Alexisonfire inherited the screamo crown of Canada this year, knocking it right off the emotionally hardcore heads of their peers. Their sophomore disc, Watch Out!, which the band describes as sounding like “two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight,” went gold in under three months, even though the band received little radio play. We caught up with lead screamer George Pettit to talk about the finer points of fronting the band and how his success is finally allowing him the chance to move out of his parents’ house.
You guys have had a crazy-good year. Has the success been any different than you thought it would be when you were a kid dreaming about this sort of stuff?
George Pettit: I didn’t have any expectations at all because we didn’t dream about it – it was a hobby. Now it’s getting to the point where I think, “Yeah, this is my job and this is what I do for a living.” It’s pretty awesome. Even on the worst days of playing in a band, it’s still better than the best day at whatever other job I’ve ever had in my life, whether that was working in some video store, some crappy retail place or a cherry factory in Southern Ontario. Those were all horrible jobs and I hated every day that I was at them.
You played the Reading Festival a while back, what was that like?
It was one of the biggest reality checks in my life.
It had to do with being backstage and being five feet from the table where the New York Dolls were sitting. I turned around, saw them and thought “Holy shit, I’m in the U.K. because I play in a band and the New York Dolls are sitting right next to me.” It was a big moment for me. I also got to see a lot of really great bands, which was really, really great.
Is there much of a difference playing to kids in Japan or Canada or the U.S.?
A crowd’s a crowd. I find that there are two different kinds of shows: there are shows with a crowd barrier and there are shows without a crowd barrier. They are two very different things. Playing in front of like 2,000 people with a crowd barrier is a really cool thing, but playing in front of 200 kids with no crowd barrier in a packed little club where kids are running around on the stage and things get really hot, sweaty and dangerous makes it just amazing. It doesn’t really matter where you are, that’s what separates the shows.
You’ve been touring your nuts off this year, which has to be tough on your throat. So do you have any secret potions to keep your screaming voice in working order?
Ahh yes, wolfbane. Just kidding. I have a long list of dos and don’ts, which I’ve kind of abandoned. I pretty much decided it’s all about keeping healthy because the only time I ever really lose my voice is when I don’t sleep well. For a while I was off caffeine, alcohol and chocolate, and I was drinking warm water all the time. I had this facial thing that I breathed steam in from because it was supposed to be really good for your vocal chords, but after a while, I was wondering why I was doing all that shit. I know people who do exactly what I do and they smoke, drink and party every night, but they don’t worry about it and they never lose their voice. I found a nice in-between – I don’t party or go crazy every night, but I’m not a nerd about it any more.
Alexisonfire did really well this year, but you didn’t get much help from radio. How do you think word spread about the band?
We have to thank MuchMusic a lot, but also word of mouth has helped because the kids are really enthusiastic about coming to see us play. I think kids telling other kids about us has been the hugest thing for us. We go through a city a bunch of times and we see a big difference when we come through the next time. The internet has helped us out a lot too because there’s been people in all these foreign lands that we didn’t expect to know us at all, but they are singing along to all of our songs.
Anything else new or coming up for you in the near future?
I’m moving out of my house this week! I’m moving about 20 minutes closer to Toronto. I’m at a point now where I think I can afford a crappy apartment, and I figure I should stop sponging off my parents and get out into a new place. I’m pretty excited about it.
So are they going to be glad to get rid of you and all your loud music?
They don’t put up with me so much because I’m never home, but they’ve been very supportive of my loud music.