Canadian five-piece Alexisonfire clawed their way to the top of the post-hardcore foodchain with impeccable musicianship and unmatched charisma and intensity in the live arena. Ending their decade-long career last year, the band has decided to reunite for one last run of shows in December, with the Sydney show sold-out and Melbourne selling fast with extra tickets recently released. Guitarist Wade MacNeil spoke to Kill Your Stereo about the final tour and the band’s legacy.
G’day, Wade. How’s it going?
Good, man. How are you?
I’m pretty good. Are you ready to start the interview?
First up, tell me a bit about yourself and your role in Alexisonfire?
Well, I started playing guitar when I was younger and I’ve been playing in sketchy punk bands since I was about 14. I think around the time, you know, 16 and almost turning 17, I started going to a lot of hardcore shows. I think especially that, especially the kind of melodic hardcore that was coming out of this area in Canada, really made me wanna change what I was doing and not be the singer and a guitar in a band anymore and just play guitar. Seeing all these bands like Haymaker and Left For Dead, kind of really explosive hardcore bands from this area. And a lot of other bands coming through, like Taken and Moneen, that had a lot of melody. That’s what really wanted me to make Alexisonfire. Our bass player Chris (Steele) has been in every band I’ve ever played in. We played hockey together when we were kids. He’s my best friend in the world. George is my slightly older friend who was the first guy we knew who had a car who would drive us to punk and hardcore shows from the small town we lived in. We got a drummer, Jesse Ingelevics, who I’d toured with. I met Dal (Dallas Green, guitarist and vocalist) from promoting shows. I put his band on a few of my shows, and then he called me after they didn’t show up for the first run of shows, saying how he had no idea what to do with the band. I said, “You should come join the band that’s starting.” We had a rehearsal and things fell into place a little too easy. Dal and I, it was the first we’d ever played guitar with another guitarist. We had always been the only guitarists in our bands, so we kind of ended up soloing crossways. George said he didn’t want to sing so he just started screaming. I don’t want to say Alexisonfire was easy to put together, but it was pretty much that simple, everybody just doing their thing. Then we just started playing our asses off.
So it was very natural how everything came together in the first place?
Yeah. I don’t think there was anything really orchestrated. We knew we wanted to be heavy, we knew we wanted to be melodic and we knew we wanted to have a band that would push the energy levels further. The rest just kind of sorted itself out.
The announcement of a final tour was widely welcomed here and abroad. What drove the decision to reunite the band for one last run of shows?
I think we wanted to end it with some finality and not just fizzle out; go out with a bit of a bang. I think we owe it to ourselves to do it properly, and I think we owe it to our fans as well for supporting us over the years and helping us to make these records. I’m really proud of what we did, I’m really proud of those records and I’m proud of what this band accomplished. I think it will be good to close the door on this part of our lives, to bring some finality in a very positive way. I’m really excited about it.
Do you feel as if you have more of an expectation to live up to this time?
I want this to be some of the craziest shows we’ve ever played. I think it will be amazing. I think everybody is coming into it with such a really good attitude that I don’t think it couldn’t be great. I mean, obviously it’s gonna be big for us. We’re gonna reach a show and it’s gonna be like, “That’s the fourth last time I’m ever gonna play that song,” and just all those things. I’m sure it will be emotional along the way, but I’m glad the five of us can get together and make it happen in this time.
Was the select number of shows on the tour a deliberate choice or simply a matter of a limited timeframe?
I think it’s a little bit of both. We really wanted to do a lot of Canada, we really wanted to do Australia. South America just turned into a bit of something we couldn’t turn down. It will be the first time the band ever goes there, and strangely enough it will be the last time the band ever goes there. We’re pretty much playing the places we always loved playing. We always had amazing shows in London, we always had amazing shows in Australia. Canada has always been very, very supportive of the band since Day 1. South America’s a vacation (laughs). It’s pretty exhorberant, but there were definitely some timeframe issues we had to deal with. It had to be December or it wasn’t going to happen.
Australia is lucky enough to have two of the dates on the tour, with both shows sold out well in advance. Are you looking forward to returning to our shores?
Yeah, absolutely. I think we were really blown away by the reception we got the first time we went to Australia. It’s always great every time we go there. You’re really, really far away from home, but Australia has these Canadian qualities. It feels nice. Also, the weather is just so much better. It’s just a really strange feeling. You’re so far away from home, but you have this comfort of home. I think that’s why we love playing there so much.
Are all of the band members on civil terms?
Absolutely. Obviously, there was a time where we were very frustrated with one another, but that just comes with living with each other for so long. You know, we always fought, but I think we fought like brothers. We’d scream our heads off at each other and then let it go the next second. Everybody’s hanging out again and making bad jokes, and everybody’s really excited to do this.
Of Alexisonfire’s four studio albums, which are you most proud of and why?
I’d say Old Crows (Old Crows / Young Cardinals, 2009). I feel like we really pushed ourselves to another level and I think it’s really heavy, but it’s so melodic and almost doesn’t seem heavy of times. It’s a bit of a contradiction. For me I just think, musically and lyrically, everything about that one I just loved.
The band’s musical style shifted greatly over the years. Is it fair to say that you guys outgrew Alexisonfire as musicians?
I think we were always pushing ourselves to try and evolve. We were writing very different music on our last record to what we started with. I think all of our favourite musicians and bands are always constantly evolving and changing their sound. I don’t think it’s something we outgrew, but I think we felt like the band had run its course.
So you preferred to go out on a high note rather than continue on?
For me personally, I felt like we weren’t gonna write the best record of our career when we were deciding to call it a day. And I think if you don’t have that belief, you should probably call it a day.
Can you tell me about the craziest experience the band has ever had?
So much strange stuff happens on the road. It’s really hard to search through it all, you know? I had a really good one when we were driving in England on the highway. The side of the bus opened up on the highway while we were going 100 miles per hour and I almost fell out. The other dudes dragged me back in. That was definitely high up on the list for me.
Wow. I’m glad you lived to tell the tale.
Yeah. That’s a strange one.
Did you ever imagine you would leave behind a legacy and influence as great as this from working with Alexisonfire?
You know, definitely not. I think when we started the band, all we wanted to do was play some shows and play music. We were friends and we loved playing music. I think that focus on the shows was the thing that kind of kept us going. It was mostly small steps.
How does it feel to leave such a lasting impact as a musician?
It’s been amazing. It’s cool to be in a band and have that sort of impact. I definitely never would have thought when we were making those records that they would shape some kid’s way of looking at music. That’s an incredibly flattering thing. It’s cool to know that people have kept listening to those records and that they have made an impact. Whenever I heard about bands doing Alexisonfire covers, I’m stoked.
Thanks a lot for your time, Wade. Are there any comments you’d like to finish on?
No, I think we covered it.
Well I hope you enjoy your final dates with the band. Take care.