Since completing their farewell tour in 2012, Southern Ontario post-hardcore heroes Alexisonfire have done a pretty terrible job of staying apart. Even as its members committed themselves to other bands—singer/guitarist Dallas Green with City and Colour, resident screamer George Pettit with Dead Tired, guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil with Gallows, drummer Jordan Hastings with Billy Talent—the everlasting power of what they created as Alexisonfire kept pulling them back together. Festival reunion dates in 2015 had, by decade’s end, given way to a string of stand-alone singles. Still, the prospect of a new full-length Alexisonfire album—following 2009’s Old Crows / Young Cardinals—was never a sure thing. That is, until COVID shutdowns presented them with a rare opportunity to make music without deadline pressures or looming tour dates. “This was just a bunch of guys getting back together and just creating for the sake of it,” Pettit tells Apple Music. “We're all very different people than when we wrote Old Crows / Young Cardinals, but I think that benefited us in a lot of ways, because there's been 10 years of us consuming different music and being inspired by different things.” Arriving 20 years after their self-titled debut album, Otherness reintroduces a band that’s lost none of its intensity, and shortens the aesthetic distance between Alexisonfire’s circle-pit strikes and the graceful balladry of City and Colour. And that’s not just Green’s doing—for the first time, Pettit eases up on the throat-shredding to actually sing a handful of verses and harmonize with his bandmates. “This album came to us without a lot of struggles,” Pettit says proudly. “On Otherness, we're all pulling in the same direction.” Here, Pettit gives us the track-by-track rundown of Alexisonfire’s new beginning. “Commited to the Con” “The con is conservatism. It's this notion that if we dismantle government for the sake of giving tax breaks or funneling money into billionaires’ pockets without regulation, that's somehow going to deliver us to some new utopia of freedom. That's just horseshit, and a lot of people are buying it. There are people out there that are committed to this con, this thing with no working models in the world. But when we band together, our tax dollars can prop up the cornerstone of civilized society—they pay for hospitals and schools and emergency services and infrastructure. So when we ask, ‘Which side are you on?’ it's like: Are you on the side of working together as people to make things better for everyone, or are you on the side of every-man-for-himself libertarian hypothetical nonsense?” “Sweet Dreams of Otherness” “The idea of 'otherness' can be interpreted in any sort of way. The way that it applies to Alexisonfire is that we were all kids who grew up trying to find the secret corners of culture. I grew up in Southern Ontario, a third-generation Canadian with no ties to any sort of real culture from my ancestry. So you have to make it yourself and figure out the things that you want to represent your generation. And the things that were being presented to us through major media didn't appeal to us—we had to go and find those weird spaces. It could have been a CAW [Canadian Auto Workers] union hall where there was a punk show happening, or an independent record store, or the indie cinema that was coming out at the time. So the song is kind of about that, but it also has all sorts of implications for people who are nonbinary, or people who are LGBTQ. It's about finding strength in the fact that you're very different.” “Sans Soleil” “I'm kind of a key component to Alexisonfire with all my screaming, but there have been times where we've shoehorned that into songs just to kind of keep me in the band. But this is a beautiful song, and there'd be no point in trying to have me scream for the purposes of keeping that in. So I took a back seat—I was just doing backup vocals with Dallas on this one. It's the type of song that we might not have put on one of our earlier records, but we felt like it was an Alexis song, for sure.” “Conditional Love” “This is about love as a choice, as opposed to it being some uncontrollable thing. And in some ways, that, to me, is better: the idea of being an active participant in my love and not have it be something that I'm being dragged around by. That's the sentiment of the lyrics—but they just kind of fell into this ripper kind of rock song.” “Blue Spade” “[Bassist] Chris Steele started contributing lyrics on this record. Chris is a very remarkable individual who has been through a considerable amount, so having his perspective on a song felt right. Dallas took a section of his lyrics and found a way to turn it into a chorus. We have demos of the song where I’m screaming the verses, but when we got into the studio, I thought, 'I'm gonna attempt to sing this.' I'm not quite confident in my ability as a singer, so I was like, 'Is this good?' And then Wade walked in the room and was like, 'That's it! That's what this song needs.' We had a really intense moment where we were just like, 'Okay, well, now there's nothing that we can't do!' It just felt like we had unlocked a new gear within the band and found a new way to inject me into a song.” “Dark Night of the Soul” “The lyrical content is about Wade having a psychedelic experience on DMT, and the song matches the lyrics. We were really expanding this song, and there's that moment in the bridge—where it goes to that shuffle beat—and I thought, 'Let's do something jazzy here.' We found a way to really make that song unique—it goes full Goblin. There were grand designs at one point to approach the remaining members of Rush to do like a 15-minute bridge for the song.” “Mistaken Information” “Dallas is the best singer that I've ever known, so it was nice to actually sing [harmonies] on a track with him. After I was done recording my vocals for this, I was almost sad, because I was enjoying it so much. I think this song was actually in play for City and Colour’s new record, but Dallas was discussing it with his wife, and she was like, 'I feel like this is an Alexisonfire song.' It's about the war on the truth, and how it's hard to understand what the truth is now because there's so much misinformation out there. But when we were recording it, I remember Dallas saying, 'Are people just going to think this is a breakup song?' And I said, 'If they interpret it that way, it's valid.’ I feel like it works that way as well.” “Survivor’s Guilt” “I work in emergency services, and this song is naming a phenomenon that I see, where you see something horrible and then you go about the rest of your day like nothing happened. You have the ability to kind of detach, and it's not a particularly heroic quality, but it is, in some ways, a very necessary quality. I'm not sure that necessarily comes through in the lyrics—I purposely tried to make it a bit more open for interpretation, but that's where the ‘survivor’s guilt’ sentiment came from.” “Reverse the Curse” "We had a version of this [for Old Crows / Young Cardinals] that was extremely Kyuss-heavy, and at the time, we were uncomfortable with that—we felt like we were doing something that wasn't us. As a group of people who have great respect for the stoner-rock world, we didn’t want to disrespect it. It's the same reason why I would never make a reggae album, even though I love Jamaican music. But now, in the 'Dark Night of the Soul' era of Alexisonfire, things are a little more open and we can kind of do whatever we feel like now. [City and Colour touring member] Matt Kelly got to play Hammond on it, and that really leveled the song up in a way that we hadn't been anticipating.” “World Stops Turning” “This is a love song Dallas wrote about his band, Alexisonfire. We had the most beautiful moment where he brought us up to his cottage and we sat at his dining room table and for three hours, we just talked, and discussed the history of the band. He let us in on things that had been going on in his life, and it was just a very introspective moment for all of us. And at the end of it, he presented us with a demo he'd been working on of this song, and we just knew that this is going to be the new set-closer. We’ve always ended our set with [2004's] 'Happiness by the Kilowatt,' and we turn it into this 12-minute version. And this song felt like the new version of that—we're gonna have this big sprawling epic, and I could envision it just blowing everyone’s hair back. It's a perfect album-ender—we went full Floyd on this one.”

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