ALEXISONFIRE Prepares To Light Up The Capital On July 12th
Longevity and relevance are hard to find in the music industry. Bands tend to rise and fall, overstay their welcome or become a nostalgia act. Many bend the knee to record labels and societal conformity to appease the masses in hopes of making it. So, seeing a group of guys from St. Catharines who stayed uncompromisingly true to themselves, their music and their fans stay relevant after nearly 20 years is refreshing.
Alexisonfire hasn’t been consistently active since their inception in 2001. But that’s just fine to the band and their legion of fans. They entered the scene with a self-titled album that garnered critical and fan praise. So much so that record companies came knocking on their door. They responded by remaining independent, releasing Watch Out! and catapulting to superstardom. All this with a self-described sound of “two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight.”
The band broke up in 2011, did a reunion tour in 2015 and have done some shows since. But there hasn’t been any new music. There’s a unique energy to Alexisonfire (AOF) that makes their music and shows memorable Still, fans miss the driving guitar riffs, lively vocals and sweet melodies that make the group from St. Catharines great. Finally, the wait for new music from the only band ever is over.
A new track called Familiar Drugs it out. It marks the return of a familiar, fantastic sound that fans have craved. Alexisonfire is back, touring and likely making more music. It’s time for the drunks, lovers, sinners and saints to get excited.
Faces had the pleasure of speaking with George Pettit about new music, touring and more.
First, thanks for the new music and tour. It’s been nearly 10 years since we’ve heard new music from AOF. Why now?
The new music came about because we were playing shows. We were all really enjoying the experience but felt that we needed to give back something. I think we also felt like we were capable of writing something. That’s how it all really came about. Also, as much as I love playing the back catalogue, at some point you just become a nostalgia act if you aren’t putting out new music. There’s lot of songs that are fun to play, but I don’t think touring around with the greatest hits is a good look.
You’ve all moved on to different things in your personal and professional lives. How difficult was it to coordinate making new music?
It’s not simple, but it’s not impossible. We all have different things we need to navigate around. It doesn’t mean we can practice every week. Instead, we practice a few times a month. Or sometimes we’ll practice without all the members. It helps that Dallas has moved back to Toronto, which is made things a lot easier. And Billy Talent isn’t touring right now so we’ve got a little more action from Jordan. It’s not simple for sure.
You’ve described the new track ‘Familiar Drugs’ as being about choosing comfort over self-betterment. Do you find this is common in today’s society?
I can’t speak for everyone in the world, but I know I do that a lot. I will come to a point where I should be doing something good for myself and I choose to do something that makes me feel good at that exact moment. Whether or not that translates to song as a commentary on the way that things or people are? I think that’s probably safe. But I don’t know if that’s what I was going for. I think a lot of people will take short-term comfort over long-term strategy with most things in life.
Is the new track the first step towards an EP and album?
I don’t know if it’s an EP, album or another single. Without showing too much of my hand right now, I can tell you there is Alexisonfire music we are working on right now. I feel confident in saying that
there will be more Alexisonfire music before the end of the year. But I can’t give any hard dates on that, or what it looks like. It’s been very productive and we’re doing as much as we can from our own worlds. There’s a lot of conversing by email, text message and voice notes.
I heard that’s how Familiar Drugs came to be: Dallas had an old phone with a voice note?
Yeah, that’s pretty much how most Alexisonfire songs happen. Wade and Dallas, through some sort of supernatural-cosmic link, come to the table with stuff that just works. They just fit together perfectly like two puzzle pieces, and we build from there. That’s what happened with Familiar Drugs. It was an older riff kicking around since Crisis and it just came to be.
A tour is announced with stops in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, London and other festival dates. Will more dates be added?
Wait and see. We don’t have anything planned. We aren’t opposed to more dates, but it comes down to scheduling. We’ll see what happens. The idea is to get through June and see how it feels. Then maybe we’ll make a decision on something closer to the end of the year. But that’s a discussion for all of us.
AOF will be making a stop in Ottawa for Bluesfest on July 12th. Having been to Ottawa before, do you plan to stay and see some of the city? Any favourite spots?
Ottawa has always been the place to go. It’s the first long drive from southern Ontario where you go without leaving the country. We played at Club Saw and got to know the local promoters. Love House of Targ – it’s such a fun spot. Obviously, there’s great record stores like Vertigo Records. We have played Bluesfest before and it was incredible. I would assume the beginnings of the Bluesfest were actually blues, but now everyone comes including blues artists. So, it’s a blast playing there.
What can fans expect from this tour?
I think we’re better now than we ever were back in the day. Maybe you have to say that, but that’s genuinely how I feel. If you saw Alexisonfire back in the day there’s no doubt it was wild and crazy – we had all the brashness of youth. Now we’re a bit older and there’s more calculation, but we’re better playing now than ever. If you come to see us now you’ll see a good concert and the best version of ourselves.
$1 from each ticket is going to Indspire. Tell us a little bit about this non-profit and why it’s so important.
Indspire provides scholarships and grants to indigenous youth. It’s a not-for-profit that’s close to us. We wanted to do something charitable and make it a positive thing for everyone. As Canadians, we have a very unfortunate history that we aren’t acknowledging enough. We haven’t been kind to our indigenous population. This seemed like a positive way to help address it and give back.
I imagine that when AOF started you guys focused solely on making music and touring. Now, you’re in a position where you can live your lives, making music or not, tour or not. Do you still feel the same kind of pressure?
I don’t think we feel the same kind of pressure, but it’s not like there’s no pressure. I do get a little more nervous and anxiety around playing and diving back into this world. With that being said, I use that. Back when we were touring 10 months out of the year, you walk out on stage and do it because you’ve done it nearly every day that year. Now, there’s vast amounts of time between performing and not. For the most part, I’m wrapped up in a world that is not the international jet-setting life of a rocker like when I was younger. There are nerves, but it feels good because it’s like when we first started. It propels you to play a really good show. The fear of messing up makes you sharper. There’s no pressure to make music or sell things, just the general anxiety of the idea of doing it. But when you get up there and do it it’s such a great feeling.
The band has always done its own thing. The self-titled album attracted a ton of attention from major labels and you chose to remain independent for Watch Out! How difficult has it been to stay true to yourselves throughout your career?
I don’t know. I think it’s just engrained in us. I don’t think we’d feel comfortable doing something that wasn’t us. I don’t know how to explain that. Maybe we just toured with so many bands back in the day that were swimming for the fences and trying their hardest to appeal to as many people as possible. We just presented ourselves honestly and did what we felt like. At the end of the day, the five of us created this thing that people latched on to. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around it. After all these years, we can still sell like 20,000 tickets in Toronto. It’s just mind-blowing. Maybe we were just accessible? It’s hard for me to understand, but I’m grateful and glad that I can still come back and play these shows.
Music was kind of flat when we first came around. There wasn’t a lot on the radio or TV that was making that bold and brash statement. Maybe we are coming back now is a sign of the same thing happening again. I don’t want to put anybody down or anything, but everything is quite vanilla. There is a void where people want that next thing to come and shake it all up. It just seems like people don’t want to take chances. So maybe that’s it? Alexisonfire remained honest, stayed true and never softened our sound. People still want that little bit of edginess in our music.
What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
It’s less of an obstacle, but I think the band needed to break up when it did in order for us to be where we are now. We always had small goals. There was no way to go from Wade’s mom’s basement to playing to 10,000 people. That didn’t exist. The biggest possible thing was to play to 200 people in Toronto. But we kept making small goals. And those goals kept getting bigger. So, there weren’t a lot of obstacles until we got to the end.
We were own worst enemy. We spent way too much time on the road, and it led to our inevitable breakdown. We needed that. We needed to step away for a bit to live outside of Alexisonfire, land on our feet and make us feel capable as musicians and in our private lives. Now, coming back together, it makes things easier and more fun. It’s strictly a pursuit of love. We aren’t desperate to keep it going; we’re just doing it because we love it.
Catch the band at Lebreton Flats on Friday, July 12th. Tickets here.