Interview with Counterfeit vocalists/guitarists Jamie Bower-Campbell and Sam Bower | By Spike Porteous
London, England, has long been the residence of trendsetters, artists, and bands who shaped—and continue to shape—music tastes around the globe. Think back to the mid 1970s when punk rock was in its heyday. Bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned kicked back against the establishment and steered a disaffected generation to get off their arses and make music. Raw, honest and sometimes controversial, that music is as relevant today as it was back then, and without bands like these, there may never have been an Anti-Flag, a Rise Against, or a Green Day. Fast forward 40 years and things may have slowed down a touch, but every now and then, London still manages to throw us a little nugget of hope.
Counterfeit are a high-octane, in-your-face five-piece with a refreshing “do it yourself” attitude. The band—including vocalists and guitarists Jamie Bower-Campbell, Sam Bower, and Tristan Marmont, bassist and vocalist Roland Johnson, and drummer Jimmy Craig—announced their arrival in late 2015 with a sold-out debut show at London’s O2 Academy and have since attracted major attention across Europe. They have pretty much been on the road since then and recently released their debut album, Together We Are Stronger. The album was released on March 17 via Xtra Mile Recordings and can be found online or in-store—you may have to thumb through a number of genres to find it, though.
Aware of the potential of pigeonholing themselves, Bower-Campbell puts it like this: “I am a punk fan. I think rock ‘n’ roll is at the heart of this band, but with a punk ethos. By that, I mean we do this our way, because we want to and because we love it.”
Bower adds, “I think it’s about more than the music. I mean, we draw our inspiration from everywhere and everything. I suppose it makes it easier for people to grasp if they can place a band within a genre.”
Counterfeit seem to have appeared out of nowhere and, given the relatively short time they have been together, have made massive progress and continue to prove their musical ability with every show. They are by no means wet behind the ears, though, all having earned their stripes performing with previous bands—the most recent being The Darling Buds, whose lineup included three members of Counterfeit.
Bower-Campbell explains, “I guess we did kind of come out of nowhere, but it’s interesting because we have all been in bands and different acts before. We have kind of been slugging away in the background. When this band came together, it just fitted instantly. I remember the first practice we had with Jimmy [Craig], our drummer; there was just an instant vibe. I’ve practiced with other guys before, just plugging away for, like, four days. You end up tearing your fucking hair out when it feels like ‘This isn’t going anywhere.’ Everything has always seemed right with us.”
Having released their first two EPs independently, Counterfeit signed to Xtra Mile Recordings late last year. A decision that made sense to the band, as Bower-Campbell points out. “Signing a record deal is obviously important, but we never really wanted to sign with a major label,” he admits. “[Xtra Mile owner] Charlie Caplowe came to some of our first shows, and he showed some real interest in the band. If I’m really honest, a record deal [wasn’t] something we were particularly interested in, as we had heard such negative things about the industry and signing your life away. I think there is a danger that they will maybe change what you are and start to make decisions for you. So, it wasn’t something we wanted to focus on. We were more interested in the shows. We released our first two EPs ourselves, and it was tough, it was a tough thing to do. We realized that if we wanted to release an album, self-releasing probably wasn’t going to be beneficial and probably wasn’t the smartest way to go. So, we thought about the people who had shown interest in the past, and top of the pile was Xtra Mile. I love bands like Reuben, Million Dead, and Frank Turner who were all on Xtra Mile. So, it just made sense and it worked for us.”
Like most artists, Counterfeit have a desire to maintain creative control over their music and who they are. Bower-Campbell goes on, “We’ve been really happy in what [Xtra Mile] have allowed us to do, which is keep the heart and soul of what this band is. They allowed us to maintain control of everything. I mean, the cover of the album was shot by us, the merchandise was designed by us, the website was created by us—even down to the opacity of the text and the placement of the fucking barcode, it was all done us, in my flat, at home! They have really been fantastic.”
Together We Are Stronger has been in stores for a short time and has attracted some great reviews, but Bower-Campbell states he has gauged the impact from playing the songs live. “We had been playing the songs live before the album came out, but no one had a physical copy, so everything was new to them,” he explains. “Now that people have had a chance to listen to it before coming to shows, the noise of the crowd singing back at you has grown and grown, and it is amazing. There is nothing more incredible than having all of these people sing the words of your songs at you every night. It’s insane.”
“Really, I don’t have to do my job; these people are doing my job for me, and I feel so fucking useless,” he laughs. “I’m not massively into looking at reviews, though. I guess because I am aware that it is only one person’s opinion—although, a lot of the people who have written about our stuff are incredibly knowledgeable and influential, you can’t bullshit them, you just can’t. With that, there comes a fear. I think any artist would tell you that. So, I try not to read them. Saying that, one or two have slipped through, and I like what I saw.”
Counterfeit will be on tour throughout Europe until the end of April before preparations begin for the summer festival season. Connecting with an audience is key for most bands, and these guys are no different. “It’s massively important,” Bower-Campbell says. “I grew up going to see bands like The Libertines, and there was always this feeling at their gigs that there was no separation between the band and the fans. There was a kind of unity. A show should be a show. I’ve also gone to see bands where they come on and play their set, and that’s it. Which is fine, but ultimately, am I entertained? I could have really stayed at home and listened to the album. I mean, if I go to a gig, I want to have my fucking teeth knocked out—not literally, but you know what I mean.”
Counterfeit are in the process of planning some U.S. dates toward the end of this year. “America is definitely somewhere we want to go and play,” Bower-Campbell explains. “I am saying that with a smile on my face, as it is a conversation we have had between us in the past week. We have significant plans in place and have recently been working with [agent] Nick Storch from [Artist Group International]. We have some strong ideas, and the U.S. should expect to see us towards the end of 2017. It’s so exciting, but we can’t release the dates until they have been confirmed.”