Interview: Liam Cormier – Cancer Bats

Cancer Bats (2018 – photo by Asad Aman)

You can find metal fans everywhere. Want proof? When I caught up with Cancer Bats singer Liam Cormier, he’d just made it back from headlining the ironically named Silence Festival in Nepal. How does a Canadian band end up topping the bill at a metal festival in Nepal? “We were asking ourselves the same thing”, he says laughing. “The promoter was able to come see us when we played in Europe. They thought it would work for their Nepalese Metal Community, so we got the invite and we got to go out and basically just rip the festival and hang out in the city for a couple of days. It was amazing.”

As it turns out, Bryan Adams was right when he sang ‘Everywhere I go, kids wanna rock’, and the metal scene in Kathmandu is a vibrant one. “You show up to a place that you’ve never been and everyone is wearing Slipknot shirts and you’re like okay this is going to be sick”, Cormier recalls. “We were the first hardcore band or punk band that has ever played at their festival” he explains, “so it was definitely them taking more of a risk on us.” But being sponsored by local favourites Underside helped them connect with fans, and Cancer Bats will repay the favour by taking them on their UK tour in January. “You could see that, as our set was going”, the singer recalls, “the people got more and more involved and by the time we played Sabotage, the kids were getting really into it.”

Nepal may seem like the end of the world on a map, but Cormier found more similitudes than differences. He draws parallels between the DIY mentality of the metal fans there and in Canada, and he credits Underside for putting in a lot of work into their own community. “It reminds us of Canada”, he says. “There are so many pockets of the country where people say they want to have a better metal scene so they start putting on shows and start doing things. It’s that DIY aesthetic that I see that Canada has definitely been built on as far as our hardcore and metal community is concerned.” Despite certain cultural differences, that sense of community among metal fans was stronger than borders, and the band found that they shared a common language in music.

Nepal’s Silence Festival VII

It’s no surprise that the DIY mentality is what Cormier latched on, as it’s been part of Cancer Bats’DNA their whole career, culminating in the band self-releasing their latest record ‘The Spark That Moves’. “We were out of contract with everybody; we had learned a lot about putting out records and what needed to be done so we decided to do it ourselves”, he recalls. “It was definitely a perfect time for it. We had a lot of challenges and things we had to take care of ourselves, whereas back in the day we’d be like ‘we’ve done our part, here’s the record, let us know what you need us to do’. Now, we had to come up with a marketing plan, and really take control of the whole vision of what we want to do with the record. I really enjoyed that and I think it’s really fun but it’s tons of work.”

As part of that marketing effort, Cancer Bats decided to just drop the record, and not pre-announce it. When someone like Beyonce does it, no one worries that fans and the media will pick up the album. The band knew it would connect with their audience. “The confidence that we had to do the surprise release was built up over that year we took off”, he explains. “We had done a handful of Bat Sabbath shows (the band’s Black Sabbath tribute project), and at all of those shows, there were so many kids asking if we were working on new stuff. They wanted a new record.”

In the age of social media, advance solicitation of an album can be rightly seen as an anachronistic relic of a time when retail was king. “When I see things like a pre-order online, I just want to hear the record right away”, says Cormier. “I just want to have access to it. So, we decided to just put it out.” But it wasn’t a ‘cross your fingers and pray’ strategy; the band worked hard to promote the release, including making the sure the vinyl copies were available on release day, instead of weeks later, as is unfortunately prevalent in the industry. The band also went to the unusual lengths of making videos for every song on the record. “This was to build up our own confidence in doing something a little different; at least we know we’ve covered all of our bases and that we’ve done our best with all of this”, he says. This strategy also allowed the band to let fans gravitate to the songs they liked as there is no single for the album.

Cancer Bats is about to start a Canadian tour that will take them to Montreal on Friday December 7th at Club Soda, with The Flatliners and support from Heart Attack Kids. “I used to live in Montreal”, says Cormier, “and that was always important for me to have a connection to that city.” Cancer Bats can count on a long time friend and supporter in Dave Boucher at Extensive Enterprises who was one of the first people to play the cancer Bats demo, and has been their longtime booker whenever they visit us. “For me, it’s really rad that we are so much longer in our careers but also in our friendship. We’re still working together and still doing something awesome”, he explains.

I asked Cormier what fans can expect from their concert. “We’re going to lose our minds at the show. We’re going to try to smash through as many songs and get as crazy as we possibly can. We definitely are looking forward to this”, he says enthusiastically. And it looks like there will be more Bat Sabbath shows in the future too. “There are so many places we still haven’t done it that have been reaching out like ‘we need to see Bat Sabbath’. That was the conversation in Nepal: we have a club; why don’t you guys also do this. I was like ‘man I’ll pack my cape, I’m down’.

Don’t miss Cancer Bats at Club Soda on December 7th. Tickets are on sale here.

Jean-Frederic Vachon
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