Unser Redakteur Camilo hat vor der Show in Berlin mit Chris Cresswell, dem Sänger und Gitarrist der Kanadier gesprochen - unter anderem über unsingbare Songs, die Inspiration auf Tour sowie Split EPs.
THE FLATLINERS - Chris Cresswell (2. v. l.)
Allschools: Last time you were in Berlin it was with THE MENZINGERS and you played a great show. Did the songs from your new album “Inviting Light” evolve or change since the release?
Chris Cresswell: Right, I think this set is going to be a little different, because we don't want to play the exact same list of songs from last time. Because if everyone who came to the show last time is coming tonight, they would be really bored [laughs].
But it's funny how even new songs can evolve on the road. You play them every night and little things change. In the way you play your guitar or drums or you sing a certain part. I feel like we are more comfortable every day playing theses new songs. And since that MENZINGERS Tour we started playing different new songs live as well. So it's been cool to see how they have grown so far. A lot of them fit really good in the live setting and it's really fun to pepper them in between songs from “Dead Language” and “Cavalcade” and “The Great Awake” and all the stuff. And I think it makes for a well rounded show.
Do you know what songs might work live already when writing them?
It depends, I think some you can feel right away that they will go well live, at least playing-wise. You never know how people will react. But I mean, to be honest, there are a lot of songs from “Dead Language” that are difficult to sing live, cause they are so high. And I really fucked up with that making that record [laughs]. We used to jam at home without a PA system. So I'd be writing the melody to those songs at home and then I would go to practice to play them but I wasn't singing them cause we couldn’t afford a PA system. And then we got into the studio and I was like "oh no, these songs are so high" [laughs]
And the music was already recorded...
Exactly, so I really learned my lesson that way and I told myself that I would never do that again. So on “Inviting Light” songs I had that in mind and I made sure that I could sing them live. And there are certain songs, like we haven't played “Burn Out Again” live yet and we haven't played “Chameleon Skin” live yet, just cause there's a little bit more going on than the average, like two guitars, bass and drums. I guess in Burnout Again it's more the way that I'm singing and playing the guitar at the same time, that would take some practice [laughs]. And “Chameleon Skin” is such a studio song, there's so much else going on. So we don't wanna play “Chameleon Skin” live and have it sound not as big as the record. So that's for down the line, yeah [laughs].
Do you a different approach in playing, maybe also a different level of pressure, between playing a support slot and as a headliner?
I think so, I think that there's a little more responsibility on your shoulder, so it's kind of like, as much as it's a NOT SCIENTISTS show and PRAWNS show, it's seen as like a FLATLINERS show. I don't know why that is, but I think there is this self-imposed pressure on the band to deliver more of a show, rather than get up there and play a bunch of songs. I mean we love support tours as well, that MENZINGERS Tour was super fun, not only because we know them for such a long time and are fans of the band and all this. But to get on stage and play about 40 minutes a night is perfect. Like I said, you just get up there, you play a bunch of songs, as many as you can in the time you are given, and that's it. But with the headlining set you have to make it, I don't know, there is something about it, you have to make it a little more captivating maybe for people. So there's definitely a difference.
Some highlights and some mellow sections…
Yeah, for sure, that's what I mean, you make like more of an atmosphere of a show with peaks and valleys and stuff, absolutely yeah. So we've been kind of messing around with the setlist a little bit so far and we are trying to implement that kind of things, so that it’s not just an hour of getting rocked you know [laughs].
I just looked up at songkick.com - where all your gigs are listed - that you've travelled almost 500.000 miles.
Oh my god, just like everywhere we've been?
I think we just got songkick like a year or two ago
Wow, so it's even more
[laughs]...I don't know when we got that
Some musicians I talk to tell me that they need to get in some kind of normal and daily atmosphere in order to write and relate again to normal life. And there's your album "Cavalcade" which is pretty much about being on the road. When travelling so much, how do you manage to write lyrics?
I think that I'm guilty of having a certain narrative that I gravitate towards. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that, when I'm in a good mood, if life is good and I'm happy and life is great, I don't write many lyrics [laughs]. I think many are affected by life the same way. Like I only write if I have something to complain about, maybe [laughs].
I think that all the travelling serves as perfect inspiration for lyrics and music, ideas, meeting new people, having these new - whether they are positive or negative - experiences. That all lends itself to writing and the craft and all these things. Day to day on tour things are so different, you know, your body and your mind are in constant conflict to resolve into one routine, I guess. So every day is pretty different. I think that when the guys and I wanna sit down and actually get into like writing a record, we need the focus of being at home to do it, cause on tour we're just fucking ping-ponging around [laughs]. But without this the writing at home would never happen.
So you gather impressions...
Yeah, like lyrics, especially now, with like an iPhone or whatever phone you have, you can just, you can be drunk in a bar at 2 in the morning after a show and something pops into your head, which is weird, I usually have the late night and early mornings. Those are my most cognitive times for that. You can just make a little note, so it's never been easier. But you gather that kind of stuff, you gather little parts of maybe a guitar riff or a melody idea. But for us it's not until we are home with that focus on the task and actually put it together.
What does being home mean in the sense of pursuing other activities? Or do you just focus on making music?
I spend a lot of time at home making music too. I mean, this year is an exception ‘cause we've been touring so much, but we usually, all of us have you know jobs when we're home. I mean, pretty easy going stuff, like I work at a bar that Scott and Paul, who both work for different beer companies deliver to [laughs]. And John works with some friends, kinda odd jobs and random stuff. But this year we've been away so much that when we've been home it's been for a week maybe 2-3 at a time at most. And you just sleep and you spend time with your partner and you see some friends and you see some family and then you start preparing for the next tour and so. But typically, I mean like a year like last year where we weren't on the road as much, if you're at home for 6 months then you gonna work a few days a week and writing hopefully. I think it's important to keep sharp with. If you let your musical ability as a touring musician become just the time you play guitar or whatever your instrument is, just when you're on stage, I think it can really stifle your creativity and I think that it's important to just sit with that instrument more than just when you're on stage.
Does that happen to you?
Yeah, you go through waves of inspiration, I don't think I ever had like writer’s block but there's definitely times when I'm like "I can't be fucking bothered to pick up this guitar" cause you're like exhausted from being away like for four months, so that's the thing, you are human in the end. But I think if you can keep that in mind and keep your musical ability, your craft at the forefront of your mind and your life, you'll only see what you do as a musician grow and grow.
What about some places you haven't been and you would like to go to play?
Ah yeah, there's definitely some still. We've been lucky to travel a lot, doing this, but we've never been to Portugal, that would be really cool.
It's not even that far…
I know and we tour Europe a lot too. And we've never been to Greece. I'm sure I'm forgetting a couple places the guys and I talked about going too in Europe that we’ve never been able to make it to.
More Central and South America would be really cool, going to China would be really cool. I mean otherwise, oh New Zealand would be really cool too actually, but otherwise we’ve been really lucky to go to basically everywhere else we ever wanted to go to.
And on this tour alone I think we are playing 13 or 14 countries, headlining with great bands Prawn and Not Scientists and then in the UK with Shit Present. And it feels to come over here and do that much travelling in like a month. It never ceases to amaze me how many different cultures you can witness in 30 days or so in Europe, it's incredible. I mean, I can't believe that the US and Canada are two countries. When you come to Europe it's like oh my god, so many countries, it fucking blows my mind. Canada is a gigantic country, America is a gigantic country, just I mean as land mass alone. And then you come to Europe and you see how people live in this slightly different ways country to country and all this stuff. It is a pretty inspiring thing. When we first started touring in Europe, it was when we were really putting things together for this Cavalcade record and that was one of the biggest deals.
I remember being in Slovenia playing, not with A Wilhelm Scream, but we played down the street, like we played different shows that night down the street. And I remember we like just watched their set and we were going down to our venue and I was writing lyrics and I came up with this riff when I was restringing my guitar and it became a song called, “Here Comes Treble”, which is really fast like shreddy punk, like a Wilhelm Scream is. And they are great friends of ours, and I mean, I remember were that song happened, and that song wouldn't have happened if we didn’t come to Europe, and we weren’t in Slovenia and didn’t have that thing. So it's just a lot more fun to be in a different place every day [laughs].
And you don't get tired of it?
I mean you get tired sometimes, but I guess you don't get tired OF it. I think there's a difference. It's almost impossible to spend this much time on the road and not burn out, not be on autopilot sometimes, your only human, you get really tired [laughs]. But it's still something we love to do obviously, yeah.
Some last questions: In the past you released some split records with Astpai and Dead to Me, how did these ideas come about and is there a perspective to do that in the future?
Yeah we would love to, and we’ve actually been talking about that recently, that we’ve had a couple ideas for a few years now we haven’t been able to really put forth officially yet, just because we were working on “Inviting Light” and stuff. But I hope we could do more of those, cause they are super fun and they really always just come from: you find this band and you love their music and you meet them and they are fantastic people and you become really good friends. And that's what happened with Astpai. They gotta be one of the most incredible bands I've ever come across in my live, they are amazing people and they amazing song writers and just like, I'm sure we would have met someday, but looking at like how we met, which was on our first European tours, at a show in Austria, it's just, I love thinking back to that and thinking like "that could have never happened". I'm so happy that it did.
Dead To Me is the same thing. Like we were huge fans and we met them and we became great friends over the years. That one was cool ‘cause we got to cover different band’s songs. The Astpai one was cool because we got to cover each other’s songs. And they made our song so much better than it actually is [laughs] and we didn't know that they would actually do that. So we kind of just like did theirs the way it sounded to us. But we didn't want to know, like there wasn't much correspondence, the only correspondence was that there shouldn’t be too much correspondence. We didn’t want to really know what they were up to, but we kind of fucked up a little bit [laughs].
And what did they say about your version?
I mean they liked it, they enjoyed it, I mean they are sweethearts, they have nothing bad to say. But I wish we, looking back I wish we knew that they were gonna do what they did cause it's fucking so cool.
There's definitely bands that we made friends with over the years that we would love to do splits with. It's just for fun man, like everyone makes such a big deal about an album a band puts out, all these things. There's so much attention around a record for a band. But at the same time I feel people have less and less of an attention span all the time now. That's why you see bands releasing one song at the time. Like single culture is coming back in Punk and Rock.
And in mainstream even more…
For sure absolutely, I feel it's never gone away in pop music and hip hop music, but you're right, it's coming back so much more in mainstream. And I think there's a reason for that. And I think music is supposed to be about having fun and making something together and experiencing something together. So the split 7" is like one of the most pure representations of what like punk rock is when you put your music actually on something physical. Like a split fucking 7", that's so punk [laughs]. And there's a reason that it's still so fucking cool.
And I guess that fun aspect of producing and writing is much smaller and focused
Yeah you can make the argument that sometimes it's more fun just to do that. ‘Cause a record is super fun to make but then maybe you get frustrated ‘cause you're not getting this take done properly or it costs so much money to record, all these things and these thoughts everyone has. But yeah, you can have a lot of fun recording one song for a 7" for sure.
Well it would be cool to hear something. Great, I don't have more further questions, I didn't want to talk so much about the album, because…
…It's already out, exactly [laughs]
Would you like to add something?
Well I guess pertaining to the record like we are very appreciative of our fans like growing with us and coming with us on this musical ride over the years. We definitely made it maybe a little difficult for our fans sometimes to stick with us, ‘cause we like to try new things and I know “Inviting Light”, there is some different stuff on there. But it's been really cool to hear what people have thought about it, if it's good or bad, you know it's ok, it's just music. And the people that have stuck with us and have grown with us over the years, it is so appreciated, so thank you to those people
OK, cool, we'll write that down too. Well thanks for your time, and have a great show?
Of course, thank you.