I would like to preface this bio by saying I hate band bio sheets. They are boring, self-congratulatory, tripe, filled with all sorts of overdramatic adjectives and if I never have to read another band bio sheet again, I will die a relatively happy man.
With that said, my name is George Pettit and this is a brief biography of Alexisonfire.
Alexisonfire is the product of five kids from the liberal, suburban paradise of Southern Ontario. The band started as an escape from the banalities of adolescence; basically, it was something to do on the weekend. All five of us were active in our local music scene, which consisted mostly of kid promoted shows at local union halls.
I think it is important to note, that we were hardly ambitious. Most of our success was a product of our own dumb luck. When the band started in 2001 there was no future in playing "screamo" music. No chance of getting our song on the radio. No chance of making a video or getting it played. But who cares about that stuff anyway. We were drunk on youth and invincible in our own minds. Times eventually would change in our favour.
Our first demo was the culmination of our very different influences at the time. Dallas (guitar vocals) had just left a kind of grungy alternative band. Wade (guitar vocals) and Chris (bass) had been playing together in a punk band since they were 14 and were looking for something new. I was playing bass in a metal band that I had very little interest in. Alexisonfire was a welcome change for all of us.
I like to think of our first demo as a mash up of Level-Plane Records' era screamo and At the Drive In / Refused era post-hardcore. It's hard for any of us to listen to our first demo and full length, without a certain degree of humility. Imagine the art you created as a teenager, put on display for all to see when you are in your late 20's.
It is a disturbing thought for most, but in all honesty, those recordings served their purpose. They allowed us to tour the United States and Canada. They afforded us the luxury and comradery of impoverished van touring, sleeping on people's floors in strange and terrifying new cities and playing in dingy basements with piss soaked washrooms and hot sweaty clubs filled with alienated youth. We would eat two meals of breakfast a day, to stay within a $10 budget. Those early recordings gave us a real taste for the nomadic lifestyle. I look back on those days with extreme fondness.
When we returned from the road, we began work on our second record entitled Watch Out! It was a musically ambitious record, but when I listen to it now I still feel like we were struggling to find our niche. At this point, things were getting much bigger for us in Canada. Our music videos were getting played and we were given something called a JUNO Award (kind of like a Grammy but more Canadian). We were awarded for our efforts as Best New Band.
More touring ensued. We branched out across the ocean to the United Kingdom. The shows got bigger, but there were always new places to go. We got to enjoy the sheer volume of playing in front of thousands and at the same time, playing in halls and bars with no crowd barriers. I will never forget playing to a packed house of 2000 in Vancouver, BC then driving to Olympia, WA to play in front of nine kids in a pub.
Fast forward to the summer of 2006 and a record called CRISIS. It was an arrival of sorts. Years of hard touring had carved our abilities and tastes as musicians. At this point, we had been all over the US dozens of times, not to mention Japan, Europe and Australia. We wanted to return home to our jam space in the back of an insulation factory in St Catharines, ON.
CRISIS was the beginning of our disconnect from the tired screamo bands of today. We weren't interested in falling in line and damning our records to a legacy of largely forgettable hair rock. We took the best of what we liked about punk and rock and roll and applied it to the genre that gave us our start. Crisis also marked the addition of Jordan Hastings on drums. Our original drummer was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling. (That's a lie. the true story of why our first drummer left is long and uninteresting)
Even more touring ensued - about nine months straight. It was a rigorous stint that stressed our home relationships to near breaking point. It was a long and beautiful adventure filled with exquisite highs and dreary lows. Touring took us to new places and we got to see our crowds grow in the old places.
The tour was followed by a long and introspective hiatus from the road. Readjusting to home life took some time and this was when the majority of our fourth record, Old Crows/Young Cardinals, was written.
We recorded the instruments at Armory studios in beautiful Vancouver, BC. The vocals were recorded at our producer, Julius Butty's (Watch Out!, Crisis) home studio in Stony Creek, ON.
Old Crows/Young Cardinals was built on the foundation of CRISIS. Musically, it moves at a feverish pace. The lyrics span a wide range of topics, from metaphysical rebellion, to living as a nomad. It is the culmination of the history of our band. Personally, I feel it is our best record yet, but you get to be the judge of that.
That's the short and skinny of it. All the names and dates may not be there but that's about the best I can do to squeeze the last 7&1/2 years of my life onto two sheets of paper. The long and fat of it involves a sorted tale of conflicting personalities, brotherhood, tossed tie rods, barbarism, hospitalizations, dry Canadian wit, and a cast of sultry women.
Interview by dadair
Meet the rhythmic spark that ignites Alexisonfire
"Our sound\'s always gonna grow." This statement is one that you would expect most bands to proclaim and standing on their own these five words appear pretty innocuous. However, it is something when the sentence is spoken by Chris Steele, the bearded bassist for the screamo/post-hardcore, Southern Ontario quintet Alexisonfire
(AOF), who has already produced three sizzling, progressive albums since their inception in 2001. These outlets for their positive aggression and oblique life analysis, turns ordinary words into a proclamation of force and potential. Chris is flanked by another rhythmic vein in the shuddering, intense body of AOF, Jordan \'Ratbeard\' Hastings. They relax and gear themselves up for their half an hour explosion of release and understanding, ahead of their coveted slot on the Taste of Chaos Tour. It\'s nearly three months since the ranging pitch with anthemic outbursts that is their third album \'Crisis\', has been in the public domain (not including the month prior to release where it was leaked into the hands of copyright breaching rogues). \'Crisis\' has been embraced by a range of alternative seekers and even the odd adventurous indie kid, caught up in the rhythmic tidal waves, largely created by the two guys present today who create a groove for the variety laden vocal guns to aim at. The most striking thing about this album is concealed within \'You Burn First\'. Mainly due to the fact that a band whose vocal range is probably the broadest in modern rock, with George Petit\'s screeching howls, Dallas Green\'s softer and more yearning touch and the recent addition of Wade (notably in the lash out at former drummer Jesse Ingelevics, \'Keep It On Wax\'). You wouldn\'t think they\'d even try to expand upon this. For \'You Burn First\', they have managed shake things up even more by adding the larynx of Gared O\'Donnell from Planes Mistaken For Stars: "We just think that his voice is unique. We have toured with them before (Planes Mistaken For Stars) and we thought that his vocals fitted in well with the simple three chord structure and it was something different for Alexisonfire." Chris has a look of pride after this comment that comes with the knowledge that you have done something fresh and unexpected. Continuing with the topic of their meaty songs, Jordan steps up with the pride and hungry look of Darryl Strawberry, to field an enquiry as to which of their songs sums up how they are feeling right now? "I think it has to be \'We Are The Sound\'. We go to these gigs (Taste Of Chaos Tour dates) and kids come along to have fun. They wear their own clothes and don\'t dress up, so \'We Are The Sound\' is about that; be who you are. It\'s anthemic and it\'s what we are about." The nonchalant shrug that follows this exclamation of sincerity and authenticity, gives an indication of the genuine nature that binds this band together. Jordan elaborates on the inter-band chemistry; "If someone doesn\'t like a part of a song then we won\'t use it. We all have to be happy with it." It must make for some frustrating rehearsal sessions then? Chris decides to add a caveat to the above statement; "Well, if someone doesn\'t like something it won\'t be taken out completely, but we will change it a little. We\'re lucky because we\'re all easy to work with. We don\'t get offended, we\'ve known each other for so long and we can all take constructive criticism." Their gigs are known to be lively and rambunctious affairs, so what are they like at gigs and what do they want people to be like at their gigs? Jordan bubbles with enthusiasm and takes the lead; "Just to have as much fun as you can. Although, I sometimes go to gigs and sit back and take it all in. Our songs are serious to us, but we can go out there and have fun. We can be goofs and make people laugh, we want to be intimate with the crowd and make them feel part of it." Given the forceful nature of their material, it would be difficult not to feel their force and to get the impression that they are playing just to you. Chris looks keen to continue the discussion, so what about the Ontario scene they grew out from? "Well we have exploded and can tour around, so we don\'t see a great deal of it, but we still go back to St. Catherines. Ontario has a strong scene, built around YMCA shows where kids can just go and have fun. There are loads of bands that have come out of Ontario and not just Toronto. In fact, a lot of bands form in the suburbs and grow like Moneen and they make it happen." AOF have released a CD with Moneen (Alexisonfire/Moneen EP) and this signalled their return in 2005, after an unusually quiet phase for this passionate about music outfit. AOF have never really hitched a ride on the bandwagon of hype and still have a strong DIY ethos regarding the running of the band, so what are there views on hype is it getting out of hand? The weary pause before Chris\' reply gives an indication of their thoughts; "In general I think people don\'t listen to it that much. Interviews are great, but some bands get too many. Nowadays, a band can get three videos before they have done a live show. If you\'re lucky enough to be in a band then you should have to work hard. Music videos are great, but we have toured for six years to get into the position of being able to do them." The focus and drive that this quintet possesses renders the response that follows the next line of inquiry, inevitable. What do the terms alternative music and post-hardcore mean to them? "I have no idea." And with this blissful ignorance they head off to get ready to go and do what they do best; produce raw live music with a sense of fun and release.
Archived Interview by Brian Rutherford
Part of the wave of up and coming artists bulleting through the glamour of stage, and the taste of green is Alexisonfire. This St. Catharines, Ontario quintuplet may have been going through the same motions and steps as most artists do after inking a record deal, But the overall drive and focus of AOF has stayed the same since day one with Equal Vision records. Music, emotion, rhythm and performance equal steady progression and maturity. One part of the equation may be the full backing and patience invested by the ever improving Equal Vision records. Chris, Dallas, Jesse, George and Wade make up the five equal parts showing the music industry how much an artist can mature with a little time and experience. With the new album "Watch Out" on shelves everywhere, lead vocalist George Pettit spoke honestly about the improvements made on the June 29th release. "I think if you do it long enough, than u get better at it. You"re on the road a lot and you just get better. Also, we had a great producer, Julius Butty. We learned what we like to play." George continues over the loud, happy go lucky crew in the background. "We"re no longer virgins to the studio. We"re just not quite the band we we"re a long time ago." After the success and acclamation of "Pulmonary Archery" on video stations like Muchmusic, "Accidents" has been fingered for the first video off this release. Powerful from the start, this track encompasses the new and improved AOF, while their sound still remains as hungry as ever. This song only sets the tone for a trip through yet another revolution of rock music arguably not quite as perfected until now. Instead of wondering which of the 11 tracks will become a single, the progression of this album becomes more of a concept album without the concept.. If that makes any sense? Each song seeming almost epic like. "A lot of those songs were first draft. A lot of stuff just kind of fell on the page, and it is what it is." said George with a confident tone. Most critics familiar with the 2003 self-titled release could speak of an album so rich in aggressive hooks that it overflowed causing frustration to the ears of listeners all alike. It seems these guys have harnessed that aggression and emotion, equally on all 11 songs this time around. "Hey, It"s your funeral Mama" has a mind numbing mix of melodies ranging from 80"s metal slide chords, to the strengths of what most would consider "SCREEM0". While some changes like clearer vocals and longer chord repetition may be culture shock to fans of old, its made an amazing difference in associating familiarity with each song in its own characteristic. Simple, smooth and still ballsy, track seven "Sharks and Danger" starts off with the clicking of a keyboard and never looks back. The everyday intro builds up and explodes into a berserk chord change exhibiting all aspects of musical influences. George admitted a certain personal favoritism towards track nine, "White Devil" "I really enjoy playing it live. It"s just one of those songs that just has a pace to it, that really gets you going" Often times the culmination of a new album means time off, But with just enough time to pick cover art and go, Alexisonfire struck while the iron was hot and hit the road. Playing with likes of Death from Above, Jersey, Boys Night Out and Billy Talent to name a few. But given the choice, is there an artist George and his band mates would look tour with in the future? "There"s lots of bands I would like to tour with--- (Hesitates) Bear vs. Shark, we"ve played some shows with them and they"re absolutely nuts. Just a fun bunch of dudes. We did like 8 days with them and it wasn"t long enough" With such a wide variety of styles evident on "Watch out" its no surprise to hear of them playing festivals like EdgeFest in Canada, Reading Festival and America"s latest musical farm system, Warped Tour. However, not all tastes of the industry have been sweet for these guys. Radio is still too far behind, and attempt at keeping our listening habits with Muddle of Pudd. Let"s be honest, Alexisonfire may never have their "O Sh*t, that"s our song." moment cruising in the car. Certainly, George has an opinion on this matter. "Yea there"s a lot of things we could be doing to grab more media attention. We just kind of write what we want, and it is what it is". Yes, this album down grades from the raw, deflecting metal it once was. The trade is welcomed when you consider the serious upgrades of clarity these guys have made in "Watch Out" . Most importantly things are still fun to the five boys from some small town in Ontario. And If a Dr. Helcama should come back for his revenge and this artist thing ends for George, his back up plan certainly proves his natural rock star abilities. "When I can"t do it anymore.. I"m planning on doing lots of LSD, and walking around on the tracks (Laughs)". Find out why Jeff Buckley, Michael Jackson and The Misfits all show up on the website of these young men. Watch for Alexisonfire on tour in your city