Toronto’s Cancer Bats really are a national treasure. They’re like maple syrup, or beavers, or Tim Hortons just, you know, more musically inclined and way cooler. The masters of punk/metal fusion released their third studio album this past April – Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones – and will be re-releasing it on November 9 with a bonus disc called ‘Live in London.’ Drummer Mike Peters took some time post-soundcheck in Montreal to talk to an extremely stoked yours truly about the road, the real meaning behind the album’s intriguing title, who Cancer Bats are and being called ‘unlistenable noise’ (really).
Q: I’ve been following you guys on twitter and am curious about the tweet claiming that the last show in Red Deer, Alberta was the best ever – can you elaborate on what merited it that status?
A: Didn’t the tweet have something to say about, you know, it’s a good show when there are piles of puke and empty beer cans in the parking lot? Red Deer has always been an amazing show and it works out, for some reason, that whenever we play Red Deer it’s always someone’s birthday … So it’s always a funny mix of all the fans who are stoked to see us and then all the birthday person’s drunken friends, but it’s always someone who’s close to the band in some aspect [like a friend of the promoter or the venue’s bartender.] It’s always advertised more as a birthday party that we’re playing [laughs]. It just makes it super fun, people go crazy and they’re like the most wasted, craziest crowd.
We always play this place called The Vat too, which is a pretty small bar. I think legal capacity is maybe 180, but we let in like 250 people anyways … It’s cramped, it’s a tiny narrow bar, it’s a tiny little box, but it’s always super, super fun.
Q: A lot of musicians complain about how hard touring Canada is because of how vast it is. You guys have toured the country numerous times, so what’s your take on that?
A: You know what? People complain about that, but we just did a tour in the States where every single drive was eight or nine hours … it’s no different. And shows in Canada usually are better. I definitely like being in Canada because it’s home and my cell phone works at the appropriate price [laughs].
We did this U.S. tour, just before we did this Canadian tour, with As I Lay Dying, Underoath, Between the Buried and Me and a few other bands and there was one stop in Toronto and all the bands made a comment about how they love coming into Canada. And how much it’s just, cleaner. We cross the border and it always feels better, it’s weird. Just like, breathe it in. You see the Tim Hortons [laughs].
Q: You guys have also toured Europe quite a bit, what’s that been like and how does it compare to playing across North America?
A: The crowds are crazy in Europe. People stick with metal and punk a lot longer. It’s not like people grow up and get out of it because they have a kid or something like that. They’re bringing their four-year-old to the show and they have a Mohawk. So Europe’s definitely really cool to tour, but at the same time, we’re a long way from home and it always makes it a little more trying on us. But it’s great; I love touring there.
Q: Now, the new album title – Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones – I read that those four words are actually all your nicknames, so can you tell us who’s who and why?
A: I’m the bear because our good friend Stan who tours with us in England, he drives and tour manages us over there, it was the first time he’d ever met me and within the first day I think, or maybe the second day, he started calling me Bear. Everybody was just like, ‘Why are you calling him Bear?’ and he’s like ‘Because he kinda looks like a bear.’ So only Stan really calls me that and a few other people in England now ‘cause of him. But over in the rest of the world no one calls me that, except maybe now ‘cause it’s on a CD.
Liam is Scrappy because when he didn’t have very much money he used to eat table scraps. And then Scott is the mayor because he is Mayor of Scope City, a mythical town that he rules over [laughs]. And then Jaye is Bones because everybody in Cancer Bats has to have a nickname, so he became Jaye Bone Malone. Oh yeah, it started out just being Jaye Bone because that’s just something that Jayes get called and then he went from that to being Jaye Bone Malone.
We were trying to think of an album title and one night Liam was lying in bed and texted me that and I was like, ‘That actually sounds kinda awesome!’
Q: Because you are such a heavy band, does it ever get physically tiring being in Cancer Bats?
A: Yeah, there are definitely days where the show is a bit less than it was, you know, the night before. It’s the physical nature of the show, but then also, we do that and then have to get up at eight the next morning and just start driving all day long … Then you get to the next show and unload gear. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can be very draining … It’s just like, your body never gets a chance to heal itself.
Q: Is it weird going back home and having time to yourself after a tour is done?
A: Yeah, I’ve found, and I know this for some of the other guys in the band, it’s definitely like, I get home from tour and I don’t wanna talk to anyone for a good day. Or even just like, if I get home in the afternoon, just let me have the whole evening to sit at home alone and decompress. And then it’s usually really fun because you get to see all your friends and family. Then, about a week or two into being at home, you start to get the itch to go back and it’s like, ‘Now I’m bored, let’s go do something.’
Q: What’s been the best and worst feedback you’ve received as a band?
A: Well, we had a review on the last tour that I think said we were some kind of unlistenable noise. We did an eight band tour, like a mini festival tour, and it was all heavy bands, so the guy was clearly into heavy music. It wasn’t like some grandma reviewing it for The Red Deer Gazette, it was this kid for his online zine and he just tore us apart … We got a 2/10 and then Architects got a 0.5/10, so we didn’t feel so bad [laughs] … You take it all with a grain of salt.
In terms of good stuff? We had this kid in L.A. who had just gotten over cancer and he was saying our records helped him get over his illness and deal with all his treatment and stuff like that, which was really cool. We’ve gotten that a few times and that sort of thing is like, ‘Woah, that means a lot.’
Q: How do you define success for the band?
A: I think happiness is kind of the best success. You can make all the money you want in the world, but if you’re not having fun doing it then what’s the point? What are you doing it for? We’re all still having a great time doing the band. Sometimes it sucks and sometimes it’s hard, but overall, we all love what we’re doing. I think that’s definitely a good measure of success.
Q: Finish this sentence for me; Cancer Bats are…
A: Really nice people.
For all the latest news on Cancer Bats (who have just added new Canadian and American dates to their never-ending tour) head over to http://www.myspace.com/cancerbats