Alexisonfire Gets Its Due And Goes Back For More

Thursday, 29 April 2010

As much as many people outside of the music business don't really understand how it works, there are moments when events can even come as a surprise to those on the inside too. Part of that may have to do with geography; every fan knows when a record is due to come out at their local record store (or on iTunes), and knows when their favorite band is playing through their town right? After the record in question comes out, often fans know how said record is doing from a sales standpoint and and can gauge success by the amount of exposure it's receiving as well as the amount of excitement it's generating. Taking all of those factors into consideration, fans begin to develop their impression of said band – but it's not always accurate. Take Alexisonfire for example. In Canada, Alexisonfire has become a venerable name and has been a 'sure thing' draw for live shows; playing (and selling out) some of the best venues in the country for years. They have been recognized and had their efforts celebrated with a succession of nominations and awards including nods and considerations at the CASBYs, Junos, MMVAs, and the XM Verge Awards. They've embarked upon successful tours around the world. Because those tours have gone as far as they have, Alexisonfire's stature must be about the same everywhere right? Not exactly – it may shock fans (in Canada anyway) to learn that while Alexisonfire's latest studio effort, Old Crows / Young Cardinals, was released on June 23, 2009, the band is only now involved in its first headlining US tour in support of the album. It's not as if they've been sitting idle though, as guitarist Wade MacNeil explains, Alexisonfire's current headlining tour might be an 'it's about time' affair, but the band had other responsibilities to attend to as well. “We've headlined Europe and the UK but a lot of what we've done behind this album so far has been festival dates or support slots like we did for Billy Talent,” explains MacNeil while passing through Michigan. “For the States, this is definitely the first headlining run. I think it's been going to be good; the shows are selling well. A lot of the shows are at clubs we've played before and a lot of places I'm excited to play like The Troubadour in California is pretty cool and we're doing the Bowery Ballroom in New York. There are a few other places that we've played before opening for some bigger bands, so it's just really cool to be able to go back there on our own strength.”

If ever there was an album to present as the focal point of attention for a headlining tour, it is Old Crows / Young Cardinals too, because it is the first and finest mature work from the band. The band's self-titled debut and Watch Out! established them as the kings of Canadian screamo – there's no arguing or debating that fact – and when Crisis came along in 2006, the album found Alexisonfire at the absolute pinnacle of its powers as the songs added up to a distilled and perfected form of the sounds the band had been using at that point. It was great, but what no one could have guessed was that it would be the final chapter in the first act of Alexisonfire's career.

Through the duration of Old Crows / Young Cardinals' run-time, the band pulls together a single consistent tempo and attack rather than sounding like a screamo powerhouse band splintered by three singers as they have previously. While all three of those voices remain as distinct as they've always been, this time out singers Pettit (who sings more than he screams on Old Crows / Young Cardinals), Dallas Green and Wade MacNeil adopt a more choral, call-and-response approach to vocal parts instead of simply throwing the microphone to each other at odd moments and the effect amounts to a series of far more dynamic movements within the songs. As aggressive or cathartic as songs like “Old Crows,” “Sons Of Privilege” and “Accept Crime” might get as the spiral along their course, they hold together tighter than they ever have previously and the effect is mesmerizing; on Old Crows / Young Cardinals, Alexisonfire doesn't try to bridge the difference between vocal parts so much as have each vocal presence perform closer to the music in the songs as if they came first and the vocals were added second. This album shows a lot of growth for Alexisonfire and, so far according to MacNeil, fans have recognized and embraced it; even if it did take a minute for them to catch on. “I think we were all very, very proud of the record, but every time you take a step away from what you did on your last record, you're bound to irritate some people,” says the guitarist when asked what his thoughts on the initial reception of OC / YC were. “At first we were a little confused and kind of concerned because we've never been a band's band, the fans have always been the ones that got it and accepted it first,” say MacNeil as he recalls the first response the band got for the album. “We've always just done our own thing and while we've made friends over the years doing this, when we did Warped Tour last summer, we'd start noticing that there were more and more bands watching us every day and they'd come up to us afterward telling us how much they liked it, but we weren't hearing it so much from the people in the crowds. It actually kind of psyched us out because, when we started thinking about it, we wondered, 'Well if all these bands like it, does that mean kids will hate it?' Luckily though, I think we've gotten a bit of both; it's been a pretty good response – things are definitely on the upside so far and they continue to get better and we're continuing to play bigger clubs all over the world. We've been on the road pretty much straight for quite a while now, and the opportunities keep coming hard and fast.”

In answer to those opportunities, the band has also announced that it will be following through on a promise they first made in September, 2009 by finally releasing their anticipated Dog's Blood EP. According to MacNeil, Dog's Blood will be a very special, limited release done as a way of saying thank you to fans and made available only at the band's shows. “I can't believe the interest Dog's Blood has been getting,” marvels MacNeil at the question of its status. “We just mentioned it in passing here and there and now it's just sort of snowballed. We've had the songs written for quite a while and it came together pretty easily so we had started talking about it in interviews but it has really just come down to putting it out at a time when it would make the most sense. As I say, the songs are all written and we're going to go into the studio this summer and we're going to record it, and what we're going to do is take it out on the road with us and just make it available at our shows next Fall. This summer, we're going to be doing some festival shows and things like that, but this Fall is when we're going to go all the way across Canada and Europe again, and get down into Australia as well as over to Japan. We're going to take the EP with us the whole time on that tour, and it'll be available at all those shows but, who knows? If we get it going well enough over the next bunch of sound checks on this tour, I'm sure we'll end up playing one of the songs from the EP over the course of things.”



Alexisonfire – "Young Cardinals" – Old Crows / Young Cardinals


Alexisonfire tour dates


Old Crows / Young Cardinals
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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