INTERVIEW: Cancer Bats

“When we were growing up, there were no hardcore bands that had seven records, that just wasn’t a reality within the scene”

INTERVIEW: Cancer Bats

By Ellie Odurny

Apr 15, 2022 12:30

Fresh from a run of four sold-out shows, Cancer Bats vocalist Liam Cormier took some time out to talk to us about returning to touring, the evolution of the band and challenging the linear concept of time. Commenting on the recent shows, Cormier notes the symmetry of their return to the stage, describing how the last show they played in 2020 was at the same 1000-capacity venue that they’ve just returned to in Toronto. “It just felt so natural and easy”, he says, describing how glad he's been that restrictions have lifted to allow them to return to their characteristically energetic live performances. This new normal does have its differences, as Cormier recounts a recent show in a smaller venue where he passed the mic to a fan wearing a mask, describing it as “the most sanitary singalong I’ve ever been a part of”.

The new album, ‘Psychic Jailbreak’, is the first for the band without long-standing guitarist Scott Middleton, who left the band last year to focus on his family, as well as other production and recording responsibilities. Middleton’s departure was amicable and Cormier talks about how it felt like the right time, being the best situation for everyone, and describing the shift in line-up as being for positive reasons all round. When asked if Cancer Bats had previously considered what life might look like well into the second decade of their career, he tells us that when they started out as a band, they had no aspirations other than to tour the globe. “When we were growing up, there were no hardcore bands that had seven records, that just wasn’t a reality within the scene.” He describes how most hardcore bands would break up after the second or third release, so to still be involved in hardcore in their forties feels amazing. Cormier mentions that they look to bands they grew up with like Sick of it All, Converge and Madball to see how they handle things. 

There’s a real sense of community in the way Cormier talks about different artists stepping in to cover each other when they have family commitments. With Wim Coppers from Wiegedood and Wade MacNeil from Alexisisonfire previously filling in for Cancer Bats drummer Mike Peters and Middleton respectively, guitarists Nick Sherman and Fever 333’s Stephen “Stevis” Harrison have now joined the Cancer Bats family for the upcoming tour dates. Cormier expresses how the change and shift in line-up felt a little more natural as the band had been evolving and adapting to the changes over time, saying “as we figure these things out they feel less like unthinkable obstacles”. 

The guitar parts on ‘Psychic Jailbreak’ were all recorded by bassist Jaye Schwarzer, layered on top of one another to build up the depth of sound the band exude on stage. Discussing how recording in a static studio space compares to playing live, Cormier explains that Schwarzer’s cleverly layered guitars on the record are “making up for how heavy a wall of sound we can deliver in a live setting…beefing it up to sound like a real Bats show”. He also comments that he’s excited to play older tracks with the new line-up,  describing them as “wild new versions of these songs that we’ve grown accustomed to”.

If growing older and dealing with new challenges seems like an inevitable part of adulthood, the theme of ‘Psychic Jailbreak’ questions the passage of time itself, rejecting the idea of linear time on a greater scale. Cormier remarks that he has always been fascinated with the idea that there are multiple dimensions or that time is existing at all points in the universe, mentioning how “our brains set up linear time so that we can make sense of the world”. He questions this conditioning, asking fans to consider stepping outside of these societal norms and realities: “I really liked this idea of making a call to action rejecting the fallacy of time”. 

On the subject of rejecting norms, we move on to discuss the role of music labels, with Cancer Bats releasing the latest album on their own label, Bat Skull Records, in collaboration with indie label New Damage Records. Cormier’s take on the industry is refreshingly positive , and he references how they’ve been fortunate to retain a lot of creative control with all of the labels that they’ve dealt with. He tells us how they’ve learnt so much from all the people they’ve worked with over the years, mentioning how much he loves getting stuck into the creative process and saying how doing the artwork for ‘Psychic Jailbreak’ felt amazing. “At this point it makes more sense to hire ourselves as the label people” he declares, highlighting how the collaboration gives them connections to distributors and digital streaming platforms as well as getting feedback from younger label mates. With a lot of friction occurring lately between artists and labels, it’s a welcome change to hear someone describe their relationship as a great partnership. 

For a band as raucous and wild as Cancer Bats, their balance comes from this hard-earned confidence in their stability, vision and community. With a new record, a new line-up and a return to full capacity touring, things are looking fresh, frantic and full of potential for these Canadian hardcore metallers.

“Psychic Jailbreak” is released on April 15th on Bat Skull Records / New Damage Records.