For a band that has built their reputation on the road, as Florida's Poison the Well has, they would never let a little obstacle like ornery border guards prevent them from getting to their next show.
"The first two times we attempted to get into Canada, it went horribly wrong," says guitarist Ryan Primack. "We tried to cross at the Quebec border north of Vermont and they're like 'Pshhhh…NO!' Then we tried to cross at Niagara Falls under the guise that we were tourists visiting our drummer's grandparents. Same reaction. Last time we were in Canada was out west with AFI and we had this big issue with merchandise. Sure, it's a bit of a hassle because sometimes the border guards don't have the nicest way of treating you but in the end, who cares?! You just gotta take the good with the bad."
Poison the Well were recently in Toronto, opening for emo heroes Thursday at the Kool Haus and supporting their third album, You Come Before You. Since the album's release in July of 2003, the marathon tour that ensued has literally kept Primack and his bandmates away from home for close to 12 months. "We're going on a year straight right now—June to June with maybe a month off in that time. We went to Europe twice and then to Japan and Australia, back to the US…it's been intense to say the least."
You Come Before You is notable not only because it's the band's major label debut (the album is being distributed by Warner Brothers in Canada) but because much of the album was recorded in Sweden with Pelle Henricsson and Eskil Lovtrom, most known for their production work on Refused's emo/hardcore blueprint, The Shape of Punk To Come. "For the month we were over there, it was pretty much 10 a.m. to midnight every day," says Primack. "Those guys have done a lot of really great records, and it was an awesome experience. There was a language barrier and sometimes they could be kind of blunt, which I really came to appreciate. They'd just stop the tape and say, 'You're sucking,' in this heavy Swedish accent. 'Do something about your sucking.'"
While You Come Before You is still packed with the shredded vocal chords and heavy riffage that have come to define the band's sound, the album definitely takes things up a notch production-wise by smoothing out some of the rough edges. This is due in part to the band's attempt to eschew the "emo" or "noisecore" labels that they've been hit with and to instead create a singular vision and sound. "It's funny because I think You Come Before You is the noisiest record we've done," says Primack. "At the point we're at now, we want to be both melodic and heavy but also different from anything we've done before or anyone else has done before. Even on this album, there are so many parts where you can't even hear a clear guitar sound—it's just noise. Still, I can understand why people might say it's overproduced. Our first two records were made for under $4,000 each, and then this one was made for a lot more."
Poison the Well show no signs of slowing down, with a slew of shows already planned for the spring and summer touring seasons. When asked why he thinks his band is still able to pack rooms in North America and around the world, Primack offers a pragmatic response. "I think a lot of kids still come to our shows because it's the type of thing that will piss their parents off or because the cool kids are going. That's fine. Hopefully, if anyone leaves with anything, it'll be something positive…like the fact that they saw a cool band who did something meaningful and out of the ordinary. That's the idea anyway."
For more information about Poison the Well, please visit www.atlantic-records.com
Writer: Cameron Gordon