By Jodi Brak
CALGARY – From their humble beginnings as a side project through their rise to one of the biggest bands in Canadian hardcore, Comeback Kid has rolled with the punches like the best of them. They embody an aggressive style in their music that, much like the group itself, presses forward with a furious momentum.
“Hardcore music is something that took me on a path in life that I would never have gone on without this certain genre of music, I’m still inspired by it,” says vocalist Andrew Neufeld.
“I think the aggression and the tempos are just a healthy release. To get some of that stuff out, some of those feelings you couldn’t get out any other way.”
Beginning as a side project by Neufeld and fellow Figure Four member Jeremy Hiebert, Comeback Kid quickly found traction after their 2003 debut Turn it Around, and began touring full time. It wasn’t long before they had broken through their home turf in Winnipeg and were embarking on coast-to-coast North American tours, then beyond. Now closing in on 20 years as a band, Comeback Kid has become iconic, built upon musicianship and dedication. It’s seen them grow from the community centre, all-ages scene to international headliners.
Powerful drums and heavy, high-strung guitar riffs are front and centre to their sound, setting the pace for ferocious vocals that cut through the cacophony. Melodic leads rise through the distortion, adding a sense of sonic emotion to supplement the meaningful lyrics. The consistency of their sound has been impressive, and their seventh studio album Outsider shows that they remain as focused as ever. It’s their fifth album featuring Neufeld as lead vocalist. His original role as co-founder was guitar; Scott Wade provided vocals. Wade then departed in 2006, which shook the band for but a brief moment, but hardly caused a hiccup in their touring schedule.
“We were in between an Australian and American end of a tour when he told me, so I had some time to think about it. Actually we organized for him to do his last show, and then get dropped off, and then the guy who dropped him off drove the other guy up from Minneapolis to play guitar so I could sing,” Neufeld recalls.
“Obviously in the beginning taking his style and trying to do the songs sort of like him was hard. But slowly we just kind of merged that into where we are today.”
Their 2007 release, Broadcasting was the first Comeback Kid album entirely featuring Neufeld on vocals.
“We just really have kind of rolled with the punches,” Neufeld says.
“Me and Jeremy [Hiebert, lead guitarist], two original members, we’ve been with each other through thick and thin, we’ve also had a lot of really great members who have contributed quite a bit of their lives to this project. And we’re just able to somehow keep it going, and it always works out. Right now we feel pretty over the moon about the new record and the new tour we have lined up. And it’s never any bad blood with anybody… our old singer Scott is at our house right now.”
That new record is Outsider. Featuring 13 tracks of fast and furiously melodic hardcore music, the music only slows down to catch its breath before launching into another intense salvo. From the first self-titled track, it digs in and continually gains momentum with a string of heavy rippers one after another. For the most part, the album keeps up the hard and heavy pace for the entire record. Around the halfway point there is a bit of a change in tone; it’s still aggressive, but somehow on a lighter note. Towards the end of the album the music feels almost reflective, with a more somber track “Moment in Time” (featuring Northcote) to close it all off.
“I think we’re writing more complete songs.” Neufeld says of the new album.
“We just tried to be a little more up front on this record with our themes and really make the features of each song actually be features and not sometimes letting those things slide.”
One track in particular, “Consumed the Vision” (which features Chris Cresswell from The Flatliners on guest vocals) stands out as one of the small handful of songs Comeback Kid has written that uses major-key notes to create a lighter feel. Rest assured, though, the song is just as heavy as the rest of the album.
Neufeld says, “I just think it creates a different mood, and that definitely separates itself. With that song, I think it was kind of directly in response to everything we were writing that week. I remember Jeremy (lead guitar) and Stu (Ross, rhythm guitar) had all these fast songs with double picking, just fast riffs and heavy drums. I like that kind of stuff and that definitely always has a part on Comeback Kid records, but I kind of wanted to write something lighter in mood.”
After the September 8 release, Comeback Kid hits the road from coast to coast across Canada and the U.S.A. After that, they’ll hop across the pond for a European leg of the tour.
Outsider is another milestone in a storied career. Looking back on what Comeback Kid has become, what has been made of the blood, sweat and tears of many dedicated musicians, Neufeld can’t help but reflect on how the band evolved to become more than simply the sum of its parts.
“I mean honestly it’s a dream come true for us. When we were kids this is what we wanted to do, and we were able to fulfill that. We were able to play in places we never thought we would go and stay busy as a band for this long and that’s all we ever wanted,” Neufeld says. “Comeback Kid is bigger than us, and that’s crazy to think about. We’re kind of just along for the ride and hopefully we can stay on this train for a while because we really enjoy it.”
Comeback Kid plays September 26 the Park Theatre (Winnipeg), September 27 at The Exchange (Regina), September 28 at The Needle Vinyl Tavern (Edmonton) and September 30 at The Gateway (Calgary). Outsider was released on September 8 via New Damage Records. You can purchase a copy here.
Comeback Kid, New Damage Records, Outsider, Park Theatre, The Exchange, The Gateway, The Needle Vinyl Tavern