Amid the very troubling times of 2021, the world was able to embark on certain pathways of progress in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Festivals such as Lollapalooza which were cancelled in 2020, returned in 2021. Films like No Time To Die were finally delivered to humankind, furthermore and specifically with this 25th James Bond movie, the multiple delays extended its release date to nearly two years after the original planned time. In another domain, major sporting events like the Tokyo Summer Olympics scheduled in 2020 took place a year later, almost to the day. Although these events were still affected by the virus drastically, they also provided a sense of hope and inspiration for the human race, that we will move forward from this devastating disease.
Referring to the final example used, the Tokyo Olympics embraced an array of extreme sports into their official medal competition. For some this was their official debut and a highlight of this was skateboarding being included for the first time. Undoubtedly this introduction would boost the competitors’ and the sports’ profile globally but it also inspired people of varying ages and identities to being their own journey with the sport. In Great Britain, the MySkate App had a 200 percent growth in skate park searches. As per The Sydney Morning Herald – “Within three days of Queensland’s Keegan Palmer winning Olympic gold in park skateboarding at the Tokyo Games, the City of Sydney opened a skateboarding facility in Annandale. Four days later, Blacktown City Council announced a $353,000 investment in skateboarding”. The sport and sports on that platform were considered saviours in a time of lock-downs and uncertainty.
For Liam Cormier, vocalist for southern sludge hardcore punks Cancer Bats, skateboarding has been a part of his existence for decades. Rumour has it, that he may have chosen a career in music over a promising professional skateboarding career. Regardless, the deck and four wheels became a rescue for himself and many other Canadians during the most difficult times of the pandemic. So much so that the second track ‘The Hoof’ from their Psychic Jailbreak album (out Friday April 15 – review here) which finishes with the anthem statement: “My life was saved by skateboard” was aroused by this era of hardship. As Mr Cormier elaborates from his home, the sport boosted a remarkable sense of community also.
“Well, yeah, like over this last two years, I’ve gotten massively back into skateboarding. My girlfriend wanted to learn how and she had some friends going to the skate park. I realised it had been a while since I skated and I’ve got numerous skateboards here. So I was like: ‘Yeah! Let’s go skate’”.
He enthuses in his trademark, contagiously enthusiastic manner then continues, “Going back to the skatepark, especially when we couldn’t really do anything else; I mean restaurants, bars and cafes were being closed. But we could still go and like hang out at the skate park. I live in Halifax, there are many skate parks around here and people want to do it. So it kind of became this really cool social thing where we were just like, going to skate these bowls. There’s a lot of people who are getting back into skateboarding. So I would say level-wise, we were all on the same page and just wanted to roll around and kind of be healthy and have fun. Yeah, I am massively into skating bowls now.”
During the times when being a touring musician was not a possibility, the ‘Bats undertook other mediums to engage with their fans throughout the globe. This included releasing two digital EPs with acoustic renditions of their classic hits and proceeds were donated to the Water First charity for Indigenous communities in Canada (more information here). One single ‘Bricks Mandolins And More Tambourine’ a rendition of the adored ‘Bricks And Mortar’ also featured some very impressive skateboarding in its film clip.
“We made those acoustic songs initially to kind of entertain people that were stuck in their homes. So as a fun way, hey, people in Italy, Spain and other countries who literally could only stay in their like tiny apartments. We were like: ‘Let’s try and raise like global morale’”.
Liam laughs with a joyful accomplishment before detailing further, “So we did those and people really liked them. So, while we’re just hanging out, we’re like, kind of writing this record, but not really, we thought why don’t we record like an EP of these songs to just have like a record of it? Also because the recording was relatively easy to do for everybody. Scott (Middleton, former CB guitarist) has a studio so that first EP was relatively easy. Then it was just fun to do it as a charity-like fundraiser; this is where we got Nick Sherman (touring guitarist of CB) to sing on ‘Deathsmarch To A New Acoustic Beat’, which is really cool.”
Psychic Jailbreak is the seventh studio LP from Cancer Bats and the first without original member and guitarist Scott Middleton; a loss that would assuredly terminate most bands – the ‘Bats though were intent on Birthing The (new) Giant with another version of The Spark That Moves these Canucks. Jaye R. Schwarzer the bassist of the (now) trio, simply undertook guitar duties for the creation of the eleven songs and this writer can assure the readers that ‘Heads Will Roll’ in the best way possible, as the three-piece’s ‘Old Blood’ is still boiling with southern sludge hardcore punk.
If the title track and first single was utilised as an introduction and announcement that four had become three, then the second single or sequel ‘Lonely Bong’ is the equivalent of Gremlins 2. Zanier, hilarious, familiar characters and rules, new performers (Stephen Harrison from FEVER 333 is presented as the new guitarist after some hysterical cameos) and pop culture references plus confusion to the modern era for people who were alive in the 80s. Understandably, it became a necessity to ask Mr Cormier what the experience of the film clips creation was like, behind the scenes?
“The funny part is because we kind of filmed that whole thing like really off the cuff and quickly, that there are other jokes in the acting; there are a few alternate scenes that were going to be in the intro. However, we were just riffing, so Wade (MacNeil, guitarist and backing vocalist for Alexisonfire) had a bunch of different intros and lines with his cameo and there were more people singing once he disappears; but all those gags were just like that’s it, that’s literally what happened and it ruled.”
Liam chuckles in recollection, “Which I think was really funny because on some of them, with Steve (Harrison) and the sword – he’s really good and he does a really cool move and we’re like: ‘Oh yeah you don’t know about the new guitar player’ HAHA”.
On a final note, pertaining back to the non-existence of touring; it intrigued this scribe to enquire how Cancer Bats handled that reality as a group who once played six shows in a row on the same day to create a Pentagram in London to promote their fourth full-length Dead Set On Living – this must have been a difficult adjustment?
“Yeah, I think for us having done all of those crazy shows for 15 years, we were kind of into a break.” Liam Cormier admits with authentic positivity. “We toured pretty hard on The Spark That Moves. It was definitely a point where we were already going to be chilling out and working on a new record, so it kind of worked. I had just moved to the East Coast; so I was looking forward to exploring this new place I’d moved to and hanging out. It was a bit of a welcome break for us. It also gave us a bit more time to actually work on this record and figure out the vibe of it better.”
The group have since embarked on their touring regime with open arms with fellow Canadians Comeback Kid as this article has come to fruition. It made perfect sense, therefore, also considering the similarities between Canada and Australia, and not forgetting how many times the ‘Bats have given Australia their ‘Sabotage’ in the past, that should they be returning sooner than later?
“We’re trying to figure that out, literally right now. I think there’s still a lot of festivals that have a big backlog of line-ups, you know, from before, so I feel like it won’t be this year. It’ll probably be next year for us. We cannot wait to come back. Our last shows were insane with Wade and it was such a good vibe. I definitely can’t wait to tour Australia with Steve and tear it up.”
‘Rally The Wicked’ because the Bat signal is ‘Ragin Hard’.
Interview by Will Oakeshott
Pre-Order Psychic Jailbreak here
Cancer Bats – Psychic Jailbreak tracklisting:
2. The Hoof
3. Lonely Bong
4. Friday Night
5. Hammering On
7. Shadow Of Mercury
8. Keep On Breathin
9. Pressure Mind
10. Rollin Threes
11. Psychic Jailbreak
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