After holding onto the same lineup for over a decade, a shake-up came within the fold of Canada’s Protest The Hero when drummer Moe Carlson announced he was leaving the band shortly before the recording of fourth albumVolition. If that wasn’t enough, this past March saw the band’s bassist, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, depart to focus on other projects. It was a lot for the remaining three members of the group to take on the chin – but there was never any question as to whether it would end the band entirely.
“I mean, life is change, isn’t it?” ponders Rody Walker, the band’s lead vocalist. “If you can’t adapt, it gets into all that Darwinian bullshit. We could have just packed it in – when Arif was leaving the band, it felt like the whole thing was falling apart. It felt like we were in That Thing You Do! or something. I dunno, I’m not good at anything else. I’m not that great at this, but at least I got a start at it. I didn’t really have any plans of packing up, and thankfully Luke [Hoskin] and Tim [Millar] feel the same way. I mean, we persevere. We have to. What else would we do – go back to school? No fucking thank you!”
Volition, released last October, has done incredibly well for a band of self-confessed outsiders. It marked Protest The Hero’s third top ten appearance in the Canadian album charts, while also landing their highest position to date on the Billboard 200 (at number 20). The band also did an entertaining music video for ‘Underbite’, in which a gang of finger puppets attends a rock show and one jilted fan discovers the truth about his favourite group. So, was it fun to make?
“Oh, it wasn’t,” says Walker with a heavy sigh. “Usually, when we do videos, the Canadian government is really good at wasting taxpayers’ money. They hand us a lot of money so we can hire all sorts of people to do all sorts of work. With this video, they didn’t give us a whole lot of money, so we had to do all the shit ourselves. We did all the puppeteering that you see in the video. I remember being crouched into this super-weird yoga position with four puppets on each hand, moving them about for the entire duration of the song. My back will never be the same! I hated it. I’m really happy with how the video turned out, but I just really hated making it!”
Protest The Hero, despite the intrinsic and often intense nature of their music, are the kind of band that enjoys frequent goofing off and having as much fun as possible. It’s a balance that Walker himself feels is important to strike – especially in the world of rock stardom and bands desperately attempting credibility. “The music sounds so fucking serious – and, I guess it is, to some degree,” he says. “As people, though, we’re not serious at all. We act the fool quite a bit. I think it’s important to have that represented in our videos or our live shows. Just whenever we get a chance to flap our dicks around, really. So many bands think they’re so fucking cool, and they’ll get up and be like…” At this point, he puts on a big, gruff rockstar voice. “‘This is a rock show, everybody get up for the rock show!’ I mean, no-one is that cool! I hate to crack everyone’s crystal ball, but no-one in metal or punk or rock music is cool. We’re all fucking losers, just like everybody else!”
Nearly a year on from Volition’s release, Protest The Hero are set to return to Australian shores for a run of shows this September, taking in most capital cities. The band is prepared, both mentally and physically, for the impending dates. “We’re not looking forward to the flight over, because it’s crazy,” says Walker. When asked if he has any strategies for long flights, he can think of only one: “I like to eat a really big meal before I get on the flight, so at least I have a decent shit to look forward to around halfway through the flight. Y’know, just to break things up a bit.” Charming. But back to Australia.
“September is right around the time that Canada starts getting really cold – the weather really takes a nosedive. So we’re kind of looking to extend our summer a little by visiting you guys. Also, it’s been really good for us because we know that Australian guys are normally way more buff than Canadian guys, so we’ve all just spent the last few months hitting the gym and downing protein shakes.”
It’s mentioned to Walker that several tours are going through Australia at the same time as them, including Bob Dylan, Biffy Clyro, DevilDriver, You Me At Six and Anberlin. “So you’re saying no-one’s gonna be at our show?” he laughs. “There’s no way we can compete with Bob Dylan!” But surely Bob Dylan’s fans and Protest The Hero’s fans have a very small crossover? “Yeah, I guess we do have a c–tish clientele,” agrees Walker.