The Flatliners From Every Angle

Thursday, 16 September 2010

"The drive was pretty long – it was a ten-hour drive – and when we were getting our shit together to go a couple of days ago, we noticed that our van had this massive oil leak but we went and did the first two shows and got it fixed today,” explains a mildly tired Chris Cresswell as he sits down backstage with his dinner at The Flatliners' tour stop in Kitchener, Ontario. “This tour with Against Me! started the other day in Montreal, and then we were in Quebec City yesterday with Young Livers, this other band – I forget where they're from but I think it was Taiwan – and they were pretty good, Against Me!, and us – and Millencolin headlined. We had to leave before Millencolin played unfortunately, because we knew it was going to be a long drive and we also had to get electric brakes put on our van because we're getting a new trailer tomorrow. In addition to that, we got stuck in traffic on our way here, so it's been a really fun one so far – you know?”

Welcome to date three of The Flatliners' cross-Canada tour with Against Me!, and the band is already deep into the headspace required for touring – but it's not exactly like they ever left it. Less than a month ago, the band found itself in this headspace as they ran through some American dates with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Teenage Bottlerocket. The band won't get a breather when this current tour ends in  Petaluma, California on September 25, 2010 either because, after they part ways with Against Me! at the end of September, the band picks up with Riverboat Gamblers for a few dates before doing a short headlining tour with The Snips that runs until the end of October. After that (and with no days off in between), The Flatliners keep on going with another tour supporting Strike Anywhere and The Menzingers that will run until the beginning of November – all combined, The Flatliners' show schedule will work out to almost forty shows in twenty-five different American States and Canadian provinces before Remembrance Day in Canada and before Thanksgiving in the U.S. The mileage will rack up in that time but, even as he looks at it, the Flatliners singer brightens quickly and noticeably when he realizes that he and his band are living their dream; this is the schedule and this is the job they signed on for and that they're able to continue doing it only makes them feel (as Cresswell puts it) like a bunch of “really lucky assholes.” Even now, Cresswell has stories to tell of shooting dice with Dickey Barrett and not losing his shirt, touring with NoFX and stepping on stage to play at the Reading/Leeds Festival in the UK in addition to having toured through the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan, and the stretch of memories shows no sign of stopping because, frankly, the band doesn't plan on calling it quits anytime soon. “I don't want to come off like, check me out, I'm so cool, but we don't have a set of career goals or anything,” laughs Cresswell modestly. “A lot of bands want to sell so many records and do this, this and this, and to be honest, we're not paying that much attention to that kind of goals. We're mostly just interested in making sure that the shows go well and people are happy they saw us; that's how we gauge the success of our band, not by anything else, really, but it has been working for us; we are seeing new faces each show and people have really been liking what we're doing. There have even been places where we did really well where we weren't expecting to; like, the first show on the Bosstones tour was in DC, and we had never played there before. We've driven through DC before but we'd never played there before and we had a bunch of kids singing along – a lot more than I thought would be doing that actually, so that was pretty surprising and pretty awesome. I think we've been super-lucky with the response we've been getting over the last while. Like, the tour with the Bosstones was pretty cool because Bottlerocket, the Bosstones and us are all pretty different and we weren't sure how it was going to go at first because we were the first band of three on that tour, but it went really great.”

It's easy to understand the warm reception that The Flatliners have received from audiences thus far, Cavalcade is an impressive offering to say the least. After the opening “horsemen of the rock apocalypse” sample that leads off “The Calming Collection,” The Flatliners burn through a set of the twelve best songs they've written so far, and take no prisoners as they bombard listeners with sheets of the finest, tightest and most caustic melodic hardcore that the genre could ever hope to produce. Throughout songs including “Carry The Banner,” “Bleed,” “Filthy Habits” and “Liver Alone,” Creswell drops bombs on listeners that mix catharsis with an arresting and caustic tone, history lessons that have seemed to become prescient again, and more anthemic calls to arms than should be legal. The band follows suit with him, laying down incendiary chops that are guaranteed to set pits to boiling live and listeners to throw their fists in the air involuntarily. With all those chops in place added to the fact that The Flatliners have clearly grown both in confidence and conviction on Cavalcade, there will be no doubt in the minds of anyone listening The Flatliners are destined for great things. All the pieces lock into place here and it's easy to get excited as you find yourself repeatedly reaching for the repeat button; Cavalcade is the first keystone release for The Flatliners. “It's funny you know? Ask much as I love the record and as proud as we are of it, I don't think we'll ever make another one the way we made Cavalcade again,” laughs Cresswell as he recalls the sessions. “The recordings sort of got split in half – we did a bunch of songs, then we had to go out on tour and we finished writing and recording after we got back. It was sort of weird, but it turned out well.

"Fat Mike came up to Toronto for part of the sessions which was really crazy,” continues the singer. “We were really nervous about that and we had no idea what to expect, but it was really good to have him around and give us that push of honesty and perspective. Like, there were moments when he'd say, 'Well, that idea kind of sucks' and we'd be sort of thrown because we'd really like it. He'd say, 'It's cool that you really like it but what about trying it like this?' and he'd pose an idea on us. Sometimes we'd like it and sometimes we didn't, but we had a really honest conversation together before he came up to Toronto so he knew not all of his ideas would necessarily fly, but it was interesting to work with him and it was a lot of fun; we've all been NOFX fans since we were, like, twelve years old so it was cool and weird to look over and see that dude with a guitar and singing our melodies and offering constructive criticism. I never thought that would happen in my life; me and the rest of the guys sitting down with that dude and bounce ideas back and forth – it was really cool. I wouldn't say that I wouldn't work with him again because I know it would be really cool, I just hope that, next time, we don't meander around things and just get right to them. That really happened in the end of Cavalcade because we were doing a lot of touring around the same time and we had enough songs but he came in and said, “You do have enough songs and they're good, but let's hone in on them and tighten them up.” So we did, and we ended up having an extra four songs which we were able to record after that as well. The whole process was crazy and I would never do it that way again process-wise, but I wouldn't rule out working with the guy again. It was fun, I just hope we're more prepared next time on our own.

“We thought we were ready to go, but he felt differently and, at the end of the day, he was right and what it really proved to us that he really gives a shit about our band and he likes our band which feels pretty good. It feels even better that the album has been received the way it has; I was amazed that pretty close after the album's release, we were starting to get request for a lot of the new songs. There are still some on the album that we haven't played live, but it's really cool that we've been able – and even been asked – to play as much of the stuff on Cavalcade and have people be into it.”

Needless to say, between the praise that the band has enjoyed thus far for Cavalcade as well as the response that the band has earned on stage, The Flatliners would have every reason to be confident walking onto this bill with Against Me! given the success they've experienced of late but while his band is comparably young, Cresswell knows better than to walk onstage, cocksure. Even now, three dates into the tour, the singer gives the impression in conversation with him that he is not the type to take anything for granted and won't know how to feel about a tour until he's well enough into it with a larger group of shows completed for a frame of reference. “We're only a couple of shows into this tour right now, so I'm still not exactly sure how it's going to go just yet,” says the singer, pensively. “I think that a lot of the kids who like Against Me! might like our band so it's sort of difficult to say and, really, we've only been to Quebec so far and we do pretty well there anyway so it's difficult to gauge.”

On that note, now finished his dinner, Cresswell excuses himself to go get prepped for the show and do soundcheck, leaving this writer with some time to digest the conversation. Are Cresswell and The Flatliners really so worried about how they'll be received by the Against Me! crowd? It's a legitimate question – the lion's share of the audience at any concert is typically most interested in the headlining act – so what expectation could The Flatliners be justified in having?

An hour later, the band finds out how exactly things are going to go. After Gainesville, FLA.-based Young Livers takes the first lumps of the night and (very, very loudly) gets the audience a little warner than they were when they walked through the venue's doors, The Flatliners take the stage and everything about the room seems to change; while the venue [Elements in Kitchener, Ontario –ed] is not at capacity, the crowd on the floor has easily doubled in size when the band gets started and starts moving excitedly from the moment the band kicks off. In that moment, the band has every soul on the floor locked in and everyone's demeanor changes; while the crowd on the floor of the multi-tiered venue might be smaller – about two hundred kids – they make up for it with the level of their excitement as a mosh pit starts and a few kids manage to get up, crowd surfing. In addition to the tenor of the crowd changing, Cresswell's demeanor has changed as well – on stage, The Flatliners explode with raw energy as Cresswell shreds his throat in “The Calming Collection” to open the set. Onstage, if the singer is still harboring any of the misgivings he talked about in interview, they don't show.  Cresswell, guitarist Scott Brigham, bassist Jon Darbey and drummer Paul Ramirez all play like their lives depend on it through every second of their set and set the bar surprisingly high for the headliners. As the singer predicted, those songs from Cavalcade which appear in the set get over best with the crowd and, each time the band cranks up the circuits on “Carry The Banner,” “He Was A Jazzman,” “Here Comes Treble” and the new single [to be released September 28, 2010 –ed] “Monumental,” the crowd seems to move just that much faster, which pushes the energy that much higher. Even when the band does break into some ska/reggae rhythms in the late running of the set, the energy level stays up and peaks with “Eulogy.” For those that know it [“Eulogy” is one to the early tracks in the run-time of The Flatliners' 2007 Fat Wreck debut, The Great Awake –ed], the song might not be what most people would regard as a great closing song for a live set but it's actually perfect; after all of the energy expended by the band and the audience, the catharsis and heart that comes with the words, “You will never be forgotten/You will always be remembered/You will be celebrated” proves to be infectious and the crowd obviously feels it because they join in for the last vocals. In the end, while the headliners still have to take the stage, The Flatliners have most definitely left an impression on this audience and ensured that the show's headliners will have their work cut out for them. That's the point though; after the set, Chris Cresswell's words about a Flatliners show and their ethic and mindset to approaching a tour support slot hold up. “I've never understood how some bands work when it comes to live shows,” said the singer before the show. “Like, the fun of being in a band is to play right? So why would any band say, 'Oh, there aren't many people here, so we're gonna play like shit because it doesn't matter.' Why? We've never done something like that; we give it all every night we're onstage because we appreciate that people came to see us. We'd do that for ten people, a hundred or a thousand.”



The Flatliners – "Carry The Banner" – Cavalcade
The Flatliners – "Monumental" – Cavalcade
The Flatliners – "July! August! Reno!" – The Great Awake
The Flatliners – "Eulogy" – The Great Awake

Photos taken both during Bill Adams' interview with Chris Cresswell and of The Flatliners live September 10, 2010.

Further Reading:

Ground Control Feature: The Flatliners Get Restless 08/17/10
Ground Control's Feature: The Flatliners Explode 04/11/10
Ground Control Album Review: The Flatliners' Cavalcade 03/29/10


is out now. Buy it here .
The Flatliners' "Monumental" 7" comes out on September 28, 2010. Pre-order it here .

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