Remember that local punk band you used to love back in high school where you owned every demo they released no matter how terrible the sound quality was? COMEBACK KID were one of those punk bands and thanks to a growing scene and support from their rivals, the Winnipeg outfit have turned into an act Canadian youth look up to. The day of their recent gig in Toronto, vocalist Andrew Neufeld chatted to us about when the band first started and what’s next for Figure Four.
In high school, gossip was usually a bad thing; when it comes to being an entertainer, they say any press is good press. True or false?
I would say false. Maybe for an entertainer any press is good press, but for us, we don’t necessarily think of ourselves as just entertainment. We think of ourselves as music with some kind of substance behind it. I definitely don’t want all of our deepest darkest secrets to be revealed (laughs).
There’s no secret formula to establishing an audience as an emerging band; what do you think is one of the best ways to generate a buzz?
When we first started, social networking and Internet wasn’t what it is now. I don’t want to sound super old but when Comeback Kid put out our first record, it was 2003 and we actually did use the Internet. We used Make Out Club; I don’t know if you remember that. We just used message boards and things like OttawaHardcore.com and whatever. The Internet helped, but it was just through word of mouth so we just hoped that our live shows would translate.
Going back to what you said about social networking. When you first started out nine years ago, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter didn’t exist and as you said, word-of-mouth was the only way to become popular. Do bands have it too easy in this generation?
Easy as far as accessibility, maybe. There’s also a lot more content now that’s coming out, so people can weed through all of the bullshit to find the good music. I don’t know if it’s necessarily easier just because there’s so much more music. Everyone plays in a band now and there’s so many different bands, so many shitty bands, and so many carbon copies. Back then, it was saturated but not as much as now and we see it on a global scale because it’s all around.
“We are definitely really passionate about our music. We don’t want to make some bullshit generic tunes and just a bunch of random stuff to make people happy.”
Artists these days do rely on gimmicks and fashion to connect with listeners. Do you like to think you offer something a little more “real”?
I’m not going to say more real, because I don’t think an aesthetic is a bad thing; it can be kind of cool. For us, that’s never been our thing. We’ve always been a band that’s like pretty focused on the music and we don’t have a look. All of us are pretty random dudes, we don’t have that gimmick thing to work in our favour. But that’s just us, and I wouldn’t say that makes us any more real that anyone else, but we definitely are really passionate about our music.
We don’t want to make some bullshit generic tunes and just a bunch of random stuff to make people happy. It’s not like we have to write a breakdown now so people can mosh, or a catchy chorus or whatever; we try to write interesting and original music.
Why do you think it is that artists will settle for that and compromise their musical integrity just to make something that people like?
Because it’s fun too. I’m not going to say its not fun to listen to some kind of gimmick band or song, or Top 40 radio songs that are just kind of stupid or silly. That’s just part of the experience. I’ve talked to some people who work in record labels and it seems like music isn’t really something that is able to be sold anymore. A lot of people are trying to find ways to make it more of an interaction between the band as a product and the listener.
A lot of bands nowadays are just utilizing that and making it more about the whole experience: the music, the band, the interaction; just certain things where it is more of an experience than just someone listening to the band for the music. Do you know what I’m getting at? I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself properly. I think it’s not necessarily a band thing, just a different thing.
I guess it got that way because not many people buy albums anymore, and this is your career, you have to make money somehow, right? Is that what you’re trying to say?
I’m just saying that there’s a lot of different forms of music and entertainment. Sometimes people want to separate that, but I think that a gimmick can also be fun. It can be stupid, or not validated, but it can be exciting to write.
Is there a certain group or two you guys credit for helping you make a name for yourselves?
I don’t think we had one group that ever took us under their wing. Some bands really helped pave the way for us. Our main influences would be bands like Sick Of It All – who we just toured South America with. The tour was awesome as they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. To us, they’re so special and a band that we look up to as a hardcore/punk band. Others include Mad Ball and Propagandhi who are from Winnipeg. When we were first starting out, we toured with Bane a lot. They were really cool as far as helping us out when we were younger and we respect them a lot for that.
Was that how you went from a simple side project to what you are today?
It stopped being a simple side project after our first tour as Comeback Kid. I started a band called Figure Four with Jeremy when I was 16-years-old in 96′ or 97′. In 2003, we put out our last record as Figure Four and our first as Comeback Kid and right after our “first” tour happened, we started getting more offers to do more tours. It just went on from there. You start a band when you’re a teenager, and you have a very different view was a 16-year-old compared to a 21-year-old’s perspective. I’m 29 now and our songs are very different; it’s a different lifestyle with different beliefs.
Do you think the fan base you had with Figure Four contributed to your success at all?
I used it all to our advantage at the beginning. I used to book all the tours for Figure Four and some other bands, so I used all of those contacts. For the very first Comeback Kid tour, I booked a two month tour across Canada and the United States and I used everything that I could from our past band to do that. To be honest, Figure Four never broke up; we stopped playing in 2004, then we did another show in 2006 and now we’re playing a random show in Seattle this May which will be kind of cool.
How important do you think collaborations, like those you’ve recently done with bands like Architects, are for reaching out to new audiences?
I think it’s cool. It’s not really about reaching new audiences as it’s more about having fun and jamming with your friends. I just recently did some guest vocals for a couple other records by Straight From The Past and Set Your Goals, which makes it like 20 or 25 guest spots I’ve done to date. We just look at it as the same as hip hop records: guys will always sing on their friends albums. It’s a cool thing to step out of your element because someone else’s song isn’t your creation or your “baby”.
Where do you think you would be without having fellow musicians around?
I probably wouldn’t be playing music the way I am now and I wouldn’t be doing it for a living. We’re able to do this because we have the support of our peers and our friends. They themselves have been very, very helpful.
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