CANCER BATS // Bat To The Future

Considering there wasn’t a word of pre-release hype, we’ll let it slide if you didn’t realise that Cancer Bats have a new album out.

Released without announcement on the ten-year anniversary of Hail Destroyer—their fan favourite second LP—The Spark That Moves is an impossibly perfect set of shred. It’s the sixth full-length to come from the Canadian hardcore hellions, and in the 8/10 Hysteria review of it (which, shameless plug, you definitely need to wrap your eyes around), labelling it as “down and dirty fun that rollicks around like a bucking bronco.”

What more incentive do we need to spend some quality time with vocalist Liam Cormier, fawning with not a hint of shame over how goddamn insane this record is!?

How do you feel about the way everyone’s been responding to The Spark That Moves?

I couldn’t be happier! The response has been way better than we could have imagined. It’s been amazing for us— especially since we put this record out ourselves and tried a different idea—doing this fun surprise release—that fans, journalists, people from labels and other bands… Everyone has come back and just been like, “This is so sick!” I’m just like, “Ahhhh! Okay, wicked!” Y’know, you hope that everyone is going to be into it when you put an album out, but we really didn’t expect the response to be this big. We couldn’t be happier with everything.

Where did the decision to surprise-release the album come from?
I think for us, it just kind of came from being fans of music in general. Y’know, I don’t want to talk trash on the current model, but when we would see some of these pre-orders and stuff like that for records, I’m like, “Just tell me when the record is out!” I can understand a little bit of lead-up time because you can spread the word, but at the same time, it’s like, “I just really want the album now, and I don’t want to have to wait.” I don’t want to buy something and then wait three or four months for it to be shipped. We were like, “Man, we know that we’re going to sell X amount of records, and if we sell more, then we’ll just make more! We’ll just make it really punk, and that’s just how we’ll do it. We’ll just show up to the shows with the record!”

We’ve seen a fair few artists release albums like this in recent times—Glassjaw, Brand New, pretty much every major label hip-hip album in the past three years. Do you think surprise releases will become the standard for bands dropping new music in the future?
I don’t know if it’ll become the standard. That’s what I was saying earlier—I don’t want to talk trash on the whole system. I feel really lucky that we’re in a spot now, 13 years into our career, on our sixth album, that we have this fanbase that we can just, like, give an album to, and they’ll respond to it so positively. I think the same thing can be said for Glassjaw and Brand New—those guys have worked super hard o build up this group of people that’ll respond to their surprise. I don’t know if a band could come out of nowhere and do it, but I do think it’s a bit like that when you’re not working with a label and it’s your first record—it’s a surprise to everybody [laughs]. You’re just trying to spread the word to everybody as much as you can by yourself. So for us doing this record,, it’s almost like when we first put out our demo and we were just telling all of our friends to check it out. It’s just that now, we have a lot more friends!

We really like Gatekeeper—that’s why we put it at the start of the record—but if you’re feeling another song, then that’s the lead single for you.

The thing I love most about surprise-release albums is that your first play is always a clean, untainted experience from start to finish. You’ve got no singles, no three month waits to get your hopes up too high—it feels like watching a movie for the first time without having seen a trailer. Is that something you were conscious of when you decided to drop this record out of the blue?
So the interesting part is that we hadn’t thought about that at all, in terms of the interaction. But we’ve realised that so many people make their minds about a record before they’ve even heard it. Especially people who work at magazines or websites or whatever—they were coming to us saying, “Man, I realise in hindsight, I have my mind made up about a record from the first single or the first video.” That was why we also wanted to do 11 videos, so we wouldn’t really be dictating what anyone should think. It’s everyone’s choice in terms of what the best track is, and I really love how that’s kind of changed in a lot of ways. Radio stations were like, “Yeah, we’ll play whatever track you want to play!” We really like Gatekeeper—that’s why we put it at the start of the record—but if you’re feeling another song, then that’s the lead single for you. And some people have pulled out songs we weren’t expecting, like Rattlesnake and Fear Will Kill Us All. It’s kind of awesome to see who’s gravitating towards what.

And of course, you dropped the record two days before the tenth anniversary of Hail Destroyer. What was the significance behind that release date?
Again, we didn’t really put too much thought into it. I was just like, “This is a place where a lot of Cancer Bats fans are all going to be, so it makes sense to bring some records to try and sell them!” And it’s funny, because there’s been so many parallels and comparisons to Hail Destroyer, which again, we hadn’t even thought about at all. I don’t think that people are wrong, though—I think there’s a lot of the same energy that we put into Hail on this record, and I think a lot of that came from thinking back on the last ten years of being a band while we were writing this album. We weren’t actively like, “Oh man, we should make songs that capture the vibe of this one album in our career!”

Were you at all worried that the Hail Destroyer tour would take the attention away from the new album, or vice versa?
Again, because we were so busy, we just didn’t think about anything. I’m, like, really optimistic and really positive, so I was just like, “Nah, everyone’s gonna be stoked!” I don’t really dwell on the bad side of anything, I’m just like, “Oh no, this is going to be wicked! Everyone’s already going to be there, right? That’s who you want to give it to, so who cares!?” It was good, too, because we didn’t have too many bosses or naysayers to tell us what a bad idea it was. It was just me and Mikey being like, “Yeah, makes sense to me,” and our booking agents were like, “I don’t care, I get paid either way” [laughs].

We got to the point where we were like, “Oh, okay, I’ve talked to 2,000 people that want a new album, so we know we can at least sell 2,000 copies!”

Do you really care if an album is particularly successful at this point, or are you just making music on your own terms?
I think for us, it really matters to be successful within the live context. We want to be able to play these songs at our shows, and because we’re such a live-centric band, that’s where I think the songs really have to work. And that’s a really nice place to be, because, like, I obviously want people to buy the record, but at the same time, I haven’t seen a Nielsen SoundScan or anything like that since the record has come out, and I kind of don’t care! All of these shows are crazy, and people are singing along to Space And Time and Gatekeeper and We Run Free and Winterpeg, and the album has only been out for two weeks—that’s all that matters to me!

I guess we should sell these vinyl, since we made them all ourselves [laughs]. But to be honest, I like that nobody’s been like, “Where are we charting?” I don’t give a shit about charts. I’m more concerned about asking, “Are our shows packed? Yes? Sick!” Who cares about the charts when you have a room full of kids screaming their heads off!? I don’t even really understand any of it right now; is YouTube a part of it? Are your Instagram videos a part of it now? I don’t know. Who cares? Do people jam? Yes, and that’s sick! It’s an amazing position to be within the music industry right now—just absolutely not giving a shit.

How did you want to make The Spark That Moves stand out from the rest of your discography?
I guess that’s what’s interesting, is that we weren’t looking for it to be a standout in any way. We were so amped up on what we love about our band, y’know, and after having some time to reflect on that, we were very much going, “I don’t want our band to sound like anything else other than Cancer Bats.” I look at a lot of bands that I really love, and it’s like, I want them to sound like the band I first got into. And that not to say that I don’t want bands to progress, but I think that was where we were like, “Let’s just really work hard at making the best Cancer Bats songs,” and not being like, “Oh, what’s an experimental new side of our band we can do?” It was just like, “Let’s like really work on these songs to make the ultimate Cancer Bats bangers.”

Six albums is a lot of music, and you guys have been through a lot of crazy shit in a short 13 years. But especially with how goddamn intense this album is, I’m definitely not seeing any signs of you guys slowing down. How much life do you think is left in the band? How much longer do you see Cancer Bats being a ‘thing’?
I don’t know! I mean, this record is ripping, so I feel like we’ll ride this out for a while. But I think the biggest thing with even making this record was having that time away from the band, and having so many people demand new music everywhere we went. We got to the point where we were like, “Oh, okay, I’ve talked to 2,000 people that want a new album, so we know we can at least sell 2,000 copies! We probably should do it!” And I think that’s a really nice place to be, where it’s like… I’ll go to a motorcycle show, and Cancer Bats fans show up and they’re like, “Woah, you’re in that band!? Man, your band is sick! When are you doing a new record?” And I’m like, “Oh shit, I probably should do one.”

For us to not play these new songs in front of crazy Australians was the hardest thing in the world.

Where do you want to take the band from here?
We’re kind of just taking it day-by-day, especially when opportunities are coming up all over the place. We got offered a festival in China in September, and we were like, “Man, I’ve never been to China, let’s go!” And then Jaye and Mikey have Julie & The Wrong Guys, and they got offered some festivals in August so I was like, “Okay, let’s take August off!” Again, it’s just a really fun place to be as a band, because we care so much, but at the same time, we’re, like, very chill, and we’re just content with going wherever life takes us right now.

Especially as a hardcore band, after 13 years, that’s the vibe you want to have. You don’t want to be forcing shit at this point.
Totally! And I think the thing that we really wanted to make sure was that this band was always going to be a blast to be in, and that no-one was in this band because it was, like, their job. I never wanted this to have that pressure—even though, like, this is our job! We take it super seriously when it comes to ripping and playing shows, but at the same time, I don’t want to lose the fun aspect of playing an amazing show at the Shark Bar, like on our last headlining tour. I love it when everyone is partying and I’m singing through a shoe, y’know? I still want everything to be nuts and hilarious, as much as I want this to be my job.

I know it’s only been a few months since you were here with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, but when can we expect to see Cancer Bats on Australian stages with a headline tour?
I mean, that’s the thing: we’re definitely way more than stoked to come back, and it was incredibly hard for us to keep the secret that we had a record finished, because we literally left the studio and went on tour with Frank, like, the next day. For us to not play these new songs in front of crazy Australians was the hardest thing in the world, so… To all the people reading this interview: you guys call at us! Just demand to the powers that be that you want to see Cancer Bats again, and we’ll probably get booked… It’s 2018, don’t you just, like, yell at the internet until something happens?

The Spark That Moves is out now via Bat Skull Records and Cooking Vinyl Australia.

Grab a physical copy now from their webstore, or jam it in digital form from BandcampiTunesGoogle Play or Spotify.

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