by Interviews

Comeback Kid have just released their new album, Outsider, out now on Nuclear Blast. So, staff writer Gen Handley spoke to vocalist Andrew Neufeld about the new LP, livin' in Winnipeg, and how to take care of one's voice.

Comeback Kid singer Andrew Neufeld is enjoying some much-needed down time, between touring, in his hometown of Winnipeg. He’s on his way to join a counter protest of some alt-right activists, to help out drown out the bigoted whining with those blistering, signature screams.

“Yeah, Trump, all this racism…it’s fucking weird right now,” he says, sounding a bit sad. “Some friends set up a counter rally to some stupid Islamophobes – I want show some support.”

Over the past 17 years, Winnipeg's Comeback Kid has built up quite the global reputation as one of hardcore's most consistent and entertaining acts. Despite changing lead singers early on, a shift that sometimes ends bands, they have just seemed to get more energized, more passionate and have progressively continued to release better and better albums. This happens with their next release, Outsider, which came out on September 8th. Sonically, Outsider is more dynamic that its predecessors, but doesn’t lack any of the fire that has made the band so exciting.

Neufeld spoke to Punknews interviewer Gen Handley during his busy schedule to talk about the awesome new album out now on Nuclear Blast, being a hardcore band in Winnipeg and the misconceptions of the genre.

So I'm going to start by stating the obvious: You guys didn't slow down at all on this album at all, especially on songs like "I'll Be That."

(Laughs) Yeah, for sure. It’s full-on, it’s hard-hitting. I mean, we’re still very influenced by hard, hardcore like thrash stuff. There’s a lot of different stuff on this record, a lot of melodic stuff, but I think it’s important to keep that bouncy, hard shit.

There’s never a shortage of heavy, fast Comeback Kid songs. With this record, when there were too many fast songs being written, I’d try to do something different – some more bouncy shit or rock-and-roll stuff.

Was that intentional?

Yeah, with this record we were trying to be more a little more obvious with our themes and our choruses. We wanted certain moments to really shine, to accentuate certain features and not be afraid of being more obvious. We wanted to have really big parts and really memorable parts.

What fuels a Comeback Kid song? Politics? Personal stuff?

It’s all over the place. With the political issues, I mean…you just can’t avoid that right now. Like, look where I’m going today. There are definitely a few songs about human right and social justice issues. On other hand, there are songs dealing with mental health and social anxiety and losing people. It’s really cliché, but looking back on the record, it’s helped me out a little – it’s a good way to get things off your chest. I had a pretty hard year. It was a good way to get some of that on paper.

A pretty therapeutic record then?

Yeah, totally. But I think every record is therapeutic in their own way. It’s therapeutic for me to write music, in general.

Writing songs, at first, can sometimes be a like a deer in the headlights. But as it exposes itself to you a little more and more, peeling back those layers, it becomes this cool group of words. At that part, you can really focus on what you’re trying to say.

Did the songs flow out for this record or did you have to force them out?

In the past, Jeremy (Hiebert), our guitar player would right the bulk of the songs, but this time, our new guitar player Stu (Ross), wrote like 10 demos one day and then 10 demos another day. For me, I was like, “Well fuck, I’ve got to step it up.” (Laughs) It was a healthy thing, so having the three of us writing songs was good. There were a lot of times I would write a song, in response to the prior song, just to make it different. So yeah, everyone was bringing something to the table and that motivated me to write better songs.

So it was a more of a team effort for this album.

Yeah, definitely more of a group effort. A group effort for writing, but also for the performances. I mean, I think the bass on the record really stands out and Ron (Friesen), our bass player just killed it on that. Loren (Legare) is also a great drummer and very musically minded, not just with drumming but the whole picture.

So it was definitely a new dynamic this time around, but it was inspiring. (Laughs) Inspiring, but frustrating because you get a lot of cooks in the kitchen and sometimes you bring something to the table and not a lot of people like it. It just pushed us to try harder and write better songs.

What does the album title, Outsider, mean? Do you guys see yourselves as such?

Not really. Stu had the idea for the album title. He used to make Comeback Kid “Outsiders” merch and it’s been a theme we’ve been running with for a while. The meaning for me, when I was writing the title track, is about challenging yourself and challenging others who have revolutionary ideas – it’s about powering through with what you believe in and not let being an outcast get you down.

Did you do anything differently for this album? I heard it's the first time everyone played on it…

Yeah. Actually, I don’t know if it’s the first time but it’s the first time in a while. We recorded in Vancouver at Rain City with our friend Stu McKillop. We kind of produced it ourselves and then we went to guy who produced our last record, Kyle Black, at his studio LA in where we mixed it – that guy’s a fucking wizard, he’s so good at mixing. There was a lot of people who stepped up to the table for this record and it was a total collaborative effort.

How does a punk band come out of Winnipeg, Manitoba? Is it the weather? Is it the boredom?

(Laughs) I don’t know? Maybe because of Propagandhi? It’s a good scene here. Back in the mid-90s, during those days before the internet, local scenes were thriving. I remember when I was 16 years old putting on shows myself – there would be like a metal band, a hardcore band and like street punk or Oi! band. Everyone was just together and the scene wasn’t split up into sub-genres so it was really cool and all sorts of different people would be together. For me, Winnipeg had a pretty fucking awesome music scene growing up. We even had our version of CBGB’s called the Royal Albert where we would have Sunday matinees at. It was just a really great place for all-ages shows and that’s how I got my old band, Figure Four, going and and Comeback Kid as well.

What is the status of Figure Four right now? Still on hiatus?

I guess so. We played some shows a few years ago, but everyone has babies now and are all over the place. It’s kind of a weird thing. That band started when I was a kid. It was also Christian and I’m totally not into that anymore. But we loved that last record we did a while back, Suffering the Loss. But we never played a Winnipeg show so we probably should play final show sometime.

You mentioned that you grew up Christian. What are your views on religion these days?

That was just a thing in my youth and into my early 20s. But eventually, I just saw through the holes of it. I’m sure that will follow me, especially with my old band. It still kind of follows Comeback Kid.

What do you mean?

Well, I have people have come up to me asking, “I heard you guys are a Christian band.” (Laughs) It’s fine, but sometimes gets a bit annoying – that’s in my past.

How did working with Chris from The Flatliners on "Consumed with Vision” come about? That's a new kind of song for Comeback Kid…

Yeah. I wanted to write something more bouncy and fun. The intro is kind of an Oasis rip-off. I couldn’t sing aggressively in a lower range, which the melody of the song was intended to be – I thought Chris would work well for that part. So yeah, it was a super fun song to record. It was a fun day – we had some beers and I talked on his podcast. Chris has this great howl. I told him he had to do the howl for this song. (Laughs) I loved it.

Years ago I asked Thomas from Strike Anywhere what he did to take care of his voice - he would drink tea and chew on some ginger before a show. Is there anything you do to manage that voice?

Not really. I get these special throat lozenges and sometimes those kind of help – our sound guy, Jeremy, got them for me one time. I’ve tried everything but nothing really works for me too well. This is what happens with me: I just have to go hard in the beginning and blow my voice – I try to get it over with. When I get my voice comes back, it just kind of stays and I can scream for months as along as I don’t take a break for a week or two. (Laughs) I always have to lose it at first.

"Somewhere, Somehow" is one of my favourite songs on the album. Is it a song about not losing hope? A love song?

It’s more about taking chances. Like, it’s about how I can’t enter that situation because it could somehow end up badly for me. Yeah, just a song about being hesitant about certain situations and how that can be a little risky…how you doubt yourself.

That song’s a good example of balancing the rage and melody you mentioned before.

Yeah, yeah. When Jeremy showed me that chorus riff, I thought, “That is the riff that needs to happen like three times and that has to be chorus.” (Laughs) I loved it. It’s cool writing songs. Most of the time, the melodies I end up with are the ones that come immediately – that spark at first. It’s always works out trusting the initial gut feeling and just running with it.

What do you think the biggest misconception about hardcore is?

I don’t know, fuck. One thing I get asked a lot, “Why are you so angry?” or “Why is hardcore so angry?” (Laughs) I’m not angry at all and when I’m singing. I don’t feel like I’m expressing anger. It’s just heavy music and it’s aggressive, but it’s not angry – I’m having a good time. At first, I was going to say that a big misconception about hardcore is that it’s a macho, fucking boys-only club. But as soon as I thought about it, I realized, “Yeah, it kind of can be true sometimes.” (Laughs) But that’s something we’re a lot more aware of now and trying to change it. It’s got to change – the world’s changing. We all need to be more inclusive and open for sure.

We're been profiling hardcore bands and albums celebrating their 20 years this year. But you guys aren't quite there yet – you’re close. Do you think you'll make it that long?

I don’t know man. I’ve always dreamed of being in a band and going on tour. That’s kind of all I ever wanted to do. And it’s strangely still all I want to do. (Laughs) We’re lucky to be here. But you see bands like Agnostic Front and Mad Ball and tons of other bands we’ve played with who have been doing it a lot longer. I look at them and think that there is some longevity. I just love we get to travel the world, play shows and meet new friends.

So you’re living the dream…

Yeah, I guess I am. I’m definitely living a dream of mine for sure.