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GEORGE PETTIT Talks ALEXISONFIRE's Otherness, 20 Year Anniversary Of Debut Album & New DEAD TIRED

Plus that time he ran into Marky Ramone in South America.

Alexisonfire 2022
Photo by Vanessa Heins

Hide yo kids, hide yo wife! The Canadians are coming! And they're bringing riffs! Breaking back into the mainstream thanks in no small part to a wide batch of headline dates and major festival bookings across the globe, the combined powers of George Pettit, Dallas Green, Wade MacNeil, Chris Steele and Jordan Hastings, aka the mighty Alexisonfire, burst from the dark with with their first album of new material in 13 years, Otherness (available June 24th through Dine Alone Records).

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Pettit sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the new record, the status of the band moving forward, 20 years of their game-changing self-titled debut album, the new album from his side-band Dead Tired, a chance South America Marky Ramone sighting and more!

How cool and surreal has this been, this whole process of the new record, holding on to that secret of dropping this thing? It's been 13 years, so it's due, to say the least.

It's all those things. Very surreal. Very happy that it all came together the way it did. And I really feel like that the band's in the best place we've ever been as far as we communicate very well. I feel like we're all heading in the same direction this time around. I feel like there may have been moments in the past where we were five horses all pulling. Now it feels like we're all marching in the same direction this time, and it's great.

I don't know. I really do love this band. And it has been fun just walking around knowing that it's coming back and just going about my life just knowing that Alexisonfire is still very much a thing. And there's more that hasn't been seen yet. It's a very fun time. 

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What was kind of the understanding when you guys embarked on this process? Because I know even two, three, four years ago you guys would say in interviews that you all love each other, enjoy jamming, but you didn't ever want this to be a thing that encroaches on other people's priorities or lives or time. Is Alexisonfire now a massive priority, or will you guys have fun with this new music and on these shows and see how it goes from there in a non-committal sort of way?

I think it's a little in between there. I wouldn't go as far as to say that we are a full time band yet. Like, it's weird. We are, but we aren't. Like we all still have other things on the go that we're that we're doing that are kind of our main bread and butter. This is just kind of a fun thing. And while it's still capable of providing us with great opportunities, we're going to keep doing it.

I think when we started recording or even writing the record, there wasn't that much of an idea of where it was going or what it was doing. We got to the eight song mark of writing and we were just like, 'What are we doing? Are we making a record? I feel like this is a record.' And then we got to the ten songs and we were like, 'Yeah, this is a record. Let's make this a record!'

GEORGE PETTIT Talks ALEXISONFIRE's Otherness, 20 Year Anniversary Of Debut Album & New DEAD TIRED

Like, we're still kind of flying by the seat of our pants, now it's just a little more organized because we do have this product, we've got this record that we have been walking around with in our back pockets, just making us feel good. And I think we all feel very confident in it. I think we all feel like it's one of the best records we've ever made. So yeah, I don't know. As far as commitment to this being a full time thing, like I think this is as full time as it's going to get right now. At times it feels like we're all moving mountains in order to make it happen, like all these tours and all the things around it. So yeah, it's somewhere between, I'd say, full time and then also fun.

The Alexisonfire fanbase is just so rabid, even in those years of the hiatus. The groundswell from these fans, it's just some of the most diehard fans of any band that I've come across. 

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Yeah, I'm grateful that people are that enthusiastic about it. It does feel like there are people out there that really get it. And they're very dedicated. I think we thought at the beginning when we first stopped, I had assumed that all of our success was based on the fact that we just kept touring, kept putting out records, kept on going, go go go. Like, you got to keep all the plates spinning in order to keep the band relevant. And so when we stopped I think I just assumed that people were going to move on to the next thing and we would be kind of this interesting little footnote in Canadian rock music or something like that. And if anything the opposite happened.

We came back and decided to start playing shows again and the shows were bigger than they've ever been. We're playing bigger shows in the States than we've ever played. We're getting the opportunity to play these big, huge festivals everywhere. What a spectacular treat. Because I do feel like, what a gift for our fans to give us is relevance, the ability to go and play a show somewhere to a full room of people and not struggle to sell tickets and stuff like that. I'm really grateful that we're still capable of doing that. 

Canada is such an interesting country in that, sometimes within these specific genres, it's more difficult to build a fan base here than it would be in Germany or in the U.K. or Latin America. You guys have always had a massive amount of fans here in Canada while still managing to cultivate fans worldwide. Is there a trick to that? 

Traditionally as Canadians I think we tend to prop up mediocre horseshit in music a lot of the time. I just think that that's it. Like our national beverage is the Tim Hortons Double Double. It's disgusting. Every once in a while somebody kind of sticks their foot in the door and gets to kind of get in there. And we were lucky enough that at the beginning of our band we had MuchMusic and MuchMusic had some secret corners of late night that would allow a band like Alexisonfire to exist. And at that time I think there was a great number of people in Canada that were ready to hear something different or something real. And the things that were really popular at the time were like a lot of pop music, Britney Spears, that sort of stuff, like blink-182.

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Everything was just a little bit watered down. And so when Alexisonfire showed up we had this nationwide television station that could present us. And that was like overnight. You know, there were kids in Yellowknife that had felt different or felt like music didn't appeal to them. And then they saw us play on MuchMusic and they were like, 'that's who I am now'. And that kind of built the ground floor of, I think, our fan base here. 

We've always been this like reform vote for people. I feel like you want change? Alexisonfire is the change that they want to see. Now, that being said, there are thousands of bands in this country that all deserve the same amount of accolades, if not more, than Alexisonfire. But people don't always celebrate those bands as much as they could. And there are less places for them to be exposed in that way. Like MuchMusic doesn't exist anymore. And major radio doesn't want to play anything beyond some kind of commercial pop rock music. And so people have to go and figure it out on their own, their playlists and whatever. I don't know how they do it now. Like, I'm still going to record stores and hitting up my friends for new bands and stuff.

I just feel like Canada, in some way, they look at us as a point of pride because there's so many things out there that are just kind of okay, that Canada props up.

It's funny you mention MuchMusic, because I don't think that kids of this generation can appreciate, and that goes with MTV, how important that was. 

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I would have been a profoundly different person if I didn't have the secret corners of late night television to show me the good music. There was The Wedge and City Limits and Much Loud and that sort of thing to present that to me. Even a lot of the major radio stations late night would have like the punk show or they would have some sort of different thing.

They were still giving deejays the ability to pick songs and that was like a big deal. For everybody who wants something a little different you have to look for it and feel like you're finding something secret and that's just for you. and I think we kind of appeal to people who like that sensation from music. 

I watched a video recently where you guys talked about "Reverse The Curse" and how that riff kind of predates Old Crows/Young Cardinals and is into the Crisis era. In terms of this record, did you kind of see it as following the type of blueprint of Cardinals or going in a completely different direction?

Well, I think it's a song by song thing. When people finally get to hear this record, they're going to see that it's a very dynamic record. It's kind of all over the place. I think the obvious thing to have done would have been to like, okay, let's make Crisis II or something like that. And I don't think anybody wanted to do that. I think we have new tools that we wanted to try out, new things, and we're in different influences musically that we wanted to kind of put into it. But yeah, it's very much a song by song basis. I don't think we were really thinking about it.

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And like I said before, we're in the process of just writing songs at this point. We didn't know if we were going to just release some singles. We write ten songs, maybe three of them work. We just happened to get lucky that all ten of those songs we felt fit nicely as a record. So we turned it into what it was. But yeah, I think we go on a song by song basis and with "Reverse the Curse," that was exactly the case. We'd been bouncing around that riff for a long time. I always liked it, I just didn't think that we found a way to really make it our song. And it wasn't until we started writing this record that we did that, I think.

This Halloween marks 20 years of the self-titled album, which is mind-blowing. Thinking back to that era where you guys were in your late teens, what's your thoughts on that record and the legacy with decades worth of hindsight?

I think I've made my peace with it. I mean, think about the art that you did, let's say you were in grade 12, and you did art in your art class and you put together a portfolio of different paintings that you did back then. And now you're approaching 40 and somebody wants to display that art. That's a scary thought. And there are elements to that record where I'm like, Wow, yeah, we were very free and young and trying to figure shit out. And I think I was a bit of an apologist for that record for a lot of years. But now I listen to it and you see what it was.

We were kids that were writing music very free. There was a very free form to the music we were writing. We hadn't quite figured out who we were as a band yet, but it was just let's make whatever we can. And that really resonated with a lot of people. So I'm proud of it. I'm proud that I got to do something like that. And we kind of created this weird, iconic image of these Catholic schoolgirls in a knife fight and for years people are getting that tattooed on them. It's immediately recognizable and yeah, I'm very proud of it.

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Even though in the back of my mind I'm like, well, I wouldn't have written those songs now. The songs would be different, but it's cool that we get to play them. It's cool that we still have songs that 20 years later, like when Wade kicks into the opening riff of "44" when we play live, it's just immediate. The immediate reaction from the crowd, it's incredible. 

I have to ask about Dead Tired because again, a big year for you. New record is coming, I believe early July. Here in 2022, what's your thoughts on the band and what you guys are aiming for on this new record? You've always gone pretty balls to the wall.

Yeah, this one's a similar sort of thing. Like I think we've managed to make a record that has a lot of dynamic to it this time around. It's cool. Like we tried some new things, the same sort of thing … we kind of tried a few different new things. But that being said, all the main parts of Dead Tired are still there.

At times I can be a blistering kind of hardcore band or like a sludgy dark punk sort of band. But there's a few little Easter eggs in there. I think our first single is probably the most interesting thing we've done in awhile. There's singing on it and it has more of, I don't know, like a grunge characteristic to it. So that's kind of cool.

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And yeah, I'm excited for the record to come out. And the band, it's great. Franz and Marko and our new drummer, Theo, everybody is just very, very active and capable and they've already pretty much written the next record. So it's fun to kind of watch it all unfold with them as well at the same time. And yeah, walking around with two records in your back pocket just waiting to come out, it's pretty good to be me right now. 

Is it kind of a juggling process at this point with live dates, whether it be you with Dead Tired or your own job and family. Dallas has City And Colour and you're all busy. Is that kind of a balancing act? Working through that scheduling?

Absolutely. It's like The Da Vinci Code trying to figure out who's going where, what fits in what slot. Alexisonfire takes up a certain amount of time. I have a full time job. We kind of organized touring around my vacation schedule and me doing shift trades at work and doing things like that. To say it's complicated is like a very, very light way of putting it. Trying to figure out all the time to get everybody around to do certain things.

It usually comes through me first. Like okay, what can we swing, what can we manage to do? How much time away can we be? And then Alexisonfire has been taking priority lately, but eventually Dead Tired, this record is going to come out. I'll do some shows with them. And then on top of that and in between all of that I'm still working my job and being a husband and a dad. So yeah, there's no shortage of things to do at any given time. It's keeping me busy. 

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You're a fantastic Twitter follow. And I have to know, did you actually talk to Marky Ramone in that restaurant in Santiago? 

No, I think we let him be. Marky Ramone out somewhere, it's a bit like seeing like a cougar, like a panther or something like that. You kind of marvel at its beauty, but you let it be. You don't try to approach it. He was just there with a gaggle of like New York punks and stuff. And we just left him. We thought about ordering him like a drink or something.

The story goes like, we're walking around in a public market in Santiago, Chile, and we're trying to find a place to eat. And this guy outside of a seafood restaurant is like 'come eat here! Do you know Marky Ramone?' And we're like, 'yeah, we know Marky Ramone!' 'He eats at my restaurant!' (says the owner). And he's showing me pictures on his phone of Marky Ramone holding this crab and all this stuff. We're like you know what? What the hell! We'll go and we'll eat at this guy's place.

We go and we sit down and two seats over from us is Marky Ramone, sitting there drinking wine with a gaggle of like the most jet black hair, New York, Lower East Side punks I've ever seen in my life. And yeah, it was a nice sighting. And that was my first experience back touring pretty much after two years of being cooped up in my house. 

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Alexisonfire's Otherness is available worldwide June 24! The band will tour North America, with select European dates, across 2022. Dead Tired's new album Satan Will Follow You Home drops July 8 on New Damage Records.

Alexisonfire tour dates are as follows:

5/25 – Paper Tiger – San Antonio, TX
5/27 – White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
5/29 – So What Music Festival 2022 – Arlington, TX
6/3 – Slam Dunk Festival North 2022 – Leeds Temple Newsam – Leeds, UK (headline)
6/4 – Slam Dunk Festival South 2022 – Hatfield Park, Hatfield – UK (headline)
6/16 – Iceberg Alley Performance Tent – St. John’s, NL
7/2 – Born & Raised Concert Series – St. Catharines, ON
7/3 – Born & Raised Concert Series – St. Catharines, ON
7/13 – RBC Bluesfest 2022 – Ottawa, ON
7/14 – MTELUS – Montreal, QC (SOLD OUT)
7/15 – MTELUS – Montreal, QC
7/16 – Festival D’éte – Québec, QC  (w/Rage Against the Machine)
7/21 – Roadrunner – Boston, MA
7/22 – The Filmore – Silver Spring, MD
7/23 – Pier 17 – New York, NY
9/14 – House of Blues Cleveland – Cleveland, OH
9/15 – The Fillmore Detroit – Detroit, MI
9/23 – Furnace Fest – Birmingham, AL
10/4 – Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA
10/5 – The Warfield – San Francisco, CA
10/6 – Aftershock 2022 – Sacramento, CA
10/8 – SOMA Mainstage – San Diego, CA
10/9 – House of Blues Anaheim – Anaheim, CA

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