Interview: Comeback Kid

As the Never Say Die Tour stopped off in Newcastle, Faye caught up with Jeremy Hiebert, guitarist of modern hardcore heroes Comeback Kid, where they got talking all about their new critically-acclaimed record Symptoms + Cures, being signed to Victory Records, veganism and a lot more!

Faye: How are you today?
Jeremy: I’m very well, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, but over-tiredness kind of puts me in a better mood for some reason, so I’m good. You’re lucky if you get a full night’s sleep on tour.

Faye: This is a bit of a weird tour for Comeback Kid, do you agree?
Jeremy: The funny thing is, we just got off from a full-on pop-punk tour with Four Year Strong and The Wonder Years, and now we’re doing the full-on metalcore tour. One thing about us is that we never want to just play with bands that sound just like us, I guess we kind of like the challenge of trying to win over a new audience. Every band on this bill is heavier than we are, so we have to go out there and really work for it, but it’s fun, though.

Faye: Are you into this kind of music?
Jeremy: Here’s the thing, I’ve toured with a lot of bands that I could never get into, but if the guy’s are cool, then I’ll find myself starting to like the band. I’m not going to name any names, but there’s already bands on this tour where I never really listened to them – I’m 34-years-old, I don’t really listen to a lot of new metalcore, so a lot of these bands are newer and you meet them, hang out, then you get it. Bands like Bleeding Through and Parkway Drive, we’ve been friends with them for a while, so we’ve been on other tours and shows with them. Metalcore isn’t my favourite style of music, but at the same time, I don’t hate it. There’s a lot of bands I can get into if they know what they’re doing and are bringing something unique, then that makes it kind of fresh and exciting.

Faye: The tour only started a few days ago, has it been going ok for you?
Jeremy: Yeah, it started in Germany on October 29th, and that was off the hook, France was off the hook as well. Yesterday was a little rougher, it was a large room, but it was still fun. It was definitely more of a metalcore crowd, though. We just put out a new record and wanted to do a CD release headliner around Europe, but then we got offered this slot. It’s not really the way we wanted to do it with the record coming out, but we’re going to be playing to a bunch of new faces, so why not? We’re going to come back and do a headliner next year.

Faye: You’ve been playing in large rooms with barriers, is that a downer for you?
Jeremy: I hate barriers, but at the same time, that’s just the way it is when you’re supporting on these bigger tours. It is what it is, I don’t know if you’ve seen us before, but we’re all about stage-dives and sing-a-longs, just people getting close and tripping over ourselves, but with a barrier, you’ve got to put on a different show. It’s still fun, but you don’t have that same intimate vibe that we like at a ‘legit’ Comeback Kid show. [laughs]

Faye: So, you’ve just released your new album, Symptoms + Cures, you seem to be getting more mainstream attention.
Jeremy: Yeah, different magazines have done reviews and whatnot, so it’s cool that some of those magazines and zines are paying close attention, but that’s not why we do it. We just do our thing because we like to do it, so if people are recognising it, then that’s cool, but we’re not going to lose sleep if they forget about us. [laughs]

Faye: Didn’t Kerrang! give you 5Ks?
Jeremy: Yeah, that was weird, for that magazine, because we’re not usually the type of band they feature, so when we heard about them giving us 5, that definitely surprised us.

Faye: Was there pressure with Symptoms + Cures since Broadcasting wasn’t really that well received?
Jeremy: No, with this one, we didn’t feel any pressure. We felt a lot more pressure during Broadcasting, because we were kind of in a transition mode, because Scott had left the band, so obviously that was a huge part of our sound at the time and songs were a lot darker, so I think that combination of the time definitely threw some people off, because a new singer is a pretty big thing for a band, so a lot of people didn’t really know what to expect, but they were probably expecting something a little different than what we put out. I don’t know, the one thing about that record is that it didn’t translate that well live, but I’m still happy with it, because we put a lot of time into writing the record and everything, but I guess it didn’t come out as well in classic Comeback Kid fashion. I think that the new record is a little more accessible than the other one, because it was a lot more darker.

Faye: Does it annoy you when you hear people say, “Oh, they’ll never make another record as good as Turn It Around and Wake The Dead”?
Jeremy: It does and it doesn’t, like I said, I’m old, so I’ve seen a lot of bands go through that, where they’ll put out that classic 7-inch or first record or two, and that’s what people associate the band with, the early record, they don’t want people to evolve. It’s tough when you’re at the creative end of the band, because you don’t want to put out a Turn It Around part two or Wake The Dead part two, it’s not going to happen. We do records that make sense for us at the time, because we’re writing songs without any set goal, like we don’t want to write a certain kind of record, it’s always just song by song by song and whatever happens happens. We don’t really sit down with a big vision for the record, it just is what it is.

Faye: Do the comparisons with Scott and Andrew get a bit boring since it’s been like four years?
Jeremy: Yeah, he quit in 2006, so a lot of time has passed, but it’s just the way it is. I know it’s the same for myself, if there’s bands that have a huge change, then I’ll make the comparisons in my head, I’m not going to hold the band like ‘You HAVE to sound like this.’ I remember one of my favourite bands growing up, this old thrash metal band called Tourniquet, they put out three awesome records and then they switched vocalists and I didn’t like the band after that. They were a huge part of my growing up years in the early-90s and they changed vocalists, the sound changed and I couldn’t get into it anymore, so if people feel that way about Comeback Kid, then I understand. I still hope that people give everything a chance, because we put everything we have into it, so it’s not like we’re trying to sell out or this or that, it’s just that sometimes things change that aren’t always in your control and the creative process changes as well too.

Faye: I’m sure I read in another interview that with Broadcasting, you wanted Andrew to basically imitate Scott?
Jeremy: That was the thing, because we kind of wanted to pick up where Scott left off. Andrew’s got his own vocal style, like with Figure Four, the band we used to play in, he had a lot of harsh vocals and after Scott left, when we had to make the decision on what to do vocally, Andrew made the most sense, but at the same time, we knew there had to be some crossover thing that we had to work on, so that was definitely something we had to keep in mind when recording the vocals for that. We didn’t want it to sound night and day, but at the same time, Andrew didn’t want to sound just like Scott, he wanted to do his own thing, so now with the new record, he’s had 3 to 4 years of developing his own style live, so we wanted to have the new record more like what he’s like live.

Faye: Do you think that hardcore kids can be quite narrow-minded?
Jeremy: Oh, for sure. In any kind of genre that’s really specific, you’re always going to find narrow-mindedness, you’re going to find that in indie rock and all kinds of genres, that’s just kind of the way it is when you move outside of the mainstream. Everyone is taste specific, though, I have my taste and you have your taste, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just don’t get too pissed off if it doesn’t turn out the exact way you want it. [laughs]

Faye: Do you find that in the early/mid-2000s, bands like yourself and Have Heart, introduced a lot of people to hardcore, with records like Wake The Dead becoming classics in that genre, so they’re a lot more sceptical about what’s released next?
Jeremy: It could be, like when we were starting out – to some degree – were the new face of modern hardcore for a lot of people, like us, Have Heart, Modern Life Is War, that was the era then. For some reason, I’m still kind of locked into that time, I always think of us as a newer band, but we’ve been a band for like 10-years now, it’s weird. I can see what you’re saying, those records will probably have a place for a lot of people that got into hardcore around that time.

Faye: Do you think the new album has proved the doubters wrong?
Jeremy: I hope so, it’s always kind of weird commenting on your own record, but I think it’s a solid record. I think, vocally, this is Andrew’s strongest performance, it’s all over the place, he sings, yells, screams, it’s just solid. I’m not reading any history books, but I definitely think it’s our best work right now.

Faye: I noticed on Symptoms + Cures that a lot of the songs seem really long for hardcore songs, reaching the 4-minute mark.
Jeremy: I guess when it comes to lengths and stuff, the songs were a little more complex, so the structure is different, but that’s definitely something I keep in mind when writing songs. For me, my usual line is 3-and-a-half-minutes, I don’t want to push it past that, sometimes it does, but getting past that point, then for our type of music, then I think we’re kind of pushing it a bit. Sometimes it’s hard deciding what to cut, I think it flows well, though.

Faye: There’s also a few collaborations on the record, like Sam Carter from Architects, how did that come about?
Jeremy: We’ve toured with Architects a couple of times and they’re a lot younger than we are, but we hit it off. We’re good friends and he wanted to do a part on a song if it made sense, and they were recording in L.A. kind of around the same time that we were recording, so we just got him to do a bit and to send it to us, so we kind of tucked him in one of the songs. Nuno from A Wilhelm Scream and Liam from Cancer Bats are on the record as well.

Faye: You’re on Victory Records and there’s a lot of controversy around that label, are you happy with them?
Jeremy: May I say no comment? [laughs] You want some dirt, don’t you? Here’s the thing, record labels aren’t necessarily evil for bands. If you ever hear of a band that’s put out four records on the same label who are extremely stoked, you’ve run into an extremely rare situation. I guess it’s one of those duelling things, they have their business to run and we do our thing, right? Sometimes there’s going to be conflict, they would love us to just tour the States over and over again, but that’s not really our thing. We consider ourselves an international touring band, we love coming to the UK and Europe, and there’s so many other places in the world we love playing, but it just doesn’t always make financial sense for a record label when we’re not promoting a record in the right territory, so you can run into issues there at times. Overall, they’re doing their job, putting the record out and we’re doing our job by touring lots, so I’d like to think that we have a pretty good working relationship considering how hard it is for bands to get along with their labels, so we’ll leave it at that.

Faye: I know Emmure, who’re on this tour, have an insane contract with Victory Records to produce an album every 14-months.
Jeremy: We would never ever agree to anything like that, that’s the thing about us, we’re not a bunch of arrogant pricks, but at the same time, we don’t want anyone telling us when our music needs to come out, how it needs to sound, what kind of artwork direction, we want to be in complete control over that, otherwise you’re just going to be forcing music out. We’d like to consider ourselves artists and when it’s forced like that, it’s not real anymore. Sometimes you need pressure to get things to happen, but I don’t want to sign a six-album deal saying I have to make records every so often, it’s not cool. That’s not real.

Faye: Do you have any more records to release on Victory?
Jeremy: We’re in a bit of a weird situation, I don’t quite understand the terms of our contract, so there might be one more or this could be it. It’s either the last one or the second last one. Then we’ll see what happens after that.

Faye: Would you not be interested in signing with someone cool like Bridge Nine or Deathwish?
Jeremy: We were talking to Bridge Nine before we had signed to Victory, and we couldn’t quite agree, it was a while ago, though – like six or seven years ago when we were talking to them. The timing just wasn’t on our side. I love Chris [Wrenn – Bridge Nine Owner], he’s came to so many Comeback Kid shows and he’s always been a cool dude to hang out with. I guess, perhaps in some ways, it’s too bad that it didn’t work out, but that’s the way it goes. I have a lot of friends who’ve been on that label and they always have nothing but good things to say about them.

Faye: I know Andrew is in Sights & Sounds and Matt and Casey are in Lowtalker, is Comeback Kid still their priority?
Jeremy: Yeah, I think as long as we’re as busy as we are, then I’m assuming Comeback Kid will always be their priority, like right now with the new record, so we’re super, super busy. As the touring cycle tames down though, I’m sure those other bands will start hitting the road more.

Faye: Do you not have any other side projects?
Jeremy: I want to so badly, but I’m just really picky with the people I would have in the band. I have two sides to me, I love playing music, but I’m also fairly politically-motivated, so I’d like to be in a band that has sort of a cohesive direction. I’d love to be in an all-vegan politically-motivated band, that doesn’t preach, but I learned a lot of stuff growing up in hardcore and punk rock, just from bands talking and I feel like that’s not as popular anymore. I just wish that more bands had something to say – not forcing things down people’s throats – I just like the exchange of ideas in that scene. I think we can learn a lot from each other, like you and me can learn talk about an issue and we’ll be on completely different pages, but as long as we can respect each other then we can still learn from each other

Faye: Yeah, I saw another interview with you and you said you were pro-life, which kind of bummed me out, but I can sit here with you and respect that.
Jeremy: That’s the thing, as long as people can have respect for each other, we can both explain where we’re coming from and I think a lot of people will attach themselves to issues without really thinking them through, but when you’re able to break that barrier and just discuss. I’ve changed my views on different topics throughout the years so much, like if someone told me I would be vegan 15-years-ago, there’s no way I would believe them. It’s funny how things can change as long as you can do your best to keep an open mind. Back to the band thing, I’d love to be in a band that would have that sort of drive.

Faye: Are the other guys in Comeback Kid not as politically-motivated?
Jeremy: Not really, the way the band started, we were just random kids in Winnipeg that played in bands and we started playing music for fun and it just took off. We’re still just five random dudes that just love to play music together and that’s plenty fine for me, because I love what I do, but there’s just this other hole I’d love to fill with some sort of band that would have more of a mission.

Faye: What drove you to veganism?
Jeremy: It’s a long story. It’s a lot of things really, but to pick a few, I guess it’s just the industry and how it operates and how animals are treated when it comes to this mass production of food. It really started to become very apparent to me that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be, like a lot of people will make a case of doing things the old way like hunter gatherers, and I understand that, but at the point of where I am in my life now, it’s not just necessarily me, the way things are done now, I strongly disagree with. Like the mass production of animals in factory farms and stuff like that. I just think that you live once, whether you’re a rat or you’re a cow or a sheep or a person, you have one shot at life and just because I enjoy chicken or beef, I don’t think that gives me the right to take someone’s life and pull them away from their family, so that’s just where I’m coming from with that issue. Again, not to preach, that’s just my angle on why I’m vegan and it’s like milk, if you’re to ask any mother who their milk is for, it’s for their young. It’s between a mother and a child, and I think for us – we’re the only species that drinks milk in our adulthood – taking it from another species is just weird, I think. That’s just me. [laughs]

Faye: Is it easy being vegan on the road?
Jeremy: Yeah, a lot easier than what people think. When I get off my lazy ass, I’m going to be starting a blog called Vegan Band Dude, because everyone always asks me what I eat on tour. It’s not really hard, as long as you don’t mind a bit of adventure there’s websites like HappyCow.net, which you put in the address of where you are and you’ll find vegetarian options around you. There’s definitely harder things out there.

Faye: So, what’s next for Comeback Kid after this tour?
Jeremy: This tour ends in about three weeks and then we’re going to be taking a week off, then we’ll be going to Australia and doing a short tour with a couple of British bands, Architects and Rolo Tomassi, in December. Then we’ll be taking a bit of time off around Christmas time, then in January, we’ll be doing the States again and we have South America coming up in March. We did South America a year-and-a-half ago, and it was unreal, bands don’t get down there very often, so they’re just waiting and I’ll never forget some of those shows, they were mind-blowing. We’ll be back here in April and May, and doing Groezrock, we had one of our best shows there in 2008, that’s definitely our favourite festival to play. It’s so fun, all the bands are cool and it’s all the bands we’ve toured with, so it’s just like a bunch of friends hanging out. I can’t wait.

Faye: Change The Record, who should we be listening to?
Jeremy: There’s this newer band called Title Fight, I think a lot of people know about them, but we were on tour with Set Your Goals earlier this year and they were on it, and they’re just rad kids. They’re so young, but I just respect young bands that don’t have their heads in the clouds, they’re very down-to-earth and nothing makes me a bigger fan of your band than just being cool and chill, because there’s so many bands that have egos and it gets old fast. They’re awesome, those kids are just down to hang and they love touring, it’s great. There’s this pop-punk band called The Wonder Years, I don’t know how they do out here, but we toured with them, like I said earlier, with Four Year Strong in the States and we toured with them probably half a year before that, and just in that time, we watched them get so much bigger, so they’re definitely going to be a pretty big band in the near future.

Faye: Is there anything else you want to say before we finish?
Jeremy: I guess, just to the people who have been with us since day one, thanks for sticking around, because we’ve definitely been around for a few years now, so whenever we see people that have been there since day one and are still down with what we’re doing, it’s always a breath of fresh air, because there’s so many people that come and go so fast and, of course, all the new people, we’re an older band, so when younger kids get into us, it definitely brings new life into us and makes us want to stay out on the road, because touring is all we really like doing.

Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to Jeremy for the interview, and for more information on Comeback Kid, visit: www.comeback-kid.com

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