Cancer Bats: Flying Again After A Psychic Jailbreak
The year 2022 marks the rise of a new chapter in the fabled history of the entertainment world’s most revered “bat” franchise, and it’s not the one starring Robert Pattinson. No, this one stars Liam Cormier, along with Jaye Schwarzer and Mike Peters, a collective know as CANCER BATS.
With COVID causing the cancellation of their 2020 tour and founding member/lead guitarist Scott Middleton departing for personal reasons, the Cancer Bats were left with some decisions to make, and make them they did – along with a brand new album, Psychic Jailbreak. Their previous album, 2018’s THE SPARK THAT MOVES, was commercially successful, critically praised, and earned the band their 5th JUNO nomination, so the bar was set high. Thankfully, PSYCHIC JAILBREAK measures up musically and lyrically, delivering a hardcore punch of sonic energy that should please diehard Bat fans the world over.
Now that COVID restrictions have eased, the BATS are finally taking flight on a tour that brings them to The Warehouse. Liam took time to chat with GoBeWeekly.com about the new album, the new line-up, and their latest promo gimmick, the release of their own signature coffee blend called Pressure Mind.
GoBe: There’s so much going on over the last four years, between 2018s The Spark that Moves to the new album to the new line-up. But we have to start with the real important question: Pressure Mind Coffee? Is that the most punk thing or the least punk thing you could possibly do?
LIAM: (laughing) We’re pumped to do some fun, kind of different stuff around the release. We’ve been making T-shirts since 2005 so I thought, it’s maybe a good time to have some different things and change it. And I’m really good friends with the roaster from Dartmouth who made it. I’ve done a coffee with him before so I said, lets do a limited 100 bags of good Guatemalan coffee. I was really stoked that it worked out.
GoBe: Do you have a taste now for Guatemalan over Brazilian beans? Are you that educated on coffee?
LIAM: I know my beans. There’s lots of stuff that I like in terms of knowing what sort of coffee will work for a broad group, like whether you like cream and sugar or if you like your coffee straight up.
GoBe: Well, when you consider the energy of the band coffee is probably a better product to distribute than whiskey anyway.
LIAM: Ya, definitely. It’s our favourite drink, especially since everyone in the band rarely drinSk any more. I haven’t drank in 20 years. We’re more like, lets make hot sauce. Let’s make a grinder.
GoBe: Let’s talk about the music. You’re emerging from COVID hell with a new lineup and a new album. Which of those things provided the bigger challenge to the band?
LIAM: I think the fact that we all live in different cities was tough, but it also kind of opened up a different way of writing for all of us. All of us have had to do more, working on the individual parts. The onus was like more on everyone doing their own homework. We can’t just show up to the practice space and just play along to what everyone else is doing. The focus was more like, I need you to come up with a drumbeat or I need you to get this done. I kind of liked it in a way that everyone had to pull their own weight. But it was also nice because we weren’t on a schedule so if somebody had to work or spend a day with their family it wasn’t slowing anyone down. It was really nice to have that freedom. I think it might become the way we do things moving forward.
GoBe: That’s the silver lining of COVID. Everyone’s re-evaluating how they work and what makes sense. It’s good that the band recognized that too.
LIAM: Ya, and the fact that technology is so advanced now from what it was when we started 15 years ago. We definitely couldn’t have done this without the fact everyone can just record off the software that’s already installed on their Mac. I can make a voice file on my phone that sounds better than any of the demos we did in 2012.
GoBe: Psychic Jailbreak is a great metaphor for a post-COVID world looking for a mental break from the chaos and uncertainty. Was that one of the first tracks written? Was it the album title that all the other songs just kind of flowed from?
LIAM. Actually, it was one of the last songs. “Radiate,” “Psychic Jailbreak,” and a couple of them all kind of went through different incarnations. One of the first ones that we wrote was “Lonely Bong.” That, “Crocodiles” and “Friday Night” were some of the first songs. And those kind of raised the bar for what we were doing. It was like, we have these three, now everything has to be at least as good as these songs. I was writing the lyrics to “Radiate” as I was driving out from Halifax to Winnipeg to go record. I stopped in Toronto, picked up Jay, and he and I drove out to Winnipeg to jam with Mikey and I was like, this is the chorus I worked on for “Radiate.” Those guys were like, ya, this is sick. You start recording and it’s like, this should be the first song on the album. It’s kind of nice how those things organically work out.
GoBe: You mention “Lonely Bong.” I love that video. It’s kinda fun and it kicks off with an admission that you’re all kind of older and might be out of touch with the social media set, the “TikToks” as you mention. Your career has kind of emerged during this time of the Great Satans of social media. How have you embraced them or avoided them? Have they been a positive thing for the band in terms of building awareness and promotion?
LIAM: I think we’ve embraced them. We like to be honest and realistic. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are 40 who have no idea what is going on. We like pointing those things out. We didn’t embrace things like Twitch that kind of blew up over the last couple years. But we definitely figured out TikTok. I like social media and it’s a great way to stay connected and actually have a real connection with fans, to hear people’s feedback and answer their questions. We’re a band you can always find at the merch table and can talk to, so to have that same connection is nice.
GoBe: Do you have any fear as a working musician for the better part of two decades that there might be a clip radiating out there, maybe of something you said or did that might not suit the acceptable narrative in trigger-happy 2022?
LIAM: I’ve always been sober whenever I’ve done interviews (laughing). I think I’ve always been pretty mindful. I’m not a shit-talking kind of person. I’ve never played into that whole scene. I feel that was a trend in magazines in the early 2000s. It never sat well with me. I feel like I haven’t said too many things to worry about.
GoBe: You’ve got the upcoming gig here in St. Catharines at the Warehouse. You’ve got a long association with St. Catharines going back to the original SCENEFEST back in the days when Cancer Bats and Billy Talent and Alexisonfire were all up and coming. What do you remember most about those festival?
LIAM: I loved the fact that there were so many amazing bands that were just from Southern Ontario. That was the whole thing for us when we started, that you could play an amazing festival in St. Catharines, but you could also the next day play a great festival in Welland. There were tonnes of great bands, like In These Walls or Two Knives, Keep It Up. That’s when Attack In Black was starting. There was just such a great scene. Ceremonial Snips would play, and you’d have a great ska band and then there’d be super-heavy bands playing afterwards. There were bands like Rose Is Dead, just a buzz of cool stuff happening. It was a cool time to be amongst it all.
GoBe: If there was anything to lament over the two years of COVID it was that bands couldn’t tour. Do you see anything positive coming out of those two years? Your band is touring again, but do you anticipate any festivals emerging again?
LIAM: The really cool thing that I’ve been seeing is that all the bands that we’ve been playing with and opening these shows have been so good. Back in the day when Cancer Bats started, we’d be playing shows where we’d have 10 minutes of poorly rehearsed music because we were just excited to be playing. Whereas now, all the bands that have been opening these shows have had two years of band practice. They’re playing their first show and they sound incredible. I think there’s definitely a lot of cool stuff that came out of it. People having access to this now readily available technology to make great demos or cool art, a lot of people used that time to work through the last two years.
GoBe: You’ve got the new album out. Do you feel there’s more work in the writing, recording, and release, or does the work really happen around promotion and touring after? Which is more laborious?
LIAM: I don’t know if I find it laborious because I do enjoy aspects of it all, especially at this point because we run our own label and kind of do everything ourselves. We don’t have management or anything. I do enjoy all of these things, making merch, seeing people pick it up at show. I feel really grateful to be in this position that we can tour fulltime and hang out and play these sold-out shows.
GoBe: You look like you’re doing it right. The band always seems to be having fun, the music is power punched with energy. It’s probably not a bad gig I would think.
LIAM: Ya, I’m having a blast (laughing).
GoBe: With the new album, what does success look like to you? What are the benchmarks or achievements you’re hoping for?
LIAM: To think that we can have a seventh album that can just sit on the shelf alongside with the other albums we’re so proud of, I think that in of itself is a win. To have that as our new vibe we’re putting forward. That’s the success, playing these shows with everyone singing along to let us know how much they love the new tunes. It just feels really great.
GoBe: When you started this band with the original line-up, was there any shared vision that those sevens albums would be on a shelf alongside your own name brand bag of coffee?
LIAM: (laughing) When you think about it, when you’re starting a hardcore band, even wrapping our minds around the fact that we would be doing this as a job 15 years later, I feel that’s pretty crazy. I’m definitely happy to be here.