Interview: Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners

TheFlatsbyGildaLouiseAloisi-1024×675

Photo by Gilda Louise Aloisi

The Flatliners are a band that have never shied away from trying new things. While they’ve left behind the frenetic ska punk that helped them explode onto the Canadian music landscape in the mid-2000’s, the band has stayed true to themselves through sincere songwriting and exploration of new sounds. Moving on from Fat Wreck Chords and signing to Dine Alone and Rise Records in 2017 for their new LP Inviting Light, The Flatliners have embraced change. Inviting Light is their fifth studio album, released April 7th, and is an unhindered effort to explore new musical territory. The band explores new melodies, down tempo rhythms, cleaner guitar tones, and subdued vocals by lead singer Chris Cresswell. But don’t let this assessment deter the fans of The Flatliners of old.

There are peaks in valleys with respect to the energy in Inviting Light, and plenty of dirty growls and riffs to go around. The album itself is an embodiment of what it feels like to near your 30’s, particularly after spending half your life (15 years) in a band and touring tirelessly around the world. It’s wiser, weathered, and perhaps a little worn. But the songs on Inviting Light are closer to the heart than anything we’ve heard before. The lyricism and songwriting are arguably better than ever, and lay bare exactly who this band is at this point in their career. For many of us who grew up with this band, Inviting Light feels like home.

I had a great chat with lead singer Chris Cresswell leading up to their Ottawa tour date with The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, which has to be one of the best lineups of the year. Have a read below.

The Flatliners play Ottawa on Wednesday, June 14th, at Babylon Nightclub with guests The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs. Presented by Spectrasonic. Tickets information and purchase link here.


Interview with Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners

 

What’s your favourite part about being on the road with great bands like Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs and The Dirty Nil?

Chris Cresswell: It’s pretty akin to the current state of the Canadian music scene. It’s incredible right now, and we’ve always had a strong music history spanning back decades with Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, not to mention 90’s alternative and the the birth of punk with bands like D.O.A. . I think we’re experiencing a fervour in the air right now, and something really great is happening. There are so many great bands out there, look at the Dirty Nil – they just won a well-deserved Juno! Then there’s PUP, a band which is known around the world now. There’s bands like Greys, Secret Satanists, Weaves, Dilly Dally. They’re all so talented, and all so different. I think we’re witnessing a pretty positive time in the Canadian music scene, and if we can bring bands like The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey with us on tour, that is great because those two bands rip.

Sometimes it’s just a coincidence that so many great bands come out of one place, it’s kind of like the Philly scene right now, too. You’ve got bands of all shapes and sizes coming out of that market, bands like Menzingers, Hop Along, Modern Baseball, The Restorations, and so many more. They’re all incredible and most of them friends, I don’t know what makes that ecosystem of creativity.

I think part of it up here is being Canadian, we’re able to get a lot of funding for music. I know FACTOR has been under fire a lot, but it’s still pretty incredible that our government funds the arts the way it does. I think maybe that frees up more time for artists to focus on their craft. And I think there’s some magic happening too!

Just having so many exciting Canadian bands doing their own thing, you’ll see a few bands like the ones I mentioned before doing something different and that inspires others to create, too.

 

What are some of the ways you’ve learned to live with each other on the road, and still enjoy making music together over the years?

Chris Cresswell: It helps that we’ve all known each other for a long time – this year the band turns 15-years old. Scott and I have known each other since kindergarten, and Scott and I met Jon in grade two or something. Then we met Paul when we were 11 or 12-years old, and started the band a few years after we met him. So we’ve known each other most of our lives, and knowing each other so well as people definitely helps. I think you never really know someone until you travel with them, and luckily I think we’re pretty good at that.

That being said, we tour so goddamn much that the close quarters definitely has its effects and it’s important to let people have their alone time. The same thing applies to any kind of relationship, whether it’s romantic or not, people need their own time. There’s late nights on the road, there’s early mornings, there’s drinking, there’s often terrible food involved, but then there’s a really fun show at the end of the night.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that the show itself is only such a minute part of your day that takes up almost no time compared to everything else. There are so many determining factors the can affect how you feel walking on stage. As long as you’re doing what you love, that’s the important part. Not every day on tour is going to be the best day of your life – you’re going to have rough days, bad days, and great days. But you just gotta try your best to take the good with the bad. If someone’s having a bad time, then if they want to talk about – talk. If not, then don’t. Let people go for walks, sometimes that helps so much.  Going for that short walk in a city you don’t really know that well while on tour kind of lets the whole situation sink in – that you’r part of a band and that’s really important.

That’s one of the biggest touring lessons we’ve learned. You just have to roll with the punches, especially on the bad days because they’re going to happen once in a while.

 

The evolution in sound since the early 2000’s has been significant, and obviously music changes as people change. Is this progression in the band’s sound a conscious choice? Or is it more or a natural move that reflects where you are all at now?

Chris Cresswell: It’s been an extremely natural thing, for sure. Even if we’re not making an explicitly “conceptual” record, each one is still conceptual in its own way. It’s a snap shot of time from your life, experiences, encounters, friends’ stories, and stuff like that. I’m not really one to write songs from a fictional standpoint with characters that are made up.

That being said, my life changes all the time. The easiest way I can explain it is this: think of a friend that you’ve had for a long time but haven’t seen for a few years. When you see them again for the first time in a few years, they’re a different person. Now attach any kind of artistic outlet to someone and you realize that their art and craft changes with them, too. Just like in any job, the longer you spend at it, the hope is that you’ll become better as time goes on. For us as musicians, it’s been a natural thing because not only do we love making music together but we also tour together – a lot. So I feel like it would be strange if the new record sounded like the last one, because we played that last one 500 times and people have already heard that. Something just changes in you I think.

That being said, wanting to explore the new avenues is a conscious choice. I think you’re betraying yourself as an artist if you don’t pursue new ways to express yourself, and no one wants to hear the same thing over and over again. It already exists, so move forward.

With Inviting Light, there was an awareness that we were exploring new territory and we got curious as to how people would react. But it just felt good, and if it feels good you just keep on with it. Especially when you’ve been doing this as long as we have, you just keep going for it – especially if it feels right!

It’s not a slight on the records we’ve made in the past, of course we love those songs. But it’s incredible to see your fan base grow with you, too. There are a lot of fans who are our age, which is really cool. We made records at pretty formative years in our lives, the first one was when we were 16-years old. If we keep on making records when we’re 40, there will be a lot of 40-year olds listening to those records. It’s been cool to have so many people come on this ride with us.

And one last thing – what is really neat to think about is how awesome it will be to mix in these new songs with the old ones when on stage, because it’s all about touring and playing those songs live. That’s why we recorded our entire last album, Dead Language, live – we wanted it to sound like it does when we hit the stage, and I think we did a good job of that. If you over-do it in the writing process, then you’re thinking, “shit, I still need to play this live,” you know? It’s been so exciting to think about how all these different songs can be put together on stage as a setlist.

I saw an interview with a musician recently who said something interesting. They said instead of making your next record, make your first record. That’s kind of a cool thing, to burn the whole thing down and start over each time. It takes away some of that pressure, and then you can just enjoy the music as it comes. I really like that mentality, just make the best first impression you can make. With this new record, this is mentality we’ve taken. Once we realized the direction the record was taking, we kind of just let everything fall into place. And that being said, the record was done before Dine Alone and Rise became involved.

 

Inviting Light is the first record album released through Rise Records and Dine Alone. Was the transition from Fat Wreck Chords difficult? Or was it something that you were all ready for moving forward?

Chris Cresswell: We always record in secret. Nowadays, everyone loves to post their daily lives on social media and share everything instantly. But for us, that’s a distraction when it comes to making a new album. We came here to work, not post shit on the internet, you know? That’s way we did Dead Language and the same way we did Cavalcade, and that is in two chunks with a lot of time between. That’s such a great way to record because you fall in love with the material again. The reason you make the songs you do and play with your friends is because you are a fan of your own band. Of course we like our own band, we better! Because we have to play these songs so many times, you gotta like it.  So we’ll go to the studio, come up with a bunch of ideas, and then just sit on them. That’s why there’s always so much time between our albums. If we like an idea when we come back to it later on, then we’ll stick with it. And in the meantime, we’ll have written more songs and work those in. Then we’ll put it all together and see what happens. That’s when Dine Alone and Rise came on board, basically. I guess they just wanted to hear it.

We had an amazing ten years with Fat Wreck Chords, and it was hard to have the conversation to try something else. But in the end, that’s all it was, just curiosity. They took such a huge chance on us as 19-year old Canadian kids. Mike took us on tour with NOFX to so many places around the world, and we’ve met so many great people and made friends with some of our fucking heroes. In the end it kind of inspired us to think about where else we want to go with it.

It was difficult, but everyone at Fat is so lovely. Whenever a band leaves a legendary, staple record label, people always think there’s bad blood or something. So often that just isn’t the case. The record label is often just like, “look, you guys gotta do what you gotta do. It’s your band.” That was the case with Fat, everyone there was just super pumped for us. We will always be part of that family. It just inspired us to see what else we can do with this band, and we never dreamed we’d be where we are. Being an almost 30-year old young man (and I use that term very loosely), it kind of makes you think “shit, ok, it’s time to do something else!” And that’s really exciting.

The folks at Rise and Dine Alone have been so great, it’s exciting to have new people listening to your music and basically everything has been awesome. We’ve been able to play these new songs live now a few times and it feels really good. You know, you spend a few years of your life on these tracks and when the album finally comes out and start playing these songs, sometimes it’s like… this is better than sex! Not to get weird or anything, but it’s a very, very strong feeling.

 

You started the band at a very young age, and know what it’s like to be a young music fan. Do you see young folks at your shows connecting with your music?

Chris Cresswell: It’s super cool to see. That Weezer run we did was really cool, because they have such a huge and diverse fan base. I mean, playing with Weezer to begin with us crazy awesome. But in some cases it was a kid’s first show going to see Weezer, and we were the opening band. So we were the first band they ever see! That’s so cool! And then you’ll see a 60-year old woman and she’ll dig it. I mean, most of our shows are 19+ just because our fans tend to be a drinking crowd. Not that we don’t want to do all-ages shows because we know how important they are. They were important to us when we were kids, that’s how it started. Imagine if we couldn’t see NOFX, Rancid, Suicide Machines because they were playing 19+ shows, that would have sucked. When those all ages shows happen, it’s a really cool thing.

 

One of the Ottawa region’s pride and joy is Beau’s Brewery, the purveyors of all kinds of delicious beer. You guys have worked with them before in the past, do you have a favourite beer of theirs?

Chris Cresswell: Oh, buddy. Beau’s Beer. Those guys are all incredible. I’ve known a lot of them for over ten years, and I’ve known Steve Beauchesne since before they started Beau’s and was still in the band called Constable Brennan. Lug Tread is incredible, and one of my favourite beers in the world. It’s like that first impression we were talking about earlier, like, make the best beer you can possibly make. I’ve been drinking it for ten years and every time I have it I’m like, “damn, that’s a good beer”. They have so many good ones, another one I really love is St. Luke’s Verse, which is a lavender gruit ale. They’ve been buddies for a long time and have been so good to us. They’ve just been killing it and we couldn’t be happier. It’s cool to see hard work pay off, the reason they’re doing great things is because they respect the process and treat their employees really, really well.

Their support of bands stems from a place of their love for music. Before they were a brewery, those guys were huge fans of music. So supporting music is something that comes naturally for them, and it encompasses the lives of many people around them. It’s a really cool thing to see what they’ve done.

 

Any secrets that singers like you and Luke from Dirty Nil use to keep your vocal cords from exploding night to night?

Chris Cresswell: It’s insane. A few years ago I blew my vocal cords out and couldn’t talk or sing for a few months. This was before we went to Europe for the first time and I was afraid I did permanent damage. So I called up an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, and they put a camera up my throat and I saw the damage I had done. When you sing the way I do, you can’t avoid singing like that. You can do all these things to avoid it, sooth it, maintain it, but you can’t really get around the fact that singing this way causes damage. Luke from Dirty Nil has an incredible voice, and Stephan from PUP, too. He had some pretty terrible things happen to his voice in the past few years. His damage was a lot worse than mine, but he’s a lot better now and learned a lot from that experience. It’s truly a story of human perseverance.

The biggest thing I’ve changed is that I can’t go to a loud bar after a show anymore. That used to be a huge thing, you finish your show and go to the bar for some drinks. Trying to talk to each other over loud music in a packed bar, they say that is more harmful to your voice than actually singing. It makes no sense, but it’s true. I also do more vocal warm ups, and test out how my voice is doing before shows. I try to be healthy, too. Try to avoid eating too much dairy. I avoid smoking too, I used to smoke a lot of weed on the road a lot and I don’t do that at home. I’ll do that at home. Apparently drinking is bad, too. Basically anything fun is bad for your voice.

But yeah, just little things to maintain the vocal cords, drinking more tea, getting more rest (which is hard on tour). One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t hit every note every time. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat. You gotta realize you’re just a human being, and people don’t care. They’re there to have fun, so stressing out about it will just make it worse. Just like I said before, take the bad with the good. ✺

The Flatliners – Tour Dates (North America)

JUN 14 – Ottawa, ON at Babylon
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs

JUN 15 – Waterloo, ON at Maxwell’s
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs

JUN 16 – Toronto, ON at Lee’s Palace
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs

JUN 17 – Toronto, ON at Lee’s Palace
with The Dirty Nil, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs

JUL 07 – Buffalo, NY at Studio at Waiting Room
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 08 – Cleveland, OH at The Grog Shop
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 09 – Pittsburgh, PA at The Funhouse
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 11 – Washington, DC at Black Cat
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 13 – Asbury Park, NJ at Wonder Bar
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 14 – Brooklyn, NY at Knitting Factory
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 15 – Pawtucket, RI at The Met
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 16 – Boston, MA at The Middle East
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 17 – Philadelphia, PA at Boot & Saddle
with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale (of Red City Radio)

JUL 20 – Belleville, ON at Empire Rockfest

JUL 21 – Rimouski, QC at Les Grandes Fetes Telus

JUL 22 – Saguenay, QC at Festival des Bieres du Monde

JUL 23 – Quebec City, QC at Bar L’Anti
with Downstater, Mental Fix, As One Man

AUG 26 – San Bernardino, CA at It’s Not Dead Festival

SEP 15 – Chicago, IL at Riot Fest

SEP 16 – Chicago, IL at Riot Fest

SEP 17 – Chicago, IL at Riot Fest

2 Comments

  • […] While some fans screamed out for older tracks, or yelled requests for some ska, most of the crowd was just dialed into the true passion and energy that is a Flatliners set. Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with The Flatliners is Beau’s Brewing, which was flowing all night and whose reps and brewers were very present. If you’ve never sang along at the top of your lungs with a sweaty Tim Duncan, you haven’t lived. Be sure to read Matias’ in-depth interview with Chris Cresswell here. […]

  • I have noticed you don’t monetize your site, don’t waste your traffic, you
    can earn extra bucks every month because you’ve got high quality content.
    If you want to know how to make extra $$$, search for: best
    adsense alternative Wrastain’s tools

Leave a Reply