During an early Thursday morning phone call, I spoke with Alexisonfire bassist, Chris Steele as his kitchen gets an apparently much-needed renovation. But we’re not here to go full-on Better Homes & Gardens, as we’re here to talk about the mighty Alexisonfire getting back in the game and their fast approaching Australian tour with Behind Crimson Eyes, The Getaway Plan, and The Dirty Nil. By the time the Canadian outfit touch down here in January 2017, it’ll have been just shy of five years since their last Australian tour, so of course, we chat about returning to Australia, playing Unify 2017, the bassist’s profound love of touring and his soul-searching backpacking adventures post Alexisonfire’s initial breakup.
Chris, when the band was going through that initial breakup process, I remember reading one of the statements from George [Petitt, vocals], saying that the breakup was not “amicable”. So I think it goes without saying now that things are all fine between yourself and the other members, that that is all water under the bridge?
Oh, for sure. I can really vouch and attest for George’s comments there, especially right at the very end. It was a difficult tour, the last one we did. With some space, some air to breathe, and some recognition of us and the family that surrounds our band, it all enabled us to get back together. The most amazing thing with these guys is that there is no blood and we’re best of friends and we talk regularly with each other. Every time we get together in the same room or are on the same flight, it feels like a weekend gone by and not a single beat has skipped. We just picked up where we left off and it’s still the same hilarious stabs and jokes at each other and getting on stage and being in that energy, we just look at each other and remember why we did this.
That farewell tour we did was magnificent, and one of the best tours that we had ever done. It was just a month and we tried to do as much as we could and give the fans some real closure. With me, it was a beautiful thing to tie a big ribbon around it and give each other a big hug and move on. In that time, I personally traveled for two years, backpacking around India, Asia, and South America, and just did my own thing. While out there, I got contact from the guys back home saying they wanted to do some shows again, which was the last thing on my mind. But I said ‘Say no more, I’m there’ and in two months I was home and we were all playing together again. A year and a half on from then, and we now have this chance to come back to Australia, which is like our home away from home and is a lot like Canada too. Plus, we get to get out of our winter and enjoy your summer.
Good to hear Chris, and that’s some solid tour planning right there. With Australia, you’re of course playing Unify Gathering 2017, and are the final featured artist for the Saturday, and are for all intents and purposes ending the festival. Does make you guys, you know, not want to fuck that setup and pull out the stops?
[Laughs] very true. You know, there’s never been any task too daunting for us to handle. When we’re in the rhythm and there’s music to be played, nothing stops us. I think we’ve really gotten our armor on after all of the years of insane, upside down, backward touring we did for six years straight in the States and Europe and sleeping in very uncomfortable situations. But when you get onstage and that first note hits and you see the white’s of people’s eyes, feeling that symbiotic energy, everything in between gets forgotten about. It’s like a light switch; you get up there and away you go. Generally speaking, I miss doing it all, to tell the truth. I am glad that we can pick it up in small pieces with these shows, but I really miss that feeling of touring.
Oh, for sure and hopefully, there will be bigger, longer tours down the road for the band. Now, I remember hearing that some of the guys from Underoath had to completely re-learn a lot of their own songs, even some of their bigger singles, as they hadn’t played them in so long. Was that the case for you and the other guys in Alexisonfire when you got back together?
No, not really! It’s a strange thing in the best way, as we always get asked by friends and family that we must be rehearsing soon and we’re like ‘Nah, we’ll do one or two and we’ll be good’ [laughs]. With the first shows back, I came back from Vietnam and had one practice in Dallas’s basement and two days we were on a plane to England with enough material ready for a two-hour set. For whatever amazing reason, it’s like riding a bike fo us; you go away for a while and when you come back and it feels right. We’re also very fortunate that we have a “human metronome” of a drummer in Jordan [Hastings] he’s crazy good and he makes our jobs easier, for sure.
Definitely! I saw him fill in with Billy Talent on their Australian tour earlier this year and as you say, just a rock-solid drummer. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, Chris, but when it comes to Alexisonfire you’re the only member that hasn’t gone on to do other projects, like Dallas [Green, guitar/voclas] did with City & Colour, Wade [MacNeil, guitar] in Gallows, or Jordan for Cunter and Billy Talent. And as you mentioned, that was down to your worldly travels, and my question is why did you feel the need to go and travel?
At that time, after we finished touring I was clearing up some personal things that I was going through. Part of that process was taking the time for myself, and as cliché as it sounds, I had to find myself a little bit. When you’re touring in a band for many years, it’s just this fast tornado that feels never ending. Next thing you know, ten years have passed. Even though I travelled I personally slowed down and was in solitude for a lot of the time, trekking for a month straight through the Himalayas, for instance. It was a healthy break from music, from the “scene” per say, and for me, I definitely needed that. It also opened my ears and eyes to other music from around the world, like really interesting traditional music in South India, or in Bolivia and being at their music festivals in the middle of the Andes. It was amazing to see that the international language of the world was so alive. It was great to focus on me a little more too. I mean, the other guys would always be content when touring to get some interest out of wherever we were but I had a burning desire to learn more about the food, culture, and the architecture in any given place. But with a band and the tight itinerary, you don’t have that much time to do anything, but then I was the boss of my own time and really had the chance to travel for two years and explore .…And then I came back and started playing more music with Alexisonfire again!
Dude, that’s so cool, and hey, maybe we’ll be hearing a sitar or some folk throat singing in your next band or on the next Alexisonfire record…
[Laughs] yeah, maybe! We’ll see how that goes, time will tell! And I’d love to do something on the side like the other guys do.
Well, I look forward to hearing that eventual side-project. Finally, thanks so much for your time today Chris, it’s been great to talk to you! Also, I do hope that all of your kitchen renovations go well.
[Laughs] no worries at all, thanks so much Alex. And yeah it’s been a pretty painstaking task, just another thing on the timeline!
Alexisonfire is touring nationally in January 2017 with Behind Crimson Eyes, The Getaway Plan, & TheDirty Nil, presented by Chugg Entertainment & Dine Alone Records. Check out the dates below and you can find tickets here and here.
Wednesday, 11th January – HBF Stadium, Perth
Friday, 13th January – Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide
Saturday, 14th January – Unify Gathering, Gippsland
Tuesday, 17th January – Festival Hall, Melbourne
Thursday, 19th January – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Saturday, 21st January – Riverstage, Brisbane
Monday, 23 January – Powerstation, Auckland