In the 2000s, George Pettit was one of the most recognizable voices in Canadian music. As the vocal-shredding screamer in St. Catharines’ post-hardcore punks Alexisonfire, Pettit and his bandmates (which included Dallas Green, aka City & Colour and P!nk’s acoustic partner in "You & Me") broke ground for heavy music, convincing radio and MuchMusic to play the sort of songs that were often considered too brash for the mainstream. Their albums went gold and platinum in Canada, but Alexisonfire’s popularity spread across the globe, selling out tours in Australia and the UK, including the revered Brixton Academy in London.
But like all good things, Alexisonfire came to an end. In 2011, Pettit announced that the band was ending so Green could focus on City & Colour and guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil could become the new singer of UK hardcore rabble-rousers Gallows. (Drummer Jordan “Ratbeard” Hastings moved on to his hardcore band Cunter, and now fronts Say Yes.) Pettit, however, contemplated hanging up the mic in a farewell note to fans: “I would say this is my retirement from the business of playing music but that feels too much like famous last words.”
As it turns out, the now Hamilton-based Pettit couldn’t mutter those “famous last words” after all. Though it took him a few years to take the plunge, in early 2014 he revealed a new band he had formed with a group of musically-seasoned friends called Dead Tired. Focusing more on hardcore, sludge and straight punk influences, Dead Tired sounds nothing like Alexisonfire, save maybe Pettit’s voice, which is more of a wildman’s guttural grunt than his previous screaming growl. Noisey has an exclusive stream of "Court of Public Opinion," a brand new, unreleased song from the band’s upcoming album below.
Of course, fronting Dead Tired isn’t Pettit’s only job. He’s also a devoted husband and dad (not to mention corn-eating goth in a sketch comedy troupe, who is as passionate about being a family man as he is about being a captivating frontman. He might even hold the secret to how you get your kid to quietly come record shopping with you: “If he’s a good boy and lets me look around for ten minutes he’ll get some candy.”
Noisey: After Alexisonfire ended, what part of you wanted to quit music altogether? Was that something you were considering?
George Pettit: I was ready to hang it up. If a few things had gone differently than there probably wouldn’t be this new band and I probably wouldn’t be playing music. But yeah, when we were off the road, I was pretty convinced that I didn’t need to do this anymore. I had done it and that was okay. And I’m still kind of in that boat. But when a record comes out that I really like or I see a really good film, it’s hard not to feel inspired to get a little creative. Then you throw together a band and realize, “Oh yeah, this is really fun. I do enjoy playing music.” Performing is really the thing that I didn’t need to do anymore, but I get a lot out of it.
To someone who hasn’t heard Dead Tired, how would you say it differs from Alexisonfire?
We draw more from hardcore influences, I think. The record has a lot of dynamic: fast, straight-up songs. There are elements of D.R.I. and Iggy’s kind of thrashy stuff, but there’s also straight hardcore and a Melvins influence. I think the band is wildly different from Alexisonfire. The only link is that I’m in the band. I think the AOF fans who like the more aggressive side of that band will probably like Dead Tired.
You mentioned you have a record ready. What can you tell me about it?
It’s done. We’ve got 12 songs. Hopefully it’s out early next year, maybe. We are meeting with people who used to work with Alexis, and they are all taking a lot of interest. I would assume it will come out on labels you can probably guess. But with that being said, who knows what will happen?
I imagine the band’s name can have all sorts of different meanings, but as soon as I heard you named it that I went straight to the fact that you’re a dad. Am I right?
Oh yeah, sure. I think it can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Phil, our bass player, came up with the name. He’s a workhorse who has been working in kitchens for a long time, so he’s always exhausted from work. And that’s just something I think we can all relate to. And as a dad, I’ve been existing on five-to-six hours of sleep since the kid was born. Earlier on it was less than that. So yeah, that’s pretty spot on.
How has becoming a father changed your life as a musician?
I think it was already headed in the direction it went. Having the kid was a continuation and the furthering of being a husband and being in a band. I think those are two similar things as well. You have people in your life who you care deeply about. And you want to be around them, but then you have these dreams of becoming an internationally jet-setting rocker, and those two are at odds most of the time. As much as it pained my wife Megan, it pained me to split. But we’re both adults and we can both process that we are missing each other. But with a kid I think there is a whole new deal involved with it. They don’t understand. They just ask, “Where’s daddy? I want to see daddy.” Having the kid ensured there was no more bullshit on the road. Mind you, I only toured a couple of times after Owen was born. So if someone was screwing around or if something wasn’t going right, I just remember being like, “I could be home right now with my family. Let’s not fuck around. If we’re gonna tour, let’s tour.” There was a lot of that. And then when the band was over there was a bit of relief that I wouldn’t need to keep feeding these two monsters in my life: home life and life on the road. I could live happily in my house, in my neighbourhood, develop friends again that are close to you, who you don’t just take off from for months on end.
When you were putting together Dead Tired were you thinking to yourself, “I’m not gonna tour the way Alexisonfire did?”
Oh yeah! We all have full-time jobs too, so there is no way. We had ten months of touring on each Alexis record. So if we tour it’s gonna be fun and it’s gonna be brief. If we go across Canada it will be a straight shot. Or if we go to Australia or the UK it will be nice, concise, brief and well planned. We are not gunning for this to be a career. We’re just doing it because we enjoy it. If we can squeeze a couple of shows out of it? Great. But this isn’t like Alexisonfire’s career aspirations. There won’t be a ten-year career out of Dead Tired. It’s just something we enjoy doing.
What does your son think of the music you make?
I don’t know if he gets it. I don’t know. I haven’t sat down with him and said, “Here’s Crisis, kiddo!” I’d feel so weird doing that. I’d feel better showing him music I enjoy. And he responds to that. But he knows I play in Dead Tired now. And I think he remembers that I was in Alexisonfire. He was really young when he was at our last shows. But yeah, I don’t know what he thinks of my music. I took him to a Monster Truck show a little while ago where I sang a song with them, but he’s still got that toddler gaze going. It’s like when I took him to the zoo for the first time when he was a little too young and showed him a giraffe. I was like, “It’s a giraffe! It’s amazing! It’s neck is two stories high!” And he just sat there and said, “I need a popsicle.” He wasn’t fazed at all by it. So I feel like I’m definitely that giraffe. I don’t think he’s thinking, “Wow, my dad was a rocker at one time!” He’s just wondering if I’m gonna get him a popsicle.
Do you hope he becomes a fan of your music?
I hope he becomes a fan of music more so than becoming a fan of my music. If he rebels against me he’ll definitely not care about my record collection. Obviously I hope that he’ll take an interest and want to go look through my records and discover music. But that’s just fatherly hopes and dreams. He may be into video games or schoolwork, he might be an academic.
How successful have you been in influencing his taste in music?
There were certain records that he did latch onto for a while that was all he wanted to listen to. Songs like “Stephanie Says” by the Velvet Underground. I had to hide that record for a while because he would ask for it every night. There was also a song called “Pay” by the Gizmos which he liked to dance to for a while. Now he’s kinda figured out kid’s music and I feel like that’s just a no-brainer. Like Pete the Cat videos, which as a parent I think are great. They’ve got this really funky, heavy bass in them. It’s all about how Pete the Cat is really cool. So he’s more into that now than some obscure punk records.
Do you take him record shopping?
I will take him to Cheapies in downtown Hamilton if I want to pick up something new, and they have candy. They have a whole thing of vintage candy, like weird Tootsie Roll pops. So that’s an excuse. If I go he’ll come with me and he knows he’s getting candy out of it. That is if he’s a good boy and lets me look around for ten minutes he’ll get some.
What will you say to your son if he says, “Dad, instead of school I want to start a band and follow in your footsteps?"
Well, you know, I will probably tell him that if he wants to make music and be creative and that is his goal in life, than I can stand by that. If he wants to try and get into the VIP section and walk the red carpets, well, I will try and tell him that is not the right pursuit. Because I feel like everyone wants to be a movie star or rock star. But what they really want to do is get a gift bag. The true pursuit in music should be to create something you feel good about and understand the history of where it comes from. I think I’ll just probably be a little critical, and make sure I’m exposing him to the things he might like, and push him in that direction and nurture him. It’d be hard for me to say I didn’t have hardships by not going to school. But maybe I did, when the band finished. Going to school is important. I’d also want to be extremely cautionary. So much of it is about luck and being at the right place at the right time, and you can’t fault yourself if you come up short. There are so many amazing musicians who, through no fault of their own or inability to do it, have come up short because they weren’t in the right place. I’d probably tell him to go for it but not to beat himself up if he doesn’t get there. I don’t know man. I did not anticipate this question and it’s blowing my mind.
Cam Lindsay is adept at blowing the minds of rock stars - @yasdnilmac