Alexisonfire: “When you’re in a democracy, sometimes it’s not always the way”

Ahead of their Alexisonfire’s farewell tour next month KEVIN LOO speaks to frontman Dallas Green about why he decided to call it quits and what the future holds for his solo project City and Colour.

More than a year since the official non-amicable break-up of Alexisonfire, the dust has settled and the Canadian hardcore outfit are rewarding fans with a whirlwind farewell world tour in December. When I find Dallas Green enjoying a rare moment of peace and quiet at home in Toronto, the frontman is in good spirits and happy to talk about almost everything – from where things went wrong with his former bandmates to what the future has in store for City and Colour.

How are things personally for you now that Alexisonfire is officially behind you?

Well it’s not officially behind me is it? Because I’ve got to go and do a whole other tour [laughs]. I guess once that tour is done, then it will be officially behind me. But yeah, things are good. I’m looking very forward to it. It’s going to be awesome.

What have you been up to in your time at home?

So far just been working on finishing new songs for my other project City and Colour, and just seeing my family and spending time with my wife. Trying to be somewhat of a normal person.

You must be grateful then for a bit of free time right now?

Yeah, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it “free time” though, just because I’m constantly working on writing on new songs when I’m home, but it has been very nice just to be around my house and wake up in my own bed for more days in a row than I’m used to.

Seeing as how you’re fully invested in City and Colour – how do the rest of Alexisonfire feel right now. You have mentioned in the past that there was some wounds that needed healing.

Yeah, I think that it’s been long enough now that by the time we start touring again next month, it would’ve been two years since the last tour we’ve been together. There has been a lot of time in between and I’ve seen everybody and hung out with everybody since then. I think we’re all in a much better headspace than we were when we called it off.

You still keep in regular contact with them?

Yeah, I mean it’s not like a regular, everyday relationship. But that’s kind of the way we were when we were in a band anyway. When we weren’t on tour we didn’t really talk to each other that much until we would go back on tour. Everyone is busy with their own lives, but once in a while we say hello to one another and ask how everyone’s doing. Just like any other friends would.

“I think we’re all in a much better head-space than we were when we called it off.”

Can you pinpoint a moment or period of time where you knew that your heart simply wasn’t in Alexisonfire any more?

I think it would’ve been the beginning of 2010 when I was on tour with them and with City and Colour. I was just exhausted – mentally, physically and emotionally. I knew that I had to make the decision that I couldn’t maintain just going back and forth. It was just a terrible state to be in. It was going to do something bad to me and I didn’t tell the guys until about half a year later that I knew then that I had to make a decision. I think it was the right one for me but it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.

Was it a double life that was too much in the end?

Yeah, imagine having two full-time jobs. At some point you have to decide that it’s not going to work out in the end. The more and more I tried to write songs, the less that the idea that came through would be an Alexisonfire song. They just kept turning into City and Colour songs, or songs that would end up being more in that vein. So I knew then that my heart was leaning more towards going off on my own, and pursuing whatever vision I had for myself creatively.

It’s been more than a year since the official break-up announcement. Are you personally in a more peaceful place now?

I think I am. I still don’t feel that way in a sense, because of the pressure that I put on myself when it comes to writing. I want to evolve and be better every time, so I still have that sort of sense of anguish – mentally, physically and emotionally – simply because of what I do to myself. But I’m definitely at peace with that side of my life. I think this tour will be a celebration of that. Get back to it being fun, as opposed to wondering how everyone feels about being in the band and stuff like that.

In regards to pushing yourself lyrically and musically, do you think there are things as an artist you’re able to say in City and Colour that Alexisonfire limited perhaps?

Well, I don’t want to say that it limited me. When I write songs I definitely take a very personal approach to them lyrically and I tend to write things about my life. But [in Alexisonfire] the fact that we were a band and we all wrote songs together, it definitely meant that I didn’t want to speak about certain things, mostly because I didn’t want to make the other guys have to sing about it as well.

“The more I tried to write songs, the less the idea that came through would be an Alexisonfire song.”

There are things that as a writer, you know what you want to hear and you know how you want to hear it. When you’re in a democracy, sometimes it’s not always the way. So being the captain of the ship that is City and Colour allows me to steer it in whatever direction I see fit.

How long do you see yourself as a touring musician now that you’re fully committed to the one project?

Until people stop listening. Even then, I’ll continue to be a musician but I’ll do it privately I guess. This is what I do. It’s not like I’m writing songs and then one day I’m just going to turn if off and go, “You know what? I think I’m going to go be a mathematician.” I’ve been playing guitar since I was eight years old and writing since I was a young kid. It’s really the only thing I know how to do. And I will do it until I can’t do it any more. I’ll do it until I think the songs aren’t what they should be or like I said when people stop listening. I’m just going to keep playing.

Many of your lyrics deal with issues of missing home and family, do you see the toll on your personal life at home?

Of course. With anything that you do, when you’re gone a lot, and you live something of a nomadic lifestyle, you’ll always have that sense of longing for something else. But I just try to use it and work with it and use it productively as opposed to having it affect me negatively.

In the larger context of things there have been a few other major break-ups in the hardcore scene recently: Underoath and Thrice for example. As a veteran of the scene, do you have any comment on these break-ups. Does it say anything about where punk and heavy music is headed for the next decade?

It’s hard to say where it’s headed, because music is very cyclical and right now it seems like the popular thing to do is, well, it’s kind of like we’re back in that period where boy bands and dance music and pop stars are up in the forefront of the mainstream again. And that’s OK. But I think sooner or later, people are going to get sick of that and they’re going to get sick of Auto-Tune and all that stuff and people are going to come back and listen to really good rock artists.

And there are still great heavy bands, like Converge – my favourite heavy band of all time – just put out a new record [ All We Love We Leave Behind] and it’s maybe their ninth album? And it’s fucking awesome! It’s just so good and brutal and gnarly as ever. So I think there’s always going to be that style of music going on, just maybe not as popular sometimes.

It’s hard to comment with regards to the other bands breaking up. But I appreciate and I understand that people have to move on. I think a lot of people – the music listeners – they don’t really appreciate or have any idea about what it’s like to be in a band or keep a band together for a number of years. Sometimes, no matter how good the music is or the band is, you just have to end it.

You’ve mentioned before that the last Alexisonfire tour was not an entirely pleasant experience for you or for the band. Why was that? And how will this upcoming tour be different?

The last tour that we did was very secret. Nobody knew that I was quitting, or that I had quit already. We had to sort of go on and act like everything was normal and that we were going to just go on and make another record. There was just all this sort of, “Put on a happy face onstage.” We weren’t really able to embrace the fact that it was going to be the last time we were going to play those songs. This [tour] is a direct result of that approach. I think we all want to go and have a wonderful time and remember the fun we were supposed to have, looking back on that negative experience.

You guys have put together a string of shows in the UK, Canada and Brazil, and of course Australia, but how did guys decide on where to go and where not to go? Your American fans didn’t seem entirely pleased…

The American fans, as much as we love the ones that we had, there simply weren’t that many. We only had a small window to be able to plan this. I mean we would’ve liked to have gone everywhere! We would’ve loved to have played five shows in Australia and we would’ve loved to have played all over England and Scotland and Ireland. We would’ve loved to have toured across Canada, but we couldn’t because we all have other things to do, we all have other lives now and this is supposed to be a celebration. Hopefully the people who are coming to the shows will appreciate it and enjoy it. For the fans who don’t get to come and the people who couldn’t afford to fly or travel somewhere, I apologise, but such is life.

What’s so special about Australia?

It’s just a special place, it really is. Australia’s always been wonderful to us and to me, and I feel very fondly about it. I always just have a wonderful time, every time I’ve been there. We have a lot of fond memories of Alexisonfire in Australia. One of my favourite shows ever was the first time we played there. There was not even a second guess about whether or not we should go to Australia. It was always part of the idea.

What would in your opinion be the perfect way to end Alexisonfire? The perfect gig?

The perfect gig I guess would just be the last show that we play. We’re playing near our hometown and I think we’ll be surrounded by all our good friends and family. And we’ll just go out swinging.

Alexisonfire Farewell Tour:

Tuesday, December 11 – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney [SOLD OUT]

Wednesday, December 12 – Festival Hall, Melbourne