Anti-Flag started this year off with the depressingly prophetic 20/20 Vision, and now -- ten months later -- after a global pandemic cancelled their tour (and everyone else's) and the US took to the streets to protest against police brutality in all 50 states at once, the band is bringing their message to the screen with Beyond Barricades: The Story of Anti-Flag. The new documentary was directed by Jon Nix of Turnstyle Films (who's also working on the new documentary about Justin Pearson of The Locust), and it features live and behind-the-scenes footage from over the years, interviews with all four members of Anti-Flag, and interviews with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Billy Bragg, Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Dag Nasty, Minor Threat), Chris Cresswell (The Flatliners, Hot Water Music), Tom May and Greg Barnett (The Menzingers), and others. The film is as much about politics as it's about the last 30 years of punk rock as it's about Anti-Flag themselves, and if you have an interest in any or all of those topics, I highly recommend watching.

"What I love about Anti-Flag is their unwavering commitment to the cause," Rise Against's Tim McIlrath told us recently. "They are lifers. They are great songwriters. They plant their flag wherever they show up and fully commit. That’s rare for a band that’s been around over 20 years. I respect longevity. Because it’s not easy. They are a lean mean operation and they are responsible for introducing waves of kids to punk and politics year after year, weathering every trend and one-hit-wonder tourist band out there. They are unapologetically themselves and they’re just good fucking dudes."

Beyond Barricades premieres on Saturday, October 3 at 5 PM ET in the form of an AltPress-presented livestream on, and there will be a live chat with the band starting 30 minutes before the film premieres. Tickets -- which are either $10 to watch or $25 to watch, get an autographed poster, and get access to a post-screening Q&A -- are on sale now.

After the stream, the film gets an official digital and DVD release on November 6

The trailer is out now and it gives you a very good idea of what to expect, but for even more of an idea, we spoke to Anti-Flag frontman Justin Sane as well as director Jon Nix, and you can read on for our chats with both of them below...


When you released 20/20 Vision earlier this year, I imagine you never could've predicted what 2020 would turn into. How do the songs and messages on that album resonate with you today compared to when you were writing the album?

Justin Sane: The songs are many things: a warning, a protest, a unifier. Considering the events over the last few years they resonate now more than ever. In life things can always get better. On the flip side, things can get worse! The band has been warning for a long time that America is on a march towards fascism with many authoritarian systems already in place - including systemic racism, sexism and other systems of oppression. You just can’t have an incredibly immoral and corrupt political system that values financial profit for a few over all else and have a good result. Eventually, turning a blind eye towards equality and justice in favor of maximum profits for the elite along with mass consumerism as the foundation of your society catches up with you. It warps your society, it makes people bitter and selfish. It turns people against each other. It pushes people to put their faith in con artists for solutions and help. Enter Donald Trump.

When we were writing the record we wanted people to know that it could get a lot worse and I think over the course of 4 years it has gotten worse and guess what? It can get even worse still! In the past people have always said, “America could never become an authoritarian state.” Sorry, it’s already there. Don’t believe me? Then go talk to George Floyd’s family or the indigenous people at Standing Rock or those at the border whose families were destroyed by ICE. Now the question is, how far are we gonna let this go? The mistake we can’t afford to make now is to give up. The record states where we are, but it also offers a vision of a better future and a more just society. For that to happen people have to come together and lift each other up during these difficult times. The times ARE fucked!!! But we can turn it around. I think a lot of people are seeing that we can’t continue down this path. The way out starts by supporting the person next to you. When we take care of each other and we are solid with each other, then we can begin to help others.

Anti-Flag have been tirelessly taking a stand against injustice and bigotry and fighting for progressive ideas and politics for over 25 years, and you seem as energetic about it today as you did in the 1990s. What keeps you fighting for all these years?

Justin Sane: Because we make music for people who want a better world we attract those kinds of people to us. It’s a true gift that I’m very grateful for it. We are constantly surrounded by positive people who carry themselves through life with empathy, compassion and optimism. As a result, we’re able to see a different paradigm for the world because we see it in the community of people who surround us.

You've also had the same lineup for over 20 years, never go more than three years without a new album, and continue to prop up younger new bands by taking them on tour and with A-F Records. Especially in punk, a genre where so many bands make one or two albums and break up, this type of longevity is rare. Can you talk a bit about what goes into keeping the fire burning for this long?

Justin Sane: When I found punk rock it became a massive part of me because I needed it. It inspired me to act and function as a person. Punk music and the punk community continue to be a huge part of me and inspire me to get out of bed in the morning because I know there is something good and of value out there. When I go to a punk show I know what kind of people I’m going to find. When I make a record or play a show I know that I’m going to express something that will connect me to the people in the world I need in my life to have faith that life is worth living. People who believe that we can live in a better world for all people and who actively work to make that world a reality.

What amazes me about Anti-Flag is that four people who are so like-minded found each other and through all of it, we stuck together. Like all people we sometimes have disagreements, but there is also an understanding that we care about each other. And at our core we all value the same things, have the same passions, and come to the same conclusions about life often enough that staying together is more attractive than walking away from each other.

On a similar note, you say in the documentary that you don't see the band stopping anytime soon, so of course the band's history isn't fully written yet - why now for a documentary?

Justin Sane: I don’t see the band stopping soon because evil is always lurking. Capitalism and the elite who overwhelmingly benefit from it thrive on cynicism, apathy and a belief that no positive change for average people is possible. Right now it is important to remind people that positive change is possible, but it is earned, not given freely by those who hold institutional power. It comes because people speak out and stand up. People stand in solidarity with each other. In the film, we remind people that we don’t win every fight, but when we do win, it matters. It truly impacts others in a very real and tangible way. And if you can help one person in life, then I believe that you did something important. We may not win every time, it’s important to remember that. But if we try, if we don’t speak up, things will never get better. Right now I think people need to be reminded of this fact.

Can you give a little general background on the film, and say what you most hope that people gain from it?

Justin Sane: I hope people will realize that they’re not alone in wanting a better world. I know it is easy to become cynical in today’s world. I’m constantly feeling drawn towards cynicism because it is everywhere. It is spoon-fed to us on TV and social media by people who hold positions of institutional power. Our hope is to connect with others and offer a different vision for the world that includes equality and justice, fairness and decency for all. In my life experience that gives hope and encouragement to people to feel less alone and care about more than just themselves.

A lot of other cool musicians were interviewed for the doc, from musicians who presumably influenced Anti-Flag (like Brian Baker, Billy Bragg, and Tom Morello) to peers like Tim McIlrath to musicians Anti-Flag presumably influenced (like The Menzingers and Chris Cresswell). What went into choosing that particular cast?

Justin Sane: We turned to people who have inspired us over the years. People who we have connected with as a result of punk rock and a shared vision of humanity. As I stated earlier, the gift the band has delivered to us are all of the amazing people we have interacted with over the years. We were gratified to find that when these people were asked about the band they had positive things to say! Hah!

The film uses live footage from all throughout your career. Putting it all together must have felt like a real trip down memory lane. What would you say has changed for Anti-Flag over the years, and what has remained constant?

Justin Sane: It was a real trek down memory lane and it is easy to see that we have gained a lot of knowledge and experience over the years. That has helped us avoid mistakes that we have made in the past. And we have a more solid grasp of what is important in life. When we started we knew we wanted to be part of a community with shared values where people looked out for each and cared about more than themselves. The punk scene had strong elements of that in it but it had a lot of ugliness in it too - including a lot of bigotry, violence, etc. Those things still exist of course, but not anything like it did when we started. Today the community we were fighting for exists. It’s not ok to be a nationalist or sexist, racist, homophobic or transphobic at a punk show. When we started that was often not the case in the punk scene. Punk is still very diverse with a lot of sub-genres and scenes and like the rest of society it is not perfect. But the vision we had for the community we wanted to create and be a part of exists in a big way in the punk scene and that is meaningful to us.

A song like "Fuck Police Brutality" is nearly 25 years old, and it (sadly) is still so relevant right now. It'd be so much better if these same issues weren't still happening, but since they are, it remains so powerful. Can you talk a bit about your perspective on this, like, performing a song you wrote half a lifetime ago that feels like it could've been written yesterday?

Justin Sane: It reminds me of something we discussed earlier and something we discuss in the film. Power always needs to be checked. There always have been and always will be those who hope to capture power and exploit it for their benefit and to the detriment of others. As a result, I hate to say it, but we never get to go on holiday. When we do Trump happens, George Floyd happens, the Gulf War happens. "Die for The Government" and "Fuck Police Brutality" will always be relevant because power-hungry, greedy, terrible people will always exist. The good news is that there are more of us than there are of them. We just have to stand up and be counted!

Punk in general has been fighting against issues like racism and police brutality since day one, and many bands like yours have of course gone beyond political lyrics and into the realm of activism, fundraisers, speakers at shows, coat drives, etc. Having done this for so long, would advice would you give a young punk band starting out today that wants to do that same type of thing?

Justin Sane: Mark Andersen speaks about this in the film… Find something that you are passionate about and get involved! Amnesty International. PETA. Sea Shepherd. The Sunrise Movement. Fridays For Future. Once you go down a path, once you open yourself up and get involved in something you care about it will lead you. You’ll land in places you never expected and in a good way! The trick is to take the first step! There are others out there, just like you, who care! And they have already taken the leap. All you gotta do is jump in with them! You’ll find it is a lot of fun and that there is a lot more good in the world than you think!

Anything else you'd like to add -- about the documentary or otherwise -- that I haven't asked?

Justin Sane: Anyone can start a band. Anyone can use a band to say what is important to them. We were not special, just willing. And you don’t have to become famous… in fact, that is the shittiest reason to start a band. Just start to have some fun and/or because you care about something. Either reason is fine. The most important part of it is to keep it fun!!!


To start, can you give a little general background on this film, and say what you most hope may people gain from it?

Jon Nix: The film is a look at Anti-Flag's music career and personal ups and downs. It also touches on subjects like political activism in music and how that translates to real world activism, and the connection between them.

What initially drew you to working with Anti-Flag, and after having worked with them on this documentary, what sticks about them to you the most?

Jon Nix: We're a production company out of Cleveland, OH. Anti-Flag is based in Pittsburgh, which is only a two hour drive. So I knew that it was a project that we could really dive into and shoot continuously. I knew and respected Anti-Flag's music and felt like it was a nice marriage of my interests in music and politics. So there weren't a lot of downsides going into it. It felt like something that would be worthwhile and might make an impact on those who saw it. The thing that sticks most is just how stubborn they are. They never stop. We were working with them for years and they were always busy with something. There was always an idea they were trying to get done.

Anti-Flag have been fighting for progressive ideas and politics for over 25 years, and their message is one that resonates strongly right now. In your opinion, what makes them such an important band in moments like this?

Jon Nix: I think they're important because the ideas they've been talking about are finally gaining traction with the average person. Especially the ones surrounding policing. I saw a poll showing that more than half of the country felt that the burning of the Minneapolis precinct was justified. And honestly it's good to see the left finally standing up. For so long it felt like we were bringing a knife to a gun fight. And I don't see that momentum disappearing. I don't think anyone involved in these protests or activism in general thinks that if Trump is booted that suddenly all our problems are solved. We're going to see people out in the streets protesting Biden the same exact way. And that's a good thing.

A lot of other cool musicians were interviewed for the doc, from musicians who presumably influenced Anti-Flag (like Brian Baker, Billy Bragg, and Tom Morello) to peers like Tim McIlrath to musicians Anti-Flag presumably influenced (like The Menzingers and Chris Cresswell). What went into choosing that particular cast?

Jon Nix: We wanted to try and get a nice range of people. First it was about reaching out and seeing who was even interested. And we managed to get a couple from each era. The older guys with Baker and Bragg. Middle with Morello and McIlrath and the newer wave with Cresswell and the guys from Menzingers. We wanted to show that the same ideas were being passed down from one new wave of musicians to the next.

Was there anyone you hoped to interview for the doc that you couldn't?

Jon Nix: We were supposed to interview Fat Mike at Riot Fest along with Billy Bragg and Brian Baker. But we couldn't make it work. I think it would have been nice to have him just because he can be really witty on camera and would have added some levity, but can't get them all.

What do you hope to achieve with this documentary compared to other films you've done?

Jon Nix: Our other docs are very character-based and tend to be about a specific person or a small subculture, where this one is about much bigger ideas of politics and the world at large. On a business level I'm hoping we can hit a broader audience and start making a name for ourselves. If this film does well it will open more doors for us to get films off the ground. On a personal and political level, I hope this film opens some people up to activism and gets them more involved, whether it be protests, volunteer work or just gets more people to vote.

Favorite Anti-Flag song?

Jon Nix: Honestly, "You Are Fired (Take This Job)." It's not complex or about any bigger message. But it's pissed off and exciting. I grew up loving AFI and it draws on that same kind of energy with the backing Woahs that come in. I think that The People or the Gun is an underrated album. It's an angry, raw album.

Anything else you'd like to add that I haven't asked?

Jon Nix: We have another documentary coming on this one's heels, about Justin Pearson of The Locust. It's called Don't Fall in Love with Yourself. We've been working on that for the past couple years, so with any luck we'll have that one done soon, and try to keep the momentum going.


Stay tuned for the Justin Pearson documentary and get tickets to watch the Anti-Flag doc here.



18 Essential Early 2000s Melodic Punk & Hardcore Albums

More From Brooklyn Vegan