Cane Hill: You’re Fine, Get Off The Floor
Elijah Witt likes songs with substance. He’s not in the business of writing fluff about arse shakin’ and money makin’ at the club on a Saturday night; no, he wants to dig into subjects that matter. Witt wants to sing about something real, something genuine, something he can pour his heart into for 30 minutes to an hour every night with his band, Cane Hill. The four-piece metal outfit from New Orleans have spend the better part of five years crafting a socially conscious debut, Smile, an album that explores themes of discrimination and isolation in the context of social injustices like homophobia. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Witt is adamant about creating songs that aren’t based around bitching about how bad everything is. Instead, he tries to shine a poignant light in otherwise dark places with music that makes people think – amidst a wall of heavy riffs, groovy hooks and core-ish industrial breakdowns.
Smile tackles a lot of social issues. Why was it important for you to explore them?
Because I feel like a lot of bands are steering away from it, and it’s something that’s important right now. Some of my favourite bands have been bands that speak out against what was going on at the time, when they were growing up. Bands like Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Pantera, Metallica… All the old metal bands. Alice In Chains were the most honest band about themselves and they’re fucking amazing. They’re basically on a loop every time we tour.
One topic in particular, which you explored on “New Jesus,” was LGBTQI rights. Why is that so close to your heart?
It’s close to my heart because a lot of my friends are gay, a lot of my closest friends and my family friends. In New Orleans, there’s a big gay community, and when the bill finally passed in favour of same sex marriage, a Louisiana governor tried to reject it. Mississippi is passing laws to try and make it harder to marry and live your life in public as someone who’s part of the LGBT+ community. Their freedom, their equality and their ability to live their lives without people thinking there’s something strange or weird about them just because of who they’re emotionally and sexually attracted to, that’s big.
So are you using music to address specific things you’ve witness or encountered in your life?
Yes and no. Not that I’ll talk about. But in general, there’s problems that I’ve seen and that’s why it goes both ways. There’s specific incidents and general things. “Fountain of Youth”: that song’s about you living once. You have a very short life and by the time you grow old, your body’s dilapidated. It’s broken, you can’t do everything you wanted to do when you were young. But I like it when people interpret the songs in their own ways.
Why do you like to leave things open to interpretation?
Because poetry’s fun, and I like the subtleties of lyrics. I like creating half a picture and having it filled in by someone else’s imagination. It’s more fun, letting people try to figure things out, then I get to read what other people think and that’s a fun time. I don’t care if it’s negative or if it’s positive, it’s whatever you get. I usually wouldn’t even talk about [specifics].
“I want to inspire change – [music] does get a lot of shit off my chest, but I want things to be better than they already are.”
And why is metal the right channel for that?
Because you have the ability to be completely unadulterated, to be completely uncensored and unfiltered, aggressive and sexual all at once.
Cane Hill came together in New Orleans, which looks like it’s been through some extremely difficult times, such as the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Did the city play a role in your decision to give Smile a social focus?
I technically grew up in this place called Folsom, which is about 15 minutes away from New Orleans. It’s the middle of fucking nowhere, but I lived in New Orleans for about five or six years and it’s one of the most hopeful cities in the world. It’s a very happy, eccentric, joyful place to be. When there are tragedies, obviously it gets to a miserable point, but in general it’s a very uplifting city.
What about the rest of America? Things are pretty chaotic at the moment, and you have to live among a lot of that turmoil every day. How does that feel?
I’m pretty fucking over it; I’m completely fucking over it, it sucks. But it’s good to see that there’s another side of it, where there’s people who really want to fix it and make things less violent. I want to inspire change – [music] does get a lot of shit off my chest, but I want things to be better than they already are.
A grassroots approach, right? Where can change come from in that context?
With every individual deciding to stop telling themselves that if they do something, it won’t matter because they’re just one person. They need to change the way they thing and change the way the speak and change the way they act, to completely fit the change they want. You can’t half-arse shit, you don’t get to go halfway, you have to go all the way. You have to donate, you have to give, you have to take, you have to build and fix.
There’s so much go though, and it can be pretty overwhelming to turn on the TV and see another awful report about humans tearing each other apart. How do you stop yourself from giving up when it looks like things can’t be fixed? How do you stop the apathy?
When you get apathetic you lose, and when everyone becomes apathetic, it gets worse.
Bullet For My Valentine / Atreyu / Cane Hill
Thu Oct 20th – Metro City, Perth (18+)
Fri Oct 21st – North Terrace, Adelaide (AA)
Mon Oct 24th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Tue Oct 25th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Tix: SOLD OUT
Thur Oct 27th – The Big Top, Sydney (AA)
Fri Oct 28th – Eatons Hill, Brisbane (AA)