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The best kept secret in music


"Screamo crew sells out six shows and maintains maximum cred"

When alexisonfire talk about their audience, they sound like worried parents.

It's all about the welfare of "the kids." Make sure they have a good time at the show. Keep ticket prices low so they can afford T-shirts. It's like punk rock social services.

And why not? Those kids are the reason this screamo unit from St. Catharines can sell out a six-night stand in Toronto.

But artistically, that teen fan base is a bit of an obstacle. It's one reason why the screamo genre and Alexisonfire don't get a huge amount of critical cred.

"NOW Magazine called it a shit record," laughs guitarist/vocalist Dallas Green, referring to a review last summer of their latest disc, Crisis (Distort).

"We get a lot of bad reviews based solely on the fact that we have singing and screaming," says singer George Pettit. "Reviewers write it off as screamo, like we're the new pop punk."

"But it doesn't bother us at all. It makes us happier," says Green a bit unconvincingly. "They don't remember what it was like to be 14, 15 and 16 and not know everything about music and not be the coolest kid on the block. We're very happy to be playing to kids that age who maybe don't know everything yet about music."

If SOCAN scans, ticket sales and a Juno mean anything, the band, including guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil, bassist Chris Steele and drummer Jordan "Ratbeard" Hastings, hasn't been too affected by negative blurbs. But this isn't Chad Kroeger we're talking about. For young guns coming out of the hardcore and punk scenes, industry backslapping doesn't mean a helluva lot. As much as they may refute its importance, you can tell the artistic credibility issue nags at them.

"A lot of bands that do the scream-sing dynamic play up all these weird angles, dressing like vampires and making it hokey, which takes credibility away from the genre," says Pettit. "It gets on me sometimes, but I'm not going to give up because some guy doesn't like my record."

Agreed, critics tend be uptight, often out of touch with young tastes. But as Pettit says, somewhere along the line the genre did become polluted and harder to take seriously.

When AOF's first video/single, Pulmonary Archery, became an unprecedented heavy rotator on Much back in 2002, the scream-sing thing was just starting to percolate. If anything, the sight of Pettit, a skinny kid with Brian Jones hair and large glasses, screaming his lungs out signalled a welcome sea change from what the mainstream media were advancing.

But five years later, after an endless parade of makeup-covered, alternative press-touted, neo-goth jocks trying every teen-luring gimmick in the book, it feels a bit played out. While imprudently dumping formulaic pap into the genre stream, they managed to leech the genre of its potency.

The challenge for Alexisonfire is to push their music to a point where it rises above the rest.

Crisis, their third album, makes a convincing case that they've done so. Its tone is darker than the first two, and Pettit, Green and MacNeil's songwriting skills have grown stronger and more confident, each further realizing his vocal potential. Pettit's throat-burning is better enunciated, Green's melodies continue their soaring refinement, and MacNeil's husky voice has improved dramatically since Watch Out (Distort), their second record.

Missing is the bratty sense of humour evinced in Watch Out's matinee horror graphics or yuk-yuk song titles like Polaroids Of Polar Bears. Instead, Crisis radiates a sense of impending doom, from cover sleeve images of blizzard victims to songs like This Could Be Anywhere In The World, which laments a decaying urban landscape.

"The songs are definitely darker," says Pettit. "We don't have any songs about go-karting or Linda Blair. I didn't want to make a political record, but it almost felt irresponsible to be telling kids everything is fine right now.

"It was important to make a record about shit that gets you down sometimes. Catchy pop songs about fictitious girlfriends and shit like that, kids don't need to hear that."

Also a factor on Crisis is the emergence of individual personalities and diverging musical visions, possibly upsetting the group's cohesion and stability. As tastes and creative aspirations evolve, the principal songwriters have grown more aware of their capabilities.

Green, Pettit and MacNeil all have side bands for music that doesn't fit within Alexisonfire's parameters. Pettit joined forces with members of Fucked Up and Attack in Black in a raw punk project that's set to release a 7-inch single; McNeil's guttural piano rock project, the Black Lungs, also has a record slated for release; and Green's monstrously large acoustic-based City and Colour was a massive hit this past summer, with the potential to eclipse Alexisonfire's popularity.

Green denies that all this extracurricular activity exposes dissatisfactions within the group, but he admits City and Colour's ready acceptance by those - Now Magazine

"Alexisonfire gets ready for Edmonton show"

Alexisonfire has described their music as "two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight."

Born out of the "post-punk fashion, post-hardcore music" scene of St. Catherines, Ont., five years ago, Alexisonfire has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity. The five lunatics that are Alexisonfire will hit the Shaw Conference Centre tonight and for one, it'll be an extra special occasion.

"I'll be in Edmonton on my birthday. I'm excited about it," says George Pettit, who's turning 24 today.

It'll probably be hard to top the year Pantera's Phil Anselmo sang Pettit "Happy Birthday" on stage, but I have confidence Edmonton will give it their best shot.

Alexisonfire rose from the underground music scene where they played in hot, sweaty clubs and got in the faces of kids jumping on stage. This past year has seen the band on stages all across Canada and the United States, Japan, Australia, Europe and making six trips to the UK.

"The shows are obviously a lot bigger and that is a completely different creature unto itself. It takes time to get used to ... crowd barriers, security guards making sure no one's getting hurt - like the show's too big you can't do it on the floor anymore and that was a bit of a growing pain," says Pettit.

But he insists the steady rise in popularity hasn't significantly changed them. Time has though, especially when it comes to their music.

Travelling the world has removed the rose-coloured glasses and their latest songs demonstrate an evolution and maturity beyond past releases. The first album to include a title track, Crisis was inspired by White Death, a book of testimonials from survivors of the blizzard of 1977 that devastated the Niagara and New York regions.

"A lot of this record is about the city that you're from," says Pettit.

Keep It On Wax, another Crisis track, deals with former drummer Jesse Ingelevics, who flew home with one more date left to go on the band's tour last summer.

"It was not a friendly kind of leaving and it sucks that it had to end that way and that's pretty much us airing our grievances about how it ended," Pettit says. "Write about what you know and that's what we've been dealing with for the last year."

In 2001, each of their individual projects seemed to fail simultaneously, which really was a blessing in disguise.

They debated their musical direction and came close to guitarist Wade MacNeil's vision of a melodic sound with screaming vocals. Their common influence was Taken, a California band that was "pretty big by small-band standards," says Pettit, the band's 'screamer.'

"The singer'd be puking by the end of the set and the guitar player's guitar would be strewn across the room. It was just this chaotic fun thing," he says.

From the small clubs to the big arenas, Alexisonfire has maintained their own approach to performing and a lot of it involved Pettit's body hair. Volunteering the fact he looks "hideous" naked, Pettit also insists he feels no shame over the fact. And there's no reason to doubt this, coming from a guy who regularly plays in nothing more than his chest hair and Daisy Duke shorts.

"If I walk out on stage and I'm wearing Daisy Duke shorts and that's it, then everybody's just kind of like, 'Alright - it's on!' "

- Edmonton Sun

"Crisis Review - Winnipeg Sun"

"This is from our hearts," shriek Alexisonfire by way of introduction on their third CD. To us, it sounds more like it's coming straight from their spleens. But we get the point.

Just as we can see where the St. Catharines' screamers are coming from when they refer to Crisis as a darker and more mature effort.

Yes, these 11 post-hardcore anthems are still propelled by muscular riffs and beats and built around the dual vocals of guitarist Dallas Green and George Pettit. But this time around the sound is more deliberate and controlled, with the band embracing a host of new elements -- slower tempos, more spacious arrangements, stronger melodies and sharper hooks -- to take their songcraft to the next level.

The results can be heard throughout the disc, but especially in standouts like This Could be Anywhere in the World, Mailbox Arson, the ominous You Burn First and the closing ballad Rough Hands. What's behind this evolution, only they know for sure -- though lyrics like "my youth is slipping away" and "there must be more to life" seem pretty obvious hints.

Wherever it comes from, though, Alexisonfire's aim is true on Crisis. - Winnipeg Sun

"Crisis Review - Hour"

Let's call a spade a spade: AOF is a good band, but they've been overhyped like a motherfucker. In 2004, many celebrated Watch Out! like it was the second coming of Christ, which it wasn't. Crisis, on the other hand, is more worthy of praise: It's dark and violent, razor sharp and aggressive. Choicest of the choice tracks include Mailbox Arson, We Are the Sound and We Are the End. It's all good, realized, new-school post-hardcore that's got both sack and staying power. Let's call a spade a spade: Crisis is AOF hitting their stride.
- Hour


Alexisonfire "Crisis" (2006)
The Switcheroo Series: Alexisonfire vs. Moneen (2005)
Alexisonfire "Watch Out!" (2004)
Alexisonfire "Alexisonfire" (2002)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Alexisonfire rose up out of the Southern Ontario underground in late 2001 like some monstrous and utterly captivating car-accident-in-progress. Hitting the ground with an immediate full head of steam, Dallas Green, George Pettit, Wade MacNeil, Chris Steele and Jordan Hastings have not only impressed the critics with their sour/sweet approach to performance and writing, but are recognized for their stellar musicianship, and the palpably pent-up tightness of the band live.

This is music for both sides of your brain. In your left ear, the poignant and melodic vocals of Dallas, injected with the devilishly sweet phrasings of the axe-wielding Wade, speak of impulse and introspection. In your right ear, George offers the testimony of the tortured soul, syncopated power-scream vocals that energize and counterpoint -- a couple of cartoon-character angels and devils sitting on your shoulders, offering 2 very different interpretations of the same musical message.

Alexisonfire knows that the fans aren’t stupid. The fans know the real deal when they see it, and in the case of AOF, they seem to have told 2 friends, who told 2 friends, and so on. During the year that followed the release of the self-titled 2002 debut album, the band has shot into the spotlight like a streaker at an All-Star game: Gold Record certification in Canada for both debut and sophomore albums; 5 videos reaching Heavy rotation on MuchMusic, 2 MMVA awards; New Group of the Year at the 2005 Junos; album releases and major tours in Japan, Australia and the UK. This may all sound like SOP for an up-and-coming rock ensemble, but this is a band that often describes its music as “the sound of two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight”. This hasn’t happened before. Nobody is more aware of this fact than the St. Catharines’ natives. Taking it all in stride, they remain guile-less, affable, and capable of equal amounts of sarcasm and self-deprecation. And with the new album “Crisis”, Alexisonfire have, dare we say it, matured.

With songs ranging in subject matter from the Blizzard of 1977 which paralyzed portions of the Niagara and Northern New York region, to disenfranchised steadfast employees, the album on a whole embodies a much darker theme. AOF attributes this to traveling around the world the last couple of years then coming back home and seeing things without rose coloured glasses.

As for writing the album, the process was much more “rhythmically liberal” than anything the band’s ever worked on. There was no format, no formula. Alexisonfire wasn’t concerned with making a “hit” or following any “rules”, just creating songs that the greater sum of each part loved to play live. They wanted to create songs that were anthemic. They wanted to play songs that hit kids in the chest. This translated into the mindset the band took into the studio. AOF stripped everything down and learned to write and record a record that captures the essence of the band’s live sound, without looping or overdubs or layers.

So if you stop and listen, or God forbid, see a live show, it’ll all oddly start to make sense...