Comeback Kid – ‘It’s cathartic to write lyrics that mean something to you’

Words: Miljan Milekić

For two decades, Comeback Kid have been carrying the flag of Canadian hardcore all over the world. To every hidden corner of it. Always being there for their fans, the band is known for their extensive touring, as well as their top-notch records. Now, the band is back at it again, with a massive new album ‘Heavy Steps’ under their belts, ready to do it all over again. Check our interview with singer Andrew Neufeld below, as we chatted about the new music, touring, visuals, and much more.

Comeback Kid / Photo: Avrinder Dhillon

Hi Andrew! First of all, how are you? I know you have a lot going on right now!
Yeah, it’s always funny when you put out a record. With Comeback Kid, we do a record every three to four years, and it’s always a huge mountain to climb. It takes a long time. We started writing this record two years ago, and to finally have it out – it’s a relief. We were putting out singles all the time, for six months, almost, and I’ve never done this many videos and put this much work into the visuals. And that’s after putting a year’s work into the writing and the recording.

It’s just good to finally get it out. I definitely feel like I’m getting over a hump now. Like the top of the mountain, we’re now on the other side, seeing what’s left out there. So, you know, I think the world’s opening up. I’m ordering merch for the tour today. We’ve put all this work into the actual music, and now it’s time to go on autopilot. To go play the music and, hopefully, stay sane doing that. We’ve pretty much said yes to everything this year. So, if they let us do it, we’ll do it.

So, how happy are you with it, and did you have the chance to catch some feedback so far?
Andrew: Yeah, definitely. I don’t know if it’s because of social media, because it’s so much more in our face now, but it feels like it’s a bigger impact than we’ve ever had before. You know, at least for me, I don’t know about the other guys, but when we put out a record, I always consider it a little bit like a present to myself as well. It’s cathartic to write lyrics that mean something to you and listen back to that. And then, it’s fun to listen to music that you’ve made with your friends. If we didn’t have people listening to us, we would probably still do it, even if it was just for ourselves and maybe our friends, or whatever. But to be fair, I think people like you like my band more than my friends like my band. (laughs)

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‘Heavy Steps’ brings a bit different sound from the previous few records, but yet, it’s unmistakably a Comeback Kid album. It was almost like you wanted to take a step towards your roots and your earlier works. Is that something you did on purpose?
Andrew: Yeah, that was definitely the conversation we had. There are a few writers in the band, and we had talked, like, Stu is gonna bring a song to the table, and it is, kind of, a nostalgic Comeback Kid sounding type song, and we would be like – “let’s go down this rabbit hole for a little while.” I’m usually trying to bring stuff a little left of center to the table, and sometimes, it makes it through, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s always like a funnel, but we definitely had those conversations about writing some classic style, Comeback Kid songs – melodic fast, with a breakdown.

But then, we were also very dedicated to getting heavier guitar tones. We like having traditional hardcore and punk stuff as the basis of our music, but, you know, I do love modern production. I like production that’s big, and really in your face, and sounds like now. So we focused on that. We used a lot of studio tricks and had fun with the vocal layering, putting vocals on the left and the right, and having some plugins and delays and stuff. We don’t really incorporate any other instruments in our band rather than guitar, drums, and bass, so we find little ways to keep it fresh and new. Will Putney, who mixed it, does a lot more metal stuff. So, we were trying to ride that fine line of where Comeback Kid fits in that. Making it sound real and hearing the scrapes of the guitars, hearing the breaths in the vocals and stuff. But then also having that really big production sound.

Also, in terms of vibe and the atmosphere, the new record seems a bit less dark, and more positive, even hopeful at moments. Where did that change come from?
Andrew: I mean, I feel like it sounds pretty desperate. (laughs) But maybe it’s the way that we presented it as well. In our videos, we stepped outside of our comfort zone. You know, we’re guys that don’t take shit too seriously. We like to have some laughs and whatever. So maybe it’s the way we presented it with the videos and stuff, but yeah, there are some uplifting moments in the music, for sure.

My personal impression is that with ‘Outsider,’ you tried to push and see where your own limits are, while with ‘Heavy Steps,’ the focus was on writing songs that are fun to play, and fun to listen to. Am I on the right track here?
Andrew: Totally. I mean, it’s always our fantasy, when we write new music, that we can play it live. Not every song, there are some songs that we’ve like recorded, and that’s the last time I ever sang it, you know? (laughs) So it’s always a win if people like it enough that we can play it live. Usually, like four songs from every record make it to the setlist. But it’s funny – when I look at Spotify and all that stuff, all the top songs are from the new record. So I hope people will want to hear some of the new ones, but we’ll always play old shit all the time. We’re never gonna be that band that plays just new songs. That wouldn’t be very hardcore punk of us. (laughs)

Yeah, I mean, you can’t play a Comeback Kid show without playing ‘Wake The Dead.’
Andrew: Yeah, ‘Wake The Dead’ is bigger than Comeback Kid, so of course, we have to play it. (laughs) Were you at the Exit Festival? Do you remember when we did the intro of ‘Wake The Dead,’ and my band was fucking with me? They got the security to pretend that the show was done? That was funny. (laughs)

I almost forgot about that! I remember some guys were not happy about it and started jumping over the fence to talks to the stage guys. (laughs)
Andrew: And meanwhile, my band was just roasting me! (laughs) I wanna play Exit Festival again, man. I need to play that, that was like the coolest castle.

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I’ll try to talk to some people! (laughs) But back to the record – once again, you have an unexpected feature on the record. The previous one had Devin, and now you have Joe Duplantier from Gojira on ‘Crossed.’ How did this one come together?
Andrew: Dude, we just asked. Stu, our guitar player, kind of, knew someone that works for Gojira. He just emailed him, and Joe and I got on the phone, and he wanted to be involved. And he just did it. I think he recorded his tracks in France, at his house or something, and just sent it to me. But I’m crossing my fingers for a Gojira tour. That would be the best for 2023. We’ll see. (laughs)

And how do you choose people to work with, at this point?
Andrew: That just depends on the song. For example, for that song, I needed a low, kind of drawn-out, heavy, more metal-sounding voice. The song is about a void, and I wanted some kind of overlord, ominous sound for that. So, I was thinking about more of a metal type, low voice singers with a powerful voice. And I think that he fits the part. It was a part that I wanted in the song, but I couldn’t scream it.

So, it depends. We asked Fat Mike to do the last track with us, and he was like – “Yeah, send me the song, and I’ll see if I like it.” And then we sent him the demo, and he never got back to me. (laughs) We always try things. We tried other people too. I tried to get Walter from Rotting Out to sing on a song too, but never did it. (laughs) But maybe next time. People are busy, you know? I mean, I’m just here on vacation in Mexico City, and I’m gonna go to a studio tonight and sing a feature on a Mexican band’s song. So, I do it too. (laughs)

I have to say that I love the artwork for this record, and I think it really catches the spirit of it, but on the other hand, I would never expect it from you, as it is so different from your previous records. How did that come together?
Andrew: Oh, sick! We are fans of a tattoo artist named Luciano Calderon. He works in Spain, I believe. So we just asked him, and he agreed. And it’s always hard because I’m not a graphic artist at all, so it’s hard to give feedback. You know, you want someone to do their own thing, so you don’t want to give too much direction, but you also want it to fit your vibe. It’s a little bit of a push-pull every time it comes to the artwork. It’s always hard for us to agree, everyone has different tastes, but this one, I think we nailed it.

It also seems like you have put a lot more attention on the visual aspect of the record, including the videos. You already had a couple of them out, and as someone in the film industry, you must have had a blast doing it?
Andrew: Well, I was just driving cast and crew and driving the camera trucks. (laughs) But it’s fun, you know? I never get a chance to make music videos or act in things unless we’re doing a record or something like that. And for this record, we just had the budget, and that’s why we did it.

It’s a funny thing musicians get into – they’ll do a record, and then someone will be like – “Okay, let’s make visuals for it.” So, you just think up stuff on the spot, try to figure it out, and see what happens. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it looks bad. Sometimes it looks funny, and sometimes it looks cool. So, we just did our best and put it all together. Again, it’s just funny. Musicians are not filmmakers, so it’s interesting to see what they do when they have to make some sort of video.

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As a band that usually spend so much time on the road, and try to get to every fan in every corner of the world, how frustrating was it not to be able to do it, and connect with people who listen to your music?
Well, I learned how to live cheaper. I actually worked on myself a lot during this pandemic. I lost like 40 pounds. I tried to get a little healthier. And actually, right when the pandemic started, is when we decided to start writing the record. So I’ve had goals throughout the whole pandemic. A reason to live, to say, which was the record and the band. And I feel like we’ve timed it okay. The shows aren’t totally back yet, but we just had six great months of touring. So for me, I didn’t feel too caged. It probably benefited me, to be honest.

So, what’s the next step for you and for Comeback Kid?
Andrew: The next step is to have a whole year of playing shows. We just announced Hellfest and Jera On Air. We’re finally gonna play with Metallica, so that’s kind of crazy. We’re going on tour in Canada in March and April, we got a bunch of US stuff. It’s just like nonstop from here, which is kind of crazy to think about. So let’s see how far we get. We all got Covid at the end of our last tour in December, so we were stuck in the States over Christmas. So let’s just hope we keep the virus away and get back to moshing for a living again.  

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