Chris CresswellFat Wreck Chords
By Emily Thompson on November 26th, 2013 at Head of Steam, Newcastle upon Tyne
It’s been more than a busy year for The Flatliners. Following the release of their fourth full-length album Dead Language and their split with Make Do and Mend, the guys have been on the road extensively in 2013. I caught up with frontman Chris Cresswell a few hours before their show in Newcastle to have a lengthy chat about their new record, Fat Wreck and their favourite things about the UK.
The first thing I want to talk about is Dead Language, and when I reviewed it I felt like your sound had matured a little. I did read that you had written a great deal of it on the road, and when I was listening to it I felt that Cavalcade was maybe a lot cleaner in it’s production, so how do you think that this approach has allowed you to develop your sound?
Yeah, Cavalcade was a lot cleaner, that part of it was just the way we recorded it. Like we did it all instrument by instrument to a click-track and all that stuff to make it as perfect sounding as possible but we kinda got sick of that halfway through recording that album but we were so time-invested with it I think we just thought we’ll finish it that way. So with this record I think the way that it all came together, was having all of this time on the road, we started to realise that with having our band being a band for ten years we’re a live band, and we like to play live way more than work on records, that’s why we only put out records every three years and tour a lot in between so we started to realise pretty slowly but surely that it was how we wanted to record the record, I think a couple of songs at the end were done to a click-track but everything else was just live off the floor together and it was fun to finally record a record like that. I think we’ll just continue to record records like this from now on, we spread it out over the course of about a year and a half and half the record was recorded but we didn’t tell anybody because we wanted to keep it a secret and if you were to take all the days and hours we spent recording the album and put them together we’d only be in the studio like two weeks, Dead Language is definitely shorter than any album we’ve ever done.
So obviously Dead Language is your first album in three years, and this is your first time playing songs from that album to UK audiences, how have the tracks connected with fans over here? Have you had a good reception so far?
It’s been awesome, today is our first show in the UK on this tour. Most of the songs are easy to play and sing live because of how we wrote them, we wrote them for that exact purpose. A couple are a little hard to sing so I need to figure that out still [laughs] but no, it’s been fun. We’ve had a really awesome response everywhere we’ve played the songs so far like the US and Canada and Europe and that’s all you can ask for after forcing fans to wait three years, for them to like it because if not it would kinda be a bummer.
You also played Rebellion Festival back in August, do you feel that UK festivals that are in the same vein of Fest can compare or do you think that crowds are maybe a little less willing to get up and shout and scream?
A lot of people say that about the UK to us but our shows here are always pretty fucking rowdy. I feel like the Fest has it’s own thing, no-one can touch it and a lot of people have similar festivals that is the same model, different bands, one weekend, small town kinda thing but the Fest is something special. Rebellion was cool though, there were a lot of bands that we maybe didn’t fit in with but that’s what Rebellion’s about, it was fun to play! It’s all Street Punk, I grew up on it, we all did and I don’t think we would necessarily fit in with those bands these days but that’s the fun part especially when you spent years on the road with bands like yours, it’s really fun to play shows with bands that sound nothing like your band.
Yeah, and like you said with your band being primarily a live band, you wanted to really get that across in Dead Language and from what I can gather the overall reception has been really good…
Yeah we were super stoked on that!
So with you guys being on the road a lot do you think you’ve had a chance to really appreciate and enjoy the fact that the album has had such an amazing reception?
This year has been fucking crazy, it’s been so busy but in a good way. When we sit around and look back at all we’ve done this year it’s very exhausting in a way but exciting and you kind of thing “holy crap we’ve done all of that already” and we still have a month of touring to go and it’s nearly the end of the year, but it’s exciting though. Like I said earlier, if we put out our first record in three years and no-one liked it we’d be pretty bummed.
It’s your third record that you’ve put out on Fat Wreck, does Fat Mike have a lot of input on what you do?
Last time, he was a lot more involved in production and he came up to Toronto and produced some songs with us for Cavalcade which was really cool, but he was never pushy, he was just like “if you guys like this song how it is then we’ll keep it and if you’re open to changing anything let’s talk about it.” We kept coming up with ideas and we’d see what stuck, it was cool and it was really fun to work with him but with this record we did everything on our own and we’d recorded everything before we even told Fat we were finished recording. We didn’t want anyone to know, I guess, and I don’t know why. If we’re only halfway finished recording an album then we’re going to wait several months before recording the other, we’d still need to write the other half so we didn’t want to take any photos or film anything. We just wanted to record an album.
With certain bands on his label, and certain releases, he wanted to be pretty involved but I think for others he lets bands do their thing.
So there’s no chance of a Victory-esque legal battle then?
No, I can never see that happening [laughs].
With the year coming to an end now, you’ve put Dead Language out and been on the road extensively, how has all of that touring been for you?
A lot of the time we’ll talk about how much we want to tour, or around this time when it’s late in the year we’ll think about what we want to do next year and how we want to approach it. This year we did almost a whole year on the road, and we knew we were going to because we had a record coming out. We figured that this would be a busy year, that’s okay, we want that. We enjoy it, you know?
So are you planning some down time in the New Year then?
In the first few months we’ll probably just sleep it off because it’s been very busy because the thing is, while you enjoy it, you don’t want to do it too much because then you enjoy it a little less and it’s not as fun but there’s always that concern of how long is too long to wait? If you wait too long will some people forget about your band? Everything is so fucking instant now, there’s so many bands and so much information and people will move on without you.
You’re regulars in the UK now, what is it that you like about it over here?
I love touring the UK, we have a lot of great friends here and the very first time we came over here we made a lot of those great friends, some of which were in bands then and aren’t now, or the other way round. Just lovely people we’d meet at shows, two folks that just walked up these stairs we’ve stayed with twice before in Newcastle. Those kinds of things happen everywhere but for some reason, in the UK it means so much more to us. A lot of our families have roots here, and maybe that has something to do with it? England’s musical history is also incredible, the best in the entire world and that maybe has an effect too. There’s just always been something intriguing about being here, like it reminds me of being home but it’s still so very different and far away. There’s even a language barrier with slang and stuff like that and we always have to teach each other.
The first tour manager we had in the UK was from Norwich and he would always say, if he saw a pretty girl, “oh kidney.” He’d call her a kidney because you could say it around women, or men, and they wouldn’t realise what you were saying. I think what we tend to do more is just come up with one joke and ride it out for the whole tour.
So, what’s this tour’s joke?
Our friend Rory, from Canada, is on this tour doing merch and helping us out. He and I work in a restaurant when we’re both home, and one of the guys who works there can never pronounce his name properly so he kept saying “hry” really quick, he just couldn’t get it. So that’s all everyone’s been saying this whole tour, and it’s the dumbest thing. I feel like every tour we do where there’s a joke, the joke just gets dumber and dumber. It’s a true testament to your brain’s will and power being on the move constantly and in close quarters with several other guys who feel and think the exact same way as you.
In terms of being around a lot of people constantly, is the songwriting process something you prefer to do alone or are you happy for everyone to be involved in that?
As far as writing goes, we don’t really write together that much on tour. It’s actually difficult to get everyone together to even be in a focused mind space when we’re sitting down together in the venue before doors open or in the dressing room or wherever we’re staying tonight or whatever. I’m sure other bands can do it, but for us it’s always done over the course of several months. We’ll just have little bits and pieces recorded and written down now and again and then when we do have time at home we can really focus and hang out and spend a lot of time on it and see how it’ll all come together, then we can decide when we’re going to release another album. It’ll probably be in another three years [laughs].