Comeback Kid are and have been a cornerstone of hardcore for nearly 20 years. They were formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2000 by Andrew Neufeld and Jeremy Hiebert, members of the currently sidelined punk band Figure Four. The band was only intended to be a side project, but has since released five full length records, a self-titled EP and a live CD/DVD.
“We like to keep trying different things out, even if somebody thinks it won’t sound good, we still push each other to try things because sometimes you just don’t know.”
Comeback Kid became full time following the release of the band’s debut full length record Turn It Around in 2003. They toured North America and Europe thoroughly, appearing at the likes of Hellfest and Posi Numbers fest (there’s a throwback, eh?) before entering the studio to begin recording their second album, Wake The Dead.
The album came out in 2005 under Victory Records. Following the usual relentless touring, lead vocalist Scott Wade left the band, being replaced by guitarist Andrew Neufeld in time to begin recording Broadcasting, Comeback Kid’s third record. The band broke through following the release of the album, culminating in a long summer tour supporting Rise Against in the States and an appearance on the Never Say Die tour in Europe alongside Parkway Drive. The band took a short hiatus following the tours, during which bassist Kevin Call left the band. He was replaced by Matt Keil and the band regrouped for more touring, this time playing South East Asia and Latin America for the first time.
In 2008, the band released Through The Noise, a documentary of the first 6 years of Comeback Kid and a live recording of a show in Leipzig, Germany filmed in 2007. A release tour in Canada followed, named the “Through the Noise Tour.” It featured Bane, Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, Grave Maker, and Outbreak. While on this tour Gravemaker suffered a van accident with Neufeld in the vehicle, which inspired the song “G.M. Vincent and I” off 2010’s “Symptoms and Cures.”
After two years of international touring, the band spent much of 2010 writing and recording their fourth studio album, “Symptoms and Cures” which was released in Canada by Distort Entertainment and internationally by Victory Records. Two more installments of the “Through the Noise” tour followed in North America and Europe. In early 2012 guitarist Casey Hjelmberg announced he would be leaving the band, being replaced by Stu Ross of Misery Signals/Living with Lions.
On September 21, 2013, Comeback Kid stated on their Facebook page that they had started recording a new full-length album. Die Knowing, the band’s fifth studio album, was released on March 4, 2014, through Victory Records.
Four years later, in early September, the band are due to release their sixth album Outsider, this time under New Damage in Canada and Nuclear Blast worldwide. “We’re always pretty nervous going into an album release”, explains Neufeld. “We wanna make the best thing possible; we don’t wanna make a shit record or something that’s not as good as the previous release. Every time we we write a record we try to make it the best one. We worked really hard on it, everyone in the band contributed to writing the record more so than in previous records. We’re really critical of each other’s parts and songs. You have to let your ego down a little bit, at least with our group. You could have something that you’re super excited about at home, but then you bring it to the rehearsal space and somebody doesn’t like it. One of the ground rules that we try to set out was to not get attached to ideas too early, it’s a big theme that we keep on coming back to. We like to keep trying different things out, even if somebody thinks it won’t sound good, we still push each other to try things because sometimes you just don’t know until you hear it and let it sit a little bit. Tracks that don’t click straight away sometimes end up being our favourites on a record. It’s funny how music works like that”.
Comeback Kid have never hidden their politics, but on Outsider, themes within songs are a lot clearer. “The current state of politics didn’t make us write this album. We’re musicians, we feel the need to be writing music all the time, whether it’s about beaches or politics” explains Neufeld. “We had a record called Broadcasting in 2007, and the theme of that was that I felt TV and radio were being pushed onto us, but being in Canada, I felt very far removed from it all. Fast forward to 2017 and we can’t really ignore it anymore. Everyone is involved with what’s going on in the world and the subjects discussed on TV are hitting a lot closer to home. The most challenging thing is to explain how you’re feeling about it in a constructive way.”
The record also features several perhaps unlikely features, including the likes of Devin Townsend, Chris Chresswell and Northcote. “Devin Townsend actually produced my other band’s record, Sights & Sounds back in 2009. He produced two records for Stu’s other band Misery Signals, so we’ve worked with him quite closely in the past. He’s a genius musician, an amazing songwriter, such a cool producer, he’s just super inspiring overall. In the song Absolute I was kinda ripping his style off anyway. There’s this long drawn out chord before the breakdown and I had this Devin Townsend style sing/scream planned before we even knew he was gonna feature in the song. Out guitar player Jeremy suggested texting him to see if he wanted to do the part, so we talked about it, sent the song over and he liked it. He sent us back a bunch of tracks, we mixed it with my vocal and it sounded fucking sick. It was a no brainer for us, it came very organically.”
“Chris Chresswell plays for a band called The Flatliners” explains Neufeld. “They’re a NOFX style punk band from Toronto, where I live. Again, I had the idea for the part planned before I knew he was gonna record a feature, but I felt like I couldn’t really get an aggressive sound from my voice when it’s in the lower pitch range. I knew I wanted the main vocal to have that kind of pitch, and Chris has this kind of Hot Water Music-ish rough sounding voice, so we asked him to do the lower pitch sections and I used my natural voice as a harmony over the top of it. We wanted someone who could do something I couldn’t, and he was the perfect candidate for it. The final feature is on the last song of the record, Moment in Time. We wanted a dark bar kinda vibe. The song is about a friend’s father who passed away from Parkinson’s disease. I wanted a Johnny Cash kinda voice, and obviously my voice isn’t that. Stu got in touch with Northcote and he ended up sending me a voice note on his phone just to test it out. I thought it could work so we invited him down to record it and it came out really cool.”
Here in the UK the hardcore scene tends to come and go, with interest swinging between genres. Neufeld explains that it’s very similar in Canada. “It comes in waves man, I’ve seen it so many times. When we were younger we considered bands like Every Time I Die to be metalcore but they came from a similar scene as us. It’s not like metal; metal is a powerhouse of a genre that’s always gonna be huge. It just keeps getting bigger, especially in Europe. I think it’s just a matter of good hardcore bands sticking around. All these good hardcore bands do one or two good records and then they break up or change their style. It’s unfortunate but maybe it’s because hardcore bands don’t make enough money to stick around. I’ve seen bands start to get momentum but then maybe one of them gets a job that’s actually gonna pay the rent and it just fizzles out. Hardcore’s always been a little bit more of a DIY thing and I don’t think most hardcore bands will ever really be able to go out and do the huge things metal bands do. That’s why we’re very thankful for Europe and all the festivals there that help to sustain our band. We only have a couple of big festivals over here; there’s a couple popping up in Canada and the States but it’s not the same as in Europe. North America definitely has to catch up. I would assume that hardcore will always be more of a club thing. You see bands like Agnostic Front playing shows to one or two thousand people, but even that’s on a crazy level for hardcore. It’s cool though because I like variety; on our last European tour we were able to play Graspop festival in front of about twenty or thirty thousand people. A couple of days later we were playing a floor show in Denmark in front of about a hundred people. I just like the variety and that it’s not the same every day, it keeps it interesting.”
“Everyone is involved with what’s going on in the world and the subjects discussed on TV are hitting a lot closer to home. The most challenging thing is to explain how you’re feeling about it in a constructive way.”
This November, Comeback Kid are set to tour the UK with Every Time I Die, Knocked Loose and Higher Power. “It’s very difficult not to hear about Knocked Loose lately; they’re the new hype band. Every Time I Die actually got Higher Power on the tour, it was their choice. I’d heard them a couple of times though friends but I checked them out more so after I found out they were gonna be on the tour. I really like their Leeway vibe. The tour’s doing really well though; I just saw that one of the venues got upgraded so it’s gonna be a banger…Having Knocked Loose on the tour just worked out because we share a manager now. We’ve tried to get them on tours before and it just never worked out, I’ve never actually even seen them. It’s a pretty small circle of bands that are actually out touring heavily these days. We’re about to go out on tour with Counterparts and Stray From The Path in Canada when the record comes out, but our last tour was with Stray From The Path and the one before that was with Counterparts so these kind of cycles keep happening. I’m really excited to be touring the States with Burn and Jesus Piece in October, it’ll be cool to play with some old and new blood.”
One of the biggest moves Comeback Kid have made is arguably switching from Victory Records, a label the band has been with since 2005, to historically metal label Nuclear Blast. Neufeld shoots on what influenced this decision: “We came to the end of our contract with Victory, we had four records with them. Really we just wanted to try something new, have some change and see what’s up with a new label. Our booking agent Avocado connected us with Nuclear Blast after discussing a few labels. They came out to a couple of shows and it seemed like they wanted us the most out of all the labels we’d been talking to. They gave us a good pitch and it seems like they’ve pushed the record really well so far. I don’t think you can go far wrong with a label that’s been out for thirty years and has signed the likes of Slayer, Hatebreed, Motorhead, Agnostic Front etc. It seems like a pretty reasonable move.”
All in all, the near future is looking very bright for Comeback Kid. “Nuclear Blast have treated us well so far. They’re getting me interviews like this, and they’re giving me a little kick in the ass as far as promoting the record goes. I’m always inspired by that because I’d rather be kicked in the ass than have the others get kicked in the ass. It’s very new but it’s a good start so far”, Neufeld explains. Comeback Kid are touring Canada, the USA and the UK very soon, which will probably be followed by Australia in 2018. “We’re a band that’s always focused on trying to play as many places in the world as possible. We have a global vision, and that’s another reason why we chose Nuclear Blast, because they have offices all around the world. We love touring America but it’s not necessarily our main concern, we like to venture out further into the world.
WORDS: NIALL EVANS
The latest issue of Discovered Magazine is out now! You can get more information on it here. Comeback Kid are one the cover wouldn’t you know, so it might just be worth checking out!