Comeback Kid: Hardcore can change lives

Comeback Kid promo photo
Comeback Kid (Image credit: Avi Dhillon)

It’s a dreary weekday afternoon in the Metal Hammer office. The summer heat has been exchanged for grey mugginess and the perpetual threat of rain, and the shorts have been swiftly replaced by hoodies and jeans. Surely a setting like this requires music of a sombre, moodier tone? Not a chance. We’re on the phone to Comeback Kid’s guitarist and founding member Jeremy Hiebert, who is busy doing some DIY at his home in Winnipeg, Canada, chatting about his band’s new album Outsider, which is the perfect antidote to all things gloomy around us.

Having left Victory Records for the heavy metal behemoth that is Nuclear Blast, it’s been three years since we’ve heard new material from the melodic hardcore heroes. And while you might think that the land of Slayer, Decapitated and Opeth isn’t suited to Comeback Kid, Jeremy is keen to point out that NB have recently signed the likes of Hatebreed and Agnostic Front, alongside newer hardcore bands like Broken Teeth.

But there’s no escaping the fact that Comeback Kid are a band of melody. Lots of it. Their gang vocal, bombastic choruses have become a staple part of the CBK sound and are simply joyous bellow out loud. Jeremy even admits that those swelling, cathartic releases were a real catalyst in moving the band along in the early noughties. Such is the positive power of an anthemic chorus. And now more than ever, it feels like we need music to be a positive force in people’s lives.

“I always felt like there’s this void that music fills that a lot of other things maybe can’t. At high school, music was what helped me have my own identity even when I didn’t fit in – music made me feel fulfilled, in a weird way.

“You get feedback from fans, and they mean it when they say your music helped them. You don’t necessarily understand how it works with everybody, but I do know that it just provides some reprieve from the daily grind for some people. It puts in you in your special place.”

Comeback Kid’s new album is called Outsider, a term that can mean different things to different people. If your beliefs or opinions challenge the status quo then you can often feel like you don’t belong, and growing up it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. For Jeremy, finding hardcore changed all that. Having been brought up in a pretty straight-laced household, he was now engaging in debate and being challenged by his peers, which went on to have a profound effect.

“Hardcore changed me. I grew up in a pretty conservative, fundamentalist, Christian home and that definitely shaped my young mind. Then I got into my local scene and it felt like an inviting environment to exchange ideas. I could be who I was. There were Christians going to shows, Muslims going to shows, atheists, straight-edge, vegan… and everything in between and beyond. It was this cool kind of place where you can have these discussions and debates in our music.

“We weren’t on the same page with everything, but it was this safe place, this family where you were just accepted but it doesn’t mean you weren’t going to get challenged. Everything was always on the table and I think in any sort of community setting or family that’s a healthy environment to live in because you want to be who you are.

“As the years went on, I really made a point of challenging myself with the ideas that I grew up with and made some pretty big changes, so here I am however many years later as a vegan, atheist/agnostic type that swung from a right-leaning world view to a left-leaning world view.”

Punk and hardcore has long been the refuge of people with a liberal mindset; a desire to stand up to prejudice and fight for what you believe in. As a former member of the Green Party, Jeremy is no stranger to politics, although he prefers to describe himself as “politically aware” rather than an activist but will show up to rallies when he can. In fact, he’s going to a local rally soon to “drown out” a small group of people that are protesting against immigrants.

“[This group are] bold enough to go to city hall and protest people of a different colour coming into our country because they want to protect their whiteness – it’s insane.”

If you’ve ever taken a look at the Metal Hammer Facebook page, there are thousands of people complaining that music and politics don’t mix. How do you feel about that?

“I 100 per cent disagree because I feel that music has always been that vehicle for ideas. It’s absolutely true that some people jump on some sort of bandwagon, but there are all kinds of artists and celebrities that want to use their platform to speak out and defend people who are getting discriminated against. I think it’s important to take a stand and use your platform positively. If you don’t, who will?

“Why should politicians have 100% say and control over the direction of our country? I think we all need to use our voices in whatever capacity we have to speak up for those who maybe can’t speak up for themselves.”

While Outsider isn’t as overtly political as, say, the new Stray From The Path album, it’s a perfect signifier of where Comeback Kid sit in 2017. Having been a band for coming up to two decades, their sixth LP shows no signs of slowing down, still packing in the building-levelling choruses and rampaging thrashy instrumentals, never wavering or changing for anybody.

Of course, the scene has changed dramatically from the days of their 2002 self-titled EP. Jeremy reminisces about the old-school days of flogging CD-Rs and close-knit touring networks, which have since been replaced with tour buses, agents and managers.

But do you miss those DIY days?

“I think about it every now and again, and I really miss being in the van driving from Omaha to Kansas City, knowing that so-and-so is going to be there, and you’re going to stay at their place. Whereas now it’s a little more streamlined. We’re staying in hotels for the mostpart, or if we’re in Europe we’re splitting a nightliner with another band, so it keeps you from having those interactions that you had back then. But now that we’re older it feels a little funny to sleep on random kids’ floors ha ha, but it was definitely a beautiful time.”

Now, a new generation of bands are following in CBK’s footsteps, sleeping on floors around the world, all in an effort to spread their message through music. In 2017 Jeremy sits in the role of hardcore’s elder statesmen, signed to a big label with their sixth album hitting shelves, and shows lined up for the next three months across North America and Europe. Which is pretty weird for a little band from Winnipeg.

“This is something I’ll never be able to wrap my head around, I still feel like we’re that band breaking out, and that stays with you when you’re making music that you want to play. But the reality is that we’re all in our 30s and 40s now, so we’ve done it for a while, but it’s important to state that we still have a huge passion to play and write this kind of music or we would have moved on. Everyone does have other interests, but we keep coming back to this.

“I see people that have left our band or other bands, and after two or three years they really miss it. If you feel like you are done, make sure you’re done, because if you’re annoyed and you want to move on, a few years down the line you’re gonna miss it.”

Something tells us Comeback Kid aren’t done yet.

Comeback Kid’s new album Outsider is out now via Nuclear Blast and available to order online (opens in new tab).

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