Sights & Sounds – ‘It’s all music, and it’s all coming from the heart’

Words: Miljan Milekić

The easy, and quite lazy way to introduce Sights & Sounds, would be to write that it’s the other band from Comeback Kid‘s Andrew Neufeld. However, that would be a huge understatement. Since 2008, the band is developing its own, unique sound, successfully embracing different influences, and gluing them into a cohesive whole. Combining different styles of rock music, with dark, atmospheric electronic elements, Sights & Sounds delivered their best release so far – the new album ‘No Virtue.’ We teamed up with Andrew to discuss the record, as well as quite a few other things, in an interview you could find below.

I remember interviewing you in January 2018. We talked about Comeback Kid’s ‘Outsider,’ and you mentioned you were in the studio at the time, working on an album with Sights & Sounds. So, how long did you work on this one? It seems like it has been quite some.
Andrew: It really did, man. That record took me about a year to make because I would record it, and then I would go on tour with Comeback Kid, and then I would have to come back to it. Even tracking it, there were some breaks. Then, mixing it, we mixed it with someone, and it wasn’t turning out the way that I needed it to turn out, so I sent it to someone else in California. And then, it still wasn’t happening, so I had to go down to California and mix it with the mixer. It just took a long time. For me, Sights & Sounds is a passion project. I put a lot of my time and money into that band. And I love it, but I need it to be just right. So it just takes a long time, especially when you don’t have that infrastructure that I may have with Comeback Kid, where everyone is there, and the money’s there and everything. When I’m bankrolling the whole thing, it just takes a little bit more time.

Was that the reason why you produced it yourself? Knowing exactly how you wanted it to sound, and what you wanted from it?
Andrew: Yeah, somewhat. I didn’t know exactly how I wanted it to sound. I don’t know man, I just feel like the band is on the cutting edge of what’s happening right now. I just want it to be on the cutting edge of the electronic and rock elements, and mixing those together. It just takes a little bit more, coming from this punk, hardcore, background, and predominantly working with people working in rock and guitar music. It takes a little bit more for me to, kind of, know-how to mesh electronic elements with live music elements. I guess that was the biggest challenge. Honestly, I put a lot of effort into it, and I wanted it to be just right. I just didn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t trust anyone to help me out with it, whereas with Comeback Kid, I could trust people a little bit more.

‘No Virtue’ seems like a “no brakes” record, in the terms that you didn’t hold back on this one, and explored many different influences and elements. How did the writing process look like?
Andrew: Again, Sights & Sounds is my opportunity to really spread my wings as far as music goes. You know, Comeback Kid is a hardcore, punk rock band. And with Sights & Sounds, it’s like another outlet for me to be able to do some heavy melodic music, different styles of songs. Even if they’re heavy, to do it in a different kind of way. Or to do some really light songs, we even have a song called ‘Caught Up,’ which has a little bit of a waltz type feel, you know? It’s my opportunity to spread my wings musically. It’s the band that I can do all kinds of songs with, and that’s the beauty of it.

And you don’t have any pressure of expectations, as you may have with Comeback Kid.
Andrew: Exactly. Yeah.

The album has been out for a few months now. Are you happy with the reactions to it now? In my personal opinion, it’s the best piece of music the band has ever written, and I got the impression it’s your biggest release to date.
Andrew: I am happy, but we need to play more. We just put it out a couple of months ago, we’ve done a couple of tours so far, and we’re going to do another tour next month. I just need to play it out more live. That’s kinda my goal right now. We’ve only done about one month of touring, and I want to do a lot more with it.

And you also got to play the album on both sides of the Atlantic. How well are songs received at the shows?
Andrew: The crowd has been great. It’s a small band man, I’m doing it with my best friends. You know, the shows aren’t huge. People that come out to the shows are people that have really researched it. It’s definitely a niche audience.

With this band, you also get to play guitar at shows, something you don’t really do in Comeback Kid anymore. How does it feel to be able to do it again?
Andrew: I love it. You know, it’s funny, I started Comeback Kid so I could play guitar in a band because I was the singer of a hardcore band called Figure Four, and I didn’t want to be singing so much. So I started Comeback Kid to play guitar in the band, and then the singer of Comeback Kid had quit, so I started singing in 2006. I’ve never stopped playing guitar. I still write for Comeback Kid, and I play guitar in the studio with the band a lot. But with Sights & Sounds, yeah, it’s nice to play on stage. Actually, the next tour that we’re doing, our second guitar player isn’t able to come, so I’m going to have to do all the leads and all the rhythms by myself. It’s going to be my next challenge. (laughs)

So, for the whole time, Sights & Sounds exist, you have been in Comeback Kid, a band that has a completely different sound, and has gained legendary status in the hardcore scene. How challenging is it to keep the balance between this band, and such a time-consuming, non-stop touring machine, as Comeback Kid?
Andrew: Um, the schedule isn’t that bad actually. I’m on tour a lot, but I’m used to that. I ended up handling a lot of the business stuff for both bands so that’s a little bit challenging. But honestly, when it comes to touring, um, when I’m putting tours together, it’s kind of exciting for me. When I’m trying to organize the next moves, for Comeback Kid or Sights & Sounds, it’s a fun type of job, you know what I mean? It’s not like super tough, it’s kind of exciting. So, with the tours and playing shows, I always had to have something new to look forward to. That’s my vibe with it. I just really enjoy it. If you were telling me today that I was going to be able to come back to Serbia in a few months, I’ll be like: “Oh shit, that’s awesome. That’s what I want to do.” I always have something to look forward to, you know? It’s not so much of a challenge, I feel it’s more a privilege.

On the other hand, how do you switch yourself into different writing modes when you’re working with each band?
Andrew: It’s super easy, man. It’s all music. I work with Comeback Kid, I work with Sights & Sounds, I do other styles of music as well. I produce other bands. It’s all music, so it’s not hard for me to switch gears. I don’t feel the difference. Obviously, it feels different to like screaming my guts out. (laughs) But it’s all good. It’s not hard to switch styles of music. It’s all music, and it’s all coming from the heart.

With Comeback Kid being active for so many years and having such a recognizable style, I have an impression that, with Sight and Sounds, you let yourself loose, both musically and lyrically. Do you feel like, with this band, you show more of your personal side, and give more of the emotional insight?
Andrew: Um, not so much. I approach it like, I have the way I want the words to sound before I have the actual lyrics, and I find the words to match how I want to hear it in my head. But I know what you’re saying about the vulnerable kind of lyrics. I feel like I do put myself on the line was Comeback Kid too. Maybe I’m just screaming it, so you can’t hear what I’m saying so much. (laughs) With Sights & Sounds, you can really hear what I’m saying, so maybe you can hear that more. You know, I’m a really sensitive guy, and I have a lot of insecurities. And I think it’s okay to show that in my music. Sometimes, I think that I’ve been scared to expose some of that. I think, as far as being insecure, for me, music is a good way to let that side of myself out. Whereas I wouldn’t really want to let that out in other situations in my life, you know, one-on-one, or in a relationship, or something like that. I can let some of my insecurities out, not in conversations with a woman, but maybe a little easier with a song, you know?

You haven’t just experimented with the music this time, but also with music videos. How important was it, and how did you approach that part of the record?
Andrew: Well, two of the guys that play in Sights & Sounds work in film, here in Toronto and that really helped. My brother [Joel Neufeld], he’s the drummer – he’s a locations manager, and Dave [Grabowski], our keyboard player, and my production partner, he does the lighting in the film. So, Dave, actually produced videos, and we’ve got a lot of people in Toronto that work in film and commercials on board, just to come and work with us, for free. I flew out my friend Daniel Prieß, he’s done a bunch of Comeback Kid stuff, and he was working with me before, but it really was the location. We had some really great locations that allowed us to create the story.

Like, honestly, we just smoke a bunch of weed, and we talk about it, and we figure out what’s going to be. The ‘Serpentine’ video, I think is great because we had so many different locations. Music videos are a lot about lighting and the camera, but a huge component is the location. I don’t want to be doing any more fucking videos where there’s a band playing in a fucking warehouse, or on a stage. I’ve seen it before, man, I’m done with that. I don’t want to see that shit anymore. I want to see new things. I’m not a great actor, so even the acting stuff that I’ve done, we treated it in a way where it didn’t look corny. I put some fucking, blanks, some bars over my eyes, so you can’t see my eyes… I don’t want to look like we’re acting. But the location is the main, main thing. When you’re doing a video, get cool locations. It’s over, man. The fucking band playing in a warehouse – it’s done. Or in a field – fuck that shit. I’m so over that. So it’s just about finding cool locations to set your thing. And then that’s what we did.

So, what do you feel is the next step for Sights & Sounds?
Andrew: We’re going to do a tour in Canada, in a couple of weeks. We’re going to be supporting this like, radio rock band called Royal Tusk. And then, 2020 is the 20th anniversary for Comeback Kid. We’re going to be doing the Punk In Drublic Festival with NOFX. We’re going to Asia, doing a festival with Slipknot in Indonesia, then we’re doing a festival in Japan with Lagwagon. Everything’s, kind of, piling up right now. And that’s what I was telling you before – working on stuff is pretty exciting. I just got back from Australia, so I have a little bit of time off to try to figure out the rest of the year.

And since you mentioned that Australian tour – how was the situation there with the bush fires and everything?
Andrew: Well, I didn’t see any fires, but our bass player, he saw some fires from the airplane. But I would see smoke in the air, mostly in Melbourne, but not every day. You could see the smoke in the air, but I didn’t see the actual fires.

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