I miss this band. As much as I love the other projects they’re all involved in, there’s no denying how special it was when these five were together. I went to both the farewell shows at the end of 2012 and it was such an incredible experience – I will never forget this band and the impact they had on my life. This interview, however, came before all of that was out in the open. AOF were still very much a band at this stage, full-swing into touring and promotion of the Old Crows/Young Cardinals record. I spoke with George, who was lovely. It’s not crazy insightful or anything like that, but this turned out pretty well. I wonder if he knew at that point that it would all come crashing down within 12 months?
– DJY, April 2014
George Pettit is a man with a lot on his mind. On a crackly, occasionally indecipherable line from his native Canada, the frontman of multi-faceted post-hardcore quintet Alexisonfire speaks in a tone that’s not so much distracted as full of thoughts and ideas about what’s going on. It’s nearly the end of 2009, and Petit finds himself reflecting on a year where he not only became a husband and expectant father, but also delivered his band’s fourth and easily most divisive record yet, Old Crows/Young Cardinals.
In spite of the controversy surrounding the band’s change in style (particularly in regards to George’s vocals), he still bestows his full confidence in the record itself.
“I was always happy with it,” he comments. “We took a lot of time to make it – we usually just come off the road, spend a month writing, spend a month recording and then go back on the road. This time, we took about six months. We set up our jam space, wrote all the songs and recorded there – we even had the songs in our cars to listen to. It had a lot of room for air.”
Discussing his influences when putting the OC/YC sound together triggers an interesting tangent of its own. He lists bands such as The Hot Snakes and Rocket From the Crypt as major influences, as well as determining the style he aimed to go for.
“When I decided to make the change from screaming to singing,” Petit explains, “I knew I couldn’t croon and I couldn’t sing pretty like [guitarist] Dallas [Green]. I thought I could probably try something like Chuck Ragan or someone like that. These kind of singers – they’re not crooners, but they’ve got that edge to it, which is what I wanted to go for.”
Interestingly enough, the idea of what Pettit doesn’t like also came into play. “It’s not like I was looking at singers and thinking, ‘I wanna sing like that,’” he muses. “It was more looking at screamers and thinking, ‘I DON’T want to scream like that.’ I didn’t want to sound like that anymore.”
“You’re kind of influenced by the things you don’t like,” he continues. “I feel like most of the time when I’m listening to something I fucking hate and I can’t stand it, I want to be the opposite of what that is. There’s a lot of reactions to what we found to be absolutely detestable on the record.”
Despite this seemingly negative inspiration, George insists that the album was not an exercise in hate. Rather, the album was a challenge to push the boundaries of what Alexisonfire could sound like. As George himself puts it: “I think all of our records sound like Alexisonfire; but at the same time, I feel like none of our records sound the same.
“I wanted to shake things up as opposed to just falling in line,” he notes when outlining the band’s intentions. “We just wanted to make something that we liked and move forward. I’m still really happy with the record, even at the end of this year.”
Following OC/YC’s release, Alexis have been touring all across America. Despite labelling the process as “kinda gruelling”, George maintains getting satisfaction from doing so. “We just did the Warped Tour,” says George. “That was fun. You’re only actually playing for thirty minutes tops, and the rest of your time can just be spent hanging out.”
When talk turns to the set-lists of their recent tour, he can’t help but raise a chuckle when it’s said that, even with a new record out, the band must still have fans craving older material. As it stands, Pettit outlines, the band’s current set-list works as follows. “We’ll do at least one off the first record, then one or two off Watch Out!, then we split the rest between Crisis and the new record.” He also adds that it’s in the band’s best intention to “try to put together a set that can please everybody”.
As for the band’s upcoming appearance at Soundwave 2010, Pettit is audibly hot in anticipation for returning to Australia. “This is a really cool festival to be a part of again,” he mentions. “We’re really excited to see Isis, Emarosa, Faith No More, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Weakerthans… it’s really cool. Jane’s Addiction is another one I’m interested to see.”
No matter what your stance on Alexis’ more recent studio work, anyone who’s seen the band live will guarantee you a powerhouse performance. Don’t miss history repeating as George and the rest of the guys from Alexisonfire become the unlikely heroes of the Soundwave festival.