CANCER BATS’ VOCALIST LIAM CORMIER: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
Cancer Bats are stuck between a rock and a hard(core) place. When your band is too metal for the hardcore kids and too punk for the metal kids it’s kinda difficult to find tours that really suit you. But Cancer Bats have made the best of it, touring with a wide variety of bands both punk and metal and winning over fans one at a time, the old fashioned way. They won this writer over a couple of years back with their excellent record Hail Destroyer which combined all the right elements of all the right influences into a furious stew of adrenaline-soaked OG metalcore (think Converge, Hatebreed… NOT Swedecore or haircutcore).
Cancer Bats have a new record on the way via Good Fight Entertainment on April 13th entitled Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones. A couple of weeks back I chatted with vocalist Liam Cormier about the new record, the constant struggle the band endures to fit in with any one scene and how the band has grown and matured over time. Our chat, after the jump.
Where are you guys at the moment? You’re on tour, right?
Yeah. We’re actually in Thunder Bay, Ontario which is really far up north.
And who are you guys out with right now?
We’re going out to meet up with the Billy Talent, Alexisonfire and Against Me! tour. That starts in Vancouver, so we’ve got to drive across the country to get out there. We just finished the Anti-Flag tour in the U.S.
How was the Anti-Flag tour?
It was amazing. We were super stoked. We’ve done some more punk rock tours before. We’ve gone out with Rise Against… or even Alexisonfire isn’t the heaviest band, so we were a little unsure of how we’d go over with Anti-Flag and other punk rock bands. It ended up being great. Tons of kids with mohawks were stoked. It was a fun tour. We got a really good response.
That’s awesome. I would think fans of a band like that would dig you guys more than Alexisonfire [‘s fans would dig CB].
Yeah, I don’t know. We’ve toured with Alexis, and I think because of the Canadian connection it goes over well. I think when we were actually on the tour, I was thinking about it like a band like the Unseen or the Krum Bums are actually pretty heavy bands themselves even though they get lumped in with that whole scene.
What about Billy Talent? I’m sure you’ve toured with them before. They’re like mega rock stars in Canada.
We’ve never toured with them in Canada, but we did a full U.S. tour with them in 2007. Then we toured all over the UK and Europe with them just recently. They’re awesome. It’s rad to tour with a band that’s as big as they are. They are probably one of the most down to earth bands we’ve ever been on tour with.
Do you think your audiences mesh well?
Yeah, I think it goes over really well. I think in a lot of cases too there are people, because it’s a bigger show, and they’re not really sure of the other bands that are on the tour. In a lot of cases, like in Canada, it’s like a big rock show. So there are a lot of guys that will appreciate that we’re wearing Pantera shirts or Metallica shirts, and they’re like “oh this rules that you guys are a heavy band.” It’s like “I came with my girlfriend” or maybe it’s the girlfriend that comes with her boyfriend who’s like “oh, I love Lamb of God. I can’t believe they’re the heavy band on this tour.” So we always get the metal fans.
Do you guys feel like it’s hard (being that you guys definitely have more of a metal influence than probably a lot of the more punk orientated bands that you tour with) that you feel like it’s hard to fit in with other bands tour wise?
Yeah, sometimes being the heaviest band on tour definitely will backfire to a certain extent. I think a lot of times, especially being on that Anti-Flag tour or when we’re out with Rise Against or something like that, I find that people will hear the punk rock in what we do more so than maybe we even think it’s there. They can appreciate that and hear it more in what we do. So I’m like “oh okay, this is wicked because you guys seem to be stoked.”
Yeah, I’m a metal guy and when I hear your stuff I think you guys are a punk band, a hardcore band. I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Not at all, and I don’t think so at all. I feel because we cross so many genres, I think there are people that can hear those things in what we do. So it’s like some older guy who loves Metallica and AC/DC will then be stoked because he found enough Corrosion of Conformity [in our sound] for him that he’s psyched. You know what I mean? I wouldn’t lump us in with that. That’s not our target audience or that’s not who I think our main support is. I think it’s rad that people can hear what appeals to them in our band, I guess.
I definitely hear the metal influence, absolutely. It’s a good mix. Do you guys ever consider going out with some of those much heavier bands that maybe combine punk in their sound? Somebody like Hatebreed or something like that?
Yeah, that would be something we would love to do and we definitely want to, especially with this new record which is a lot heavier. We want to start trying to tour with heavier bands. I’m a huge Hatebreed fan, so it’s a huge compliment lumping us in with that.
I don’t think you sound like Hatebreed, but touring wise it might be a good match.
But I think when I listen to Hatebreed I hear a ton of Entombed. You know what I mean? So for me, old Hatebreed has that Entombed vibe, and that’s a huge influence on our band. So I don’t know, I think it all kind of works in together.
So let’s talk about the new record a bit. I’ve heard one song from it [I’ve now heard it all. And it rocks! -Ed.]. What’s in store as far as the rest of the record goes as it compares to the previous record?
I guess, depending on . . . did you just hear “Scared to Death?”
Yeah, the one that’s on Myspace.
I definitely think that’s one of the more mellower songs. I’m not just saying this because you’re more into metal, but I definitely find that this record itself is a lot heavier than albums we’ve done previously. I think one of the big things that we wanted to try and do with this album was really represent how heavy of a band we are live. So we had bigger drums, gnarlier guitars and actual crushing bass tone. I think there is a bit of that on “Scared to Death,” but we definitely have heavier tracks. I think the biggest thing for a lot of people who know us from Hail Destroyer is that our band is still continuing down that path but trying to push a lot of the ideas that we started with that record.
In order to achieve that sonic change that you were talking about, did either the producer or mixer that you used have anything to do with that?
We’re working with the same guys as we have with the last 2 records. I think this time with everyone knowing each other better and being more familiar with the music and the tones we were able to get with the last record being our jumping off point; so it was like how do we outdo where we were at last time with all this new stuff. I think that was one of the big things. The other thing was we had a lot more time to write and record this record than we did before, so we had a lot of pre-production and a lot of work that we were putting into it before we even got to the studio. A lot of playing around with pedals and figuring out heads and combinations and stuff like that before we got into the studio, so it was less having to find a sound in a day when you’re under time constraints.
Do you feel that that was successful? Do you think all that tinkering paid off?
I think so. Yeah, because we were able to actually spend time thinking about our parts. We were doing demos and demos just to allow us to sit back and listen to stuff and think about how things were working together. I think this was the most thought out record that we’ve ever done for sure.
Are you satisfied with how it came out?
Yeah, 100%. I think this is one of the first times that we’ve left the studio where we weren’t leaving because we had to but because we were finished this time around. For us, because we were always under the gun and you have budget constraints (not like we had tons of money) but because we had figured it all out, it wasn’t like we were in a rush. It wasn’t like we were trying to figure stuff out. It was like I knew exactly what I was going to do this time, and my lyrics are finished being written, and you have all your guitar solos. Everything was fitting write because we practiced these songs a thousand times. It’s like we were all on the same page even before we started recording.
Do you ever worry about alienating some of your older fans who might have been more into the hardcore element as opposed to the more metal stuff?
I’m always worried about what people are going to think, not that we write our records with that in mind, but more when we finish it. I hope those kids have grown in the same way we have. I understand that there are people that love our first record and hated Hail Destroyer and will probably hate this record. Who knows? I hope they’ll give it a chance. But you always have to wonder about what people will think, or now that we’re making this record that’s as heavy as we want it to be, is that now going to be too heavy for the fans? At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you happy. We’re the ones that have to play this stuff for the next 2 years. I’d rather put out a record that I’m so stoked on.
Yeah, definitely. What else can you do really?
Yeah. I think if you get too caught up in what you think people would want to hear or what you think new fans want to hear, it almost becomes too much of a business in that frame of mind and that’s when you end up fucking up and selling yourself short. That wasn’t why you started the band in the first place.
Do you get caught up in the internet backtalk and message boards, Lambgoat, or what kids are saying at all?
I’m probably the least internet savvy guy. So I’ll hear stuff like that from other guys in the band. I love going on Lambgoat though because the harsh side of it is what I find entertaining. I think if we didn’t get the hilarious criticisms it wouldn’t be Lambgoat.
It’s so fucking funny.
Yeah, for me, I never really take it to heart. If there’s a review and stuff like that, I’ll take the time to read it. I don’t read a message board and respect the opinion that’s going on, good or bad. I’m just like “this is just people’s opinion”. Whereas if you read a review from a magazine or something like that, you’re a little more inclined to take it to heart. Or live reviews. [Negative] live reviews bum me out.
Those are the ones where I’m just like “shiiiiiit”.
[Laughter] Yeah. Do you guys really pride yourselves on your live show then?
Yeah, and that’s a huge thing for us. I feel like it’s so easy to make a good sounding record now because of where technology is, and there are so many tricks that are in place. You can come off as the best singer ever, and you can come off as the heaviest band because there are all these pre-filters that you can run your music through. If you play a live show and you suck, everyone knows right there. So for us, it’s always been about touring and being a good live band and trying to kill it every day like that.
What’s next up for you guys after this Billy Talent tour?
We’re hopefully going to be doing more touring. Once the record comes out, we’ll be doing more touring in the States which we’re currently trying to figure out. Hopefully we’ll know in the next couple of weeks what’s going on with that. We definitely want to try and tour the States more and then go back over to Europe and the UK and support the record there. Basically touring for the next, hopefully, 2 or 3 years.
Are you somebody who loves living on the road or do you miss some of the comforts of everyday life at home?
We all love to tour, and I think that one of the main reasons why we started this band was to tour as much as we can and be out there. I miss my girlfriend when we’re away, but she’s been with me as long as the band has been touring. It’s kind of an understanding of where I am right now. For us, we just want to get back on the road and tour as much as possible especially because there are so many places, even in the U.S., that we haven’t played yet which is just stupid.
I’m sure you’ll get to hit those.
Yeah, we’ve never been to Rhode Island.
[Laughter] You’re not missing . . .
You know what I mean? There are so many obvious spots that we should have done. [Laughter]
Rhode Island is not that obvious of a spot, dude. You’re really not missing that much. [Laughter]
Really? In my mind I’m always just like “why do we never play Rhode Island?” [Laughter]
It’s like, I don’t know, Nova Scotia or something. It’s not really that significant of a location in the grand scheme of things.
Yeah, I guess not that many tours [go there]. I’ll say this about Nova Scotia: some of our best shows have been up that way. We love it up there.
That’s awesome. I didn’t mean to knock Nova Scotia.
Maybe I’ll fall in love with Rhode Island.
Yeah, maybe so, man. I hear there’s no party like a Providence party.
[Laughter] Thanks for taking the time out of your day. I appreciate it.
Yeah, dude, no worries. Bye.