The Sunday Social with Cancer Bats frontman Liam Cormier

Published: 25 June 2017

We caught up with Liam Cormier of Canadian punk band Cancer Bats while touring in the UK to talk touring (with the band and on a bike), exploring and his motorcycle inspired clothing brand Treadwell.

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So what’s for breakfast?

I don’t have any daily or weekly routine because every day’s a tour day, so it’s not a like a Monday to Friday kind of setup. I feel like being on tour for the last 12 years, that whole mentality is lost on me. But I also just start my day with a big f**k-off coffee. I’m definitely super-into my coffee.

And where’s your favourite place to go for a Sunday ride?

I guess on a Sunday I tend to stay away from all the trails because trail riding on the weekend is when it’s packed and full of people, full of horses and stuff you wana avoid. So when I go to the woods, I tend to go in the week, on a Tuesday or a morning when it’s empty so we have the whole place to ourselves.

I would never usually ride on a Sunday but I guess I would wherever I can. Even living in Toronto I love city riding, just ripping around. On a Sunday you can rip more and there’s less traffic and stuff like that but even splitting lanes and ducking down alleys is super-fun. On a Sunday it’s a little less hectic.

What are your riding essentials?

Gloves and a helmet. I feel like because my girlfriend owns a shop called Town Moto – a motorcycle store that specialises in helmets, gloves and jackets that’s definitely something I make sure I never get on my bike without.

Can you ride without a lid in Canada then?

You can’t ride without a helmet but if you have a helmet you can pretty much ride around naked if you want. None of us ever do though because like, why would you? And also because of the store I get all this gear for next to nothing so I make a point of wearing it whenever I go out. 

What would be in your riding bag?

I’m a huge believer in rain gear, I’ve had more rainy days than I have sunny days so far this year. So whenever I do a trip whenever I go anywhere outside the city I always bring rain gear now. Even when it gets super-cold ill just put on my raingear and rip with that.

Where did the riding and music cross over for you?

I think the reason I got really into riding was because it was such a nice alternative to getaway from music. When there are lots of people that only want to talk about touring and are like “where have you been, what are your stories?”

It’s also nice to be part of a scene where it’s like, “oh, you play in a band, that cool – what bike do you ride? Lets talk about bikes.” And it can be that that guy’s a doctor or this guy works in movies or whatever, but no-one is talking about their jobs, everyone’s talking about their bikes, and that’s why they’re into it, because its such an alternative.

So I got into the motorcycle side of things and met all these new people who didn’t care that I’m in a band, and it didn’t matter.

And that was what led me to Treadwell, I really liked doing this clothing brand that again had nothing to do with music. People who were into my band found out about it and that was usually because they were into motorcycles for the most part. It was nice to go to events like motorcycle shows because I have a motorcycle brand and not because I sing in a band. And its even cooler when those people that you meet and they’re like “oh, so you also play in a band. What band?” and I’m like “I sing in Cancer Bats” and they’re like “no s**t, that’s cool” and that sort of thing is way cool.

Liam Cormier fronting Canadian punk band Cancer Bats at Nottingham Rescue Rooms

So, what do you like to do most on a bike?

I love to do big trips; I’m definitely into the whole freedom side of it. As much as I love ripping around the city, I really love loading up a bag and just riding for 15 hours somewhere or exploring new spots.

In the last little while, I’ve really gotten into how differently you’re treated on a bike when you go to places. I did a trip in February across Guatemala and we were on motorcycles. You roll into these towns and can barely speak any Spanish they definitely don’t speak English.

You can see that the fact that you’re just on motorcycles makes then whole thing so much more inviting. People are friendlier and I find that it breaks down the pretention that would come with being in a car or something like that. I don’t know why.

And I find that I’m not usually on giant adventure bikes, I’m usually renting something like a Honda 250 Tornado or something that all the locals ride, so I really like that aspect too. People can really relate to that.

So do you ride a lot of hired bikes then?

Yeah, I’ll end up  either getting loaners or Husqvarna have been super-cool. Husqvarna Canada has the raddest people, everyone who works there has been super-supportive of every event that Town Moto’s been doing, all the stupid adventures I’ve been going on, they’re just like; “just grab a bike and go for a rip.” Or “you’re riding across the rocky mountains? Here’s a bike and a bottle of oil, go for it…” Nick and Victoria who work there are the two coolest people ever, I hope they work there forever. But yeah, hiring has definitely been my way. This next trip I’ve got coming up I ended up buying a Yamaha Diversion from my friends dad so I could keep riding around while I’m here in the UK.

Cool, how much did you pick it up for?

Like, £800.

And it’s in good condition?

Yeah it looks rad. It’s a dad bike so it definitely doesn’t look too beat up or Hooligan-trashed or anything. But I don’t care though I’ll ride whatever!

You’ve ridden in quite a few countries, so what’s your favourite?

Coolest place I’ve ever ridden is Tenerife on the Canary Islands, I rented a bike with some friends and we rode to the top of a volcano that the whole island is based around and it’s like you’re riding on the top of Mars, it’s the craziest thing ever. Like you’ve never seen rock formations like it, or at least I haven’t in my entire life. So I was like this is crazy. But that’s probably the gnarliest place I’ve ever gone.

I suppose riding through Norway last summer too. That was definitely some of the coolest riding I’ve done, and I didn’t have a clue where I was going. I just had an end destination, and three days to get there. I just hung a left off the ferry and would just ride wherever I wanted.

So what did you do for the Norway trip?

I was on a Harley Davidson that I borrowed from Harley UK – those guys were awesome and hooked me up with a bike for the trip. And I was riding to go play some festivals with Cancer Bats so I just rode through Norway. I’d ridden from Dirt Quake last year, so this is nearly my one-year anniversary from that.

Liam Cormier fronting Canadian punk band Cancer Bats

So what else is going on with you, the band and Treadwell at the moment?

The tour finishes and then I’ve got two-weeks in the UK where I’m just going to hang out, do a load of pop-up shops and ride to a bunch of fun events with Treadwell. Then I’ve got a booth at Dirt Quake for this year which is going to be the best. Last year was so fun and I met so many amazing people so I’m so stoked for that. And I’m also going to be supporting Mike Hill from Survivor Customs who Treadwell sponsors.

He’s the only rider I sponsor at the moment, but it’s so rad because we just hooked it up and he’s been killing it. He’s literally just gone from having fun and ripping around to being like this dude who turned into such a pro on the track. So its super rad to be a part of, even in the smallest way. And to get to watch him racing this year will be sick. I’m trying to get him to come to Canada for flattrack Canada.

And what made you start the Treadwell brand?

So I started Treadwell originally because of my girlfirend’s store, Town Moto. I had some downtime from the band and kinda just thought about starting a fun clothing brand, especially since I take care of all the merch and stuff for Cancer Bats, so I already knew about all the screen printing and stuff. So it started as a fun thing to get stickers done and hook up my friends and then people really started to get into it.

My whole idea with it was to make Treadwell super-positive because I found that there was so much stuff in motorcycling that was really negative, like skulls and all that stuff and the whole ‘rider die’ thing. But that’s not really me. I’m super-positive, I’m stoked and I ride for fun, I’m not riding bikes because it’s cool. I just thought, “I’m going to make a bunch of stupid shit, and I’m going to have a lot of fun with it.” And the more I’ve done that with the brand, like I’ve got a cat wearing a motorcycle helmet, or a tyre that says ‘life rules’, like stupid stuff, people have really gotten behind it so I just thought I’d continue doing it.

But then there’s the other side, like there’s a lot of gear that I wish existed in the middle ground between work-wear and clothes that are a little bit more fitted and a bit more Moto related.

So at the end of this year I’ve got a jacket coming up, another riding vest and a riding pant that has pockets for armour and stuff like that really. I feel like as I’m riding more and doing these big trips that it’s all the things I wish I had, so I just thought I’ll keep doing that more and more and keep putting the money I get back into the brand, making it more rad and just having more fun with it.

What bikes do you currently have in your garage?

Right now I’ve slimmed down the bikes I own because we’re building a new garage. So all the project bikes are gone, we’ve either given them away to people or scrapped them, so I just have my KDX 220. I upped my game and swapped my 1999 model for a 2001 model.

I just bought the same bike from some farmers kid because it was better than mine and sold my old one to a buddy. So I’ve got that and I’ve got my 2011 Triumph Scrambler, which I was thinking of trading out, but I’m either too busy on tour or riding too much to care. I just think the bike rules, it runs and I actually end up doing more trips on other bikes anyway so I’m like “who cares?” And it rips so I can’t say anything. Last year I rode it from Toronto down to Birmingham, Alabama for the Barbour race, and then we ripped all of Blue Ridge parkway all the way home and it just smoked (not literally), like it was just in such good shape and it’s just rolled over 40,000km, so it’s still got tonnes of life in it yet.

You’re doing quite a few trips, how many miles do you think you’ll usually cover in a year on a bike?

I don’t know, because I feel like it all varies. We rented bikes to go to Guatamala, and probably did about 3,000km across there. Then I rented a bunch of CRF450’s with a bunch of buddies and did the whole of the Baja 500 course, not the actual race though, but we rode the course with these guides and it was the gnarliest f*****g thing I’ve ever done in my life. I ended up crashing and couldn’t even finish, but I didn’t feel too bad because everyone else I’ve spoken to who’s done Baja was like “that’s not so bad.” I hurt my leg pretty bad, pulled my hamstring and spent the rest of the trip in the chase truck. That was pretty gnarly; we were doing about 150-180 miles a day on the dirt. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

It made me realise that I’m so far behind people who have been riding dirt bikes since they were like 3 years old.

But I’m stoked because I feel like you only get better through riding with better people so I’m down to go next year to try and just finish.

So I’ve probably done maybe 15,000km for this year so far, maybe more than that because I’ve done Quebec city and a few of those runs so that’s like a good 2 or 3000km, so maybe it’s even 20,000km so far.

How do you even manage to fit it all in with the band stuff?

Well the band has been taking it easy this year so it’s allowed for a bit more this year, plus our drummer has just had a baby. I’ve also wanted to see if Treadwell can be its own thing and stand on its own. So that’s why I set up all those pop-ups and ride-ins around Canada and here because I’m just going to keep trying to push it and have fun.

It’s like that same mentality touring with the band, you just see if it’ll work and show up. And you realise that it’s like punk rock and people are just down hang out, do cool s**t and have fun. It doesn’t have to be that formal.

I’ll just message a coffee shop on the internet, or DM them on Instagram and ask if they’ll maybe stay open a few hours later one day. Everybody on a bike is looking for a cool place to hang out with likeminded people so I feel like it’s a really cool scene like that right now.

I think that kids are also seeing that the scene isn’t just a bunch of old dads just going down to the pub. In Canada, they just go and meet up at a coffee shop and they don’t really ride, they just stand around their bikes and it’s like, that sort of thing puts off a lot of kids because they think that’s not really motorcycling and they don’t want to wear leather chaps.

And you’re like “you don’t have to,” you can ride around and do what you want and I feel like that’s why this whole thing is getting bigger and coming up.

It’s small right now, kinda like the way that early punk rock was before.

It’s like back in the day when nobody had tattoos, so you knew that if you saw somebody with a tattoo you were like “oh I know that guy” or “I know who did his tattoos.” Which is great because all my friends who are tattoo artists now make lots of money but at the same time now it’s not the same.

So where are you doing your pop-ups while you’re over here?

I’m doing one in Doncaster on June 29, then one in Newcastle on the June 30. Then there’s a big one I’m going to do in Leeds at the Motorcycle Social, and that’s going to be a whole bunch of us, like F.T.H is going to be there, the Meathook, Survivor Customs, Ryan Roadkill and Stay Outside, then we’re going to rip down to Birmingham and have a party at Monday Mo. Co, and this will be like the pre-party to their big launch party, so we’ll go and hang out there on the Sunday. Then I’m going to have one down in London at Dark Arts Coffee Roastery called ‘I will Kill Again’. The day after that I’m heading up to DirtQuake to set up and after that, I’m going to be riding to Denmark.

Liam Cormier of Canadian punk band Cancer bats Treadwell clothing pop-up shop

Later on, I’m going to be doing Pure & Crafted again this year too. Last year was f*****g killer, and I’ll have all the new gear ready for it too, last year I sold out of a bunch of stuff. And I’m really excited; the new pant should go down well there.

I find that in Canada all pants either look like s**t, or are $300. And people are looking for something that’s a better than a pair of Levi’s and are safer, so I’m getting a pair that offer a little more protection and will come with armour.

It’s sorta like the band, in that we make the music we want. I wana make the clothes I’d wana buy. As much as I love a pair of expensive jeans, you’re not exactly going to want to go camping in them and get them all f****d up, whereas if I make a pair of pants that’s like $120 it’s like everyone can get into them, trash them, buy another pair.

Sweet, so how often do you get to ride when you’re out on the road?

I usually get to ride once or twice a tour, usually on days off. Like when I rode Tenerife, I did it on a day off when we were playing a show. I’m definitely finding that with the whole Treadwell thing, more and more people know about the brand and that I’m into motorcycles, so dudes will ride to shows and they’ll let me ride their bikes around which is pretty cool. Like, I rode a dude’s Harley around the other night, which was pretty cool, I definitely want to keep that going. And when I’m on tour I want to plan for that more. 

And what advice would you give to a newer rider, or someone who might not ride too often in other countries?

Just f****g go for it! I guess for any new riders, you should ride within your limits for sure, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I think that’s the way to make yourself better, by exposing yourself to those things.

And I bring rain gear because that’s not going to stop me riding on my trip because you’re just going to ride through everything and get way better at it, you’ll learn how to handle everything because you’re forcing yourself to deal with it. I feel like that’s the reason I’ve ben able to catch up with a load of guys who have been riding for a really long time because I’ve just forced myself to deal with those situations. But again, learning not to ride beyond your ability and crash like I did in Baja, but learning that fine point of dialling yourself in.

So what’s the best bike you’ve ridden at the moment?

I don’t know, I guess the Husqvarna 701 Enduro. I love the idea of one bike to rule them all, like one bike to do everything, and that bike performs so hard. There’s a few things that I would tweak and change, I’d install a heat shield because that exhaust is like a volcano, it kept melting my massive bags on the back and s**t and it’s also because it’s performing so hard. I was riding up a mountain going 150km an hour no problem with a 100lb’s of gear on the back because I’m bringing this Treadwell s**t with me and I’m thinking “this bike is so sick.” I didn’t go super-hard off-roading with it, but I went up a load of fire-roads and stuff and it totally handled itself super-well and totally ripped. It makes me wana get more into adventure riding. That’s more my scene, I want a bike that I can literally get on and go anywhere. If I had more money I’d definitely get something like that.

Do you have any bikes you regret getting rid of?

I guess I haven’t had enough bikes to regret getting rid of anything. My first bike was this LS650, it was called the Suzuki Savage. It’s a single-cylinder mom-chopper and I really wish I still had it to bomb around on. I think it would be fun to do something ridiculously stupid with it, like put stupid bars on it. You’re only riding around the city on it so like, who cares!?

It blew up though, I think I pushed it too hard on the highway, I pushed it into the dealership I bought it from and was like “I’ll get this tuned-up” and they were like “your bike is fucked!” But that’s the funny part, because from tour, when I got that bike I just thought ‘I’ll ride it for five hours’. My girlfriend and I were living five hours from Toronto and I would just ride it back and fourth. So I’ve always had that thing where I can crush distance and go out solo.

Liam has just finished touring the UK with Cancer Bats, but you can catch him at one of the Treadwell pop-up shops.

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