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In the 5+ years since Canadian hardcore heavyweights Alexisonfire last visited Australia, so much yet so little has changed.
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While the world’s oscillating uncertainty and unrest has certainly weighed heavy over the past few years alongside the temporary dissolution of touring and live performances, Alexisonfire faced any new hurdles thrown their way and emerged in 2022 with their most assured and tenacious offering yet via the critically-adored Otherness.
A celebration of everything fans knew and loved about the Canadian five-piece but with an organic evolution and sonic extension, Otherness also marked AOF’s first new album in thirteen years, proving that good things come to those who wait – and, most notably, that Alexisonfire are ageing like a fine and rambunctious wine. For a band who adore each other as much as making and creating the music that has forged the group’s sweltering legacy since the early 2000s, it’s clear that AOF’s notoriously potent live shows are bigger and better than ever in 2023. And, as guitarist and vocalist Wade MacNeil recently unpacked with Hysteriamag.com, he and fellow AOF guitarist and vocalist Dallas Green have also been doubling their Aussie pleasure, with Green’s City and Colour touring alongside MacNeil’s solo project Dooms Children before Alexisonfire start wowing crowds in Brisbane on Friday 17 February.
“Life feels pretty good right now!” enthuses MacNeil. “We’ve been on the road for close to a year at this point, it’s cool! And it’s pretty crazy, a lot of people have been talking to me about how long it’s been since we’ve been to Australia, which seems like a real trip. But it’s always nice to be back, and I feel especially lucky to get to tour the country twice!”
“The fact that Dallas and I get to do this side project tour, which I’ve turned into a motorcycle adventure,” MacNeil continues, “and then the Alexis boys show up in another week – and then we get to do it all over again?! It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Turning what was already destined to be an incredible visit into a full-blown adventure, MacNeil has been recently travelling between City and Colour shows and cities decked out with a Harley Davidson Road Glide, tracking his journey and taking the long road to his next destination wherever possible. Offering a chance to see the country like never before, MacNeil’s adoration for motorbikes is also no secret – although whether he’s packed his blonde wig from the Dooms Children Psyche Hospital Blues music video remains to be seen.
The thing that I love more than anything, is getting to be creative with my friends. That’s the really important part, it’s with my friends, It’s the people I really love and care for.
[ Wade MacNeil ]
“Dallas asked me to come and play the City and Colour shows with him,” explains MacNeil, “but he’s also doing these festival shows, which I’m not playing. That means there’s a decent chunk of downtime. Between Sydney and Bendigo I had six days, or something like that, so I picked up a bike in Sydney and took the longest possible route to Melbourne, I turned it into 1700km!”
“It was crazy, I saw just about every different type of Australian nature. I drove through the mountains, then I was on the coast, then I was in the bush. I went through some national forest and it was cool, and I made it out in one piece!”
With a brand new Alexisonfire album to play with and add to setlist consideration, a first in over a decade, the upcoming Aussie dates will also mark the first time local fans will get to witness the new material live in action. But AOF aren’t just content to add new material to their shows, with the group inadvertently recently stumbling on a whole new way to keep their sets fresh for both the band and fans.
“Something started happening over the course of the recent Alexis tours,” says MacNeil, “and we started playing a different set every night. It keeps us more engaged, and it’s something that we haven’t done in the past.”
“We’re reaching a point now where we’ve got so many songs. It’s cool to get a set dialled in and kind of keep finessing that. We’ve started doing the thing, our bass player [Chris] Steele writes the set every day, and it’s vastly different. And we’re playing a bunch of different songs night to night!”
And amongst those different songs and sets, a Wade MacNeil and crowd-favourite from Otherness has also organically emerged.
“It’s a Wade favourite,” shares MacNeil, “but also I think a crowd favourite, the loudest sing-along at the show of any of our songs is now Sans Soleil, which is a very cool feeling to have people embrace the new music so much.”
“I know this as a music fan, a lot of times you go to a show and people are like: “oh cool, they’re playing their new stuff”,” MacNeil laughs sarcastically. “So, it’s very nice to feel the love for the new stuff and have it fit in the set with the old tunes. And also to have a place where the band continues to grow with the fans.”
While Otherness is undeniably a seamless addition to AOF’s beloved back catalogue, Aussie fans have notably made waves recently criticising international artists and their setlists (just ask the Red Hot Chili Peppers who faced notable public backlash for allegedly playing too much new music in their Australian shows). But Alexisonfire have naturally continued to future-proof their fanbase with each new release, regardless of any sonic shifts or evolution – and fans across the globe have clearly been ravenous to witness the new tunes amongst the older favourites.
“It’s definitely cool,” says MacNeil of the positive reception to new AOF material in a live setting. “It feels right, and the new album feels like part of the set. Everything feels like “us”, and as much as I do feel like it’s a step in a different direction, as we try to do record to record – it still very much does feel like Alexisonfire.”
With MacNeil also able to perform his self-titled Dooms Children album while in Australia, which was crafted during notably bleak times for MacNeil personally and released mid-pandemic, the chance to perform these intimate and vulnerable creations has ultimately allowed the significantly darker themes to lead to a place of healing and celebration.
“I’m grateful to be playing them here with the musicians that I’m playing with,” MacNeil shares of performing his Dooms Children project. “But that first day, just listening to all of the songs again, and just going over them and getting my head back in it – it’s pretty heavy.”
“I don’t think the show feels heavy, I don’t think the performance of the songs is a downer. Writing that music helped me get through that time, and now I’m here celebrating that hell. But that first day, getting back into it…it definitely dropped me back there. It was pretty heavy, it was a tough day. The first show brought me back to that place, it was a lot.”
“But it certainly does feel good. Songs written in a place that were darker or heavier at a time of struggle, and time moving on, and things healing and being here and being part of this adventure – the fact that I’m very far away from that place from when I wrote those songs, that definitely feels good.”
With 2023 marking Alexisonfire’s eighth visit to Australia, the group certainly already have a treasure trove of Aussie memories in the vault. But a recent appearance playing alongside American rockers Shadows Fall sparked a particular memory for MacNeil that stems back to a time when both of the bands were in Adelaide together.
“This is really, really stupid,” laughs MacNeil, “but we recently played a festival with Shadows Fall, and we went up to the singer and introduced ourselves. And we were like: remember when you were in Adelaide and we met you, George [Pettit] and I grabbed one of your dreadlocks and started singing Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song into it as if it was a microphone? And we thought it was really, really, really funny? Sorry about that, looking forward to seeing you guys play today!”
“He was like: I remember that happening, and I wasn’t that bummed out about it, don’t worry,” MacNeil says, still laughing.
Now set to add even more core memories into the Alexisonfire Aussie experience, the ultimate and ongoing icing on the cake for MacNeil in this journey is a perfect summation of the band’s genuine passion that permeates into both their sonic output and their dedicated fanbase.
“The thing that I love more than anything,” concludes MacNeil, “is getting to be creative with my friends. That’s the really important part, it’s with my friends, It’s the people I really love and care for. And that makes the times when everything connects and when really special things happen that much more important.”
“Also the fact that you’re getting to make art with people who are your brothers. When things are going terribly – it’s alright, because you’ve got each other.”
Friday 17 February // The Fortitude Music Hall / Brisbane
Monday 20 February // Enmore Theatre / Sydney
Friday 24 February // Forum Melbourne / Melbourne
Monday 27 February // Hindley Street Music Hall / Adelaide