Alexisonfire remain one of Canada’s and the post-hardcore scene’s most influential bands. The charismatic quintet has returned with their fifth studio album Otherness – the band’s first full-length in 13 years – to be released 24 June via Dine Alone Records/Cooking Vinyl Australia.
We caught up with vocalist and guitarist Dallas Green to chat about the new record and what inspired the reunion.
“Life’s pretty good, my friend. Back playing some shows again and trying to find that new version of normal that I think everybody is trying to, you know. It was very strange because this is all I’ve done since I was a kid and the pandemic was the longest time I’ve had away from the road since I started doing this 20 years ago.”
Coming back from such a long break between albums, the band obviously had something to say. Otherness discusses themes of dejection, isolation and love – most likely inspired by the post-COVID lifestyle. The decision to make and release another album was not so much deliberate as it was coincidental.
“It’s weird to say it, but I don’t think the record exists if the pandemic doesn’t happen. George was the only one still working during it because he’s in the emergency services, but the rest of us were sort of sheltered and trying to be creative on our own.”
Dallas Green has been busy in recent years with his solo project City and Colour, including four albums and a headline slot at Brisbane Festival in 2019. With the shutdown of the live music industry and international travel during the pandemic, he turned to music for salvation and his fellow band members saw it as an opportunity to get together.
“It wasn’t until Wade messaged everybody and said, ‘Should we try to have a jam for something to do?’. Because of this gratitude for one another and for this thing that we can still do after all these years, the creativity was just starting to explode out of us and next thing you know, we had a record.”
Featuring the singles ‘Sweet Dreams of Otherness’, ‘Reverse the Curse’ and ‘Sans Soleil’, the 10-track project was self-produced and recorded in about a week and is AOF’s most progressive yet. Some of the ideas for the album, such as the lead riff in ‘Reverse the Curse’, were in the vault for years before the band found a use for them.
“For me, I try not to spend too much time on records. The last City and Colour record I made over a long span by going in every couple of weeks, crafting it that way. But I like to just sort of go in and capture the spirit of what you’re trying to create in that moment.”
“As far as riffs go, myself and Wade don’t throw anything away. Our phones are filled with riffs and voice notes that have been kicking around forever. I would say about 50% of the tunes on the new record are things that we were working on a few years ago. I’d say about 25% of it is all stuff that came about just as we started jamming. The other 25 is stuff that was just hanging around forever.”
The album consists of classic AOF punk riffs, tight drums and blended harsh and clean vocals. While there is a lot of urgent rock elements on the record, it also has tender moments of soft keys and Green’s heart-melting (or heartbreaking) croon with the sophisticated and substantial lyrics we know and love.
“We didn’t want to go and make Crisis 2 or something. We all have such a wide berth of musical inspiration between all 5 of us and we all like different styles of music. The thing about this record I think that makes it a little bit more special is that my friend Matt Kelly was in the studio with us, who is this wizard of a musician who can play anything you put in front of him. Having his ability to allow our ideas to come to life really took the record to the next level.”
Latest single ‘Sans Soleil’ is a harrowingly beautiful track and a standout of the record, written by guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil and sung by Green. Something the band does a lot on this record is perform each other’s parts as a collective voice, rather than claiming the lyrics as their own contribution.
“I think we made something that we can be really proud of, especially being in the band for this long. I really love ‘Blue Spade’ – I think I’m more emotionally attached to that song because Chris wrote the lyrics to it and it deals with something that’s very personal to him and to us because we’ve lived it with him. So, to have him write these words and then allow me and George to sing and be his voice was a really special moment.”
The beloved punks are also hosting their own four-day concert series Born & Raised, co-headlined by City and Colour, at St. Catharines in Ontario from 30 June to 3 July. The two artists will both be performing their debut albums in full for the first time ever at the event for their respective 15- and 20-year anniversaries.
“It’s something that we’ve been kicking around for a while. We’re holding it in St. Catherine’s, where we’re from, and we’ve played there a few times since things got crazy for us. But especially after the pandemic, we wanted to do something in our hometown where we could celebrate live music again.”
Alexisonfire last toured Australia in 2017 and it looks like there may be something on the horizon for their fans Down Under.
“Hopefully we’ll see you next year sometime.”
You can purchase tickets to Born & Raised HERE. Otherness is out 24 June via Dine Alone Records / Cooking Vinyl Australia.
Photo Credit: Vanessa Heins