Issue #34 of New Noise Magazine features an in-depth look at hardcore music. Featuring everyone from your old favorites still releasing cathartic tunes to dynamic live photographers to the scene’s young up-and-comers, New Noise is proud to be shining a spotlight on a hardcore community that is all-inclusive and extremely open. Whether the bands are ripping through their brutally honest lyrics onstage or crushing a breakdown, their energy moves crowds, hearts, and other communities alike. Time to get moved and get movin’!
Comeback Kid | Interview with vocalist Andrew Neufeld | By Nicholas Senior
Comeback Kid’s latest and greatest record is likely the only example in which writing hardcore is relevant to patent law. One of the main standards for a product to be patent eligible is “non-obviousness”—hence the idiom “patently obvious”—meaning the creation is the product of total innovation rather than improving upon an established invention. It’s a silly, arbitrary requirement that only makes sense when viewed as the result of lawyers trying to work with engineers.
Regardless, Outsider—Comeback Kid’s debut for Nuclear Blast, due out Sept. 8—finds the long-running Canadian band crunching the numbers, being more open, and engaging in collaborative processes to create their most aggressive and honest album yet. This may be a reinvigoration of a band who didn’t need it, but Outsider succeeds thanks to the extra care that went into its invention.
Comeback Kid are realistic about priorities and production timelines, which keeps their creative fire churning. Their most vocal architect, Andrew Neufeld, agrees. “You see these bands, and they release a record every two years,” he begins. “The two-year cycle seems to be what most bands strive to do, but I think us taking our time between records has given us a little bit of longevity. It usually takes us three and a half years to make a record—we try not to make it four years,” he laughs, “but it allows us time to really work on the album. We’re not just trying to churn something out really quick. That’s not what we’re interested in at all. To be honest, it gives it us time to play as many shows as we can, which we still love doing.”
One non-obvious aspect of Outsider’s creation was Comeback Kid’s decision to be more collaborative. “We’re really fucking excited about this record,” Neufeld shares. “We’re excited about every record we do, but on this one—as opposed to some previous records—everyone in Comeback Kid played on this record, which is kind of a funny thing. There would be times when I would play the bass, [but] I write a lot of this stuff on the guitar—but I don’t play guitar anymore. I did a bunch of that on this record as well, but everyone contributed a little bit more on this record. It was more of a group effort. We were trying to make certain songs as strong as possible, not being like, ‘OK, this song is at a decent place.’ We’re really pushing ourselves when we see that a song has potential and [focusing on] how to make this song the one. We’re stoked, but we’ll see if it worked,” he laughs.
“We had so many different cooks in the kitchen,” he continues. “It didn’t feel like too many cooks, but it was definitely more than in the past. The last few records, [guitarist] Jeremy [Hiebert] and I were the main songwriters, and we’re really different people, so we’re really butting heads towards the end goal. We’re trying to find that point in the triangle where we meet in the middle. This one, we all stepped up and were really critical of each other’s stuff, and that made us more excited when we came together and had consensus. We really pushed each other to create something better. That created a lot of frustration, but that made us all step out of our comfort zone a lot.”
“There were a couple songs where I would go, ‘Just follow me down the rabbit hole. I know you don’t get it now and it doesn’t sound good yet, but trust me,’” he recalls. “So, they called it ‘facing Goose,’” a reference to Neufeld’s nickname, “where it was kinda out there, and it turned out really well. That happened on the flip side [too], where I wasn’t really sure about a certain part, and I love it now. The songs that clicked right away don’t usually end up my favorite songs. It’s kinda weird like that.”
One of Comeback Kid’s hallmarks is their ability to craft excellent “moments”—parts listeners will immediately rewind and listen to again. Neufeld utilized his time in the band and as a producer to really hone in on those moments, resulting in a set of songs that are distinct from each other, but equally powerful throughout. That attention to detail is what makes Outsider excellent. “My goal in songwriting is finding those moments and realizing, ‘What’s the part of the song that is the feature?’ and ‘How do you accentuate that feature?’ What’s the part that feels the best, and how do you decide what part to make the feature? We were a little more focused in on that goal on this one.”
The album’s title reflects the band’s view—one shared by patent offices—that different often means better. “We’ve always kinda felt like we’ve done our own thing,” Neufeld expands. “We’ve never felt like we belong in any sort of group of bands. We’ve always done it our own way, for better or for worse. What I took from it when I was writing the lyrics was this: people who are actually moving this world forward and coming up with those forward-thinking ideas or sentiments that end up becoming the norm, usually those people are the outsiders first, and a lot of those people get written off. Any kind of revolutionary always seems to get pushed to the side at first; their views are often thought of as wrong or blasphemy. [‘Outsider’] was a motivational song to challenge people to trust themselves and trust their intuition to act.”
In the past, those more political sentiments have been more veiled. Neufeld states that, this time, he wanted to embrace a sense of clarity. “One thing we tried to do on this record was to be a little more obvious, even more than I would probably have liked,” he reveals. “Like, if it were up to me, the record wouldn’t have been called Outsider. I know there are a lot of outsiders in this world, and we want to reach out to them. We just wanted to be more obvious, for better or for worse.”
However, Neufeld doesn’t want to be obnoxious about this increased obviousness. “There was a song on the record where I wanted to talk about what’s going on with the Trump administration and just the crazy conservative vibes that are becoming strong around the world,” he recalls. “I wrote a song and showed it to the guys, because I don’t want to be like, ‘Here’s my fucking ‘Fuck Trump!’ song.’ I was worried that the lyrics were too obvious, and they said they weren’t exactly sure what it was about,” he laughs. “I don’t mind that, because I’m glad that it still leaves room for interpretation. I don’t view myself as the most outspoken person.”
For example, “Outrage (Fresh Face, Stale Cause)” features one of the most discernable subject matters in Comeback Kid’s career. Neufeld explains, “That song was kind of inspired by some alt-right assholes. At the time when we were writing, there were Soldiers of Odin doing these anti-Islamic marches in Winnipeg. Some of my friends were doing a counter-march against them, just to shut these assholes up. That song was just about how there’s no excuse for this kind of new face on a fucking old and stale cause.”
Comeback Kid may not have revolutionized the process of creating a hardcore record, but by recognizing their priorities and strengths and embracing the power of their message, Outsider finds the band at their creative peak. Their patent-pending variety of metallic and melodic hardcore has never been more potent.
“I think, in this day and age, the scene has to come together,” Neufeld says. “You have to be more aware of what’s going on a little bit more. There’s no way to avoid it anymore. In the past 10 years or so, we’ve always thought of Comeback Kid as a pretty conscious band, but we’re not in your face about it. Now moreso than ever, you can’t say, ‘We’re not a political band,’ or ‘I’m not a political person.’ I don’t think that’s really an option, because the climate is so crazy right now. We really want to stand up for human rights. That’s kind of what punk was based on, and it’s cool to see that people aren’t standing down to all the bullshit that gets pushed upon us. It’s almost baffling when people aren’t seeing what’s going on.”
Youth of Tomorrow: Our Favorite Hardcore Up-and-Comers | By James Alvarez
LISTEN TO: Ex Tenebris
LABEL: Triple B Records
LISTEN TO: Sono Pronta a Morire
LABEL: Agipunk and Sorry State Records
LISTEN TO: Self-titled
LABEL: Pop Wig Records
BAND: Primal Rite
HOMETOWN: San Francisco
LISTEN TO: Sensory Link to Pain
LABEL: Revelation Records
LISTEN TO: The 12”
LABEL: Triple B Records
BAND: Death Card
LISTEN TO: Damage Swing
LABEL: Innerstrength Records