Dropping a surprise album in 2018 is a bold move, considering how “over-done” the entire concept sometimes feels. And yet, bands keep on doing it. And you know what? It works.
Now, how about dropping the album pretty much on the tenth anniversary of one of your most-acclaimed records, propelling your fanbase into a catatonic state of joy? Sounds good, right?
That’s precisely what Cancer Bats have done.
The week before the tenth anniversary of their second album, 2008’s ‘Hail Destroyer’, out of nowhere those cheeky Canadian rascals dropped sixth full-length ‘The Spark That Moves’.
Meeting with frontman Liam Cormier in a restaurant across the road from where he and the band will soon take to the stage for the first of their four-night stint at Camden’s Underworld, it’s clear he’s bursting at the seams to talk about Cancer Bats’ latest chapter.
“There was a lot of stuff that happened by default,” Liam explains. “Doing it around the ten years, I never thought of it strategically. We were just like, everyone here is a fan – this [the UK] is a real collection of all of our Cancer Bats fans. This is who I want to hear the new record first. It’s just convenient they’re all in the same place!”
“Everyone has been drawing the comparison to ‘Hail Destroyer’ because of it,” he explains. “It’s inherent, and it’s rad because, in a way, people are like, yeah you put out this crazy record ten years ago, and now I’m hearing this brand new record for the first time – and I’m stoked! I’m just as stoked as I was ten years ago.”
An amalgamation of everything Cancer Bats have done previously, ‘The Spark That Moves’ feels like a celebration. Even the bright colours of the artwork scream that there’s fun to be had here. They’re a band who are now free from the shackles of a label, and able to undertake whatever they wish – Cancer Bats are back, and with a vengeance.
Getting to this point, however, was tricky.
“There was the genuine mystery of, are Cancer Bats done?” Liam admits. “I mean, once we did Bat Sabbath [the band’s Black Sabbath tribute act], people were like ‘Oh okay, you’re still sort of doing stuff…’
“And to be honest, us doing the Bat Sabbath stuff was a good encouragement to keep working, and to keep writing. Those shows, again, we did not expect that reception. Seven years of doing that have made it become its own animal.”
Bat Sabbath was a crucial part of finding their ignition again, and after finding out they were no longer a part of the BMG family, everything kind of made sense to Liam.
“Everyone was like, ‘Uhh, what’s happening with the band’? And we said, I don’t know, we’re jamming? The label was just; you’re out of contract.
“I guess it wasn’t the answer anyone was looking for, which I kind of liked as well, because no one was leading the charge and being ‘Oh my god, yes!’ They were just, ‘Ok then, I guess…’ In their mind, the band was done.
“If you ask someone what they’re up to and they’re like, well, our drummer’s just had a baby, and I’m riding motorcycles; I’m emailing someone from a dirt bike trail. They’re not, ‘Oh this band has a future!’ We were all kind of doing our own thing, and that’s what made the surprise even better.”
What Cancer Bats have done here though is what a lot of bands can struggle to reignite when they rock and roll on past a decade – rediscovering the passion. This involved not only the Bat Sabbath experience but also meeting fans in unlikely places, such as the motorcycle conventions that Liam frequents.
“It was these interactions that got me excited to go work on the album; a bunch of bikers telling you how cool your band is!”
Even meeting the people who were helping physically press ‘The Spark That Moves’ ended up being a moment that fuelled the future of Cancer Bats.
“Those experiences are the best – it’s the little things, like the woman in Poland who loves our band that made sure the pressing got done. We couldn’t have done this if it was our first record. I think it only lined up as well because it was like our sixth and we’ve made these relationships.”
Mind you; time is a steamroller of its own that can be just as unforgiving as it is rewarding. It’s understandable that when things were teetering towards the unknown, Liam did have some concerns.
Discussing the idea of entering other music-related pathways – merchandising, managing, or working for a record label – he suggests it’s not entirely off the table.
“If I’m ready to work a job like that afterwards, then couldn’t you make all of this internalised, and that be your job? Because at a certain point you’re like, I could impart this knowledge. I could manage a band. But then, you should be managing your own band? And then you should just make your own record because you do have your connections at that point.”
“I look at a band like Clutch, who take care of everything,” he adds. “They’re in charge of their whole vibe. That’s the path.”
And so, ‘The Spark That Moves’ sees Cancer Bats rocketing into the future.
“I was sending emails to everybody saying to look at the fifteen songs we just played at this festival, like why did we pick those fifteen? Let’s dissect. Why is ‘Bricks & Mortar’ stoking people out? I don’t want it to be the formula, but I do want it to be the vibe,” he muses, starting on the back catalogue.
“We don’t need to write ‘Pray for Darkness’ round two just to fill the thrash song quota of a record – we have ‘Pray for Darkness’. That song rips, but we also wrote another really good thrash song, so, do we need a third thrash song?”
Doesn’t it all boil down to what the people want, though? To a point, he considers.
“What do people like, but what do we like? It’s usually the same. None of the songs on the setlist feels like, ‘Oh man, I can’t believe we have to play this song’. It’s cool we all agree! Let’s keep partying!”
And keep partying they shall.
“I’m stoked on how everything is happening. There’s a really genuine and organic vibe to it all,” Liam enthuses. “I’m a firm believer in if you’re going to do something you need to come out full force. Don’t halfway. Maybe that’s why I don’t even like the teaser ideas.”
Most importantly though, he concludes: “You take a step back, and it’s casual, and it’s fun, and that’s why we’re all in this. Because we’re fans of music.”
Taken from the June issue of Upset, out now. Cancer Bats’ album ‘The Spark The Moves’ is out now.