Cancer Bats are undeniably one of the hardest working bands in the industry right now. In 2011 they spent a total of 300 days on the road, and 2012 doesn’t look like it’ll be any quieter for the Canadian hardcore outfit. Their fourth studio album ‘Dead Set On Living’ is out in April this year, and on April 21st the band will embark on a most epic of tours: The Pentagram Tour. The band will play six live shows in five different venues across London to form the shape of a pentagram.
We caught up with frontman Liam Cormier when he stopped off in London as part of his whirlwind promotional tour of Europe talking all about the new album and what’s new with Cancer Bats.
Q: How’s everything going?
Liam: I’m good, been busy, but busy in a good way. Been doing lots of stuff and people are stoked so it’s pretty easy.
Q: You’ve been so busy touring these past couple of years that it’s a wonder you managed to fit in time to record a new album! Did you take some time out?
Liam: It’s kinda cool we actually just took some time off to just focus on it, where we hadn’t had to just leave for tour immediately. Which is actually better so now I can just come and do tons of press like this, so we don’t have to like fit it in in-between touring which is rad.
Q: Were you writing on the road?
Liam: Noooo. We’re the worst band at doing that! (Laughs) We’ll see friends out on tour, like when we would tour with Alexis[onfire], Dallas would be sitting writing City and Colour records in the background and we were just hanging out like idiots, lighting off firecrackers and breaking beer bottles. And I was like, “you are so focused, and we are so stupid!” But we’re more like, once we get together we just bang it out, you know? So for us it’s more like, not being a solo acoustic act (laughs), it’s all about just when we’re vibing together and not really like even finishing songs before then, because then if you show it to everybody and they’re like “that song sucks,” you’ll feel like you wasted two months, instead of wasting two minutes (laughs).
Q: You’ve said that you wanted to stay away from writing a ‘traditional hardcore record’, was your approach different when writing this album?
Liam: I think with all my dudes they just don’t want to write like the typical, even like the hardcore that we grew up with. We want to be influenced by it but it’s almost like Scott [Middleton, guitar] never wants to write just chugging riffs or like the average breakdown. Or everyone wants to try and look at some of our influences a little bit more that are out of the box. Because if it was me writing a record it would just sound like Hatebreed, it’d be all breakdowns, all the time!
But then lyrically I definitely wanted to change things up and try not to just write songs about being pissed off and just like, “fuck this and that”, and still trying to follow that approach that’s worked so far with Cancer Bats with just being really honest and having fun with it.
Q: You went in the studio again with Eric Ratz and Kenny Luong, [Hail Destroyer, Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones] are they like an extension of Cancer Bats now?
Liam: Yeah! I mean the idea was floating around to work with other people and the more we thought about it we just like, we gotta stick with our guns and trust our vibe that these guys that we’ve worked with are so much a part of the Cancer Bats sound. Where we’ve worked up to this part of our relationship together where we have a really good working structure and they understand us.
But at the same time we’re all friends, it’s like with your best friends you can tell them to fuck off or you can tell them that their shirt looks stupid, but you’re actually saving them. Instead of where you’re like, “oh I don’t know if I should say anything,” it’s like no way, everyone has that voice because we’re all comfortable with each other.
Q: How was the studio process for you this time around? Does it get easier the more albums you make?
Liam: It definitely gets easier. I think for us it was like learning from our mistakes, and making lots of mistakes, ahead of time! And just figuring out what we had done right and what’s worked and what hasn’t, and what pitfalls we can avoid the next time around. So making this album was actually like the easiest of all the records that we’ve done, because it was just like: “Okay this time let’s have finished songs like a month before we go into the studio. Let’s make sure the bass and the drums don’t conflict, let’s make sure the cymbals you pick don’t phase out the guitar and vice versa.”
All those little things that we’ve kinda picked up, we’ll remember. “Let’s make sure the heat works so the guitars don’t get out of tune!” All these funny little things that sound so stupid but when you think about it. Like, not having lyrics is a huge deal! But on top of that, when you can be as comfortable as you are with playing a song live that it doesn’t feel stiff, it’s already been kinda worked in, it’s not like I’m reading from a paper, it’s like I’m singing it more off by heart. And all the best vibe tracks are from that.
Q: Are there any particular tracks on the album that especially you’re proud of?
Liam: Umm, I dunno, it’s tough picking just one, like I’m really proud of the whole thing. For me this whole record like, rips. Like we’re listening to it start to finish and we’re not like, “oh we should’ve taken off this” or “we should’ve changed this order”. I’m just like, “yeah! I’m down!” It’s the same with the LP, I’m super stoked on how it all fits together. Some of them are just different vibes that we’ve had, I’m super proud of how ‘Drunken Physics’ turned out, just being such a fun different tone for us, just trying to do something a little different lyrically in more of a fun kind of way.
Q: Dead Set On Living is lyrically a pretty hard-hitting song, written about a friend of the band finding out that he was risking his life by not cleaning up his act. What made you want to take that and write about it?
Liam: Yeah it’s about one of our best friends. It was something that literally happened right in the middle of us writing the record, so for me that was all I was thinking about; my friend and what was happening. All of those lyrics are based on conversations we had while he was in the hospital, so it was essentially just him writing that song. And that’s why at the end of it I wanted it to be his voice, so you can actually hear him on it, he sings the “gimme poison” line and all the “Dead Set On Living” parts. He came into the studio and sang them with us. I wanted to make sure that he was cool with it, I showed him all the lyrics before I even recorded the demo and he was stoked. And then getting him to come in and sing on it he was like, “this rules”. So even just taking inspiration from it, like he came out of this really heavy situation and then it was like he came out of it really positive, like “fuck all that bullshit, dead set on living man, not gonna fuck around any more.” And I know that that’s gonna be hard, so something like that was really making a huge point and making that change, it was like, “you’re not fucking around!”
Q: You’re here in the London right now, what have you been up to?
Liam: Yeah I’m in Ing-er-land! Just doing tons of press, eating tons of pasties, cheesy chips, hanging out in London, getting photographed by Chris Baker. There’s this new hot photographer in England, his name is Chris Baker and I’ve been the subject of all his photos all week!
Q: You were down at the Touche Amore show last night, did you have fun?
Liam: Ah I love it! That show was awesome! Jeremy’s a homie! [Bolm, singer] I’ve known him since 2007, we met when his old band played with Cancer Bats, and we’ve stayed in touch since. I still have the first CD:R that he burnt me of Touche Amore and I was like, “this rules!” I was so stoked for him. And I’m so happy that it’s going so well, you know when it’s just a really good person? It’s like, “you’re the best dude, I want your band to be fucking huge.” So I’m stoked that stuff’s going well for him, and I’m even more stoked because they’re gonna come on tour with us across Canada and it’s gonna fucking rip.
Q: Then you’ll be back here for the Pentagram Tour! What made you want to tour like that, and why did you decide to do it in London? We’re pretty honoured!
Liam: Aww! Well London has honoured us by always having fucking awesome shows and lots of people deciding to show up. Like the biggest headlining shows that we’ve ever played have been here, so we were like, “let’s do something really cool.” For us playing the Electric Ballroom was crazy and amazing, but at the same time I want all those kids to be able to experience Cancer Bats without a barricade, without a huge stage, where we’re all spitting on each other and hanging out and partying.
And we do realise that there are younger kids that maybe don’t know about these venues or maybe haven’t seen us in that context. So we were brainstorming on it and our booking agent came up with the idea and set all the venues and had the map with the pentagram on it and had everything sorted, so it was like, “this is how we’re gonna fucking do it!” And everyone was like “yeeeaaahh!” There was no way we could turn that down, it’s such a fucking cool idea! So I’m stoked that it all worked out, and the fact that it sold out in like four days, it’s fucking crazy. I’m really excited for it.
Q: How will your set lists work at each show? Will it be like the never-ending set list?
Liam: (Laughs) We’re gonna do different sets for every show. I haven’t actually sat down and thought about it or how long our sets are gonna be, because I don’t think we have enough songs to play different songs at every show. We’d need like 60 songs, which I don’t think we have! I don’t think we do so we might have to just change up like the order of some of them! (Laughs) There might be some repeats! But they’re all gonna be different!
Q: Have you got your special guests lined up or is it still in progress?
Liam: We’ve asked a bunch of homies, sadly some bands are on tour and some bands are playing festivals and not everybody can be there. So we’re figuring out the supports, but it is gonna be different bands for every show and they’re all gonna be rad. We’ll hopefully have that announced soon!
Dead Set On Living is out in the UK on April 16th 2012 on Hassle Records. Cancer Bats will play the sold-out Pentagram Tour at venues across London on April 21st. They are also confirmed to play at Slam Dunk Festival 2012 alongside Taking Back Sunday, Every Time I Die, Architects and more, tickets are available here.