Punk rock mythology is rife with the “live fast, die young” mentality. The music is vicious, euphoric, loud, and angry — the perfect adolescent fix. But what happens when punk gets older, settles down, marries, and has children? In her new film The Other F Word, documentary filmmaker Andrea Blaugrund Nevins embedded with erstwhile Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg to explore how he goes from Fuck Authority to being the authority. He’s joined by a chorus of other punk dads, from Tony Adolescent (The Adolescents) to Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Fat Mike (NOFX) to Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), who talk candidly about balancing the demands of touring and continuing to “be punk” with having a family, and of their own surprise at their devotion to their kids. The result is a hilarious, moving, and interesting look at how a cadre of punkrockers are redefining fatherhood. As a generation of tattooed, bearded musicians ride their fixies toward adulthood, this film may just be the ‘how-to’ they’ve been looking for.
The documentary had its premiere at SXSW 2011, where I talked with Andrea, her producer Cristan Reilly, and her DP and editor Geoffrey Franklin about dropping babies, ‘the Godfather’ Brett Gurewitz, and the DIY process of making The Other F Word.
How did you get set up together? When did Geoff come on to the project?
Cristan Reilly: That’s a great story. I knew Jimmy [Lindberg] in high school, so I read his book [Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life]. But just knowing Jimmy, and his sensibility and way of looking at the world, I was really excited to hear his perspective on being a dad, and reading his book was no disappointment. I loved it, and I gave it to Andrea, kind of on bended knee, and asked and pleaded if she could possibly consider coming back to work, because she had had this amazing career right before she stopped to have children. And she got it right away and immediately said, “yeah, I’m in.” That’s how it began. I actually started filming three years ago exactly because Jimmy was about to leave on the Reason To Believe tour, and we wanted to be there for the record launch, just to start the whole thing, with what ended up being their last album. We had no idea, really, what was going to happen. There was Andrea and I…
Andrea Blaugrund Nevins: And my 10 year-old Canon XL1. And we basically just handed it to some unknown cameraman and said, “can you shoot this?” And my poor camera was dying, but we got it. We needed to just record this beginning because we knew that we would go to the end. Very quickly after that, Jimmy went off on tour, so we were regrouping and met Morgan [Spurlock] and Morgan said, “I love this idea, I’ll executive produce,” so that gave us even more of a push. When we next had to shoot the Warped Tour — and there were a few other things we wanted to shoot, we wanted to shoot 4th of July with his family, because he was home, and Jimmy said, “I know this cameraman who I really like, and I trust.” One piece of Jimmy’s skittishness was that he didn’t want a cameraman in and out of his life who he didn’t feel comfortable with. Somebody we were just throwing at him, a different one every time. So he said, “I really like this guy Geoff Franklin, try him out.” And we did, we sent him to the 4th of July party, and he cut a little spot for us out of that, and we said okay, we love you, you’re in! [Laughter]
CR: Go live on the tour bus! [Laughter]
So you followed him on tour?
Geoffrey Franklin: Yeah. Portions of the Warped Tour, and small portions of the Jagermeister Tour, and shows here and there all along the way.
CR: I think Buffalo was your first stop, right?
GF: Boston was my first night.
AN: We felt that it was an interesting way to get footage that Cristan and I couldn’t get, because if we’re on the tour bus the entire dynamic changes. So Geoff could sort of sneak in there and nab a lot of stuff that otherwise wouldn’t be gotten.
GF: I had already been bugging Jim before this and following him around with a camera anyway, so I think he figured, “might as well, he’s already hanging around.”
How did you meet Jim?
GF: I was working with a music video and action sports company called Havoc where Jim was part of that. Since he was part of it, I’d go to the Warped Tour and be like, “hey. ” It was a way to get backstage, basically. That’s how I met Jim.
AN: It was pretty clear about then, when we went on the Warped Tour and Cristan and I joined Geoff, and we started getting introduced to other singers and other punk rock dads on the tour, that being small and nimble was really working on our behalf. To come in with a big lighting crew and make somebody sit down and mic them would just change the punk dynamic, it was very un-punk. So between that and the fact that early on we had some financial interest, and Jimmy was frightened by the idea of a big corporation dictating what this film would look like, we made a decision that because we work so well together, we could keep it really tight and not have a lighting crew and a gaffer, and that we would just go ahead and do it by ourselves.
“I think that every time we filmed an interview, we were amazed at what they gave us.”
I could imagine, with their ethos, they’re probably media-savvy because they’re all very successful, but there’s that line.
CR: They’re very smart, they’re very protective, and they like their underground status. Making this documentary, we certainly didn’t want to exploit it. I think it was Flea who said, “I really don’t want to exploit this very precious part of my life, even though you’re making a movie about dirty old punk rockers.” They’re very protective, and you could see why.
AN: First of all, they’ve got a lot to protect, and second of all, I think they all feel misunderstood. One of the biggest compliments that we got on the first screening, we had six of the dads there, and they all stood up and said, “this is the first time that we really feel that somebody has spoken about who we are authentically.”
CR: Tony Adolescent thanked us for showing their humanity, which was really satisfying. That’s really who we made this movie for, so it’s nice to have it be accepted.
I think right away people hear the premise and you picture tattoos, the gruff exterior. I’m glad I saw it in a theater, with an audience, because to hear the reactions when the punks just pick up a baby, and all the women went, “awwww…”
CR: Or drop a baby! [Laughter] Gently, but yeah…
It is very humanizing to see them fumbling with that, because it’s a tricky thing for them to transition to fatherhood, I’m sure. There was also a subtext in the narrative about the music industry. It seems like a lot of the punks are saying when they got into it, they didn’t even know if they would be alive, let alone have successful careers. But with the labels sort of imploding, the up and down of the industry, it’s not just about are you selling out or not, but the business aspect coming in and intruding, and having to be savvy in that sense as well. Is that something you anticipated? Or did it evolve, in noticing their lives and their issues?
AN: It came front and center to us, because when Jimmy started this tour, they had made a big decision to get off of an independent label, Epitaph, and go on to Myspace. So, in Jim’s mind, it was front and center, this idea of, “Oh my God, I’m making this choice, that would seem like the most opposite choice any punk rocker could make, but what am I going to do? I am now in this position where I have a family, and three children, I need to make money, and this is the only place that seems to be making money. So how do I reconcile that?” So that propelled us into examining why he would make that choice, because of where the record industry is today.
CR: Yeah, definitely. It’s an important part of who he is.
AN: The hardest part of telling the story is that in order to really understand where Jimmy comes out at the end, and how he’s made that decision, there are just so many pieces at play, and all of those had to be told. Otherwise his decision may not be seen as sympathetic as I think it really is… where all these guys came from, and this odd position of being a dad, albeit sort of funny, and then really having to put food on the table… How do you do that?
And taking that responsibility seriously as well.
CR: Very seriously.
That also leads into that emotional angle, their past. Did you know they were going to be as open about that?
CR: No, we didn’t. And they were all very similar, and that’s when we started to see, or hear, these recurring themes, and we realized how tightly knit they truly are as a community. They just all share so much, whether it’s spoken or unspoken, there’s a reason they all came together and have stayed together. They’re still very — even Jimmy doing press on Sunday [at the SXSW premiere], he’s still very protective of the punk world and very defensive of anything that he perceives as not being authentic. It’s who they are. It’s not a passing phase, it’s definitely in their DNA.
AN: When you start a documentary, you really never know where you’re going to end up. And you hope that you’re going to be led in a more magical direction than you could ever anticipate. And that’s what we found, that we’d walk in thinking that we were asking one set of questions and [realize] that we really had this extraordinary, precious heart being handed to us at each one of these interviews. So it changed the way that we filmed.
CR: I think that every time we filmed an interview, we were amazed at what they gave us, definitely.
GF: I think all these guys, they’re all very used to doing interviews, but not about this subject matter. They [have] their talking points for the band and everything, they can do that in their sleep. But you asked them about their kids and their family and they opened up in an entirely different way, you know, showing pictures…
“It’s who they are. It’s not a passing phase, it’s definitely in their DNA.”
I was amazed at how open Jimmy was, like when he’s dyeing his beard or when he takes you through his little kit that he takes on tour. It’s funny to see him packing Vitamin C. [Laughter] But the façade being important. I’m sure if a music journalist asks them questions, they don’t want to necessarily know about the family, that’s not part of the image.
AN: It’s not cool.
CR: I think they made it cool though.
AN: Absolutely! In a normal music interview, you’re not saying, “here’s my antacids.” [Laughter]
When did you start cutting the film? Is that something that happened as you were shooting it?
GF: Well we started cutting and we were working on a version of the film, and then Jim looked like he was seriously thinking of quitting the band, and so we went back into shoot mode, so there was a little bit of overlap there. But how long were we cutting?
AN: From beginning to end?
AN: A year. And then about six months of polishing. But that includes three months of just screening 170 hours of footage.
CR: We did stop. We sort of had some ideas early on. People were asking us, potential financers were asking us…we didn’t know what the story was yet. So that’s when we would go back into filming. And then we did sit down and look at all of our footage, all one summer. In watching, it all started to crystallize.
I really liked the editing, the way you brought in the punk energy. The music has a natural, visceral rhythm, but to sit and watch it can be a passive experience. Can you talk a little bit about how you translated that energy into the visuals?
GF: Yeah, I think it was important to have… There’s been so many punk rock documentaries made, and to have elements of that, but to also have it be its own creature. It was a treat to work with the music; I think the music really pushes it through and you listen to the songs, hopefully, in a little bit of a different way. We tried to have them arise at certain points when the lyrics might resonate a little bit more.
CR: You know this is his first documentary? He also is a fan, and I think that’s what comes [through].
So you knew the culture and the music and everything?
CR: He was tremendously helpful to the two moms. [Laughter] “Geoff, what’s this song?” I mean, he definitely helped to guide the feel so much. And same thing with respecting the culture…
AN: We just really wanted it to feel authentic. We’d go back to that again and again and again. Does this feel authentic, does this say ‘punk,’ will this be true to all of our guys and their aesthetic? We were very careful with like, “we can’t go too hot pink!” That kind of thing.
GF: But we had fun with it too. It’s great music, and it’s fun to cut to. It kind of lends itself to that.
With the music, did you come up with a list of songs that you thought would be good to include? Or ones you could get access to?
AN: We absolutely went for the ones that we wanted.
CR: And it evolved. We certainly didn’t start with a list. Obviously there were a couple key songs that had to be a part of the movie, but a lot of it was Geoff selecting.
GF: And we interviewed somebody, [so] we’d be listening to their music, not because we felt it was research or anything… It was just like, “oh, let’s listen to Duane [Peters’] new band, hear what that’s about.”
AN: Right, Bouncing Souls, Blink-182… And then as you’re listening to them and you’ve gotten to know this person’s story, you listen to the song and it has a whole other meaning to you. So it was very inspiring to then layer that in as another part of the storytelling.
GF: And we’d kind of kick around the song ideas to each other, “hey, why don’t we try that in this section and see how it goes,” and so there [was] a lot of that kind of back and forth… figuring which song fit where.
“Tony Adolescent thanked us for showing their humanity, which was really satisfying. That’s really who we made this movie for, so it’s nice to have it be accepted.”
Have the musicians all seen the film?
AN: I think almost everyone.
And the response has been good?
AN: It’s been amazing. Really just the most heartwarming thing for the three of us is to have all of them say that they love it.
Did they bring their children and wives to the screening?
CR: Saturday [at the SXSW premiere] we had six of the dads, and they almost all brought their kids.
AN: Lars Frederiksen [Rancid] wasn’t here. He had to be at an event for his kid’s school. But he’d seen it with his wife and they really loved it.
CR: Tim McIlrath is out touring, they have a new album coming out. He’s got to make a living.
AN: But he really loved it.
CR: The guys that could be here were here. It was great.
If you had to characterize it, would you say it’s a music documentary? Or it’s just a universal story?
CR: It’s a story about fatherhood.
AN: I think it’s a universal story that then informs the music.
Is this a new direction you see yourself going in?
AN: Music documentaries? I really enjoyed making it. [Laughter] It was just an extraordinary experience, and I actually have a little bit of sadness thinking about moving on to another [film] that’s not music-based. But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. We’re not entirely certain where that’s going to go.
So there was no outside financing; you did your own project?
AN: DIY. Great props to every single person that we worked with. They knew that we were doing this DIY, and so they bent over backwards to give us what we call ‘bro’ rates. [Laughter] At every single turn, whether it was from the labels, or from the guys, or from our color correction people, or our sound mixers, every one of them just stepped up to the plate, because they saw the story and they loved it and they wanted it to get out there. And they knew that there was no way that we could pay full price.
So the DIY spirit was start to finish?
AN: Totally, start to finish.
CR: And that was really important too.
AN: It was important to [the musicians].
CR: We showed it to Brett Gurewitz [Bad Religion], and he’s so smart. It’s like The Godfather, we call him our Oracle. He’s one of the first people we showed it to.
AN: Because we had to. He owns so much of the music.
CR: And he just said, “Congratulations. Whatever you need.”
AN: He gave us all of the festival rights for free. So that’s been the reception that we’ve gotten from everyone… So, I want it to get out there. That’s our hope.