There are many milestones for a band to reach—signing a recording contract, releasing an album, getting played on the radio, hitting the road. But maybe the biggest sign that a band has established itself is being able to headline shows of its own. Cane Hill is about to take that major step, with its first North American headline tour kicking off Sept. 21. The band from New Orleans will be touring behind its second full-length album, “Too Far Gone” (read Live Metal’s review), released in January via Rise Records, and is supplementing that with its first live album, “Live from the Bible Belt,” available later this month digitally and on vinyl (pre-order here). Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with vocalist Elijah Witt to discuss the tour, the live record and working with WWE. Witt also teased a new recording project that he promised will be “a huge twist to the story of Cane Hill.” We can’t wait to hear that!
LIVE METAL: We actually spoke earlier this year when the latest album came out, and we’re talking again now because next month, Cane Hill is heading out on your first North American headline tour. That’s a pretty big step for a band. Are you ready for this?
ELIJAH WITT: I am indeed. We’ve been waiting to do some kind of headliner for quite some time. Just kinda wanted all the pieces to fall in place. Every time we started to plan for it, it was too rushed, and it would never fall in place. It’s good to be making this next step, because I feel like if you don’t, then you never prove that you can go out on your own, and I think that’s important nowadays, especially in this small metal community.
Is there more pressure knowing that when you walk out on stage, everyone there is going to be there to see you?
Hell no. That sounds way cooler than walking on stage knowing that absolutely no one knows who the fuck you are. (laughs)
I guess it’s a completely different mindset, because you’re not going out there trying to win people over.
Right. There’s a lot less pressure when I don’t have to kinda figure out what the demographic is for this other band that we are opening for. We kind of know what our fans like, what they respond to, what songs they want to hear, what’s gonna go over well, how to talk on stage and act—instead of trying to get into the mindset of whatever crowd is for whatever band we’re opening for at whatever time it is.
What have you been doing to prepare for this tour?
I’m actually en route to rehearsal right now. We’ve been going pretty nonstop, because we spent a lot of time recently writing this new piece of work we’re about to go into the studio for on Sunday (Sept. 2), actually. So getting prepared, we’re taking our time early and getting through rehearsals, getting all the songs down since there’s some that we’ve never played live. Then we’ve got this two-week block where we’re completely out of rehearsals, and we have four days when we fly back to rehearse again.
You’ll be playing songs from all three releases on this tour?
Yep, the full spectrum of what Cane Hill has been and what Cane Hill is now. We’re playing some old favorites and some new favorites and some new not-so-favorites, so we’ll see how it goes.
Will you be playing anything that’s not on any of the albums?
No, no, everything we’re playing is on the album, unless we throw in a random cover if we feel like it.
How long of a set do you think you’ll be doing?
I think it’s looking at around an hour and 10 minutes, roughly, give or take how much I decide to talk on a given night.
To go along with this, there’s a live album coming out, “Live from the Bible Belt.” Why did you decide to do that?
We’ve always prided ourselves on being really, really good live. I think a completely different side of us shows in a live atmosphere than a recorded album. We had some money lying around, we had some equipment that we weren’t using otherwise, and we decided why not put out some more content, especially if it’s gonna sound very sick and very good, just to kind of create something for the fans, ‘cause fans like having little, limited-edition, custom-printed vinyls. It’s not a massive release. It’s just something for the people that really do give a fuck about us and then anyone on the fence about whether or not they should come see us live.
Absolutely. That was kind of all up to us. We really like both of these bands for different reasons. We’ve been friends with Afterlife for a while, and we’ve kind of seen their growth as a band—from even the previous bands they were in before. We’ve known the guys for a long time, and they’re solid musicians. They have a really good vibe that kind of fits with the heavier side of our music. Sharptooth is just balls-to-the-wall aggressive. We love their message, we love who they are, we love what they do and what they stand for, and on top of it, the music’s just absolutely killer. So it made sense to us.
You’ve been off the road for a little while, because you had to drop off the Nonpoint and Butcher Babies tour in the spring, and then the tour with KING 810 kind of fell through before it happened.
Yeah, just fell apart. (laughs)
Are you really itching to just get out there and play?
Yeah, it’s been super fucking lame not being on tour. This is one of the longest breaks we’ve had. It was good for us because we got a lot of writing done, and we kind of made what we were working on probably infinitely better than it might’ve been had we not had this time. So I think it all worked out for a reason. And on top of that, (drummer) Devin (Clark) got his wrist fixed, and that was a big problem. So while it was necessary—yeah, we’re pretty bored. We’ve been playing a lot of fucking “Fortnite” and doing not much else other than rehearsing, writing and “Fortnite.” It’s getting to that point where I want to kill myself. I’m really excited to be going back on the road.
It’s been about seven months or so since “Too Far Gone” was released. You’re already looking forward and writing new material, but do you go back and analyze what you’ve done in the past and think, “Oh, I could’ve done something else here?” Do you do anything like that?
Not really. There’s not much point for us looking in the past. That’s why we’re writing new material. We like looking to the future and worrying about what we’re gonna do next and how we’re gonna top what we already did. And then if anything changes, it’s always just gonna be done live anyway. Anything that we might’ve wished we could’ve done or thought, “Oh wow, if I had done this, this could’ve been sicker”—if that thought does come across, we just do it live anyway, because who cares? (laughs)
Yeah, that’s one of the things I was gonna ask, if the songs have continued to evolve and change as you’ve been playing them live.
Absolutely. That’s actually another cool thing about that live album, is that people know our songs as they are on the record, and when I do listen back to our old music—I don’t know if it’s the same for the other guys, but I assume it is, because I hear the different things they do every single night—but when I listen back, I’m like, “Aw, man, this song’s fucking nothing like how I do it.” (laughs) I’ve completely forgotten how the songs actually sound. We’ve all filled it with a lot more personality, I think, and I think it’s just the way it goes.
When you’re recording a body of work, you have it one way. We don’t have the time to flesh things out like they used to. We don’t go on tour playing a full album that we haven’t released yet, because no one would give a shit, no one would care. So with the speed that everything’s put out now, there’s not a lot of time for that kind of emotional and physical growth with the song that you get from playing it over and over again every night. So when people listen to the live album, there’s gonna be a lot of things that are different, a lot of things that are little twists and turns that aren’t on the album that I think they’ll really enjoy.
What is the plan for the new material you’re about to record?
I would absolutely love to give you details, but it’s a big old secret. It’s a huge twist to the story of Cane Hill that so many people are probably gonna be very confused by. But we’re just having fun. We’re really talented fuckin’ musicians, so we’re doing, as usual, whatever we want.
Earlier this year, you did some work with WWE, playing at the NXT show. How did that go? Are you a wrestling fan?
Honestly, I was not before. But this definitely changed how I felt about wrestling. My girlfriend is a longtime wrestling fan, so when she found out, she was probably as stoked as I was for a different reason. But kind of being immersed in it and seeing how the WWE and NXT works and the fluidity and professionalism and, honestly, the respect that they give everybody in the camp, everybody working for the camp. They didn’t have to treat us as well as they did when we did this, and we would’ve still been like, “This is really sick.” The amount of just absolute grace and poise that Triple H embodies while running NXT is really impressive from a man that you kind of look at and you’re like, “I bet he’s a rigid motherfucker.” He’s incredibly flexible, incredibly intelligent, incredibly smart at what he does.
That entire experience was relatively mindblowing for a person who did not know how the WWE worked and didn’t understand the grandeur of the entire situation. It was huge. We’re just really grateful and lucky to have been a part of it, because it was a massive undertaking in our hometown. So really good experience.
I know one of your bigger influences has been Alice in Chains. Have you kept up with the current version of the band and heard the new album?
I actually just listened to the majority of the new album the other day. I was driving through the middle of nowhere in Kentucky through these really cool trees completely accidentally. My friend had texted me, he’s like, “You should check out this Alice song.” The next day, it’s like, “Holy shit, I didn’t realize the whole album was coming out.” He threw it in my face, and I was like, “Yeah, I’ll listen to it,” because if I’m being very transparent, I’ve been a bad Alice in Chains fan about the albums they’ve put out after Layne (Staley). I’ve listened to them. I haven’t dug into them or immersed myself in them as I feel like I probably should, because (Jerry) Cantrell writes some of the best riffs in the entire world.
But the new album is really good. They still have it, which is great. I was listening to—I forget which song it was, but as soon as I heard it, I sent it to Devin because there’s been speculation left and right throughout our own band about should we keep having so many drug references in our songs. Because it feels like it’s a part of us, but on the other hand, we realize that it can alienate us from some closed-minded, non-fun-having people. I was listening to this song, and I was like, “Alice in Chains still fuckin’ talks about getting high all the time, so I don’t see why we can’t.”
Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?
I guess just, if anyone reads this, come to the headliner, because it’s going to be a very strange experience.