You’ll probably never attend another anniversary party quite like it, thanks to Toronto punk outfit The Flatliners, who are celebrating their tenth year together with a cross-Canada tour kicking off this week.
It’s amazing to think all four members of the influential punk and ska band are only 25 years old, but have managed to forge a career for themselves on an iconic record label that most other artists could only dream of.
“Celebrating our tenth anniversary as a band is something we never thought we’d be able to do, especially at this age. It’s a point that we’ve come to as a band where we’re really proud of ourselves, what we’ve accomplished, where we’ve been able to go and the people we’ve been able to hook up with over the years,” said the group’s lead singer and guitarist Chris Cresswell.
Even with a successful decade behind them, the group’s history goes back even further than the release of their 2002 EP, Demo when they were just 15 years old.
“We’ve been friends for a lot longer than we’ve been a band,” said Cresswell, who met guitarist Scott Brigham in kindergarten after the pair’s mothers introduced them. It wasn’t long before the two friends were listening to the same bands and taking guitar lessons “in order to start a band.”
They eventually brought in bass player Jon Darbey, who was Creswell’s neighbour, and drummer Paul Ramirez, whom they met while at summer camp as kids.
Their development into one of Canada’s most recognizable punk bands should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed them and their exhaustive touring schedule over the years, which has brought them around the world and back several times over.
“You can’t sit around at home and hope to sell records, and you can’t sit around at home and hope that just because the Internet exists people will find out about your band,” said Cresswell. “You have to work hard, just like doing any other career path, you have to build it up and give it time to grow organically and you have to make it your life, basically.”
The strategy makes sense for a band that came of age just as the Internet was starting to become the main source for tech-savvy fans looking to broaden their musical horizons through the popularization of music-sharing networks like Napster or MySpace.
“When the Internet came in, it changed everything. It completely flattened the landscape, but I think it was for a good reason … because it forces bands to get out and tour more, which is where you meet people that like your band,” he said. “Our plan was always to be on stage and know the next time we’re going to be in that city, so we could talk about it.”
Now, thanks in part to the exposure they gain by being on the world’s pre-eminent punk label, Fat Wreck Chords, founded by legendary NOFX frontman Fat Mike Burkett, and their globe-trotting touring efforts, The Flatliners can count on having diehard fans in some of the unlikeliest of places.
During one of their lengthy tours in 2011, the band played five shows in Russia; a country the band always wanted to visit, but had never thought possible. During their first show in Moscow, “there wasn’t a moment where it was just the four of us on stage, there was always someone on stage singing with us, dancing around, stage diving. It was so chaotic and so insane that it was just one of those moments after the show where no one had anything to say, everyone was kind of dumbfounded by it.”
Three albums later, The Flatliners have evolved their sound from its more ska-tinged beginnings to a heavier, more mature incarnation. Cresswell said he’s always surprised to hear how much fans think their material has changed with each of their new releases.
“(The sound) will always be different between each record, but it will never seem that way to us because it’s such a gradual process … There will always be this funny difference in processes between the fan and the band,” he said.
With 20 songs written for their upcoming and currently nameless album, expected to be released in the spring, Creswell said he hopes there’s something for all of the band’s diverse fanbase to enjoy.
“There are some gnarly, gnarly songs on the record,” he said. “I think it’s the same old thing we’ve been doing, maybe with some heavier influence here and there and maybe some lighter, more melodic influence, but I don’t think anyone will be very surprised by it.”
With the launch of their 10 Years at Sea Tour in Calgary Thursday (Dec. 6), the band is set to party down in their favourite Canadian cities with “a good mix of all our stuff and maybe some songs we haven’t played in a while,” said Cresswell. “We’re just going to try and celebrate the band’s catalogue in the best way we can.”
After 10 years spent sweating on hundreds of stages across the world, The Flatliners have certainly earned the right to celebrate, and celebrate they will.
The band plays Merlin’s Bar and Grill Sunday (Dec. 9) at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available online at www.clubzone.com.