In the early 2000s, an explosion of screamo bands took over the airwaves with aggressive riffs, heavy double-kick drums, and emotional lyrics. Canada's contribution to the scene was especially noticeable with bands like Alexisonfire, Silverstein, and Comeback Kid breaking barriers and bringing this new post-millennium hardcore sound to massive audiences around the world.
Nearly two decades later – and through many ups and downs that come with the music business - Winnipeg's Comeback Kid is still soldiering on. Their new album Outsider, their first in a while to feature the entire band's touring members on record, contains some of the band's most collaborative and exciting works to date.
It's been a tumultuous few years for the group, with guitarist Casey Hjelmberg leaving in 2012 and drummer Kyle Profeta departing in 2014. With new members in tow and a fresh dynamic driving them, Comeback Kid brought some of their more melodic songs to the table for Outsider. Singer Andrew Neufeld says the album was "more of a group effort" where the band made "a conscious decision to really mix it up and put some of the more melodic stuff in the front of the record." We recently spoke with Andrew about some of the standout tracks on Outsider as well as their upcoming North American tour.
Trevor Morelli (Songfacts): You've got the tour starting soon. What are you guys up to right now, are you in rehearsals?
Andrew Neufeld: Yeah, I'm in Toronto right now where I live and next week I'm heading to Winnipeg to start some rehearsals for the upcoming Canadian tour we have going on. And, actually, that's the first of a slew, the first of three or four tours coming up into the winter here. The record is coming out and we're getting ready to hit the road a whole bunch.
Songfacts: Your new album is called Outsider. There's been a ton of changes for you guys in the last few years. Can you talk about the new members, what they contribute to the group, and how they specifically contributed to this new record?
Andrew: Probably the biggest change on this record is our original drummer, Kyle, left after Die Knowing, our last record, so we have this guy Loren Legare, he's from Vancouver, he played with a band called Living With Lions. He drums on this record and he definitely brought a different dynamic to the songs. He's just a different style in general but it was a welcome change.
This is the first record in a while where everyone in the band actually played on the record. We've had touring musicians but everyone really showcased their skills a lot on this record. Ron, our bass player, it's his first time playing on a record with us and he killed it. And Stu [Ross, guitar] has been in the band for five or six years but this is a record that he really brought a lot more to the table as far as writing goes.
So, it was more of a group effort, as opposed to just a couple of us. We've had records where it's just been a couple of us really doing the meat and potatoes, but this one was more of a group effort.
Songfacts: How do you think that shaped the sound of the record? Would you say it's more melodic or more aggressive than Die Knowing?
Andrew: Have you heard it?
Songfacts: I have heard it. I found it to be more melodic. I could definitely hear more punk influence.
Andrew: Yeah, it's definitely more melodic. The thing with Die Knowing, our last record, is we had a bunch of these more poppy, melodic songs but we pushed them to the back of the record. Die Knowing was a pretty metallic, hardcore record. For some reason, I can't remember why we chose this, but we ended up putting all the really heavy stuff towards the front of the record and more melodic stuff towards the back. And this time we made a conscious decision to really mix it up and put a lot of the more melodic stuff in the front of the record.
For Comeback Kid, we've always had melodic songs and when we play those live, they are some of the songs that connect the most. So, we're just trying to write a great record that we can have a good time playing live. Me personally, I tried to take a little bit of a lighter approach to the writing. I wanted a more fun and more light-in-mood sound on this record. I wanted to make it sound just fun, and I think you can hear that on the record.
Songfacts: For sure. The record starts with the song "Outsider" – it's a pretty aggressive song. Why did you think that that would be a great title for the album?
Andrew: It's because we could all agree on it. We all didn't hate it. Our band can have too many cooks in the kitchen sometimes.
I was like, "Outsider? I don't know, man, that's obvious. Maybe we should call it something else like Outlier?" But we were trying to be a lot more obvious on this record and really accentuate features that we wanted to shine.
The song "Outsider" turned out really, really good and we really worked hard on it, especially in the mixing process. That's when it was coming together into its full form. We're like, "Let's just do this, let's make that statement and have it in the front of the record." You can't miss it - it's just right there.
Songfacts: One of the songs that stood out for me personally was "Hell Of A Scene." The hard, double kicks driving the verses and then it goes into a melodic chorus. Can you tell me a little bit about how that song came about?
Andrew: Yeah. I was telling Jeremy, the guitar player, "I want to write a song that's kind of like 'My Life' by Sick Of It All." And if you're familiar with that song it's these fast verses and then it goes into this two-step chorus, like: "All my life people tell me what to say." Just a fun singalong kind of thing. I just wanted a really fast verse and then right into that singalong chorus and then we're going fast again. I wanted to rip off that structure.
I didn't get around to writing a song like that. I was meaning to and then Jeremy came to practice one day and he had the basis for that song. He said, "I don't know if I want to use it." It was kind of a fast beat that we'd never done before, like a one-two one-two beat. And then it went into this '90s power-pop chorus. I had this vocal, like a melodic hook, and it was totally not what I expected to write when I was talking about ripping off a song like that because it sounds totally different but I was super stoked.
I liked that it was weird and different, and we decided to put it on the front of the record. It's super weird. It's outside the box but it's fun. It feels good.
Songfacts: What other songs on the record stand out for you and give you that feeling?
Andrew: I really love "Consumed The Vision." We have our friend Chris [Cresswell] from The Flatliners sing on that one. And I like "Surrender Control." To me that's like the main single of the record. I view that as a song that's going to be in our sets for a long time.
Songfacts: Did Chris help you write "Consumed The Vision"?
Andrew: No, I had all the guide vocals there and then had him sing. He can do a lower range. I can't really get my voice to be very aggressive in a lower range, so I did the guide vocal and then he did it with that natural growl to his voice. My voice can push when I'm in a higher range, so I did the high harmony to his lower melody.
Devin Townsend plays on the Outsider track "Absolute"; Matt Goud of Northcote guests on the album closer, "Moment in Time."
Songfacts: And you've got a couple of other guests on the record. Devin Townsend.
Andrew: Yeah, we've got Devin Townsend on a small part and we got Matt Goud from Northcote on a small part.
Songfacts: How did those collaborations come about?
Andrew: Very on the limb. We just texted them: "Yo, do you want to try this out?" And they liked the song.
With Devin, I was doing a part that was kind of ripping him off. I've worked with him in the past before with my other band, Sights & Sounds - he produced us. But, yeah, I texted him and he sent back a bunch of tracks. He said, "Just use what you want. You don't have to use everything." He even had some crazy operatic stuff that wasn't really a fit for us, but we mixed it in and it sounded fucking killer. It's a really standout part.
And then with Matt Northcote, we had this song that I wanted to set up like a bar room theme. I wanted a Johnny Cash cowboy voice singing the intro and I obviously don't have a voice for that. So, Stu, our guitar player, suggested Matt and he sent me a voice note trying something like that out and I'm like, "Okay, I think this will work." So, he came down to the studio and did it.
Songfacts: One other song I want to ask you about is "Blindspot." What influenced that song and where did the lyrics come from?
Andrew: That song is our most Black Flag-like - definitely a nod to that scene. It's just a cool punk song.
"Blindspot," that song is based on the title - those times when you're looking so hard for something and it's probably even right there in front of you but you can't really see it because there's something getting in the way of your perception, of what's really going on there. It's about trying to look at things from another perspective.
Songfacts: You guys are going on tour in the next couple of weeks. Can fans expect to hear a lot of these new songs in the set?
Andrew: Yeah, we're going to sprinkle them in. When we have a new record, I know that people that listen to us, come to our show, they're going to want to see songs from our first record up until the last record. So, we'll be doing a lot of old stuff but we'll probably sprinkle in two or three and then we'll start seeing what works and what connects.
Songfacts: Does it ever get old for you playing songs from 10 or 12 years ago?
Andrew: You know, you pick and choose. We kind of create a "best of" type set with a couple of songs from each record and hopefully you can massage it out so you're getting the songs that connect with the crowd the most.
With hardcore, it's so different than other kinds of music. Especially as a vocalist, you're obsessed with the crowd reaction and how crazy the show's going to be, as opposed to playing in a mellow band or even a rock band.
Songfacts: Definitely. You guys know that the people coming to your shows love you and they're there to see you. You're not some flavor of the week that people happen to come by.
Andrew: Yeah, but it is very easy when you play a new song and it doesn't have that crazy reaction that some of the other ones have, to be like, "Oh, shit, I don't want to play that right away. I don't want to keep on playing it." But sometimes you've got to work these songs into the set and then the next time you come back it's a different kind of vibe.
September 8, 2017
More info on Outsider at the Nuclear Blast website.