“Our sound’s always gonna grow.”
This statement is one that you would expect most bands to proclaim and standing on their own these five words appear pretty innocuous. However, it is something when the sentence is spoken by Chris Steele, the bearded bassist for the screamo/post-hardcore, Southern Ontario quintet Alexisonfire (AOF), who has already produced three sizzling, progressive albums since their inception in 2001. These outlets for their positive aggression and oblique life analysis, turns ordinary words into a proclamation of force and potential. Chris is flanked by another rhythmic vein in the shuddering, intense body of AOF, Jordan ‘Ratbeard’ Hastings. They relax and gear themselves up for their half an hour explosion of release and understanding, ahead of their coveted slot on the Taste of Chaos Tour.
It’s nearly three months since the ranging pitch with anthemic outbursts that is their third album ‘Crisis’, has been in the public domain (not including the month prior to release where it was leaked into the hands of copyright breaching rogues). ‘Crisis’ has been embraced by a range of alternative seekers and even the odd adventurous indie kid, caught up in the rhythmic tidal waves, largely created by the two guys present today who create a groove for the variety laden vocal guns to aim at. The most striking thing about this album is concealed within ‘You Burn First’. Mainly due to the fact that a band whose vocal range is probably the broadest in modern rock, with George Petit’s screeching howls, Dallas Green’s softer and more yearning touch and the recent addition of Wade (notably in the lash out at former drummer Jesse Ingelevics, ‘Keep It On Wax’). You wouldn’t think they’d even try to expand upon this. For ‘You Burn First’, they have managed shake things up even more by adding the larynx of Gared O’Donnell from Planes Mistaken For Stars:
“We just think that his voice is unique. We have toured with them before (Planes Mistaken For Stars) and we thought that his vocals fitted in well with the simple three chord structure and it was something different for Alexisonfire.”
Chris has a look of pride after this comment that comes with the knowledge that you have done something fresh and unexpected.
Continuing with the topic of their meaty songs, Jordan steps up with the pride and hungry look of Darryl Strawberry, to field an enquiry as to which of their songs sums up how they are feeling right now?
“I think it has to be ‘We Are The Sound’. We go to these gigs (Taste Of Chaos Tour dates) and kids come along to have fun. They wear their own clothes and don’t dress up, so ‘We Are The Sound’ is about that; be who you are. It’s anthemic and it’s what we are about.”
The nonchalant shrug that follows this exclamation of sincerity and authenticity, gives an indication of the genuine nature that binds this band together. Jordan elaborates on the inter-band chemistry;
“If someone doesn’t like a part of a song then we won’t use it. We all have to be happy with it.”
It must make for some frustrating rehearsal sessions then? Chris decides to add a caveat to the above statement;
“Well, if someone doesn’t like something it won’t be taken out completely, but we will change it a little. We’re lucky because we’re all easy to work with. We don’t get offended, we’ve known each other for so long and we can all take constructive criticism.”
Their gigs are known to be lively and rambunctious affairs, so what are they like at gigs and what do they want people to be like at their gigs? Jordan bubbles with enthusiasm and takes the lead;
“Just to have as much fun as you can. Although, I sometimes go to gigs and sit back and take it all in. Our songs are serious to us, but we can go out there and have fun.
We can be goofs and make people laugh, we want to be intimate with the crowd and make them feel part of it.”
Given the forceful nature of their material, it would be difficult not to feel their
force and to get the impression that they are playing just to you.
Chris looks keen to continue the discussion, so what about the Ontario scene they grew out from?
“Well we have exploded and can tour around, so we don’t see a great deal of it, but we still go back to St. Catherines. Ontario has a strong scene, built around YMCA shows where kids can just go and have fun. There are loads of bands that have come out of Ontario and not just Toronto. In fact, a lot of bands form in the suburbs and grow like Moneen and they make it happen.”
AOF have released a CD with Moneen (Alexisonfire/Moneen EP) and this signalled their return in 2005, after an unusually quiet phase for this passionate about music outfit. AOF have never really hitched a ride on the bandwagon of hype and still have a strong DIY ethos regarding the running of the band, so what are there views on hype is it getting out of hand? The weary pause before Chris’ reply gives an indication of their thoughts;
“In general I think people don’t listen to it that much. Interviews are great, but some bands get too many. Nowadays, a band can get three videos before they have done a live show. If you’re lucky enough to be in a band then you should have to work hard. Music videos are great, but we have toured for six years to get into the position of being able to do them.”
The focus and drive that this quintet possesses renders the response that follows the next line of inquiry, inevitable. What do the terms alternative music and post-hardcore mean to them?
“I have no idea.”
And with this blissful ignorance they head off to get ready to go and do what they do best; produce raw live music with a sense of fun and release.