We were counting down the days until Cancer Bats were set to inflict their new ‘Dead Set On Living‘ album on us on stage, but news through last week saw their Australian tour dates postponed until 2013 when they will return to play Soundwave Festival instead. Just prior to the tour cancellation, Deborah Konopnicki caught up with Liam from the band to chat about the new album and more. Expand this post to check out the chat.
Hi Deborah! How are you?
Good thanks mate. It’s always a pleasure to have a chat with you! I’m such a huge fan of the new record. It’s absolutely killer!
Oh right on! I’m a huge fan of Bombshellzine! This is probably like our 30th time chatting to you?
Something like that! I think this is our third or fourth chat so we’re slowly creeping up there.
I always get stoked when I see homies coming back… coming back for more! (laughs)
Well that’s because I’m such a fan of the new record, man! It’s been out there for a few months now, so now that it’s had time to settle in with the fans and you guys of course, how are you feeling about it?
I’m stoked! The response to the record has been awesome. We’ve just finished a big tour of Europe for the last like 40 days. Kids were going off and gravitating towards certain songs. For us, when we put out a record you love all the jams so it’s cool to see what songs kids pick up on. They know that I hang out at merch and all of us are kind of just hanging out at the bar so the kids will come up to us before we play and be like “Ohhh! Can you play “Drunken Physics” tonight or can you play “Bricks and Mortar” or “Old Blood”. They’re just asking for different tracks and we’re all like “Man, this is awesome!”. It’s really rad to see that some of our favourite tracks are also kids favourite tracks. It’s definitely been a really cool vibe.
Apart from the ones that you’ve mentioned, have there been any other tracks that kids have been bugging you to play?
Well “Drunken Physics” has definitely been a huge track. We all love that song, it’s been one of our favourites even from when we first wrote it. The fact that everyone has been singing along to the chorus is such a rad feeling. For me it’s a very different song and one of the most melodic things I’ve ever done. To know that tonnes of Bats fans aren’t like “Oh well, this sucks!” is rad. They’re all like “Man! This is my party jam! This is awesome!” That was really cool; to have that kind of feedback. Same with “Bricks and Mortar”. That chorus has been going down huge every night! We’ve definitely been playing those every night and obviously “RATS” as well, which has been killing it.
Yeah, oh man… “RATS” is so killer. The second that I heard that song I was just so blown away. That opening riff is just so good. Hopefully I get to hear that one live in the not too distant future!
Yeah we’ll definitely be playing “RATS” when we come because people have been psyched. When we wrote “Hail Destroyer” we knew that was the song that had to start the album. I even came up with the idea of the record being called “Hail Destroyer” before we even wrote that song and then we were like “Ok, well this song is also going to be called “Hail Destroyer” too”. It was what had to happen! When Scott and I wrote the rough jam and that riff for the chorus, we knew that it was the hugest thing. We had that excited kind of vibe where we were like “Oh my god… this is the best!” Like right off the bat we had that song because we wrote it really quickly. Then we had the others come and help us. We even had Ian from Billy Talent in the studio and he was helping us out a little bit. He had his input on it and helped us arrange it. Everything was lined up perfectly to make that song as kick-ass as possible.
The album’s title “Dead Set On Living” is a pretty strong statement. When I first heard that was going to be the name of the next record I automatically assumed that this was a record that was born out of some sort of adversity. Would that be the case?
Oh definitely. The events that surrounded that summer and specifically “Dead Set On Living” and even like that songs “RATS” were intense. I don’t know if you know the story behind it, but a really close friend of ours went into the hospital right when I was starting to write lyrics. We had finished writing “RATS” and I was riding to the hospital to see my friend for the first time. We had just found out where he was at and I wrote the lyrics to “RATS” when I was riding there and I was just so angry. I was thinking about my friend that was in this shitty situation. It was one of those times when you’re looking for someone and anyone to blame. I wanted every shitty person to die right then. Having that song was so important for me. I wrote “Dead Set On Living” about a week later just from hanging out with him and talking about everything. Those two songs came out right away and everything else was shaped around it like “The Void” and “Old Blood”. Lots of songs were coming from those ideas like “Bricks and Mortar” and all that; just how important friendship is and it really being the most important thing in all of our lives. Having something like that; having a friend of ours being in a situation where we really weren’t sure what was going to happen, that’s when we realised that it was literally the most important thing in our whole entire lives. It was great for me to have that outlet at the time because I think without it I wouldn’t have been able to cope as well. I couldn’t be writing other songs without that so the timing of it was perfect for me, and even for our friend too. He was able to have a rally for him too. It became bigger than any one person so it was cool for all of us to come together over that.
I hope that your mate is alright now. That would have been an incredibly instance time for you guys and would be an incredible song for you to re-live live I assume?
Yeah! That’s the thing, the fact that he’s doing awesome now and that everything worked out. It resolved the record. When we were recording he was with us in the studio and that’s kind of what made it as positive as it is; the fact that our friend didn’t die. If he did then this would have been a very different album!
You touched on it very briefly before but you mentioned that the music is a lot different on this one. Before the record came out there were a lot of articles written with people mentioning moments of bands like Fleet Foxes which as quite intriguing! Without straying from the path too much, there is a bit of a re-invention of your ‘vibe’ on this record making it heavier and melodic in places. You’ve said that you get pretty inspired by non-metal bands so that would have lead to that?
Yeah, and especially we really love getting influenced by indie bands; like how they put together an album. For me, I was talking about Fleet Foxes in terms of lyrics and things like that. That was such a huge album for me. On “Helplessness Blues”, his lyrics are crazy. They definitely push a lot of non-traditional subject matter, which I thought was really cool. That made me really want to step up my game. Also when it comes to recording a metal record, we don’t have any rules in terms of how we should approach it. We’re not like “Ok! How did Anthrax record this record? Let’s just make a record that sounds awesome!” When we hear tones of background percussion or things like that, or in terms of layering bass with guitars and drums so nothing is crowding each other; a lot of those ideas we’ll hear in indie rock bands and folk bands. We think along he lines of “Well, this cuts through with just an acoustic guitar. Imagine if you were playing that style and kind of arrangement on a super distorted bass! That would actually be the heaviest thing ever!” You know what I mean? It’s just taking things out of context and then applying it to our own Cancer Bats format. I think it’s how we’re able to come up with a song like “The Void” that sounds like noting that we’ve ever done before but at the same time it didn’t end up being very folk. It ended up being the most metal thing ever!
Do you think that now you have a new insight to how you approach music that some of the older tracks will have a different vibe to them?
Yeah! I think that for anyone that’s seen us live, they’ll see how the songs kind of evolve from touring over the years. Any of the songs off “Birthing The Giant now are so much heavier than when we first recorded them. I would love to re-record “Pneumonia Hawk” someday! Everything has changed from 2005 like where my voice is at now and how much heavier it would sound with Jaye playing bass in contrast to when we were first doing things. When people hear “Sorcerer”, I know that we kind of throw kids off now with the way that we do the pre-chorus. We’ve probably played that song about 1000 times now. It’s got it’s own groove where we’ve slowed things down natural. It’s those kinds of ideas that I think are now creeping into when we write songs. We want to be able to play the shit out it live and make sure that it’s going to be able to get in that groove before we set it out.
Something pretty awesome that you guys embarked on last year was your Bat Sabbath outing; when you evolved into a bit of Black Sabbath cover band! How was it?
It was rad! We did a whole tour at the end of the year with Bat Sabbath in Canada. It was awesome! The fact that all the shows were super busy, if not sold out and everyone came with their game faces on and to have a good time! It was a really fun thing for us because we really love going on tour. When we found out that we weren’t able to tour Cancer Bats anymore we wanted to tour some Black Sabbath songs or do some other fun stuff. Getting to actually tour it and see all of our friends and get super drunk and have them sing “Paranoid” with us was the best! I loved playing “Into The Void”. It was a super fun track even though it’s not one that everyone really knows. I really liked our interpretation of it and how heavy of a song it ends up being. Kyuss does a cover of it and I like that version almost better than the original! For us to be covering that cover; we were really stoked!
While we’re on the topic of touring, Australian Cancer Bats fans get the pleasure of seeing you gentlemen down here next month! You must be pretty excited to get back down here!
(Note: As mentioned above, these shows have been postponed and the band will return instead on Soundwave 2013.)
Yeah! We love playing in Australia. We definitely would tour there more if it was a bit easier and closer! We’re going to try and get there as much as we can for “Dead Set On Living” to make up for the fact that we haven’t been able to tour as hard on some of our other records. This time around we’re going to do three shows but our goal is definitely to come back a few more times and to do more than the five main cities. This time around we’re only doing three but our dream is to do two weeks of Australia. Pretty much like the way that we know Australian bands tour and the way that we tour in Canada. I know it can be done, we just need to sit down and figure it out! That will come at some point later on in the touring cycle.
Just one last one today before I run out of time! I’ve seen you play a few times over the years down here. From clubs shows to even smaller clubs shows to the big shows with Bring Me The Horizon and Bullet For My Valentine a couple of years ago. Do you have a favourite tour from you time here in Australia?
Yeah, that’s the thing; we’re really lucky that with all of the shows that we’ve ended up playing in Australia have really blown our minds. I know that’s not a very specific answer for you, but I don’t want to say that Melbourne was the best because the last time that we played Brisbane it was fucking crazy, the last time that we played Sydney was fucking crazy and the last time that we played Adelaide it was fucking crazy! The fact that everybody comes out and parties so hard and knows every word to our songs, for us being so far away from home it’s such a crazy idea and makes us feel so lucky that we’re able to come to these places. Especially to come back, there’s always such an awesome vibe!
CANCER BATS – Dead Set On Living
Instores Now on Distort / Shock – [Buy Online]
Stay tuned for 2013 Australian tour dates around Soundwave Festival.