On the Record with Cancer Bats

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Cancer Bats came out swinging with its debut album in 2006, and the Canadian four-piece continues churning out  bombastic hardcore melodies on its fifth studio album, Searching For Zero. Prior to the band’s show in Edmonton, lead vocalist Liam Cormier answered a few questions about the album for Vue.

Vue Weekly: How long did it take to make Searching For Zero from the initial songwriting through to the end of the recording?
Liam Cormier:We started writing the album in November of 2013, and we finished recording by July of 2014

VW: When you were writing the songs, did you come at them in a particular way?
LC: When we first started writing our plan was just to write a song a day. We had mics and recording gear set up in our practice space, and we would just meet up and jam out a full song and then record it by the end of the day. Then the next day we would show up and do it again. Our goal was to write 30 songs, and we made it to 25 before we stopped and just focused on what we had written. We were stoked on all the riffs we had at that point.

VW: Did you write the lyrics first or the music first?
LC: We always do music first. I’ll have some ideas for songs and lyrics here and there, but I find it’s really the mood of the song that will dictate what the lyrics will be about.

VW: Where did the lyrics begin for you and what did you want to express with this album?
LC: There were a lot of events that happened in 2012 and 2013 that I knew I wanted to write songs about. In a lot of ways I was looking for those songs to help deal with a lot of the things that had happened and to work through them for myself. Sometimes its easy to make sense of the positive or negative things in your life when you’re looking to explain it to someone else—if that makes sense. In a lot of ways I want to make sure that I can get my point across to the listener, because I can’t be there with them to make sure they know where I’m coming from. So I need to really understand what I’m writing about first.

VW: What were the recording sessions like for this album?
LC: The recording of this album was amazing! We went down to Venice Beach, California to work with Ross Robinson and record in his house right on the beach. It was three weeks of 14-hour, non-stop days of music, burritos and incredible hangs—just laughing, jamming and scarfing all day, everyday.

VW: Is this the kind of thing you recorded live or did you piece it together one track at a time? Why?
LC: With any of our records we always track the drums first and have that be the foundation for everything. This album was no different, but we did track the drums live with all four of us playing together in a small room. We were all playing as hard as we could, as if we were playing a basement show. On the album there’s still vocals that were picked up from the drum mics from just Jaye [Schwarzer] and I yelling at the top of our lungs. So that live-sounding drums set the vibe or what everyone else’s performances would be. Even though we were tracking the rest of the record solo all of us were still moving around and giving it the same energy we did in the room with Mikey [Peters]. If you watch the video for “Arsenic In The Year Of The Snake” you get a bit of an example of what the recording was like.

VW: You worked with Ross Robinson to produce the album. What drew you to him and what did he bring to the process?
LC: We’ve all grown up listening to the amazing albums that Ross has worked on over the years, and he was someone that I would have never dreamed that we would get a chance to work with, let alone become friends with. He was recommended to us from a friend who knew that he was looking to record some heavier bands and they figured we would get along well. So I got his phone number and within 10 minutes of us hanging out on the phone I knew he was our dude, and one month later we were at his house having the best time!

VW: If you were to trace the musical map that led you to Searching For Zero, what would it look like?
LC: The musical map leading to Searching For Zero is such an epic journey! From the vast reaches of the crust-punk forest, past the urban decay of hardcore to the flowing pastures of stoner rock, but be careful not to stand too close to the psychedelic waterfalls as you venture down to the murky bog of sludge and doom. From there you must journey through the wild and untamed wastelands of thrash and finally up to the towering mountains of metal. It is a treacherous journey, but if you are brave and of true heart you will finally arrive at Zero. V

Sat, Jul 25
With Danzig, Pennywise
Shaw Conference Centre, $46.50 – $49.50

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