The Flatliners First Take Troopers

The Flatliners First Take Troopers
Photo: Florian Franik
The fourth album by punk rock band the Flatliners sounds like a band growing up and getting in touch with what they do best: rocked-out punk that bares it teeth, but also isn't afraid to let you rub its tummy once in awhile. Produced by the band, along with long-time producer Steve Rizun, Dead Language (out now on New Damage Records) is the Ontario punk band finding their stride, with songs like "Sew My Mouth Shut" and "Tail Feathers" leading the way down a musical path that the band are still building for themselves. Vocalist/guitarist Chris Cresswell recently told Exclaim! that the album, which took over three years to complete, was the most fun the Flatliners have ever had in the studio.

So how was the recording of this album?
Well, it took a long time, over three years, but when we actually got into the studio and started recording demos it came together in a totally different way than our other albums.

How so?
We were frustrated with the process of writing a song, demo-ing a song, listening to the demo, maybe re-synching it a little bit, rewriting it, re-recording it, so when we heard the "demos" we were working on they sounded really good and we were really excited about them, so we just said, "Fuck the process we've always done, let's just record every song once if we can." So it was a really exciting, new approach to the recording process, and it was definitely the best time we've ever had in the studio.

So you only recorded each song once?
We recorded 20 songs, 13 of them are on the album, two are on the split seven-inch with Make Do and Mend, which came out on Rise Records, and five others are extras that we'll probably put out on various seven-inches in the next few months. Out of those 20, only three were recorded twice, and the rest were only done once. The goal was to try and get as close to our live sound as possible.

Did you succeed?
Our perspective has always been to see our band grow in a live setting, because we tour so much, so we were hoping it could translate to the record, and it did. When we heard those recordings we were like, "Oh man, let's just keep this. Maybe spice it up a tiny bit here and there, but let's keep it like that." For us, and this might be a selfish thought, but that's how we're always going to hear the songs. We're not going to sit around listening to our record, we're going to go out a play the songs live.

I noticed that with each album you guys are doing less and less of the ska/reggae stuff. And this new one has none. Was that a conscious thing, or did it just sort of happen?
I had a couple of ska/reggae ideas for this one, but we were already so deep in the songwriting process that we all kind of stopped and thought about it. It's one of the only times that the four of us were all sort of sitting around, just talking about what kind of songs that we want to write. So we sat there and one of the guys said, "Is it weird just to force some reggae or ska into the record at the last moment, hoping that it will make the record?" It was this moment of realization where we knew we didn't need to do that. And it wasn't like we didn't want to; it was just that those ideas were brought to the table very late in the game. And they'll probably be kicking around still by the time we write our next record.

Dead Language sounds more mature, and I know the word "mature" isn't very punk rock, but I'm wondering how you feel about that?
That's all we can ask for. I don't think we're maturing as people [laughs], but maturing as songwriters is good. I will say that as we all grow a little older, and we can all come together on a lot of things, the most important thing for this band has always been how different we all are. We've all been buddies since we were little kids, but there are these massive differences between us as people. A lot of different musical inspiration is being pulled from each of us and I'm glad we're not a band that writes the same record over and over again. I never wanted to do that.

What do you think the response will be from your long-time fans?
I wonder if people will be surprised by the new album. I don't think they will be. With all of the time we've spent on the road, sometimes you don't have time to think about how you sound. Your mind is just catching up to your body all of the time. We keep shifting back and forth and trying to push ourselves to see what we can accomplish, whether it's touring it out until we're dead [laughs] or just writing a song that sounds like nothing we've ever written before. It's all really exciting. This record certainly feels like a culmination of everything we've done so far.

What the significance of the album title, Dead Language?
Well, it was kind of a joke because we were putting out a CD, which no one really buys anymore, so it was like we were speaking in a dead language, but there's also another meaning. For the most part it's about moving forward, learning from mistakes you've made in the past, trying to better your life and the ones around you, and make it really fun and awesome and productive for everybody.

You've mentioned that the theme of the album is "conflict." What do you mean by that?
Over the last couple of years we found a pretty good balance of being home and being away, but there's a conflict of trying to decide if you are at home or on tour, and you end up living these two lives as the same person. And that's something that's always wearing heavy on our minds, trying to be very active as a band but also being around for those people who are very important in our lives.