It’s been thirteen years since Canadian post-hardcore icons Alexisonfire released their last full-length album, 2009’s Old Crows, Young Cardinals. For the band members, it has been thirteen years of growth, both personal and musical in nature; for their fervent fanbase, it has been thirteen years of anxiously awaiting new song lyrics to get inked into their skin.
The long wait ended on Friday, 24th June, when St. Catharines’ favourite sons unleashed their fifth studio album, Otherness. Inspired by the inherent sense of otherness that underlies the band’s very existence, the new album is powered by Alexisonfire’s commitment to remaining outliers.
After surprising the world with the alt-rock infused comeback single, ‘Sweet Dreams Of Otherness’, the follow-up singles, ‘Reverse The Curse’ and ‘Sans Soleil’, made good on the quintet’s mission to revel in otherness, with each track providing distinctly different explorations of the band’s signature post-hardcore and emo sound.
Founding member and front person George Pettit has always played a crucial role in the creative mission of Alexisonfire. In the lead-up to the new album’s release, Music Feeds spoke to Pettit about how a desire to explore the unknown helped give life to the band’s triumphant new record.
Alexisonfire – ‘Reverse the Curse’
Music Feeds: George, after thirteen years, Alexisonfire are finally putting a new album out. Are you excited for the world to hear what the band sounds like now?
George Pettit: Excited is an appropriate way to describe it. We’ve been sitting around with it in our back pockets for over a year, and we’re just very excited to get it out.
MF: In terms of it sitting around with you for so long, did it make you hypercritical of the record, having lived with it?
GP: I’ve gone through waves of self doubt followed by waves of extreme confidence and that’s kind of where I’m at now. I feel like this is the best record we’ve ever done. I really love it a lot. The process of making it was so good, and I feel like we achieved exactly what we were going for.
There were moments when it was just the five of us who had heard it and then we’d pick it up and listen to it and start to question if it held up; ask ourselves, “Is this going to be a disaster?” But we’ve come to a point with this where I feel like this is a good record, a very good record. I hope that people feel the same way.
MF: I’ve been listening to your band since I was a teenager and I feel that you’ve created something that’ll appeal to old fans. What’s most appealing and interesting about the album, though, is that it also displays the musical and personal growth that has occurred within the band. You’ve all been experimenting in different genres over the last decade. Do you feel that you’ve been able to inject that into the album?
GP: Absolutely. I think that’s kind of the reason we decided to make another record. I’m extremely critical, to the point of being an arsehole about my tastes in music. So when I look around and I see bands doing things that maybe I don’t like… it still felt like we were capable of contributing in a positive way.
We’ve all been constantly consuming music too. It’s not like we made one good record and then decided to rest on our laurels. We’re always out there looking for music that makes us feel something. So when it came time to make the record, we had a much deeper pool of influence to draw from. It’s not like we were clinging to the influence of two bands from back in the day.
Alexisonfire – ‘Sans Soleil’
MF: A lot of your contemporaries are experiencing a late-career resurgence, and emo/screamo/post-hardcore is very much back in the public consciousness right now. Is that just a happy coincidence?
GP: Yeah it is. Some of that is good and some of that is not good. As a person, I get and appreciate the sensation of nostalgia. There’s certain things that I’m nostalgic for. That being said, if we were just coming back for nostalgia, then I don’t think any of us would have been interested in making a new record.
Personally, I want to know what’s new – What’s the crest of the new wave? What’s the avant-garde? What’s the thing that’s happening, currently? That’s what I’m interested in.
We’re going to benefit from that wave of nostalgia that’s happening around post-hardcore music right now, but at the same time, I don’t want to benefit from it if we’re not doing something that is current. To me, what’s going to make the most impact from any band is if their newest record is their best record. That’s what I want and expect from bands.
MF: It’s a noble sentiment, but it’s also a pretty logical one. An artist’s purpose is to create. So it makes sense to me that if you were to stop creating and start simply tracing, you’d lose some enthusiasm and connection with what you were doing.
GP: At a base level, it is tracing – in some ways it is plagiarism. I’m not interested in the band that sounds like another band that I like. I’m interested in the band that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before or has such an amalgamation of influences that are so interwoven that there’s no direct correlation. That’s the band I want to listen to. That’s the band that I want to be.
MF: ‘Sweet Dreams Of Otherness’ was the first single from the album and people were taken aback by the slow-burning, alt-rock elements in the song. My understanding is that it was mostly a Dallas [Green, guitar/clean vocals] song, and it does have a lot of those latter City and Colour vibes to it. I’m curious, personally, how do you find a way to contribute to a song like that?
GP: I think there were times in the past where we would shoehorn me into songs where I didn’t belong. I think we knew if we had a song where one of us didn’t sing on it, we were less likely to play it live. So it would just get lost in the shuffle.
I’m like the odd ingredient in the mixture – sometimes there’s a song that calls for it, and sometimes it’s a song that doesn’t call for a guy screaming at the top of his lungs. As far as ‘Sweet Dreams Of Otherness’ goes, though, I think that the song called for me to be in it.
I think we’ve got a better balance this time around. There’s a song that doesn’t have Dallas singing on it on the record and then there are also songs where instead of Dallas singing a part, I’m actually singing it. I’m not just leaning into being the screaming guy in the band.
Alexisonfire – ‘Sweet Dreams of Otherness’
MF: Not many bands have three legitimate lead singers in their membership. Do you feel that’s something you can use to differentiate yourselves?
GP: Not a lot of bands have a Dallas Green. He’s a remarkable front person, a remarkable singer and a really capable songwriter. There’s a lot of people who can sing really well and there’s some people who can write really well; he just so happens to have a lot of those things going for him all at once, and it creates a different texture.
I think a lot of bands from our genre back in the day, there was a type of singing that that had a certain sound to it, and I think a lot of bands had that sound. I don’t think that there are a lot of bands with people in it that sound like Dallas, so that’s definitely an asset when we’re writing.
MF: ‘Reverse The Curse’ has a lot more of your input, front and centre. Were you feeling like that was a traditional Alexisonfire-style winner from the get-go?
GP: I would actually say that we weren’t. A couple of the riffs in the song date back to Crisis .We had this song written and even performed it with different lyrics. Then we decided to scrap it because we were scared of it. We thought the riff was too stoner rock and I thought we were kind of stepping out of our lane.
Nowadays, it just feels like we can do whatever we want with our music. We eventually got to a point where we were comfortable enough to let this be a song. It took us kind of getting a little more comfortable with ourselves before we were able to turn it into what it is now.
MF: Alexisonfire are kind of adopted Aussies at this point. Do you know if there’s any chance we’ll be seeing you down under soon?
GP: Of course. There’s nothing concrete yet, but we want to come back. I’m hounding our booking agent all the time. Just like, “When’s Australia? Come on, why don’t we go to Australia? I want to be in Australia.” I love Australia and I do I feel that kinship. Australia has always felt like Canada to me, if Canada was in California. I just love it so much on all fronts. So it’s going to happen.
Link Wray – ‘Rumble’
MF: I’ve got a couple of nonsense questions before I let you go. If you could have any song play whenever you enter the room, what song would it be?
GP: Probably ‘Rumble’ by Link Wray. That’s a classic and probably the coolest song that you can enter a room to.
MF: Proper organic, real maple syrup? Or maple-flavoured syrup, the abomination on sale at the supermarket?
GP: You know the answer. Straight from the fucking tree. I’ll drink it. I’ll just fucking stick a knife in a tree and lick the knife. It’s gotta be the real deal. In fact, I play in a band called Dead Tired and our bass player’s dad, they go and they tap a bunch of trees every year and then he drives around and he delivers homemade maple syrup. It’s called Ball Syrup. His name is Nick Ball. So every year I get a couple of big wine bottles of Ball Syrup. It is delicious. It is incredible.