“This above all: To thine own self be true,” Shakespeare once wrote. It’s wisdom with which Tom Gabel wholeheartedly agrees.
By now, the tall, tattooed frontman for Florida quartet Against Me! should’ve been universally welcomed by punk rockers, thanks to razor-sharp band efforts like 2007’s Butch Vig-produced “New Wave.”“But just in general as a person, I don’t really feel like I belong anywhere,” he says. “And musically, as far as scene-wise, I don’t feel like we have anyone who’ll adopt us. So going into writing our new record, ‘White Crosses,’ there was a moment where I really started thinking about it.”
For inspiration, Gabel (who brings Against Me! to Live 105’s annual BFD on Sunday) considered the definitive works of his unlikely idols — Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.
His conclusion? Their masterpieces occurred “when they stopped trying to project themselves into somebody that they wanted to be and just accepted who they were,” he says.
“So I spent a lot of time just thinking about people I used to know, places I used to go, and the person I used to be, and tried to make a composite of, ‘This is who I am, this is who we are, and that’s the way it is.’ It’s not all pretty, but I can’t change any of it.”
So it’s no surprise that “White Crosses” — also overseen by Vig — became Gabel’s majestic magnum opus.
Adding to this newfound maturity: He and his artist wife Heather just had a baby girl last November, Evelyn.
“And all the clichés about fatherhood are true,” the 29-year-old says. “It really changes the way you think and makes you a more focused person, on what you want and what you want to do.”
So Gabel pushed himself. For the EBow-chiming title cut, he channeled Primal Scream.
For “High Pressure Low,” he merged The Ramones with Tom Petty.
And for the “Born to Run”-style keyboards on “We’re Breaking Up,” he took it to a whole new level.
“I started taking piano lessons from this elderly woman who lived on St. Augustine Island,” Gabel says. He even performed in her recitals, alongside her gradeschool-age students. “And we’d have punch and cookies! I swear to God! But I ended up writing a lot of songs on the piano, and it was interesting having a different approach, seeing chords laid out in a different way.”
Gabel now follows his own quasi-Shakespearean motto: “You take the hand that life deals you and play it to the best of your ability,” he says. “And you keep a positive mental attitude about it.”
IF YOU GO
With 30 bands on four stages at Live 105’s BFD
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, One Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 11 a.m. Sunday