What Davey Havok Can Teach Us About Shrimp

The frontman for emo superstars AFI has a poignant message in defense of the world’s prawns.

by MATT STOKES | MARCH 19, 2010

I’m not gonna lie, I’m very pleased with myself this time. You know those smug people who proudly declare they know the hidden meanings of certain songs? Example:

“I bet you didn’t know that the Police song ‘Every Breath You Take’ is about a stalker… ‘CAUSE I DID!!”

or

“Did you know that the theme song to The Wiggles is really about cocaine?”

Today, I am one of those people. Let me explain.

Tonight, a band called AFI is coming to the House of Blues in New Orleans. They’re at that weird period in a band’s career where they’re just past their prime. So whereas they were headlining arenas just a few years ago, now they play venues like the House of Blues. Their problem is they play a style of music that, while extremely popular five years ago, now sounds dated; this makes it difficult to earn new fans. As a result, their concerts are full of people who loved them when they were still in high school. Like me. I’m very excited.

AFI is fronted by singer David Havok, a man well known for his frequently proclaiming “Oh!” in a solid Michael Jackson imitation. He also likes to yelp about his misery and heartache. “Reach out, and you can take my heart away…” Havok croons in one of AFI’s best-known songs, “The Leaving Song Part II.” My heart aches with yours, Davey. But not when the other 90% of your lyrics are among the most inexplicable and unclear in the history of pop music. I kid you not. Examples:

“As waves of plastic fame go out of fashion/You’re going out, going out forever unknown.
From above a rain of ashes descends/Anathema!”

or

“I’ll let you tear it up/If you don’t wake me up
But if you tear it/We can’t repair it.”

or

“Swept off my feet, with step by step by step
We take the lead/As drop by drop by drop
We start… to BLEED.”

The guy clearly loves his blood. But more than that, he loves people wondering what in God’s name he is talking about whenever they listen to his music.

For a long time, my favorite AFI song was “The Great Disappointment.” In the AFI canon, there’s nothing that particularly stands out about it, I just thought it was kinda cool; I had no idea what it meant. Then, early this morning my iPod shuffled to “The Great Disappointment,” and in a moment of clarity all was revealed.

“The Great Disappointment,” you see, is a song about why D-Hav realized he must stop eating meat. My first clue was the first line of the second verse of the song, when Havok says, “I can remember shrimp heads so vividly/Soft creatures draped in white/Always disgracing me.” Hmm, I wondered. Seems like an odd thing to say in a rock n roll song, but no matter. I couldn’t stop thinking, however, about something I once heard a vegetarian tell me, something about how the most critical moment in a budding vegetarian’s development is when he is able to connect the food on his plate with the living, breathing animal. That explains the next line of the song, “I can remember when I first realized/Dreams weren’t the only place to see them.” So Havok, it seems, was eating a plate of shrimp (most likely broiled because of the reference to white), and he realized that the delicious crustaceans on his plate were once real-live animals that live and laugh and love and feel pain. And pain is something Davey knows all about.

He also makes a reference to chrysanthemums, which are a species of flower native to Europe and Asia that are cultivated for… that’s right, insecticide. So this “great disappointment” Havok laments is the human race’s fondness for killing its animal brethren. So shameful.

“While I waited/I was wasting away,” he sings, and indeed, we are all wasting away on the carcasses of slaughtered creatures. David Havok is a martyr, and maybe if he change, we can change. All we have to do… is listen.