Interview: Alexisonfire’s George Pettit Opens Up About Reflective New Record, ‘Otherness’

Donning a camouflage jacket, George Petitt, lead vocalist of Alexisonfire (comprised of Pettit, vocalist Dallas Green, guitarist Wade MacNeil, bassist Chris Steele, and drummer Jordan Hastings), looks relaxed and is open and earnest when discussing the genesis of his band’s latest record Otherness, released on June 24 via Dine Alone Records. Smoothly pushing his long locks back, Pettit says in a calm voice that the concept of otherness is something that has colored his existence at every life stage.  

“Especially for us, and I think a lot of fans of Alexisonfire and people in general, I think most people, especially those attracted to loud music, have, at one point or another, regardless of where you come from, you probably felt othered in some sort of way. I felt very different since I was very young, and I think everybody in the band has felt different.”  

However, this sense of difference helped Pettit find his band members, as he believes, “We found each other because we’re different. We met in the secret corners of music and culture and art and that raised us. Now in our adult lives, even those moments where we’re doing something completely mundane and normal, it’s always there with you, that sensation that you’re a very different person.” Although Pettit says that people can interpret the album’s title in different ways, it’s mostly about that “sensation” of being “a little bit separate from the general understanding of what normal is.”  

With lyrics penned by Wade guitarist Wade MacNeil, “San Soleil” According to Pettit, the single is inspired by a breakup, something that Macneil can provide clarity on. “It’s mostly about him (MacNeil) processing a lot of complicated feelings in his life. I think it works really well as a song because it doesn’t rely on a great deal of metaphor; it’s just very straightforward.”  

An emotional and earnest tune, the song sees MacNeil put his myriad feelings into words and seeks to have listeners dream of a future in which all their pain and hurt is behind them, enabling them to look forward. Due to the song being one that’s “plainly stated and beautiful,” Pettit believes the track is the “most effective song we’ve released on the record.” 

Making it even more impactful is the song’s release being connected to recent events and the uncertainty of the state of the world, something that the band was enduring collectively. “We were all experiencing all of the same things, the whole pandemic and then the general state of politics and people. It can be a never-ending slog to process all of that.” For Pettit, it was “a matter of time” before the current state of affairs entered the creative process.  

“You want to vent and use your creative outlet to vent those feelings around that. It resonates for me as well because as much as I get down on the world or different things, I do feel hopeful. I think it’s harder to shake the core good of most people, even though we have these things in our pockets that just show us all the horrors of the world. There’s still a lot of really good things out there that are worth fighting for.”   

In keeping with the buoyant nature of the album, a previously released track off of the record entitled “Sweet Dreams of Otherness” sees the band attempting to fit into a strange reality, being honest about that process, and infusing hope into art at a time when music lovers need it most.  

“Otherness” is the band’s first full-length effort in over 13 years, with the band approaching their 20-year anniversary of the release of their debut self-titled album. Formed in Ontario in 2001, the Canadian post-hardcore band released their first full-length record in 2009, titled Old Crows/ Young Cardinals, before separating two years later due to Green and MacNeil diving into new projects and personal issues among the remaining members. Since then, Alexisonfire performed reunion shows in 2015, and the band are part of the lineup for 2022 Slamdunk Festival.  

Regarding performing, Pettit has learned one thing over the course of his music career: performances don’t have to be perfect to be great and capture people’s attention.  

“Back when we were touring eight months out of the year and really traveling hard, I got to a point where performance didn’t really move me anymore. I knew how to perform but it wasn’t moving—I was on the back of a tour bus with my wife, and we were watching a DVD and someone came and knocked on the door and said, ‘You have 10 minutes before we play,’ and I was like ‘OK.’ So I paused the DVD; I went on stage; I played for an hour and a half, took a shower, came back on the bus, unpaused the DVD, and laid there. My wife yelled at me, and she was like ‘How do you do that? What are you doing?’ It was like nothing.”  

Now that Pettit is older and performs less often, he “feels the nerves of performing more.” But that nervous energy makes performing easier. To the vocalist, performing is a commitment to letting yourself go and isn’t “something you can act through.”  

With upcoming summer performances, Pettit will get plenty of practice in making the most of that nervous energy. For now, “Otherness” will help Pettit “elevate and take it to the other place while embracing difference in all of its glory.”  

Watch the video for “Sans Soleil” here:

For more from Alexisonfire, find them on Instagram, Facebook, and their official website.

Photo courtesy of Kristin Breitkreutz

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