Interview by Sarah Williams.
Renowned Canadian skate-punks Fullcount have just announced a brand new album: Part of The Game. These Québecois are known for their breakneck-fast, coarse-vocalled take on melodic hardcore, with the awesome but unusual feature of three guitarists.
Another unique aspect of Fullcount’s approach is their resilient, admirable do-it-yourself attitude. As well as writing the record, they self-recorded and produced Part Of The Game in their own studio. They’re also releasing the record themselves, with a international distribution from Lockjaw, Thousand Island and Mudcake Records, plus Milestone Sounds in Japan.
To learn more about the journey that’s brought the band to this release, Sarah checked in with guitarists Jean-Phillipe Alain and P-O Brouard.
It’s brilliant to hear you’ve got a new album on the way! You’ve just announced that you’ll be releasing Part Of The Game on October 12th.
Did you find the writing or recording process more or less challenging on this album than the previous one?
PO : Way more than writing Concessions & Compromises. It’s the first time we’ve written an entire record from scratch with the actual line up.We did take our time at writing those songs, we wanted to do things right. Although we spent a lot of time working on it, I guess we’ve played our cards properly and we’ve put efforts to the right places. We’re proud of the outcome and we’re excited to share it with the punk rock community.
JP : We wanted to challenge ourselves in our writing skills. We did the whole recoding ourselves and wanted to deliver the best audio quality possible, so we also had to improve our recording gear. Jessy is the mastermind behind all that you hear on that record. He spent countless days and nights putting all the pieces together to make it sound huge. He has played a huge role in crafting the songs structures, making arrangements, editing, mixing and figuring out the right tones and harmonies better than anyone else. I swear we had some hard times dealing with 3 distinct guitar parts and their interplays! That was a challenge.
What part of the album are you most excited for people to hear?
PO : On my behalf, each and every song deserves a listen; there isn’t any album filler in my opinion, they were all crafted lovingly. There are some fresh features like song arrangements and new tempos that listenners haven’t heard from Fullcount yet. We had a wider vision on this record. There’s also a handful of cool collaborators who have lent their voices to a few tracks. We’re more than ready to watch you press play!
JP : There is a unique vibe to each and every song but, in the end, you can still recognize Fullcount’s signature. I guess the lyrics have a lot to offer too. Max and I have worked them out using different approaches. Both our writing styles ended up going along pretty well on the record. You can hopeully relate to most of the messages conveyed in our songs.
What inspired the album title?
PO : “Part of the Game” was an expression we often used in the writing and recording process. It mostly refered to events or issues that happened along the way – things don’t always turn out the way they were planned. You must accept that reality and make your best out of it. When the time came to select an album title, it automatically stood out.
JP : We chose that title pretty soon during the writing process. Having it in mind, I guess it somewhat influenced the way Max and I wrote the lyrics among other things. With a few steps back now, I feel like no titles would have better reflected this record’s spirit at the time we had written it.
You’ve got some fantastic guest slots on the album – how did those come about?
PO : They are all friends of ours and they’re part of Quebec’s punk/hardcore scene. It was cool to have them singing their parts and making their mark on the record.
We had Alexis Paré from Cardinal’s Pride laying down a solid screamed part for Discord & Treachery. We didn’t know how to add vocals on that shreddy part; it definitely felt like we needed some harsh and agressive vocals on it. We’ve asked Alexis and he came up one night and recorded it in no time. It was raw, punchy and it freshened up the whole song, honestly.
Étienne Dionne from Mute came up often in the discussions. Many songs would have worked out for him actually. We finally chose The Motion which is one of our favorite track and probably the best song to add Étienne’s vocals on. It’s also the first single.
Émilie Plamondon is well known in Quebec for hosting a punk rock radio show called Punk Détente and leading a punk rock cover band called 50 Shades of Punk Rock. She’s a good friend ofourss. We thought it would sound great to have a woman’s voice on one of our songs. She nailed it on Maze Dream. The song sounded so much better when she’d laid her own touch on it. She also participated in most of the group vocals with us and has lent her voice on the last part of The Motion as well.
This is the follow-up to 2014’s Concessions & Compromises. How do you feel the band has developed since then?
JP : 4 years have passed between both records. I guess our writing skills and maturity evolved a lot. We had the chance to tour Europe, play festivals and open for bigger bands. We’re grateful we had such wonderful opportunities so far. It definitely had a huge influence on what we’ve become.
For those who are less familiar with Fullcount, what would you say sets Fullcount apart from other skatepunk bands?
JP : The main feature that sets us apart at first glance is probably the band configuration, cause we have three guitar players instead of two… which happens to be a standard for 99% of the bands in general. It’s definitely beefed up our sound. We have learned to bring it upfront and you can feel it even more on the new record. You might also feel/hear the details and precision in our rhythm section. Having three guys out of five playing drums actually makes a difference in the rhythm section and the songs structures.
Which bands kick-started your interest in music when you were younger?
JP : We all have different musical backgrounds and tastes, I guess. It’s difficult to give a short answer that covers the whole band, however, we all grew up listenning to punk rock bands such as The Offspring, Blink 182, Green Day, Reset, Nofx, Lagwagon. Even though we played and listened to various music styles over the years, we ended up playing punk rock together, we all share that common root. It even has a deeper meaning to us now.
What bands are keeping the fires burning now? What new releases have got you really excited?
PO : All of us have always been huge fans of A Wilhelm Scream‘s music and we’re looking forward to hearing new stuff from them. As of now, I’m stoked about Living With Lions‘ upcoming record.
JP : I’m so much into a band called Pense that I’ve discovered a while ago. They deliver what I like the most in punk rock and hardcore music. It’s fast, agressive and slightly technical. They definitely had an influence on my playing.
You’re based in Quebec, which seems to have a great punk scene. What would you say is the best part of the Quebec punk scene?
JP : Quebec has a relatively small scene compared to what it once was 20+ years before. On the other hand a few dedicated promoters and bands have deployed efforts and worked together to make it grow back over the last decade. What is cool about the actual size of it is the common camaraderie and mutual respect you can witness at any gigs you go to. I think that touring bands playing in Quebec instantly acknowledge it and love it. We have a few venues in Quebec city like L’Anti, La Source de la Martinière, L’Impérial and Méduse which are by far the coolest places a band could wish to play at on tour.
Where’s your favourite place to play outside Quebec?
JP : Pouzza Fest in Montreal! Probably the coolest punk rock festival around. It’s a must. No doubt about it. Otherwise, playing in Belgium was sick. We had good times over there.
On the cover for Part Of The Game, you’ve included a puzzle in the artwork – what an awesome idea! What inspired you to do that?
JP : The idea came a while ago when we worked together with Seb at Steriodesign for the C&C artwork. Brainstorming over the project raised that particular idea to hide the numbers “3-2” which means Fullcount (standing for three balls and two strikes in a baseball game). We thought that would be cool to hide it and tell nobody about it. We were wondering if people would find it by their own someday. We did it for ourselves at first I guess.
When we started working again with Seb on Part of the Game, it was obvious for us to hide the numbers again. At this point, it even became some kind of custom/ritual in the record creation process. Seb hid the numbers in the artwork but didn’t tell us where this time. We spent so much time searching for it – it was so hard to figure out that we thought we should use it as an opportunity to get people’s attention with the upcoming release! The response was quite impressive. We’ve got tons of people staring at the artwork in search of the right answer. We definitely had fun releasing it and laughing at some of the silliest answers we were submitted during the contest. That was a good one.
You’re self-releasing Part Of The Game, with international distribution from a network of record labels. That sounds like you’re getting the best of both worlds! What was your main reason for wanting to self-release?
JP : We applied the DIY ethic to almost everything we’ve done together over the years. We did it for everything we felt we had the talent or the capacity to handle. It went from building our own studio to record our songs by ourselves, to managing the whole band side stuff (business, online distribution, etc.). It was obvious to us that releasing the new album would work the same way.
We’ve learned that we are never better served than by ourselves over the years. Our experience in dealing with certain situations and people has proved us right. On the other hand, we like it that way because we learn so much by doing it ourselves and it’s rewarding. However, we wouldn’t be where we are right now without the help and devotion of many partners we met and learned to work with along the way. We were very stoked about Lockjaw Records giving us a hand with the distribution duty in Europe. They ended up putting way more efforts to help us out than we ever expected. We’re very grateful about the way things have turned out so far.
We also had the chance to have Mudcake Records pitching in for Europe distribution. Our exchanges have always been smooth and positive. I think we have found a solid partnership in these people too. We couldn’t have asked for a better match. We had long time partner Yuki from Milestone Sounds (Japan). He’s always been very supportive. I guess he was the first person we’ve reached out to for the distribution duties at the time. He was ready to leap with us without the faintest shadow of a doubt when we’ve talked about distribution.
We made new allies in Thousand Island Records in Canada for local duties. They knew our needs and they knew how to get it done right. We are more than happy to have them by our sides. There is also that local skateboard shop called Exo Shop here in Quebec. They are always there to help out and promote local bands. Finally, we’ve got childhood long time friend Anthony at People of Punk Rock whose contribution couldn’t be ignored since he has made the CD production possible – only vinyl format was on the table at first. He believes a lot in us I guess.
Self-releasing this record wouldn’t be that easy without the help of all the people listed above. Everybody respected and cared about the way we wanted to release this record. We’re truly grateful for that.
On the theme of Part Of The Game, what’s your favourite game to play on a long car-journey on tour?
PO : Making money off of the boys at cribbage in the van.
In your time as Fullcount, what’s been your proudest moment?
PO : I can’t ignore my first gig ever with Fullcount, opening for NOFX at the same time.
JP : Opening for NOFX 5 years ago was awesome. It felt like a successful test for us back then. It definitely gave us a good amount of confidence to keep moving on as a band.
What are your ambitions for Fullcount in the future? Where do you see yourselves in 10 years time?
PO : I think Fullcount will keep making/playing music as long as we have the capacity of doing it. In 10 years from now, I’ll be 40. Will I be the only one left in shape? Who knows!
Thanks so much for your time, guys. Any plans to join us in the UK again in future?
PO : Never say never as the saying goes. However, touring in UK is not part of the middle/long term plans for the moment. We keep track of what’s being offered to us. Timing must be favorable to do so. We had such a wonderful time when we toured Europe that we’d make it again if the opportunity was offered us.
JP : Thank you so much for your interest in our band, Sarah. It was sweet.
Keen UK music lovers can pick up Part Of The Game from Lockjaw Records. It’ll be available for pre-order on October 12th. You can also pick up the record from our friends at Thousand Islands Records and Exoshop (Canada), Mud Cake Records (Europe) and Milestone Records (Japan).
Interview by Sarah Williams.
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