The Flatliners
Contributed by mjmillard, Posted by Fat Wreck Chords Interviews

With their third full length Cavalcade set for release on April 13th, The Flatliners are back on the road doing what they do best, endless touring all over the world. Fresh off a set of Australian dates, and currently in San Diego on the first day of their tour with Cobra Skulls and Broadway Calls, Mark Millard chatted with the band's Chris Cresswell about the new record, touring with NOFX and Bad Religion, and the learning process of a young band.

So I’m sitting here with an old school Go! Go! Go! Records compilation in front of me that you guys were on back in the day…

Holy shit. (Laughter)

Obviously you guys have come a long way since being a high school ‘skunk’ band playing around Toronto. With your third record set to come out, what’s the general vibe with the Flatliners right now?

Pretty excited, man. Recording it took a while, doing it between tours. So the fact that it’s finally coming out - we’re pretty stoked. And the tour we’re doing with Broadway Calls and Cobra Skulls starts tonight in San Diego, so pretty excited man.

Still being a very young band, you can see the progression album to album. Just take a song like "I Am Abandoned" and compare it to "Shithawks" on the new record. What’s the biggest thing you guys have learned since Destroy to Create?

Oh man, it’s kind of tough to narrow it down to be honest. We pretty much grew up on tour. We started touring right after high school basically and haven’t stopped since. So learned a lot about the world through, it sounds really cheesy to say but, just through living it, you know what I mean? We’d run into friends who are going to school for certain things or whatever and we kind of felt, going back to the first few years we were out of high school, like we had learned a lot more than they had, just from being on tour and meeting people and having real life experience with shitty situations and good situations. I guess to be honest, being in a band, you’ve just gotta keep positive because musicians and artists of any sort, we do what we do without any, well with a lot of reward. It’s not that it’s dangerous or anything, but it’s a pretty uncertain thing to do. So we just spend all our time on tour playing shows for people who like our band and it’s like the most incredible thing ever man. I mean there’s no better feeling. Like the tour we just did in Australia, being halfway around the world and having kids sing along, it’s pretty wild dude. I think you’ve just gotta keep positive and remind yourself how truly lucky you are to do what you do.

Totally man. And as you mentioned, you guys have learned a lot from touring. You’ve toured with some pretty legendary bands in NOFX and Bad Religion. Can you learn from bands like that, playing with them every night?

Definitely man, definitely. We were fortunate enough to be taken out on the road by NOFX specifically, like four or five times. It was pretty ridiculous for a bunch of kids who grew up listening to that band and they played a pretty big role in shaping our punk rock tastes. But yeah, you really can learn so much from the punk rock vets because they’ve been around so long doing what they do. And really all they wanna do is tell stories and stuff, which is amazing. We’ve been pretty fortunate to not experience much rock stardom with any band we’ve toured with. It’s funny that the biggest bands we’ve toured with and the bands that have been around the longest that we’ve been on tour with are some of the coolest, most down to earth people we’ve met, especially the dudes in NOFX. They took us out time and time again and it got better and better each time. We got closer to them as friends and just watching them play every night is just incredible. It’s the same thing with Bad Religion, we’ve played shows with them and it’s like, we’re kids man; we grew up on those songs and to see them being played right in front of us, then to get the chance to talk to people in those bands after, and just shoot the shit, it’s pretty unreal man. It’s never really sunk in which is the best part.

So let’s talk about Cavalcade a bit. This time around, as you guys are maturing and touring with a lot of bands that are obviously pretty renowned, does the writing process change for a record like this or is it strictly a typical process for you guys?

I think the only difference between this record and other records as far as the writing process goes and stuff, we wrote most of the songs together, and there were a few that were written on an individual basis. To be honest, we didn’t go in there thinking, "Oh we’re gonna outdo ourselves on this one." A lot of bands get stuck in that mind frame, and it’s never a bad thing to want to evolve and try to outdo yourself, but to think that you need to; I think that’s when bands start to stifle their own creativity. A lot of bands that shoot for that without really understanding what could happen and what they really want to do. We just went into it wanting to write songs that we want to listen to. We always have the same agenda that we want to write songs that we like and if anyone wants to listen to it then that’s amazing, that’s a bonus. But, as far as the writing process goes, we did it while we were on tour, which we’ve never really done before. We usually write songs, or come up with ideas on tour but not full songs. And yeah cause we spend so much time on the road, the writing process spanned a pretty long time but we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, man.

I find it’s a really diverse record. You have some easier going parts like in "He Was a Jazzman," but at the same time there’s some of the heaviest Flatliners songs I’ve ever heard. What can you attest that to?

Yeah to be honest we wanted to write a record that first and foremost we enjoyed, that we would have fun listening to and working on. Which we definitely achieved through a lot of stress of course, recording between tours. But at the same time, we achieved that goal. We wanted to make it, kind of like, catchy but also like a vicious record. A lot of the subject matter is pretty asshole-ish, if I can coin that term. (Laughter) I think we set out to write some heavy songs and I think we achieved that, especially with a song like "Shithawks" and a song like "Jazzman" which is a pretty mellow reggae tune until it turns into this evil kind of thing in the end. We just wanted to hit people with that stuff, because I know between our first two there was a different style. Destroy to Create was a lot more ska/punk, and The Great Awake, we tried to haul our craft a little more with the punk rock songs and without completely abandoning our ska and reggae roots. This record, I think the furthest mutation was to try and get a little heavier, but without it being cheesy and without it being metal, obviously. We started listening to a lot of bands that were a little heavier, like we started listening to a lot of John Reese kind of stuff in the last few years, and not that all his bands are super heavy, but they’re all really badass sounding and they all have that pretty evil sounding vibe. Especially a band like Hot Snakes. We’ve all gotten into huge in the last few years and maybe tried to emulate that a little bit and see what we would do with it. Specifically in a song called "Sleep Your Life Away." But yeah man, we just tried to learn from music we love and try to do it with our own music and try to make a diverse record I guess, and I guess it happens because we didn’t really set out to do that per say, but with all of our influences it was bound to happen.

I remember being at the Destroy to Create CD release party in Toronto at the 360 (rest in peace) and seeing Jon play his Tool bass riffs and stuff when you guys were setting up, so obviously there’s a lot of diversity in the band. But just speaking about yourself, personally, who do you listen to on a consistent basis?

Oh man, it’s pretty tough dude. It changes from time to time. Well, we actually just listened to Sublime for the first time in a long time, just a few minutes ago in the van. I was listening to a lot of that band Ninja Gun, and their record Restless Rubes which came out a couple of years ago. I just got it the other day when we were in Australia. I like a lot of different kinds of music, which is really cool, some of that more mellow rock n' roll. I just actually went on tour with Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry, just doing merch, and my girlfriend’s band, they’re called Cavaliers; they were on the tour as well. So that whole kind of scene, it’s still punk rock, but it’s definitely folk music as well and that’s definitely getting huge these days. I’ve always loved Bob Dylan and stuff like that, and it seems like Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry are kind of reincarnating the whole folk through punk rock music kind of thing, and it’s pretty amazing. That tour was a pretty big eye opener for me, usually being on tour with a punk rock band. It’s tough to say man, I’ve always believe that The Clash are one of the only bands that ever truly mattered, so I listen to the Clash on a daily basis. Actually, I’ve been listening to a lot of Cobra Skulls lately. We’ve all been pretty stoked for this tour we’re doing with them and Broadway Calls. Other than that man, I can go on for hours because I’m sure I have a pretty eclectic taste in music and I never really want to limit myself to listening to one type of music forever, because that’s when music gets boring.

Obviously having a very open mind when it comes to music, and seeing a guy like Chuck, we all saw what he did with Hot Water Music and now having this project on the side, is that something you would ever like to do; just start your own side project and something totally different than the Flatliners?

It depends. I can say I definitely have had some ideas in the past where like some songs that wouldn’t necessarily fit in the Flatliners mold. But we’re so busy with this band that I can’t really see myself doing anything like that, at least any time in the near future at all. I definitely admire Chuck Ragan for doing what he does because it’s just crazy man. The guy spent so many years on tour with Hot Water Music, just such an influential, hard working band and one of my favorite bands of all time. Now he could be just hanging out, taking it easy or whatever, but this is what he does. He loves what he does man and wants to be on tour. He expressed that to me a few times over the course of that tour, this is what he knows and this is what he wants to do. And he does it fucking well, man. He’s such a passionate dude and I’ve learned a lot from that guy. And, to be honest, it was one of the most fun tours I’ve ever been on and I wasn’t even playing (Laughter). I was just working. So it was definitely an eye opener and just really cool to see him in that element.

So you guys have a fairly intense tour schedule coming up over the next little while, going to Europe, you’ve got Warped Tour, and as we talked about, you’ve toured with the likes of NOFX and Bad Religion. With that being said, who would you like to tour with that you haven’t gotten a chance to tour with yet?

Oh man, that’s a good question. There’s a lot of wicked bands out there that we’ve been able to tour with and there’s a lot of wicked bands out there that we haven’t been able to tour with yet to be honest. You know what actually, our friends in Cancer Bats would be a band that we’d love to tour with, because we’ve only ever played one show with those guys. But they’re buddies of ours and Liam actually came in and did backup vocals on a couple of songs here and there on our album; I think they’d be a blast to tour with. It’s funny because we already know the guys pretty well, but we’ve never toured with them and it would be a pretty strange mix, but I think it could work as well.

Yeah I think that would be such a fun tour.

Yeah man. Other than that, I’m not really sure. I could honestly list like 15 bands that we want to tour with. I mean, really we just want to go on tour with bands that love what they do, and like I said before, we’ve been really lucky to not experience a lot of rock stardom bullshit from bands. Like even the biggest bands that we’ve toured with have been super cool to us, so really any band, doesn’t have to be a punk band it can be any kind of band, we’ll go on tour with them and hopefully have a good time. If they love what they do and we love and what we do, and we’re all there for the exact same reason, then I can see it working out. Actually, I’ll say one more band, Bouncing Souls, definitely that would be wicked.

Oh man, that would be so good. So at this point in your career, what does this new record mean to you personally?

To be honest, it was a stressful way to record this album. Like in between tours and stuff like that. We recorded a bunch of songs last summer, went on tour in the Fall, Fat Mike came up and worked with us on a few songs last November, just doing some production kind on stuff with us and a few songs here and there, which was incredible; it was such a trip to have him. The guy is a fucking really cool dude to work with, super mellow, really funny too, like he’s really fun to work with, which I guess there’s no secret there with Fat Mike. We recorded a few more songs over the winter holidays and, to be honest, I wouldn’t suggest recording between tours to any band. Like a few bands we know have done it that way and it ends up being pretty stressful. But, this record means the world to us because we went through a lot of stress and we did have a good time doing it as well, but it was kind of like a give or take thing for a while. But now that it’s finally about to come out, we’re just really excited and we’ve had some feedback already from kids who have downloaded it and stuff. I mean, that’s inevitable that your record will leak these days, so we’re not too bent out of shape about it, but we’ve had a really positive response dude and that’s all we can ask for and at the end of the day it really makes us that much more excited that kids are listening to it and they can’t wait for it to come out so they’re gonna check it out on their own. The fact that they enjoy it is just fucking amazing, so I’m sure we’ll keep touring and hopefully play with some cool bands along the way and meet some new people. And who knows man, maybe we’ll make some new fans but we’re just sticking to the same game plan, which is just to work hard and enjoy what we do. And that’s what we’re always gonna do.