Interview: Alexisonfire

Imagining two catholic school girls engaged in a knife fight is a difficult concept to grasp, until that is you listen to Alexisonfire. Originating from Ontario, Canada the post-hardcore quintet describe their music as, among other enigmatic imagery, an altercation between two young girls involving sharp weapons and you can kind of see their point. We were lucky enough to catch up with guitarist/vocalist Dallas Green backstage at Rock City and asked him about new album “Old Crows/Young Cardinals”, his side project City and Colour and what sparked his interest in music…

Firstly, for someone who has never heard Alexisonfire before, how would you describe your sound?

A whole mess of stuff thrown into a song. There’s singing, there’s screaming, there’s a bit of everything.

Let’s talk about “Old Crows/Young Cardinals” – is there any significance behind the album title?

It’s kind of left open to the imagination. It was originally just going to be called “Young Cardinals”, then we wrote the song “Old Crows” and we thought that the combination sounded pretty good. There wasn’t a definitive meaning behind it but after a while, as a concept, it made more and more sense to us as a band.

What would you say your favourite song on the album is?

Right now, I think I like all of them. *Laughs* But if I had to choose I would say the last song ‘Burial’. It is quite different for us as a band. It’s very atmospheric.

You just finished filming your 2nd single ‘Born and Raised’ – how was that?

It was great. The video is pretty crazy. We filmed it in a Chinese food restaurant. We had people in huge dragon and lion costumes running around fighting. It was pretty cool.

You’ve won a few awards for videos and for your music in general in Canada – do awards mean a lot to you as a musician?

No. The thing about awards is that if they’re voted by fans then I like that because it feels as if the people that like your music are going out of their way to help you. Most awards however, are just a panel of people deciding. Playing a tour like this when kids are coming to shows and they’re selling out, that’s more of an award to us. Ultimately, awards don’t make kids come to your shows.

Did you enjoy Reading and Leeds this year?

Yeah, it was amazing. I think the second set we played at Reading was honestly the best show we’ve played in the UK.

Wow. How did you deal with the double set scenario?

At first we thought it sounded like a great idea. But then we got there and thought ‘Wow, this really wasn’t a good idea’! It was like playing two completely different shows though. The main stage was like this big visual landscape with so many people out there, whereas the Lock-Up Stage felt more personal to us. As if everyone was there to listen to us, instead of trying to convince 50,000 people to like our band. But yeah as I said, that second show at Reading was unbelievable.

Did you manage to catch any other bands?

I watched the Deftones play, which was awesome. I watched Faith No More and caught a little bit of Kings of Leon. But we were quite busy backstage doing interviews and signings so we didn’t have much time to see anyone else.

What was your opinion of the Kings of Leon reaction to the crowd at Reading when they swore at them and refused to play an encore?

For me, I know what it’s like to have something go wrong onstage and know what it’s like to be in a bad mood onstage but then again I don’t know what it’s like to headline Reading festival. I don’t know what it’s like to have 80,000 people watching you and liking your band. From my point of view, if I was up on stage and something went wrong but I had all those people watching me I’d probably just get over it. Then wait till I’m offstage then throw a fit! I can understand a band having a bad day but I think you have to throw the bad day out the window when you’re headlining Reading Festival.

Especially when you’re getting paid a million pounds for the privilege.

*Laughs* I bet they sold a bit of merch too! I imagine they shifted a few t-shirts that day!

Can you tell us a little bit about your side project City and Colour? I know George (Petitt) and Wade (MacNeill) have side projects as well – how does that interplay with Alexisonfire?

It just adds another element. You can all individually do different kinds of stuff. We all like different kinds of music; we’re all inspired by different kinds of things. It’s just another outlet to express the other elements of your musical body. I never intended it (City and Colour) to be what it has become but people like it and I’m not going to stop now. I feel obligated to play and put records out because people have shown an interest in it. I feel like I owe it to them. They gave me their ears so I should at least write songs for them.

So, do you know instantly if you’re writing an Alexisonfire song or a City and Colour song?

Yeah I know that when I’m at home in the basement and I crank up the amp I’m going to write an Alexis riff, whereas if I’m sitting on the couch with my wife and my acoustic guitar, I’m probably going to end up writing a City and Colour song.

Looking at the bigger picture for a second – what sparked your interest in music?

Well my parents gave me guitar lessons when I was 8 years old and I didn’t really like it at first but as the years went by I realised I wanted to become a musician. By the time I got to 11 or 12 it really allowed me listen to records and look at songs differently. I would sit their listening to the different guitar parts and dissecting songs piece-by-piece.

Do you remember a specific band or album that was a big influence musically from a young age?

Yeah, when I was in Grade 7 I was really starting to get into music. That was when grunge was getting big with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains. *Laughs* I nearly just said Alexisonfire! But yeah I was really moved by that stuff. And then when I got into high school it evolved into different things and that was the era that made me think that I really wanted to get into the music industry. From there I started writing my own songs and now…here we are!

Going from past to present – what are you listening to at the moment?

Right now I have been listening to the new Converge record. I’ve been listening to a lot of heavy stuff recently. Also, the new Bat for Lashes record I think is brilliant.

So what are the plans for Alexis in the near future? I hear a new EP is scheduled to be released this spring?

Well yeah hopefully we’re going to have time to record it! We’ve been writing a new song lately in soundcheck and we’ve got an “Old Crows/Young Cardinals” b-side, which is long instrumental song. Sometimes we write a song that’s just weird and sounds out of place on the record, so we want to take those tracks and make an EP out of them. We wrote 17 songs for “Old Crows” and there were some that just didn’t make sense. Although it wasn’t strictly a concept record we still wanted continuity. So, as I said we have a few b-sides from “Old Crows” plus the song we’re playing in soundcheck and we should be recording this winter.

Well that’s it Dallas. Thanks a lot for taking some time out to talk to Impact.

No worries. It’s been a pleasure.

Alexisonfire’s fourth studio album “Old Crows/Young Cardinals” is currently out on Roadrunner Records UK. They are currently touring with Anti-Flag, Four Year Strong and A Ghost of a Thousand across Europe. To hear more check out their myspace.

– Alex Kenzie


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