Alexisonfire's final farewell
After 11 years, four albums, multiple MMVAs, countless side projects and millions of fans around the world Alexisonfire officially called it a day on December 30th 2012 in Hamilton; almost two years to the day that they played their last show and announced their breakup shortly thereafter. The band knew that while they were done, there was something missing; and that they owed to not only themselves but their fans to go out with a bang. That bang was a sold out 15 show tour around the world, an acoustic EP and a box set to come. MSN caught up with vocalist, guitar player, and Gallows frontman Wade McNeil in between sold out Toronto gigs to chat about the farewell tour.
Who made the initial call to make this farewell tour happen?
We talked about it. We talked about doing some final shows when the band announced that we were calling it a day. We were all sort of talking a little bit more. We would all run into each other and hang out a bit. There’s a few things that started happening to all of us that kind of reaffirmed how important this band was to us and a lot of other people. I was travelling in Thailand and I walked by this kid wearing an Alexis shirt. I started freaking out and talking to him. That was a pretty unreal experience to be so far away from home and talking to people about these records. Then I was on tour in Australia and I met this guy who went on about how the band changed his life. We all kind of separately were having these experiences. We were all talking, and emailing each other, and doing our own things. I think that’s what opened it up to start talking about doing these shows. I’m so glad we did. It’s been unbelievable. We owed it to ourselves and we owed it to our fans to give it a proper sendoff but I think as unbelievable as it’s been, it’s time for new adventures for everyone. I’m happy we can end this properly, and I think the band deserves a proper send-off. That’s why we’re all so on board to do this. It deserves this. We’re all proud of what we did. There’s no animosity between any of us. We wanted there to be a nice ending to ten years we’re really proud of. It is very much a farewell. It’s not a reunion.
How have the shows themselves been?
It’s been a really great month. Every single show has amazing. They’ve all been quite different. We’ve been to a lot of different countries. Obviously culturally, a lot of the shows are really different. I think especially Brazil was one of the standout ones. It was the first time we’ve ever played there. It was also the last time we’ll ever play there. For a lot of those people who were at the show, they’ve been listening to the band for 12 years, and it’s definitely one of the highlights of my music career.
Why would you choose to play Brazil on the last run of dates ever if you’ve never been there?
The band has always done really well there and we’ve gotten tons of offers to come there over the years. It was always something we’ve wanted to do but were never really able to line up, timing wise. The offers always came at an inopportune time. It was some place we always wanted to go and we knew the shows would be great. It just never really worked out. When we got the offer for this last run of shows, we thought it was definitely something we had to do.
I assume you did a rehearsal before the first show in London. What was it like to get everyone back in the same room? Did it click immediately?
Everything just clicked. We’ve been playing these songs for ten years so I would hope that we would remember them. It was a definitely a different atmosphere. With a little time and a little distance, we came back to it with an incredible amount of positivity. We were just happy to do this send-off and being able to end things on a positive note.
How are you choosing songs for these shows?
First of all, we’ve been playing an obscene amount of songs. Like 23 songs each night, which is probably a half an hour longer than we’ve ever played. We pretty much play non-stop for two-hours. We’ve played the same city more than a few times. Like we had two London shows, and two Montreal shows, and this whole whack of Toronto shows, we’ve been changing the set list up. We wrote the four set lists last night. Obviously there are some songs that need to be played in an Alexisonfire set. I can’t imagine playing a show and not playing “Accidents” or not playing “This Could Be Anywhere in the World.” There are some that are always going to be in there. We really tried, over the next four days in Toronto to really play some different sets, and dust the cobwebs off some really old ones. Hopefully everyone hears what they want to hear.
Are there any that you really want to hear? Are there songs that you’re more excited to play? You haven’t played these songs in a few years.
There’s always a few that have always felt great live. I know I’ve mentioned “Accidents” before. That was something that we wrote and I just imagined what it would be like when we played it live. Every time we’ve played it live, it’s always been this big anthem song where everyone always loses their sh*t. It’s still my favourite song to play.
Why is Hamilton the last stop on the tour?
Essentially, I think we could have kept playing Toronto until February or something. We had to stop it at some point. We thought it’d be nice to take it out of the city and put it a little closer to St. Catharines. There’s not really a place for us to play in St. Catharines that’s appropriate. Hamilton is where George lives. It’s where I was born. It’s kind of in the middle of Southern Ontario. All those little cities that we started playing like crazy when we started this band. I think it feels kind of fitting to end it there.
You not only decided to do the tour, but there was a final album release as well, the Death Letter EP.
It is just Dallas and I. Essentially, Alexisonfire has always been so busy that we don’t have any B-sides. We would write an album, record it, and then go back on the road. We did that for ten years. When we were on tour in Australia, Dallas and I did this radio show where we did an acoustic version of “The Northern.” We’ve always shied away from acoustic versions because that’s not the way the band sounds. You don’t just pick up an acoustic guitar and play an Alexisonfire song, but we did and we tried to do this bluesy interpretation of it. People seemed to love it. We ended up playing that at a lot of radio stations while we were on tour. We’ve been putting together this box set, and we thought it would be nice to have a little something extra, so we went to go record a good version of “The Northern.” While we were in the studio, Dallas and I wrote seven more versions of songs. It just kind of happened quickly. Both of us have been writing songs together for a very long time that it just happened really naturally and really easily. It ended up being a record. We released six songs on iTunes and then there will be the full-length album that will have eight that will be a part of the box set.
Is there going to be a DVD release of any of the farewell shows included in the box set?
We’ve been filming a lot. Pretty much filming all of the Toronto stuff and recording the live audio. What will come out of that, I’m not really sure at this point. We’ve been covering everything.
What does writing with Dallas bring to your songwriting?
This thing has always happened from day one. It always seems that we both individually been writing something that always seems to fit together, without knowing it. Sometimes it’ll be a song or a chorus. Sometimes it’ll be something as simple as a guitar melody. That’s something that’s always happened.
I’ll show him something and he’ll be like, “Oh check this out.” It always just seems to fit perfectly together. We both have different ways of looking at music, so there’s a struggle sometimes for getting on the same page. By and large it’s always been this very simple thing. We’re on two different wavelengths but on the same page.
Have you found that to be the case in Gallows as well?
They have a very different approach. Working with their guitar player, Lags, who is pretty much the main songwriter in the band. I think him and I are very much on the same page. When Dallas and I write together, we both like very different things in music. When we combine those two, that’s when something special happens. When I write with Lags in Gallows work, we very much love all the same art, and culture, and music. I think we’re both completely on the same page and trying to push it to the next level. A little bit of the same, but a little bit different.
Five quick questions. One word answers. Road or Studio?
Lennon or McCartney?
When you hear a song, what usually hits you first: Lyrics, melody, or rhythm?
Song you’ve written that you’re the most proud of?
“Cross of Lorraine.”
And in one word, Alexisonfire.