Interview – Cassie Walker.
Toronto, Canada punk rockers, The Flatliners, are touring Australia Nov / Dec supporting Santa Barbarians Lagwagon with Wollongong’s Mixtape For The Drive along for the ride. Cassie Walker caught up The Flatliners singer / guitarist with Chris Cresswell and talked about touring, the physical and mental health of musicians and staying on in Australia for after The Flatliners tour for some acoustic shows.
Cassie Walker: First off we just received the news about the drummer (Brandon Carlisle) of Teenage Bottlerocket’s in a coma, what terrible news to wake up to here, how’s the punk scene been reacting over there?
Chris Cresswell: Extremely supportive, everyone’s thinking about him, it’s not news that anyone wants to hear, no one expected it, we’ve had a lot of good times with the Teenage Bottlerocket’s, we’re all thinking of him. He’s always a pleasure to be around and an incredible drummer and always having fun and being positive.
[Sadly Brandon Carlisle has since passed away and we would like to express our deepest synmpathies for Brandon’s family, friends and bandmates. We felt it necessary to leave this part of the interview in from before he’d passed away as Chris Cresswell expressed how much of a great guy Brandon was and we wanted to share that with you all. Rock In Peace Brandon Carlisle.]
Cassie: I think it’s a great time to open a conversation about the conditions of the music industry, with limited health insurance and support, what’s been your struggles?
Chris: There are a lot, I mean there’s a lot more than people really realise. A lot of people just pass off the fact that you’re a musician so you get to play music with your friends and you live a pretty charmed life, but in reality it’s a constant struggle. It’s a decision we’ve all made to choose this path and we’re going forward in this life being artists so you have to anticipate a struggle but the physical struggle that comes along with being in a full time touring band is paramount, it’s not something you can get away from. I even know men and women in bands who work out and eat healthy and they still have physical strain. There’s an extraordinarily huge mental strain on people in general but musicians in this topic of conversation, and that’s something that is I think having more light shed on it recently which is a good thing, it’s just a weird way to live, you’re away from home all the time with the same group of people, you’re chasing this dream that even if you’ve reached it already you probably don’t realise it because it’s in the nature of an artist to always want more. It can be dangerous and the mental struggle is just as imperative as the physical struggle and people have to start talking about it more. You’re away from the people you love, you’re away from comfort and stability, you’re in a new place every day, your environment is constantly changing around you and you have to be willing and able to adapt as best as possible and it’s not easy. There are a lot of amazing things about being a musician, being in a band, being an artist, I think I would have gone even crazier than I have gone without the creative outlet. I would have gone absolutely nuts and it’s great to have friends who stand by you in the band and outside of the band who support you. You get to travel a lot and have a lot of fun, but it doesn’t come without complications.
Cassie: You did mention looking after yourself physically, what does the band do to stay on stop of health whilst on the road?
Chris: Well half the band is vegan, I’m not in that half, I was on and off vegetarian, I did that thing of trying to eat the best I can on the road and I found at a certain point it’s easiest to be vegetarian and eat well. You can be vegan and eat poorly, there’s no secret there, you just have to know and be aware of what you’re putting in your body. The thing with me is I’m not a very picky eater so I really enjoy food in general so it’s a back and forth challenge with me and trying to stick to a vegetarian diet on the road, even still you loose your footing once in a while and eat the worst fried, fast food on tour because it’s all around you, but it’s a constant challenge to do the best you can between that and if you’re a drinker it’s no good, none of the fun things are good for you.
I learnt that the hard way too. My first tour I did of the USA I was so over indulgent and spoilt with catering and the possibility to eat everything and anything, endless supply of booze and it’s very easy to get caught up in that but then when the tour ends and I can’t fit into my jeans, I’m like this isn’t a way to live and you do have to be strict on yourself as a band you’re quite conscious of yourselves and the environment, is that for the bands sustainability?
I think it’s just a duty of any human with a brain at this point is try to be as environmentally conscious as you can. If you’re someone who is looking to have children or if you know there’s going to be people on this earth after you, I mean I’m not trying to preach ‘leave it how you found it’, I think we should try to leave it better than how we found it. The band isn’t very out of our way to be seen as activists, we’ve never been that kind of band but we all have beliefs. I’m sitting on my front porch in Canada, it’s November 4th and it’s not cold outside and it doesn’t make any sense. I walked around today in a t-shirt in November and that’s nuts and I walk past people, innocent people and I don’t mean anything bad by it, but they say things like “it’s hot in November, I’ll take it” but that’s why it’s come so out of hand is because no one or not as many folks as there should be, are bothered by this. I remember when I was a kid and half way through October it started to get cold, in Toronto and then the first few weeks of November it started snowing and then every December there was snow. Snow would be gone in April and then a couple of months until Spring, but now there’s like two seasons, winter straight into summer and that doesn’t make any sense. It’s a scary world we live in and a lot of people don’t realise walking around in a t-shirt in November is not a good thing.
Cassie: I’m in a wooly jumper and jeans in November so we have the same problems this side of the world.
Chris: There you go! And these things are happening everywhere and it’s scary, I could talk about it all night though, it’s human nature to desire more and even going back to what we were talking about earlier, about the excess of touring, eating, drinking, it’s human nature to want more but it should also be human nature to improve what’s around us rather than just ourselves or our situation, where for a lot of people warm weather in November is like improving their situation, it’s not a good thing.
Cassie: We’re also in this world where we have a constant feed of information and misinformation and you and I are of the age where we grew up without the internet and social media and now you know how to use an iPad by age two so from an early age we have access to anything and everything, which is incredible to be so educated but at the same time be mislead or educated by the wrong sources.
Chris: It’s also wasted on a lot of people too, a lot of people don’t utilise technology and that activity to educate themselves in a real way. I’m saying this as an avid user of social media because of the band and I enjoy it but I don’t enjoy elements. I read an article today about an Instagram model who was just a kid and she was living a lie the whole time, usually someone’s not posting the one photo they’ve taken, there’s several, so this one girl came forward and deleted a bunch of her previous posts and then the one’s she kept she edited to captions and explained what happened that day and what went into each photo. It was terrifying, she’s just a teenager and that’s the world now that we live in. I see ten year old kids running around with phones, it makes me sick, it’s so scary. Being a kid has completely changed and you get to the point that you use it for your own will and some people are starting to get into serious social anxiety and self esteem issues at a really young age, just because of technology. A lot of people utilise technology well and are well educated but a lot of people just use it for Snap Chat, I don’t get it. I feel like an old man, I’ve never used it, I don’t get it, it’s one of the things I don’t understand.
Cassie: In terms of the music industry the internet is such a strong platform to easily access music, do you feel it’s reduced bands income?
Chris: I don’t know, we’re well far away now from the internet crashing the music industry’s party. In one way sure it shook a lot of things up and it’s all turned the landscape around but in the grand scheme of things I think there’s no better time to be a band then there is now. I don’t mean no one’s putting work in, it’s so easy to reach people now. I couldn’t think of a better time to be in a band except for way back when there was only a few hundred bands. That’s another thing now, how many bands actually exist in the world, if anyone can actually count, I don’t even know how you could do that?
The number would shock people for sure but I love it because it’s so easy to connect to fans if you want to, it’s easy for a fan to reach out to a band, it’s easy to share photos and live videos, I think it’s great. I think that in the end it’s forced a lot of acts, even bigger acts to do a lot more and I’ve said this for a long time, I think it’s a lot more fun to spend your time touring and playing your songs live and interacting with your fan base, which is really the only reason you’re able to keep making music. Other than that you’re sitting around hoping to sell records or just listen to your old material, that doesn’t sound like much fun. Imagine if you started a band and you’re into your own band, I mean anyone who says they’re not a fan of their own band is crazy or they’re just in the wrong band. You have that pride and it creates a sense of wholeness in you, so say you write your bands first record, you put it out and no one listens to it at all, you’re probably not going to make a second record and if you do and no one listens to that second record, you’re not making a third record. So the heavy reliance of touring now it’s really what the internet has altered the most and created a lot more interesting lives for a lot of people and again going to back to what we were talking about earlier, it’s not a perfect world so that doesn’t come without it’s challenges but touring is a lot more fun than sitting around, working a full time job and being a musician on the side.
Cassie: I feel the good thing about the internet is although it’s killed the record industry, bands do have to tour more and before the popularity of the internet band’s like you would have very rarely come to Australia, it’d be a once a year occasion because it was a risk, where now you know you have fans on the other side of the world because you’re connecting with them every minute of the day.
Chris: Absolutely, I’ve made friends there that I can call now, that would have never happened 15 years ago.
Cassie: For us Australians it’s expanded our live music circuit and it’s such a great opportunity for us to have a band tour from the other side of the world, speaking of, you will be in Australia touring with Lagwagon, which is a band we’ve all seen before, are you ready for such a small, intense tour with them?
Chris: Yeah, we’ve known Lagwagon for a number of years now. The Australian tour is actually our third and last tour of the year and the other two tours we’ve done this year have been with Lagwagon, so we’ve spent the year touring with them which is great. They are one of the reasons we got into punk rock music. The first stuff we got into was Lagwagon, NOFX and No Use For A Name and then followed by Good Riddance, Strung Out and Mad Caddies and you can’t deny Lagwagon’s legacy and they’ve really done a fantastic job of taking us under their wing, which we’re so excited about. We just hit it off, we toured together for the first time two years ago in the USA and we met Joey (Cape, Lagwagon front man) through Tony Sly (No Use For A Name), so we’ve seen them around and we finally toured together then Joey and I really hit it off and have become so close that we work on acoustic stuff together, toured together and are doing one through Australia following the ‘Flatwagon’ tour. We’re going to stick around for some acoustic shows around Australia with Brian Wahlstrom and Laura Mardon who are both on Joey Cape’s record label, One Week Records and I can’t believe it. This is one of the craziest cases of 15 year old me meeting 28 year old me like “what the fuck, how did you do this?” because we’re all just close friends now, it’s fantastic! I was talking to someone about this the other day, you interact with the guys of Lagwagon and the first thought is they’re our friends and then you are constantly reminded when you watch them play that this is one of your musical heroes, they are the legends of the genre that’s defined our lives. They’re the coolest most generous and gracious people ever, I can’t think of a better group of people to spend that long on the road with, there’s a reason why we keep doing it.
Cassie: It’s so great to hear that 15 year old you is so proud of you today.
Chris: Exactly, I spent 5 weeks in a van with Joey last year around Canada and the USA, there’s just a few of us in a van for 5 weeks, it’s incredible. The tour was so much fun and I learnt a lot from that guy, he was a hero of mine first and he’s become a very close friend and he’s a great mentor to me, I really appreciate his wisdom and friendship, he’s a great guy.
Cassie: Excellent, well we look forward to seeing you guys in the flesh here starting next week, thanks for the chat.
Chris: Thank you for your interest in the band.
The Flatliners are touring Australia supporting Lagwagon with Mixtape For The Drive. Ticket are available now through Oztix HERE.
26th – The Northern, Byron Bay [18+]
27th – The Triffid, Brisbane [18+]
28th – The Metro, Sydney [18+]
29th – Entrance Leagues, Central Coast [18+]
2nd – Barwon Club, Geelong [18+]
4th – Max Watt’s, Melbourne [18+]
5th – Unibar, Adelaide [18+]
6th – Amplifier, Perth [18+]