“COMEBACK KID” INTERVIEW by Dillon Collins
Winnipeg’s hardcore punk titans Comeback Kid have shattered bars of genre perception and supposed sonic standards of complacency with their new album Outsider, a wallop to the senses that builds on the energy and surpasses the creative output of 2014’s Die Knowing.
“It is heavier but it’s also probably one of the most melodic,” shared founding member, vocalist and guitarist Andrew Neufeld. “We used to hide some of the melody and on the last record Die Knowing we really kind of shoved some of that to the back of the album. We’re pretty forefront with that on this album.”
More-so than any other record in the Comeback Kid catalogue, Outsider sees Neufeld and fellow members Jeremy Hiebert, Stu Ross, Ron Friesen and Loren Legare contributing to the creative process collectively, as opposed to relying on a one or two man team to churn out riffs and hooks. The result is a more diverse album which burrows into the brain like an ear-worm.
“We always want to write hard-hitting, fun, catchy songs. I think that’s something we strive to do with our songwriting. Myself and Jeremy, the original members of the band, we’ve always been the songwriters, but on this album is the first time that everyone in the band who has actually been able to play on the album have been able to contribute in that way,” Neufeld explains.
“We brought in Stu Ross, who has been with the band about five or six years, and with this one he really brought a lot of content to the table. A few more people involved in the process. Stu would come to practice with like 10 songs he wanted to show us and it kind of really kicked us in the ass like oh f**k I got to write some better songs here. Usually one person would bring the song idea or a few riffs and we’d just work on it when we get in the rehearsal space and we’d keep shaving the fat off along the way. Even when we get into the studio we’re still changing stuff. It is quite a long process that opens up with a wide funnel and you’re bringing it down into that funnel. We tried to make some of the themes a lot more obvious on this record and really try to extenuate certain features. We want to connect with the audience a lot more with every record and we always try to do that, but with this one I think it will connect really well through a live setting.”
The different waves of sound and approaches to songwriting that make up Outsider can much be attributed to the band’s insistence on not relying on tried and true tropes of the hardcore punk movement. Neufeld in particular made a conscious effort to deviate from the norm, oftentimes crafting material in direct parallel to that of his bandmates.
“Jeremy and Stu had a couple songs that were super fast, like half thrash and a fast speed kind of thing,” he says. “I remember a couple points where there was so much of that happening, I would write songs directly in defiance of that. For example the song Consumed The Vision I open up with an Oasis ripoff riff that goes into a more lighter in mood bouncy fun punk song. I would write tempos and keys different in absolute defiance of other songs so we’d be able to create that kind of diversity on a record. I don’t want to listen to the same thing over and over. That makes me turn off a record when I’m on song four or five and it’s like s**t dude! I really try to take into consideration the keys of songs and tempos of songs and I really try to change the mood up. With hardcore it’s like it can be such a one-dimensional style of music. I do enjoy sometimes bands that do go down that one path, but it’s nice to switch it up a little bit.”
The pleasantly surprising mixed bag of authentic and endearing tracks was spearheaded by the leadoff single Absolute, which features Canadian metal icon Devin Townsend.
“We had the song (Absolute) and we had this lead in to a breakdown and during that lead in I was trying to do this long drawn out vocal thing with a pitched singing over a scream. I was pretty much ripping off Devin anyways,” Neufeld laughs. “I was ripping off from the Strapping Young Lad record Alien the song Imperial, the first song off that. I totally know I was ripping that off subconsciously and that would be my Devin kind of part. Jeremy said why don’t you just text him and see if he’ll be interested in doing it? I didn’t really want to at first, but he convinced me and I texted him, sent him the song and he liked it. I sent him the vocals as well and said hey man I’m ripping you off here, but we need you to do the real thing. He sent us like 10 tracks and said use whatever you want. We didn’t use everything. Some of the stuff was that crazy operatic stuff that probably wouldn’t have fit for us. We mixed it in with my vocal and it turned out really cool I think.”
On paper, the time is now for the Canadian five-piece to make a serious run towards the mainstream, with Outsider seemingly the perfect battering ram to knock down a pre-existing career wall or two. With a new label backer in the form of Nuclear Blast (New Damage Records in their native Canada) and a united focus and renewed drive, Comeback Kid aim to be a name that echoes outside of the underground, becoming a driving force for the new age hardcore movement.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’re more excited about it now than we’ve ever been. We really want to continue doing this and hopefully Outsider can give us a platform to continue to have a few more good years in us,” Neufeld says. “The dream for me is this can be the record that takes us to the next level. There’s a bunch of songs on every record we’ve ever done that we’ve probably never played once live. I’d love to play all of these songs live. I really hope we have an opportunity to play most of these songs live and if we’re able to do that I feel like that’s success for me.”
Outsider is available September 8th in physical and digital formats. Visit comeback-kid.com for tour dates and more.
Dillon Collins/MHF Magazine