A staple within the hardcore community for over 15 years now, Comeback Kid is ready to unleash Outsider, the band’s 6th studio full-length, upon the masses on September 8th. Outsider is an expansion on the already established Comeback Kid tropes, filled with relentless moments of hardcore with elements of sonic progression and evolution that have been present on their past few releases. Working with bandmates Stu Ross, Ron Friesen and Loren Legare, Comeback Kid is days away from unveiling what could easily be considered their finest recorded moment to date.
Lead guitarist Jeremy Hiebert took twenty minutes out of his busy pre-press schedule to answer a few questions about Outsider for PureGrainAudio. Links to Outsider pre-sale packages are available on the Comeback Kid website.
You are in Winnipeg!? That’s cool.
“Yeah. We’re only an hour behind you. Usually two, but with Daylight Savings, it’s only one.”
I didn’t even know that Comeback Kid is a Canadian band. Silly, really. You’ve been around for a while now. I just never put two and two together there.
“(laughs) We do sometimes fly under that Canadian radar.”
You’ve done dates with the Cancer Bats, have you not?
“Oh yeah. We haven’t toured with them in a while. It might have been about ten years ago in Europe. Which is strange. We are old friends with them. It’s surprising that we haven’t really hooked up since.”
I know I’ve seen you perform. Maybe it was on a Warped Tour. I’ve done a bunch of those.
“Maybe. Bad Religion? Dropkick Murphys? Rise Against?”
It’s likely Rise Against.
“We’ve done all kinds of touring. Bigger support stuff and a bunch of club shows. Where are you? Montreal?”
I’m actually in Kitchener. I know you guys will be here in a few weeks for that Koi Fest. WITH the Cancer Bats. But I think I’m tied up that weekend. I have my son that night.
“Oh hey. I totally get it. I’ve got a one and a half year old myself. I know how that goes.” (laughs)
I’ve been listening to Outsider a fair bit the past few days. I’m fifty. It reminds me of some of the old-school hardcore that I used to crank as a teenager. Bands like DRI and Agnostic Front. Even a little bit of Toxic Holocaust. Do you even know those bands? Do you throw back to that stuff?
“I would have a light connection to some of those bands. We just played a festival in France and DRI were on that bill. I’m 41 years old. So I totally SHOULD know those bands. But I’m probably more like a decade later. Bands like Agnostic Front, yes. But also bands like Madball, Terror, Hatebreed and Snapcase. That is sort of my era of hardcore. The late nineties and into post 2000. We definitely want to keeps the roots of hardcore elements in our music regardless of how many albums we put out. We always want to have a bit of that old school sound in there mixed with some of the things that show where we are at right now.”
Let’s talk a little bit about your writing process. Do you have a blanket descriptor for that? Is it an evolving thing? Or do you find you write all of your albums the same way?
“For the most part, I think that’s the way it generally goes. The last record was a little different. The first five records, Andrew (Neufeld) and myself have written over 90% of the music. And then with this last record Stu (Ross) our newer guitar player, he was involved in the writing process more. We just kind of write our riffs and then write our songs. Structure them however we see fit on our own. We live in three different cities; Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Toronto. We set aside a time when everybody is going to fly in and meet up, and then we just jam them out rehearsing them over and over again. We’ll tear some of them apart and put in new parts and refine them. That kind of thing. The initial ideas are generally solo efforts, and then we turn them into a group effort. I know some bands will do the group effort right off the bat. We don’t really work that way.”
Outsider is the first studio work from Loren (Legare) and Ron (Friesen), correct?
“Correct. Yeah. Up until now, we have had Kyle Profeta in the band. After he left it’s been new drummer time. We’ve had a few different bass players, but for the most part, those bass players never really played on the record. But Ron played on this new record.”
How do you feel that they fit in? I mean, from my end listening to Outsider, it sounds like the answer is going to be “Quite well”. But I’m curious if it was a seamless thing for you all. They’ve been touring with you for a while. I’d think they likely knew everyone pretty well musically before going into this album.
“Yeah, I think so. We kind of have our sound. We don’t keep ourselves confined to parameters that are too tight. But at the same time, we don’t want to lose our sound. They are definitely aware of our sound. But I feel like Ron and Loren brought in some of their own stuff. We aren’t dictating every little thing doing this. They definitely have their creative input over their parts and transitions. I would say that it was a pretty seamless transition.”
Right on. I went online and read what I could find out about Outsider. Always with an air of caution. What’s on the interweb isn’t always the truth…
It’s cool that you have Devin Townsend contributing on “Absolute”, Chris Cresswell (The Flatliners) contributing on “Consumed the Vision” and Matthew Daniel Goud (Northcote) contributing on “Moment In Time.” That’s ambitious.
“That was just one of those things that came together nicely on this album. We’ve had collaborators before. It’s hard to know exactly who might fit where. But once we start working on the vocals it always seems like someone says “You know who might sound great on this track here?” And we’ll see if they are available. Or if they are even into the idea, right? We reached out to those three individuals and all three were down to do it. We were psyched.”
So how fast does something like that come together Jeremy? You all have this idea to bring Devin in – how quickly does that actually come together? Days? Weeks? Months?
“All three were completely different situations. With Devin, we kind of asked him and he said “Possibly.” And then he asked if we could send him the song. We sent over the song and he said he was down to do it. He is an engineer producer himself, so he just did a bunch of different tracks at his own studio and then he sent us over everything. He said whatever we want to use, and don’t want to use, is cool by him. So we just kind of picked the track we liked. He had everything from Death Metal growling vocals to “Bohemian Rhapsody” sounding stuff and everything in between. So we just picked the track that we thought suited that track the best. With Chris, Andrew and Chris just went into a studio in Toronto and they just tried a bunch of different stuff and came out with that song sounding fantastic. And then with the Northcote guy, he dropped by the studio because he lives on Vancouver Island. We were recording in Vancouver so he just hopped over and we just laid those tracks down together. They were all different experiences, but it all came together well.”
Can you tell me what this time right now feels like for you? The time between having a finished album and actually getting to the release date of said album?
“Oh wow. Um, as a new dad, a real mix of feelings. Because on the one hand, it’s very exciting to have that new record ready to go and as is always the case, we have to strike while the iron is hot, right? Get everybody talking about the record and then get out on the road and tour it. So of course, the flip side of that is I’m going to be away from my kid for chunks of time. The early part of the album cycle, we’ll be out a lot. So that is one of those awesome/this sucks kind of things. The summer has been cool. I’ve been enjoying some downtime. We were in Europe there for a bit, but it’s been nice this summer. There’s stuff to do pre-release, but at least we get to be at home while that all comes together. That means I get to cram in as much time as I can with my son as possible. I think anybody who is a parent can relate. it’s fun to see all of that stuff coming together and getting ready to go, but there is no question now that it will be fun supporting the new record. But I think there is the other side which is a little tough to swallow. But that’s the way it goes.”
That has got to be the biggest challenge for musicians. Doing a family, and being away from them for chunks of time like that. It’s got to be tough.
“Absolutely. It gives me a newfound respect for a lot of the musicians that I idolized. I just didn’t know the sacrifices that they made. But also that their families made for them as well. Families that can’t always be out on the road with them, just for the sake of art. It’s a job as well. It helps pay the bills. But there is definitely a price that all musicians have to pay in some way.”
It does look like the rest of your year is touring. Canada, the US and then over to Europe. There’s a little bit of time in between those runs, but you are going to be touring this new album in earnest.
“Right. Yes. And that’s not it. We’ve got other tours that are currently being booked and figured out. So it’s going to be a busy twelve to eighteen months.”
I’m sure it will be. Let’s just take a moment and talk a bit about the marketing of Outsider. There are links on Nuclear Blast in the USA. There are links on your webpage. I’m sure there are some exclusive vinyl and shirts going on. Is there anywhere that you would like to steer people to for the new album?
“Yeah! In Canada we are releasing Outlander on New Damage. The way we kind of have it set up is New Damage is taking care of Canada and then Nuclear Blast is the rest of the world. So both record labels have different packages set up. Vinyl and shirts. You know, some of the classic bundles that you can buy, especially when you are pre-ordering. So I would definitely steer any interested parties in Canada towards New Damage and then outside of Canada to Nuclear Blast USA or Nuclear Blast Europe. You can comb through some of the different packages that are available there. We are also in the process of launching some new web stores that should be coming up shortly. There will be one in Canada. I don’t even know the website off the top of my head right now. We will have a web store up in Canada very shortly. And there is definitely one in the USA and Europe. All you need to do is Google “Comeback Kid T-Shirt” and I’m sure you will have a bunch of different stores you can choose from.”
You mentioned Nuclear Blast. Outsider is your first album with Nuclear Blast outside of Canada. How did that deal come together?
“Well, we finished our contract with Victory Records and there was interest from some other labels, so we thought “let’s hear how these other labels see us? Do they see us as a valuable part of their label or a little part of their label?” We just kind of combed through what people were offering us, and Nuclear Blast seemed really excited. One thing about our band is that we have a fairly strong presence in Europe. With Nuclear Blast being based out of Germany, at the end of the day, we just thought that would be a great partnership. There is something to be said for that German work ethic. They are a work-horse of a label. So we were interested. At first, it seemed like a weird idea given their immersion in metal. But I think they have been branching out with some hardcore bands like Agnostic Front, Madball and Hatebreed. There are a few others. We thought that it might actually be a really good fit. Ten years ago I would never have thought that we would be on their roster. But it seemed to make a little more sense given where we are at right now. Yeah, we are psyched to see where it goes.”
I think they just signed The Addicts. I believe that PR email just came through today, actually.
“Oh really? Nice. Nuclear Blast is on a little tear right now, getting some cool hardcore bands. This is all good.”
So, in your mind, how does Outsider differ from your previous albums? This can be any aspect of it if you like.
“Well, aside from the part we already talked about with the newer members playing on the record, let me think. I always kind of describe our records as a kind of continuation of the last one. I think if you put Outsider on after Wake The Dead it might sound a little funny. After any of our first few records, really. But I think from one album to another over the course of our releases you can see the continuation. Our biggest change would be between Wake The Dead and Broadcasting when we changed vocalists. I think that this record still has that heaviness on Die Knowing. The front half of that record was definitely the heaviest material that Comeback Kid has put out. We really liked incorporating a little more of that harder sound into our music on Outsider. And this is without giving up on our melodic side. I think this new record is kind of a continuation and expansion of that sort of thing. Because the heaviness is there. We’re not a technical band, but our songs are getting more complex. We put more thought into how we build these parts. I think the other component of it is that we want to maintain the less-is-more philosophy. We don’t want to get so complicated that we will be challenged to replicate what we are doing live. We still try to be as creative as possible with things, and build it up as best we can. We don’t want to churn it out in two weeks like we would have with our first record.”
Right. The heaviness is still totally there. “Outrage” and “Livid” are both relentless songs.
“Cool. I definitely never want to be one of those bands that mellow out as we get older. If anything I’d like to crank it up. I still feel like there is always room for more without having to give up on that melodic element.”
Cool. let’s do a few quicker ones to finish up. What is your personal favourite piece of music memorabilia in your possession? And why does it mean what it does to you?
“Hoo boy. Let’s see. Hmm. That’s a good question.”
I figured you might have a good answer.
“This might throw some people off, but I grew up as a Christian metalhead. I grew up in a very fundamentalist Christian home, and I was always trying to make both work, trying to not let that Christianity go. But I guess this Crucified T-Shirt that I have from like who knows how long ago is my pick. Some friend gave it to me because I could never get my hands on this particular shirt. That I never wear, by the way. It’s just one of those things that I want to keep and hang onto it because it’s a part of my past, I guess. If that makes any sense? They were this old Christian hardcore band.” (laughs)
If you can, name a band that has never let you down?
Name a concert that changed your perception of what a live concert performance could be?
“Hmm. I want to answer this one properly.”
I’ve been to numerous shows where I left feeling like it wasn’t what I expected, and it totally blew me away.
“I think I had one of those moments back in 2003. We played Hellfest in Syracuse. This was still when they were doing the hardcore kind of Hellfest and not the European one. It was mostly hardcore bands, and there were some metalcore bands there too. But Lamb of God played. I’d heard the name, but I hadn’t really checked them out at all. I saw them and it was kind of cool because they were sandwiched into the day’s line-up. This was when they were kind of blowing up. It was just raw and heavy and such a solid performance. I saw that, and I felt like I had to be very careful with my writing after seeing them because I didn’t want to copycat what they had done. But it’s so tempting to do exactly that after you see a band that has just crushed it before your very eyes. No backing tracks or anything like that. They just have this raw energy that was utterly awesome.”
And what is the nerdiest thing that you have ever done?
“Hmm. Probably, and this is just off the top of my head, but two years ago, we played the French Hellfest with Aerosmith and Extreme on the bill. And I saw Nuno backstage, and I had to approach him. I said, “Hey man, I just want to tell you that we play completely different styles of music but that you were a huge inspiration to me just wanting to play the guitar.” I got to shake his hand and took a picture with him, and I felt like such a complete dork afterward. Every once in a while you just have to say thank you to those people that spurred you on your path.”
Not a lot of people recognize what a proficient guitarist Nuno is.
“Oh, he’s phenomenal. Just phenomenal. He’s so fluid on stage when he plays. He’s very fun to watch. He just makes it look so effortless. A huge inspiration to me.”