Alexisonfire: Screamo’s Like Hair Metal

Alexisonfire hit the road for a longer stretch of time than ever before after the release of their platinum-selling, Juno Award-winning album, Crisis — which explains the year they took an entire year off.

- Jul 14, 2009

Alexisonfire hit the road for a longer stretch of time than ever before after the release of their platinum-selling, Juno Award-winning album, Crisis — which explains the year they took an entire year off. With the release of their fourth record, Old Crows/Young Cardinals, however, the five-piece is ready to do it all over again — if it doesn’t kill them first.

CHARTattack talked to guitarist/singer Wade MacNeil and drummer Jordan "Ratbeard" Hastings about the difficulties of touring and why screamo is stale.

CHARTattack: How does it feel to jump right back into the bus after getting out of the studio?
Wade MacNeil: We just got our touring schedule and we were just talking about how much we don't want to tour the States. We're touring it for two months straight doing Warped Tour, which is really long. We were talking about how we totally don't mind flying from Perth, Australia to Victoria, BC the next day to start the next tour. I just don't want to be in Illinois in the middle of January. We've done it before and we'll probably do it again, but right now, it's harshing my vibe.

You're going to some new places this time around.
Jordan Hastings: It looks like we're going to hit a lot of places we've never been before. South Africa is one of them. China, that's also shaping up right now. The album's coming out in a few more Asian countries which hasn't happened before.
WM: We've never been to South America, either, and the record's coming out there. I remember when we signed the contract, which is not really a contract, but the promoter said he'd buy 10,000 copies of our first record, 15,000 of our second, and he would sell them and then they'd get bootlegged, and we'd get really popular over there, or he just wouldn't sell them. So that was our record contract over there. It should be cool to get out there finally.

With the rigorous touring schedule you guys had after Crisis, wouldn't you want to rectify that this time around?
JH: You always try, but it just doesn't happen. You could do the weeks off between tours, but then you miss out on this opportunity and that opportunity and you say, "Alright." All of a sudden you realize that we're gonna be home for five weeks over the course of a year...
WM: I don't mean to complain about it, but you look at this overview of the new year, and it becomes... It's so far down the line and you begin to talk about it in such basic terms. Next summer, we go to Europe twice, we tour Canada, we go to Australia and Japan, then we do the States twice. All of a sudden, summer is just starting now, but before next summer, I know everything that we have to do up until then, and it becomes like... Fuck!

Given the amount of time you guys spent on the road last time, it makes sense that you took as much time off as you did before recording this record.
WM: It takes its toll. We definitely needed the time off we took for this record. You pick up some bad habits, and as much as everyone is striving towards a common goal, and we're all friends and everything, but it puts tension on everything.

It's kind of funny. Literally right up until we had this conversation I was really stoked, and now it's just freaking me out. I don't want to get into that mode where, at the end of touring Crisis, we were all acting kind of strangely. You need to step back from it to realize what an incredible thing it is. If you don't have that step back, things start to get weird.
JH: They certainly do. You get into this tour mode where nothing else really exists except you being on a plane or a bus or a van, and everything turns into one big day instead of consecutive days. You go, "This day has been really long. Oh, wait. It's been two years, that's why!"

Could you ever see yourselves as the kind of band who tours sporadically and exists more in the studio than on the road?
WM: I don't think we could do that. I don't know. You write music so you can go play it. I don't understand the idea of writing music for yourself. I get the idea of music being self-serving, and it's all sort of selfish in a way, but at the same time, you write music with the intent of going to play it, not sitting at home and releasing records. That's mental to me.

The record itself seems to be an even bigger departure than Crisis was, like you're making a conscious decision to move away from the "screamo" sound.
WM: Absolutely. George [Pettit, vocals] said it a few times, but screamo is starting to feel like hair metal. It started as something that attracted me to it, because it seemed new.

Punk was getting boring. I started going to hardcore shows and that wasn't any better. It was like going to football practice. When I started finding out about these screamo bands like Pg. 99, it was still what I liked about this subculture, but it was different. What drew me to it in the first place doesn't have anything to do with it anymore.

The way we look at music now and the way we look at life is different than when we started the band. Music is very much a time and place kind of thing, so as much as I love all those Pg. 99 records, it's not something I listen to every day. I don't think any of us listen to music with a lot of screaming in it anymore.

It's not like I have contempt for heavy music — I still love it. And just because it's different, I think the new record is just as heavy as some of the other stuff we've done. It's just more rounded.

Vocally, it seems as though Wade George and Dallas [Green, guitar/vocals] are all contributing equally and singing together much more than on previous records.
WM: It's not a conscious thing where I'm like, "I need more vocal time, dammit!" It's just the way the songs come together. I guess I'm just writing more vocally.

With George singing this way, too, it's allowed Dallas and I to sing with him for the first time. I think people are going to be really surprised as to who's doing what when they come see us live. Dallas screams more on the record than George does. That's weird, but it's awesome.

As much as it's changing, you just paint yourself into a corner if you don't. I don't want to have big choruses with George does the verses anymore. We've written that song already.

Is the excitement to play new songs still there, in spite of the daunting tour schedule?

WM: I'm excited to get back on the road, but if it doesn't work out, I can always move to a third world country and live off the small amount of record royalties that I get from my SOCAN cheques, and start a pirate radio station.
JH: And I'll be his butler.
WM: I'm gonna pay you in plantains!

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