazing artists who all just happen to be my best friends. When I first started Animal Flag, I wasn’t really plugged into any community specifically, so I was kind of all on my own. Over the past five years, I’ve met a handful of people that really changed my life in terms of expanding my understanding of art and music as a medium. Things can get stressful when everyone is in each other’s band, but I think overall the closeness of our community acts as a supporting force for everyone involved.
BTR: I see that the band is a part of Motherland Collective and 1997 Records. Would you mind explaining the mission of the collectives and why it is important for Animal Flag to be involved?
MP: Motherland Collective is a nationwide community of bands that Animal Flag has been associated with for almost two years now. Most of the bands in the collective are full of people that I have never met, but it’s always cool to play with a band on tour and realize that they are a Motherland band. People in the collective have helped me book shows around the US and have always taken me in when any of my bands need a place to crash on tour.
1997 Recordings is a much more tight knit collective that I am actively involved with on a daily basis. It’s comprised of many of the Boston bands that make up our local music scene. It was conceptualized by the members of Burglary Years and Lovechild. It has since grown into an umbrella that hangs over our whole community. It basically grew from the idea of, “Hey, all of our friends make incredible music. What can we do to organize this and make it a unified effort?” We are currently in the process of figuring out how to make 1997 Recordings a viable platform for record releases, tour support, and other things like that.
BTR: What can we expect from Animal Flag in the future?
MP: We are currently working on putting out our second release as a band entitled Animal Flag EP 2. This will be out sometime in late fall or early winter of this year via 1997 Recordings. We are planing a tour around the northeast for late November as well. We are also currently working on demoing and recording our full length record. Pre-production has already begun for that and we are hoping to get into the studio by the end of the year to record it.
To hear more from Animal Flag, check out their Bandcamp or tune into BTR’s very own In the Den.