City and Colour: turning down the volume to make a bigger noise
City and Colour was Dallas Green’s folkie side project while playing in a post-hardcore band. Now it’s the main attraction, and it’s given Green the confidence to stand centre-stage
Dallas Green aka City and Colour: ‘What literature does for me is that it brings to life a love of language that I sometimes find myself lacking in. You forget about certain words, or you lose that chance to discover new words that you could use in songs’
Superman or Clark Kent? Jekyll or Hyde? Walter White or Heisenberg? It has been difficult to keep track of Dallas Green’s alter-egos over the past decade. The Canadian musician’s current alias as the folk-based City and Colour may be the most recent chapter in his creative life, but it’s certainly not the first – nor does it bear any relation to his previous guise as vocalist and guitarist of the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire.
Green has always revelled in performing stylistic 180-degree turns, so when he wasn’t performing with the five-piece who once described themselves as “the sound of two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight”, he indulged in the solo project cleverly and subtly named after himself (Dallas – city; Green – colour).
Green released the first City and Colour album, Sometimes, in 2005, but when Alexisonfire split for good in 2012, it became his full-time creative outlet.
“Aside from enjoying singer-songwriter stuff, I had always enjoyed loud, aggressive music as well,” he says as he drives from his home in Toronto to visit his parents in his hometown of St Catharines, Ontario. “Anyone who’s played guitar really loud knows that it’s a lot of fun – so as much as I was writing songs just for myself on a guitar, I also had a keen interest in being in a band with a group of guys and making a bunch of racket.
“Bands like Mogwai and Quicksand made me want to be in a band and play loud, aggressive music. When we started Alexis, I think we didn’t necessarily know what it was going to be like; we just knew that we were gonna throw everything that we all liked into the pot, and that was what we came up with.”
Switching between two very different bands proved tricky at first, he says. “The more that City and Colour became an actual reality – as opposed to just something that I was doing on the side – it became a lot more difficult to go back and forth,” he admits. “I found my heart and my mind wanted to stay more focused on City and Colour to see what I could make of it, and I started to find the well drying up as far as the ideas that I had to contribute to Alexisonfire went. It wasn’t for lack of trying or wanting to be in the band any more – I just found myself wanting to play the guitar more in the City and Colour style, I guess.
“But I don’t have any regrets about the past, because I don’t think that I would be here having this conversation with you without Alexisonfire. People only really started taking notice of my solo stuff after Alexisonfire became popular – so I owe all of what I have to being in that band.”
Since slowing down his style to a more folk and acoustic-based sound, Green has found himself engaging with the songwriting process in a different way. His most recent release, last year’s The Hurry and the Harm, exhibited an articulate, intelligent lyricist who writes personal songs. One track, Commentators, sums up his songwriting motivation with the line, “I don’t want to be revolutionary / No, I’m just looking for the sweetest melody.”