Originating from St Catherines, Ontario, Alexisonfire was the result of the implosion of several other promising groups. Frontman George Pettit left hardcore Condemning Salem, guitarist Dallas Green jumped off the sinking ship known as Helicon Blue, and guitarist Wade MacNeil and bassist Chris Steele left the punk-based Plan 9 in 2001. They added drummer Jesse Inglevics soon after, and got their name after seeing a novelty stripper going by the name of Alexis Fire. When she found out about the band months later, she threatened to sue for copyright infringement, although she never followed up on the threat.
They became mainstays on the Toronto club scene, honing their chops while developing their pseudo-metal/ post grunge sound, and by the summer of ’02, had independently released a pair of EPs, MATH SHEET DEMOS (named as such because it came wrapped in drummer Inglevics’ math homework) and PINK HEART SKULL SAMPLER.
They caught their first break when recording engineer Greg Below and Mitch Joel, a Montreal journalist, heard the band. The two were looking for artists for their new upstart label, Distort Entertainment. Since Below was also working for EMI at the time, they convinced the band to record at the label’s studio, and in turn landed them a co-publishing and distribution deal.
The band’s eponymous debut album was released that September. The album jacket featured two Catholic school girls engaged in a knife fight, inspired by their song, “A Dagger Through the Heart of St. Angeles,” one of the four songs from their EPs that made it to the album. Singles for “Pulmonary Archery,” “Counterparts and Number Them,” and “Waterwings” and their accompany videos helped push the album gold (50,000 copies). For the next year and a half, the band found itself on the back of several major tours in ’02 and ’03, crossing Canada twice, and hitting the US and European stages, and included playing with Billy Talent, GWAR, Juliana Theory, Glassjaw, and Godsmack.
Their reputation as one of Canada’s most energetic new acts on stage, coupled with the success of the debut album, meant they were starting to get attention from the major labels. But fearing that going mainstream would compromise their artistic integrity, they remained independents and stayed with Distort. On recommendation from Below, they hooked up with producer Julius Butty and went to his home studio outside Hamilton. Their sophomore album, WATCH OUT!, was on the store shelves at the end of June ’04, and debuted at #6. Twelve weeks later it went gold, while the band enjoyed another series of tours that kept them on the road for over a year and saw them open for Johnny Truant and The Blood Roses, and a second go-round with Godsmack. A pair of singles, “No Transitory” and “Accidents” had accompanying videos made, along with one for “Hey, It’s Your Funeral Mama.”
In ’04, they released another two track EP called THE BROWN HEART SKULL SAMPLER, and then appeared on half an album along with friends Moneen a year later called THE SWITCHEROO SERIES, which went largely unnoticed. They developed a strong friendship with many indie groups over their careers, including Kenny Bridge, Moneen’s bassist, filling in for an ailing Chris Steele during parts of the tour a few years later.
But the critics’ general consensus was that their third full album, CRISIS, was by far the band’s most consistent work to date, if not at least the most aggressive. Released in the summer of ’06 and produced again by Butty, the touring season was kicked off by an album release party held aboard a ship outside London, England. Insisting to concert promoters that they be supported largely unrecognized independent artists, they were on the road for another year and a half with the likes of Every Time I Die, Anti-Flag, Saosin, The Bled, The Ghost of a Thousand, Your Rigamortus, Cancer Bats, and Attack in Black, the latter of which who were indies at the time, but eventually were signed to Distort Entertainment on the urging of Pettit and Green. During the 2005 Juno ceremonies in Winnipeg, the band walked out with a doorstop for Best New Group.
On the backs of the singles “This Could Be Anywhere in the World,” “Boiled Frogs,” and “Drunks, Lovers, Sinners & Saints,” the album became the band’s first to go to the top of the charts in Canada and was certified platinum in the process, and also made it into the top 20 in the US and in the UK. That same year, they appeared on the soundtrack to the Trailer Park Boys’ movie, with a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf.” They also split another album, this time with The Bled, simply entitled THE BLED/ALEXISONFIRE, that again largely came and went without a whisper. The album featured three tracks from each artist, two of which were actually covers from the other band.
They picked up their second Juno in ’07 for Group of the Year, but consciously deciding to spend less time on the road for the next couple of years, giving themselves time to work on outside projects. Green started up a folk group called City & Colour, and what started out as just a way to blow off some different steam now and again led to a pair of EPs over the next few years. MacNeil revived an idea he and Pettit had toyed with before called Black Lungs, and SEND FLOWERS in the spring of 2008 gained favourable reviews.
The next Alexisonfire album came after they signed a new deal with their second indie label, Dine Alone Records. After returning to the studios with Julius Butty, with OLD CROWS/YOUNG CARDINALS in 2009. Although neither single, “Young Cardinals” or “No Rest” did nearly as well as the album, the album reached #2 and was eventually certified platinum. Other noteable fan favourites included “Midnight Regulations” and “Emerald Street.”
During portions of the following tour, the band showed its philanthropic side by doing special autograph signings to fans who’d donated blood at the local blood bank, in support of Music Saves Lives. The tour schedule included several treks across Canada and the US, with stops in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the Orient, as well as making an appearance at the XM Verge Music Awards. With them for the trips at one time or another were Billy Talent, Anti-Flag, Four Year Strong, and The Ghost of a Thousand. In February, 2010, the band took the stage for a free all-ages show during the Winter Olympics, but only made it about 10 seconds into the first song, when they were forced to cancel the show when a rush of the audience broke a barricade and several people were trampled and 19 suffered injuries.
With rumours of the band breaking up looming over their heads, they released a special iTunes-only album in September, 2010. Along with previously available material and new versions of a few songs, ITUNES ORIGINALS also contained candid interviews with the band and behind the scenes footage. Two months later, they followed it up with the four-track EP, DOG’S FOOD, featuring the title track and “Vex.” A digital version of their most recent Australian tour entitled AUSSIE TOUR 7″ was released on iTunes.
At the end of their 2010 tour, Green informed the rest of the group he was leaving Alexisonfire to concentrate on City & Colour, releasing two more albums since leaving. Green’s also gained critical raves for his work with the likes of Tragically Hip‘s Gordon Downie and Attack in Black, and has picked up a pair of Junos. MacNeil followed out the door shortly after and formed Gallows.