Breakups are tough, especially when five people are involved. But moving on from past relationships can also be rewarding, as Alexisonfire guitarist turned Gallows vocalist, Wade McNeil found out.
Alexisonfire’s breakup, in August of last year, wasn’t a mutual decision and left some members of the band unhappy. A year later however, and the much beloved post-hardcore act have announced plans for a long-awaited Farewell Tour, that will see them play shows in the UK, Brazil, Australia and Canada. McNeil said the Farewell Tour has been an opportunity to give members of the band closure.
“I think the final shows are going to be like something amazing and it’s going to be something really positive for the five of us whereas a year ago it would have been something that was really negative. But everyone’s sort of gone their separate ways and it’s really happy,” says McNeil.
But it’s not just the band that will receive closure, thousands of fans around the world flocked to buy tickets to the Alexisonfire Farewell Tour when it was announced. McNeil admitted that the band weren’t aware that their last tour before disbanding was actually their last tour. Their new global trot will be an opportunity to celebrate all that was good about the band.
“To have people actually be able to do like a proper good bye,” adds McNeil. “I think that’s something we owe to our fans, the people who have supported us from those disastrous tours to being able to play the Big Top in Sydney.”
Controversially, Alexisonfire will not be visiting the US as part of the tour. This decision sparked a considerable amount of anger directed towards the band on social media.
“We’ve been getting a lot of ‘go fuck yourselves – sincerely, the United States of America’ messages, but those people should have come to see us play at any time in the last ten years,” says McNeil, defending the band’ decision. “So to be perfectly honest we wanted to play the places we loved playing the most. That’s why we wanted to come back to Oz because Oz is like a second home to us.”
With a career that spanned over ten years, that also saw them travel from the coldest corners of Canada to the hottest summer stages of Australia, McNeil said it’s hard to single out an experience that was his favourite. Surprisingly, it isn’t the sold out gigs or the overseas travel that he remembers most warmly.
“The times I look back on most fondly are probably those first tours we did, we stayed in squats and slept on peoples’ floors and we were all living on five dollars a day and no one was at our shows. And that’s what forced us together and forced us to play music. As weird as it sounds, I guess, eating peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast lunch and dinner then playing to thirty people in New York is the time I probably remember the most fondly,” says McNeil with a laugh – “as fucked up as that is.”
Despite considering Alexisonfire as brothers, McNeil is still excited to be moving in a new direction with British hardcore band, Gallows. McNeil accepted that he has large shoes to fill after the departure of former front man, Frank Carter.
“I think it’s something that a lot of people are concerned about and which I get, like any time a band has a big shake up people are worried about it. But we wouldn’t have pushed forward and I wouldn’t have joined if I didn’t think it was something I could do and every show we play, every song we put out is one step further into solidifying that,” McNeil said confidently.
The departure of Carter and the acquisition of McNeil has seen some major changes to the way the band faces music. With members living in three different countries, McNeil said writing isn’t exactly conventional.
“We’ve all managed to get a lot better at recording in our homes and just sharing those ideas back and forth and then when we get in a room we just really fucking go for it,” McNeil said.
The results of the group’s ‘going for it’ is contained in the fierce output of the band’s new eponymous record, self-titled to mark the band’s transition into its new phase with McNeil as frontman. It’s also one of the first releases for Australia’s Shock Records’ new heavy label imprint, Halfcut Records.
But it’s more than just the recording process that has changed. McNeil’s influence over the band has seen them become more united in their writing.
“I can’t really say what the band did before, all I know is they never practiced and nobody ever gave a fuck,” he said before adding, “I think the way it worked before was they’d do everything and then Frank would show up and sing.”
Gallows are now focusing on a more collaborative approach. “The best songs are sung from the heart, you know? And when everyone is writing songs together, that creativity, that’s when you get something that’s really special,” says McNeil.
“So we’re trying to change all those kind of old ideas and ways they did things and just try and all put everything together between ourselves.”
Gallows have a full year of touring planned, heading to Australia for Soundwave 2013 before playing “absolutely everywhere” in the UK and travelling across the US and up to Canada. While some fans remain skeptical of the Gallows shake up, the band says that they have plenty more to offer.
“I think because of the big shake up in the band they all decided, you know, Gallows has more songs to write. Just as a fan of Gallows I’m happy they didn’t have to go before their time. We’re ready to take on the world.”
Gallows is out now through Shock/Halfcut Records, and the band play as part of Soundwave 2013 next year. Full dates and details here. Alexisonfire play two special Australian shows in Sydney at Hordern Pavilion on December 11, then Melbourne’s Festival Hall on December 12. Full details here.
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