Cancer Bat’s vocalist Liam Cormier is hanging out in London, England. He’s just arrived after a 12 hour van journey from Germany but he’s got his priorities right; he’s had some noodles, had a sleep and now he’s talking to Australian journos. As this goes to press, the Cancer Bats played the Islington Academy (yesterday) and tonight they’re off to the Kerrang Awards. They're not up for any awards but as he points out “We’re just going to hang out, which I kind of like because there’s no pressure.” Yeah, get drunk and cause a scene.
So the new album Dead Set on Living, are you happy with the reception so far? “Yeah, it’s going good. We’ve been ripping around Europe – so far, so good – people know the words and kids are gettin’ pumped. It’s rad.”
It’s been noted that the new album is more upbeat/up tempo compared to Bears, Mayors, Scrapes & Bones (2010), what’s your take on that? “We definitely tried to mix all of our favourite parts from Birthing (The Giant, 2005), Hail (Destroyer, 2008) and Bears into the new record and realised that with Bears – or with any record when you look back on – there’s a certain vibe you were on when you were writing. I think us getting used to having a bass player definitely upped our ante on our sludge factor with Bears; listening to it is like ‘Ooh! This is the heaviest thing ever’ but we didn’t want to sacrifice any of the fun, punk rock party vibes that we had on Birthing or the hard-core side of things like on Hail so for us it was like ‘OK, let’s make sure we have the party jams by writing a song like Old Blood’ and I was like ‘Dude! We’ve got to have the fun party jams to get things going’ but at the same time we want to have the heavy, dark sludge songs like The Void; it’s definitely the heaviest song I think we’ve ever written.”
So would you ever consider moving completely away from that dark, heavy sound to (dare I say it?) an indie-pop sound? His response shocks me: “Definitely...” What?! But then a second later he adds “Nah! I don’t think we’re capable of doing that. I think we always overdrive everything a bit too much to ever be a pop band or an indie band. I do love bands like Queens of the Stone Age and things like that but I think that’s the closest we could ever come to that kind of style. Especially for us with a song like Road Sick; it’s maybe one of our most ‘rock’ songs but at time the same people on radio stations were like ‘This is still super-metal. We still can’t play this during the day.’ “
In a previous interview with MaF comrade Carrie Gibson you outlined your diverse musical tastes that include rock and hip-hop; do you ever fear that fans reactions might stop you branching out into a different musical direction? “I think we’d stop ourselves. For us, we definitely know what Cancer Bats is; we would never put out a folk song or a hip-hop track – even though those are some of the things I love – as much as I love electro-clash, I wouldn’t put out a song that sounds like The Knife with Cancer Bats. I think if we were to do something like that we’d do it as a separate project.“
He mentions Mike (Peters – drums) and Jaye (R.Schwarzer – Bass) stepping in as a backing band for a Canadian indie-rock singer in Canada (it sounds like Judy Durex but I can’t find anyone by that name on the interwebs; at least not musicians anyway...). Liam expands on the whole ‘new direction’ thing: “Jaye and I started up a band called Sex Tears and I ended up doing Axe Wound with Matt Tuck (Bullet For My Valentine); we all have our different musical tastes but we don’t necessarily need to do that just with Cancer Bats.” He considers himself incredibly lucky that Cancer Bats fans are usually open to the diversity of the band’s tunes and gets most enthused when I suggest he could reanimate the Pneumonia Hawks (one of the possible names bandied about before they settled on Cancer Bats) for any side projects he fancies working on.
Cancer Bats covered the Beastie Boys' Sabotage track in 2010 then dabbled with the Bat Sabbath tribute band in 2011, you guys must enjoy breaking out the cover tunes? “Yeah! It’s always fun playing songs that you’re in to, especially when you get that feedback from kids - I always thought that everyone knew who the Beastie Boys were and then we started touring the Sabotage song and kids found out about the Beastie Boys from that – and to me, that’s such an amazing idea, in the same way that when we were growing up, Scott found a ton of amazing bands from Sepultura or Metallica covering them. That kind of idea is always something fun and something we wanna keep doing.”
Whilst he’s happy to give the covers a rest for a while, Liam does let it slip that Axe Wound covered a Pantera track at the Islington gig which he’s “...pretty psyched about - I’ve never done a Pantera cover in any band I’ve been in.” For the record it was Fucking Hostile (the song, not the gig) which Liam says was “rad”.
I’m struck that for someone who has been in a van for 12 hours, he’s pretty damned energetic. After the Kerrang Awards, it’s off to the Download festival then to Germany to play a festival with Gallows and the Cro-Mags. The band is all over the place touring Europe through June, with a brief three date stop-over in Australia, then it’s back to the US, then Canada, then back to UK again for the Reading festival. Fucking Hell! You must love touring? “We love being on tour, and we definitely do it as much as we do because we enjoy it and love playing live. If we didn’t, I think we’d be putting ourselves through a lot of crazy travel. Even when we come to Australia, we fly straight from Australia to Norway to go play a festival there and then from Norway we fly to Spain and from Spain we start driving to go to the West Coast of America to tour with Demon Hunter and Bleeding Through so we definitely do it out of a love of touring.”
You’ve toured with a wide range of acts; Bullet For My Valentine, Alexisonfire, Bring Me The Horizon - given that Cancer Bats are not quite punk and not quite metal, do you ever find it hard to get a good ‘fit’ with other bands on a tour or are you just happy to play with whoever? That energy and enthusiasm just keeps pouring out; “We’re just happy to riff it up. We’re definitely good friends with Bullet and the Bring Me guys so when we got asked to do that tour, we were like ‘Oh yeah,. this is gonna be rad’ – and then we were stoked too because we were able to do our own headline shows at the same time, which I thought was awesome. Kind of like play for new fans and Bat fans could come and see us at some sweaty, small shows so it was definitely the best of both worlds.”
I ask if there was anything that they missed out on during their last Australian tour but Liam was pretty happy that he got to do a lot of stuff, though he does want to hold a koala this time. I advise him of the chlamydia epidemic sweeping our beloved koala population. His response? “I’ve never heard that before. Maybe I’ll put on a domer if I’m gonna make love to one.” He adds “You can get it from just holding them?! I think you’ve been holding the wrong spot! You’ve been picking ‘em up the wrong way.” What? With the end of my nob? Isn’t that the proper way to pick them up? I’m sure I saw it on a Steve Irwin show...,
Getting back to Dead Set on Living; it was produced by Erik Ratz and Kenny Luong, there’s a track called R.A.T.S; coincidence or something more sinister? “It wasn’t a dig at him, he’s definitely one of my best friends. He’s definitely not one of those motherfuckers that have a special place in hell.”
So what does R.A.T.S stand for? “We had a whole different bunch of joke ideas and threw around a lot of different acronyms for it but one of my favourites was Rage Against The Shitheads. I just liked how visually we could keep it in all caps - you’re more prone to yell it than just say it.”
So did Erik and Kenny work you guys to death in the studio? “Those dudes are awesome. It’s almost more that they worked us hard in pre-production to get everything ready for the studio, that’s been our new plan of attack. Those guys will call bullshit on us and basically be like [adopts gruff, producer’s voice] ‘Do you guys wanna make a record that sounds like you guys live?’ and we have to play these songs like a hundred times before we even go into the studio; we need to have demos done a month before we go in – by the time we get there it’s as if we’ve toured this record already. That kind of idea was really rad because when it came to coming into the studio I knew all the lyrics off by heart, everyone was playing everything from muscle memory the same way we would if were recording a radio session for Dead Set on Living, or Bears or Hail; we’re so road-worn with all of those songs, we can just bang it out in one take. So how do we get to that point before the record’s even out? It was having those dudes really push us to be at that level of comfort with the songs. It was a really cool way of doing things.”
Which also means that the Australian Cancer Bats shows will tight as the proverbial miser’s purse, surely a boon for any hardcore metal fan? The phone-nazi comes on the line to tell me I’ve got a minute to go. Quick! Tell me where you’ll go with the next album; of course, Liam has no idea – the new album’s only just come out: “It’s definitely not something we’ve started thinking of; we still have probably 500 more shows before we start thinking about that.”. Fair enough.
I let Liam get back to the rest of his interviews, his remaining 500 shows and his plans for tonight’s Kerrang Awards ceremony. It’s going to be messy, you can be sure.