INTERVIEW: illScarlett

Seven years ago (2004 to be exact), Canadian outfit ILLSCARLETT broke through and caught the attention of listeners and pioneers by playing their mix of rock, ska and reggae outside a VANS WARPED TOUR venue to fans waiting in line. This year, the group are back as one of the main attractions on the tour and despite having distanced themselves a bit from the local music community, frontman Alex Norman made it known at this year’s Toronto stop that a departure from a major label and plans to record have them ready to make a mess of things yet again.

They say the greatest risks yield the biggest profit; a few years ago you took a risk and crashed the Vans Warped Tour by playing a set.  Is it nice to see that risk pay off through your involvement with the tour?

Absolutely. That was 2004 where we crashed the line and we got Warped dates because of that. We met our manager through Kevin Lyman (Founder, Vans Warped Tour). It has paid off before, but now it’s really nice because we’re in our hometown and they were nice enough to put us on the main stage, at 4:20 p.m. no less! Everyone’s been asking if that was a coincidence and I don’t have the answer. I’m hoping it was.
With this being your first year playing all of the dates on the tour, is there anything extra special about today’s show since it is in your hometown?

Besides being in our hometown? That’s the thing, I just can’t wait to go on stage and be like, “we’re from Mississauga!”. There’s so many bands here from around the world, and they’re all really great, but this is our hometown. I’m not from Toronto, I’m from Mississauga.
Aside from the tour and this stop in Toronto, you guys have been pretty quiet as band for the past two years; is there a reason for that?

Our last record was made with Sony Music and the relationship between us started falling apart. For one reason or another, our last album wasn’t pushed, like a lot of people didn’t even know it came out. Because of issues, we separated with Sony and now we’re independent again, which is lovely as we’re loving it. We have been writing for the last little bit, doing little tours here and there. Right now we’re just rebuilding, resetting for 2012 as long as the world’s still around. Oh wait, that’s not supposed to be until the end (laughs). We’re recording a new album after Warped Tour and we’re going to put it out in February or March and then do it all over again.

We don’t think about what we’re doing and this album is a lot of fun because there’s no label and there isn’t a deadline and it makes it a fun record for us. I know bands always say, “I think this one is our best”, but I actually think this might be our best.”

It seems like you’ve made some progress though you haven’t started recording any new material yet.

We’re pretty much finished writing. We have it all ready but we are still continuing to write as we always write up until the last minute. We were supposed to record before Warped Tour, but we had some scheduling conflicts with our producer so we had to do it afterwards. It’s alright though, we’re loving the tour right now and we’re trying out the new songs. Getting to see how they work and playing them live always helps.
Well it gives you the chance to see what fans like/don’t like, right?

When you perform live you might hear a little “clapping thing” or a “singing thing” and you wouldn’t necessarily do that in the studio. I’m not going to be clapping with the band, but we always like to play new material as soon as we can.
As we discussed, you guys are known for taking risks like the one that got you on this tour. Have you taken any recently in regards to songwriting?

No, not really. We don’t think about what we’re doing and this album is a lot of fun because there’s no label and there isn’t a deadline and it makes it a fun record for us. I know bands always say, “I think this one is our best”, but I actually think this might be our best. I hope we’ve gotten better at songwriting, it would be bad if we hadn’t. As far as risks go, we didn’t put in any dub step or anything into our songs. We haven’t done that yet (laughs).
With having grown in popularity in Canada over the past couple years, do you think the new album will make your name become known worldwide?

Yeah, I think so. That was another problem with the deal with Sony. It was really difficult to get our songs out in the United States. Now that we’re independent it should be a lot easier to take control. I mean Sony did get us to Japan and Europe, but with where we are now, we are focused on getting around the U.S. and Canada of course!

It’s arguable that your last album 1up! literally one-upped All Day With It; in what ways will the future represent further progression?

1up was a strange record. It was written in some really weird circumstances and we didn’t really have a lot of support for it. I’m not blaming the label because its partially our fault too. But like I said, this new one is fun and the songs we’ve been writing are really chill. No, not chill.. but easy.

We do this for ourselves. There’s this one song where we try to make a Motown kind of feel, but we still make it sound new. We haven’t decided on a name for it all yet. Might just go for the self-titled album. Everyone’s got to do it and nothing comes to mind right now.
Other than balancing risks and progression, is there a third element that makes illScarlett who they are?

We’re all friends from high school and we’ve known each other for a long time – that’s one thing I really like. I’ve played in bands with some of the guys before illScarlett and we all feel very fortunate to be here, especially on Warped Tour. We try to keep a good attitude and continue working hard; I love to work hard, like I build stages in the morning. It’s fun, because that’s what you’re here to do. You’re not here to sit on the bus – that’s so lame. You should be out there checking out bands as there’s so many cool ones out there. It’s Warped Tour and for anyone who’s going this year, just go for it. Get dirty, get sweaty.
Now I’m tempted to ask, is there one band you’ve seen on this tour that you recommend everyone has to see?

I’ve met so many cool bands on our stage which is the Skullcandy stage. If anyone comes to Warped Tour, just hang out at our stage. We’ve got Big D And The Kids Table who are cool, Bad Rabbits are badass and the Foxy Shazam guys are mental. There’s also Passafire who we’re sharing a bus with and Yelawolf came on today. We’re really excited about that but I think the whole stage is just stoked on Yelawolf. With that, just come to the Skullcandy stage!

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