Published Jan 01, 2006Ted Leo is not pissed off. Having spent the last four years writing and recording music filled with political vitriol, the New Jersey-based mod punker appears to be quite cool and collected, even though he faces another four years under the administration he and millions of others fought so hard to change. "I think a lot of people actually believed [John] Kerry was going to win, so there was about 24 hours of utter shock. But because there had been so much hope leading up to the election, that wasn't easily blown away," he says. "I don't really feel like there are too many people who are actually mourning. What I have seen is a lot of people getting amped back up to just do another four years of work."
With his band the Pharmacists, Leo has spent the majority of the year touring, recording a new album and participating in Concerts for Change, alongside the likes of David Cross, Tenacious D, Moby and even John Kerry's old band-mates, the Electras. "I'm glad that I can be part of an artistic community that is concerned with a lot of the same things that I am," he admits. "And I'm glad I can travel on this circuit that affords a certain amount of comfort in that regard, where you don't have to butt heads with Nazi skinheads anymore."
The Pharmacists' new album, Shake the Sheets, continues Leo's tradition of politically-charged rants submersed in dynamic, punk-fuelled power pop. However, moments like his harsh eye-opener "The Ballad of the Sin Eater" (from 2003's Hearts of Oak) have been overhauled by a message that aims more for your brain and heart than your face. "Hearts of Oak, in retrospect, was much more of a demanding record politically. I think on that record there was a little bit more We want this and we need to do this, so let's do it!'" says Leo. "Whereas on the new record, which I wrote last spring, what I am realising just this past week in dealing with crowds is that it's a November 3 record."
As a resident of and voter from a blue state, Leo finds it tough going from an overwhelming feeling of promise to gutted disappointment, but like the new record advises, you just have to hang in there. "The week leading up to the election I actually had a hard time playing a lot of the songs that are on the new record, emotionally. But on November 3 I realised that I didn't write that record to get people to go out and vote, I actually wrote that record to get through the hard time of last spring, which is pretty much analogous to the hard time of right now."
Ted Leo and the other half of America are upset, but not about to give up. As a great admirer of Canada though, would he ever jump onto the bandwagon that is rumoured to be transporting Bush-hating Americans into Canada? Leo laughs, but with great consideration confesses, "It's got this romantic appeal and certainly people have been talking about, If George Bush wins again, I'm gone.' But then you wake up on November 3, in your own home and you're like, You know what man, this is my home, this is where I've lived my entire life, this is where I've done all this work. I'm not going to abandon it because these idiots have another four years to work their evil. We'll get it back.'"