Interview: Cancer Bats

By Max Watt
By March 4, 2016 February 11th, 2017 Features, Interviews

Hanging out with any member of the Cancer Bats (I used the word ‘the’ to imply that they are legends in my mind, not because I think their actual band name is The Cancer Bats. That would be stupid) has been a personal goal, and now that it’s online after a month of tweaking, or, more likely, listening to the audio clip for ten seconds and then immediately cowering away, due to hating the sound of my own voice, it’s eternal proof. So, Ghost Bust That, I have e-evidence of a fifteen minute chat with Liam Cormier about barriers, connecting with audiences, and…just read it, dickhead.

cancer bats

So what does Liam have to say about the band’s current status? They’ve been together for over ten years now, so it’s not surprising to see that some changes are coming into effect in terms of touring: “We’re trying to balance it out with home life a bit more. When we were touring ‘DSOL’ it was really hectic. ‘Searching For Zero’ was all about how, like, we can’t do three months on tour in a row. We used to and that can’t be the standard moving forward. I don’t know how much more we’ll tour this record. We’re gonna maybe think about trying to write some new stuff, and have some time at home really.” The end of the Zero tour? What’s next then? And how does the dude (he really is a dude – as in a cool motherfucker. His gender is something we don’t need to clarify) reflect on all that ‘Searching for Zero’ goodness? “To be lucky enough to get to release our fifth record and to have people still come out to shows, and still be as pumped as they were five or six years ago, it’s just the most awesome thing in the world. When we were touring Hail, like, to think that we’d still be coming over and shows would still be sold out…we’re very fortunate to be in this position.”

The beautiful thing about this band is that whenever they release something new, it’s always got that Bats stamp on it, but it’s always a different vibe. In regards to this, Liam says, “We don’t like to make it easy for people,” and goes on to talk about the importance of connecting with the fans, not just on stage, but on a personal level. Cool. “We’re close with all our fans. We hang out, we have a relationship. We’re fans of bands as well, and we know what it’s like when a band’s putting out a new record and you’re hoping it’ll be just as rad. I look at bands like Mastadon and Converge who I’ve loved for a super long time, and you have that bit of hope that it’s the same band. But you don’t wanna leave behind the people you’ve been hangin’ with for years, just ‘cos you’ve decided you wanna be different, so as much as we wanna branch out and make really new sounds and vibes, we still need to be able to party with our friends.” Hell yeah. We need more of Cormier’s vibe in this industry. While we’re talking creative processes, we ask Liam about his lyrics, ‘cos damn, they’ve gotten personal lately. “They’ve always been pretty personal, but I think I’m just better at writing songs now, so people can understand what I’m saying a lot better. I write a lot of lyrics when I ride now, so there’s definitely a lot of motorcycle stuff that creeps its way in.” Wait, what? You ride motorcycles? “I’m really into it. It’s a way to clear my mind. I don’t listen to music when I ride, I just have some quiet time to think about things.” Woah, colour my mind blown. Side note, spellcheck wants me to spell that as ‘color’. Fuck off spellcheck.

Let’s talk live shows. “When we used to play here (Manchester academy) there was no barricade, but now with new management there now is. It’s a necessary evil, I guess, but regardless of whether there’s a barricade or not it’s still gonna be a party, but I wish there was no barricade. I think that this day and age people are worried about health and safety, and I want everyone to be safe,  but I think a lot of people don’t understand what goes on at a hardcore show, versus tonnes of other shows. They don’t know that people are gonna take care of each other, because at some other show maybe they won’t. Either way you have those conversations with security, and sometimes there’s no barricade and sometimes it’s like, ‘we’re not moving it’. Okay.” So, public service announcement to all venue…err, owners. You don’t need no barrier between Cancer Bats and us. We’re not a bunch of skin-headed glue-sniffers.

We go on to chat about what the band are doing with the ever growing set-list possibility. “It’s cool to change it up, cos like I said it’s good to interact with people and sometimes people will bring up songs. Like, we started playing ‘Smiling Politely’, which we haven’t played in a long time, and you kinda forget how fun it is to play. Sometimes it sucks cos you’ve gotta swap out certain songs, but I never wanna not play someone’s favourite songs.” If only Bats would go on an eternal Pentegram tour like in London that time. Good times. I mean, I wasn’t there, but it sounded good…through my wails of disappointment that I couldn’t make it.

Now let’s get into the world of the up and comers. What’s Liam’s take on this side of the underworld? “We’re always checking out new bands, there’s a new band from Canada called We Hunt Buffalo, who are really rad. Black Mastiff, they’re sick.” Those that are glancing over the words right now, not intending to click the links, do the opposite and check out these badass bands, because yes, they are rad. The underground scene tastes like ecstasy, right? “I’m pumped that there’s great new bands, but also love how it exposes me to new stuff and then go on tour with. We love Lord Dying so much that we brought them with us on this Europe tour.” Woop. “There’s a band called The Beautiful Ones, who are a little bit unheard of. If you’re looking for some good hardcore definitely check them out.” For all hardcore hardcore fans, I concur. The latter band are iPod cocaine.

Speaking of the underground scene, we spend some time discussing those shows where a teeny tiny thirty people show up. Cancer Bats are surely beyond that now, but they’ve probably got some advice to offer, no? “We still get those shows! In America we’re not big at all, so we’ll still play shows and there’s like, thirty people. I like it, it keeps us humble. If you’re taken out of that world and all you do is play to huge crowds…I love playing different spots all over the place, like some cities where maybe they don’t have a big hardcore scene, so you end up playing to like, eighty of the hardcore kids of that city, and that happens to us in Canada still, and it’s like, man, I remember being a kid, going to those shows, and being like, wow, that blew my mind, or changed my life. I always keep that in mind when we play those shows, I think it’s awesome.” Thirty people may have showed up, but that’s thirty people who had the night of their lives. Now, onto the advice: “Make sure you’re in it (music) for having fun because you definitely won’t make any money. At the same time, I think the bands who rise to the top are the ones who take it more seriously, so having some good riffs but also playing really well as a band goes a long way.”

Now it’s time for a mix of Soundsphere’s regular Frankenstein’s monster question. To this, Liam says, “I think we’re a healthy mix of Led Zeppelin, Beastie Boys, and Entombed, but we take influence from everything. It’s a little all over the place, because we’re fans of music. As much as we like Neurosis, and stoner bands, we don’t sound like a stoner band. So some of those influences are a little deeper.”

Hell, that was a blast. Got some insight. Some of which I never expected. But what’s the plan now? “More touring, we’ve got some stuff in the summer, then beyond that I think, chilling out, trying to live life outside of being in a band, because we’ve just been so busy. We’ve been doing this for ten years now, so we’re trying to figure out not being on tour. It’s easy to be on tour. After a certain point you can just stay on tour forever, but now it’s like, how do you balance it out and not be on tour all the time? So that kinda stuff is what we’re figuring out in our adulthood.” Chilling out? Wow, that’s kinda radical when it comes to this band. To the naked eye, it looks like they’ve been working 24/7 for the past ten years. Well, maybe the parties are a little more overwhelming now. Maybe now, this is adulthood. Damn.

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